No place like home
Local filmmakers Joyce Glover and Patty Moore explain why they keep coming back to A Place Called Sacramento
Joyce Glover placed her mocha on the coffee table at Infusion and leaned forward conspiratorially. “This is kind of silly,” she said, “but when I was a little girl—9 or 10 years old—I wrote TV scripts.” She sat back on the couch, her long gray dreadlocks settling around her shoulders as she shifted. “I wrote them because I loved film and I loved TV,” she said, “but I never thought [writing films] was something that I could achieve. It was like one of those dreams in the back of your head.”
Glover put away her childhood scripts and grew to be a mother, a grandmother, and a full-time caregiver for the elderly. For decades, the only things she let herself write were plays for her church. “But then my youngest son went into the Navy,” she continued, “and I found myself an empty-nester. I thought, ‘Oh my goodness! What am I going to do now?’ So, I pulled my little dreams out and dusted them off.”
Two years ago, Glover enrolled in a scriptwriting course at American River College. On a break from class one day, she noticed a flier in the library calling for scripts for Access Sacramento’s filmmaking contest, A Place Called Sacramento. Glover submitted a story about a homeless woman seeking support through the programs at Loaves & Fishes called A Mile in Her Shoes. “Unbelievably, they chose my script!” Glover recounted.
Every year since 2000, Access Sacramento has hosted an open call for short-film scripts from local writers. From an average pool of 75 submissions, a panel of judges selects the 10 best entries. Access Sacramento then provides the winners with the resources necessary to turn their scripts into 10-minute films, which are screened at the Crest Theatre during the annual Sacramento Festival of Cinema.
As Access Sacramento’s community-outreach coordinator, Martin Anaya explained, “We started A Place Called Sacramento because we were soliciting local films to include in the Sacramento Festival of Cinema, and we didn’t get any. No one was doing anything.” In order to fulfill Access Sacramento’s 20-year mission of supporting community-generated media, the organization decided to create a forum to bring equipment, technical knowledge and local talent to aspiring filmmakers.
Thus far, A Place Called Sacramento has generated 48 locally made short films that vary in quality from sleekly professional to endearingly amateur and has screened them for sold-out audiences. The program has proved so popular that it will have two screening dates this year—October 2 and 3—even though budget cuts have made it impossible for Access to fund the rest of the Sacramento Festival of Cinema this year.
Although winning a spot in A Place Called Sacramento seemed like a miracle to Glover, it turned out to be the easiest part of the procedure. “I misunderstood the process,” she admitted. “I thought I’d give them the script and it would come out the other end as a movie. I didn’t realize that I had to be a part of the filmmaking process. I knew nothing!”
Unbeknownst to her at the time, Glover’s naiveté was not unusual. “When we select a person’s script for A Place Called Sacramento, that person automatically becomes the producer of their film,” Anaya said. “Most film festivals are saying yes or no to a completed film. We green-light 10 projects that are completely sight unseen. Not only are we saying yes to something unseen; we’re saying yes to someone who may not have the skills to complete the project.”
Anaya estimates that as many as half of the scriptwriters who participate in A Place Called Sacramento have no film background when they take on the project. “If they don’t, it’s incumbent upon us at Access Sacramento to set them up with the resources they need,” he said.
To that end, Access Sacramento organizes a cast and crew call where dozens of experienced directors, actors, film technicians and volunteers gather to hear the 10 writers pitch their projects. By evening’s end, every writer has a list of people willing to donate their time and skills to the production.
“Because we have so many theaters in Sacramento and so many filmmaking courses at the schools in the area, we have a tremendous pool of people to pull from. Everyone’s trying to build their résumé,” Glover explained. “I’m trying to build my résumé, and they’re trying to build theirs, so we help each other out. It’s a great union of talent.”
The cast and crew call saved A Mile in Her Shoes. “I was very fortunate to get Frank Cassanova of the Studio Center to help me,” Glover continued. “He’s just an amazing teacher, and he walked me through the process. He filmed it, edited it.” Nonetheless, the process was harrowing, largely because of the demands of the script Glover herself had created. “I had 15 locations in a 10-minute film, and this huge cast of people. It was very challenging. At the end of last year, I thought, ‘I will never do this again.’”
But there’s nothing like seeing one’s work on the big screen to reinvigorate a filmmaker. “It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced,” Glover confessed. She decided to write another script, this time about the struggles of a young African-American father, called The Ninth. “I learned from all my mistakes,” she affirmed. She wrote the film for two locations, with a much smaller cast. When the script was chosen for this year’s A Place Called Sacramento, Glover worked with Cassanova again and was able to finish shooting in two days.
Bolstered by her success, Glover has begun writing a feature-length film about the history of slavery in California. “It was such an interesting challenge for people to be slaves in a free state,” she said, “to be held in bondage when they saw free African-Americans walking around. … Emotionally, it is similar to the struggles we have today. Some African-Americans are at the bottom of the scale with welfare, and then you’re seeing people like sports figures and entertainers at the top of the scale with all those riches. That same struggle exists today.”
Glover credits her participation in A Place Called Sacramento with her newfound confidence. “I wouldn’t even be thinking about a feature film or these kinds of possibilities if it hadn’t been for Access Sacramento accepting my scripts and giving me such great support and encouragement,” Glover admitted. She hopes to be finished with the feature script by next summer and has already begun negotiating with Sutter’s Fort about shooting there. “I believe that story needs to be told,” she exclaimed, “and I’d like to be the one telling it!”
Glover isn’t the only woman inspired by A Place Called Sacramento to tell her stories through film. This year marks the first time in the contest’s history that the winning female scriptwriters outnumber the men. “It’s unusual,” Anaya said. “Six of the 10 filmmakers are women this year. When we started, it was one or two, maybe. On the local level, women have discovered they have a talent and a gift for this, whereas in Hollywood, it’s the exception to the rule to see this proportion of women filmmakers.”
Another local woman with a talent for cinematic expression is two-time A Place Called Sacramento winner Patty Moore. Moore first encountered the contest two years ago when her son, local filmmaker Levi Moore, volunteered to work on one of the films. Although her writing experience extended only as far as trade-publication copy for the credit union she’s president of, Moore decided to enter the contest. It paid off, and she’s had her scripts chosen two years running.
Moore’s submission this year, which she co-directed with her son, has a sweet, autobiographical note. “I just turned 50 on August 26,” Moore said. “I’ve always talked to my husband and my kids about my first love from high school and what a wonderful guy he was. On my 18th birthday, he asked me to marry him. We broke up shortly after that, and I’ve never seen or spoken with him in 32 years.”
Her film, Reflections at 50, is the story of a 50-year-old woman who decides to track down her first love. “The story behind the story,” Moore confessed, “is that I went on the Internet and did a background search.” She found an e-mail address for her first love and sent him a letter. “I wrote, ‘I’m not sure if you’ll remember me or not, but I’m getting ready to turn 50 and I wrote this script called Reflections at 50 and it’s really in honor of you.’”
He wrote back. “He said, ‘Not remember you? It took me 17 years to get over you! I didn’t get married until I was 35.’” The two have continued their correspondence, and Moore intends to send him a copy of the film after it screens at the Crest.
“Levi did something really cute,” Moore added. “At the opening of the film, he panned across all my birthday cards and birthday presents, and then there’s a scrapbook, and the camera just pauses for a moment on this guy’s high-school graduation picture. He doesn’t know about that, but when I send him a copy of the film, I’m sure he’ll be very flattered.”
Finding the time to make the film was the biggest challenge for Moore. “I’m very busy,” she said. “I serve on four volunteer boards of directors. I work a 60-hour-a-week job. It’s like, ‘Oh my God! Why did I think I could do this?’”
However, having been through the process twice now, Moore affirmed that it is worth the effort. “As soon as I go to the Crest Theatre, it’s such a thrill to see my little 10-minute film I made on a shoestring budget on the big screen! I immediately start thinking, ‘OK, what can I do next year?’”