Never, Never, Never Give Up:
A Spec Script (Finally!) Finds The Right Home
Vera (Oravec) Laska was my big sister Erin’s political science professor and mentor at Regis College in Weston, Massachusetts. Whenever my sister called home from school, she always talked about her favorite course entitled “Women in the Resistance and in the Holocaust.” This course shared the same name as a book by Vera Laska. When my sister Erin came home for visits, I borrowed the book from her. I was still in high school at the time, and completely entranced by what I read.
No wonder. As a teenager, Vera defied statistics and lasted three years as a Czechoslovak Resistance fighter (instead of the average six months); survived Auschwitz and two other camps as a political prisoner; and escaped the Nazis during a death march. Over the course of her adult life, Vera was an honored historian, educator, and author of numerous publications.
A few years later, I followed in my sister’s footsteps and matriculated at Regis College. As a freshman, I begged my way into Vera’s course. It was normally reserved for upperclassmen, but I convinced her that I could do the work. (I think Vera’s soft spot for Erin, whom she had nicknamed “Pookie,” didn’t hurt!) Little did Vera know that I had practically memorized “Women in the Resistance and in the Holocaust.” I wound up receiving an “A” for the course.
I remember thinking during Vera’s lectures that her life would make the best movie. When I started writing screenplays after graduating from the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, I decided to write that movie myself.
I hired an entertainment lawyer and set about securing the film rights to Vera’s interview with Steven Spielberg’s USC Shoah Foundation Institute; “Women in the Resistance and in the Holocaust: The Voices of Eyewitnesses” by Vera Laska; and “Vera Laska” from “Women Reshaping Human Rights: How Extraordinary Activists Are Changing the World” by Marguerite Guzman Bouvard. (Note on December 11, 2005, Vera lost her battle with lung cancer. She was 82-years-old. The screenplay is solely based on the sources listed above, and dedicated to her memory.)
The first draft tumbled out of me. In RESISTANCE, the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia and the horrors of Auschwitz are seen through the eyes of one girl, forced to grow up quickly as she moves from the school yard to the concentration camp, working for the Resistance along the way.
Once the script was polished, I started thinking about next steps. I didn’t have an agent, manager, famous relatives, connections, or a trust fund. (I’m a film industry outsider from Massachusetts.) I decided to try my luck with film festival screenplay competitions and labs. RESISTANCE went on to win awards or nominations in over 20 international film festival screenplay competitions and labs, most notably the Atlanta Film Festival’s Inaugural Screenplay Competition, where the prize for winning was participation in a weekend retreat with a group of renowned writing, directing, and producing mentors. My mentors were Joy Lusco Kecken (NBC’s “Homicide” and HBO’s “The Wire”) and Michael Lucker (VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN).
Hollywood didn’t come running, calling, anything – even with all of these accolades. So I started thinking again. I needed to find someone outside the U.S. who believed in the project as much as me. I found that person, the wildly talented London-based director Si Wall, through Shooting People. Many of you may know Si from his feature films SPEED DATE and THE DINNER PARTY.
Although we are separated by an ocean, Si and I have a Vulcan mind meld going on with RESISTANCE. We created an official website for RESISTANCE (www.resistancethemovie.com). We launched an official Facebook page and Twitter account. We developed a fan base, secured press coverage (print, online, and video), and pitched RESISTANCE to whoever would listen.
And finally, after all of our efforts, I got an email from Si that literally brought a tear to my eye. Populus Pictures, based in London with facilities at Pinewood Studios, wanted to make RESISTANCE. This past week, Si and I signed an agreement with producers Roland Peters and Len Evans of Populus Pictures. Roland and Len are already hard at work, making the film a reality. RESISTANCE has been added to Screenbase, the European Film Index. The goal is start shooting by February 2012.
It has taken me years to reach this point, but my commitment to RESISTANCE never faltered. In addition to my personal connection to Vera Laska, I strongly believe that in this time of war and rising anti-Semitism, RESISTANCE is a film worth making.
To anyone who wonders if it’s possible to get a spec script produced, it is. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and you’ll get there. I’ve always believed that work conquers all. You can never, ever give up on your dreams. They will come true if you work hard, make your own luck, and never stop believing in yourself.
About Caitlin McCarthy:
Caitlin McCarthy received her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Emerson College, which is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best graduate programs in the country. An award-winning screenwriter at international film festivals and labs, Caitlin has a screenplay project in development: RESISTANCE with Populus Pictures and director Si Wall (SPEED DATE; THE DINNER PARTY). In addition to screenwriting, Caitlin serves as an English teacher at an inner-city public high school. Prior to education, Caitlin worked in public relations, where she fostered relationships with the press and crafted messages for companies that were delivered worldwide. For more information, please visit www.caitlinmccarthy.com and www.facebook.com/CaitlinMcCarthyWriter.