Lights, camera, Columbus: Local student wins screenwriting contest

Alocal CSA New Tech student will see her short screenplay brought to life in Columbus, possibly as early as May.

Pigasus Pictures co-founders John Armstrong and Zachary Spicer surprised CSA New Tech High School and senior Piper Parks on Monday with the news that her screenplay, “Blue,” is the winner of their fifth annual “Project Pigasus” screenwriting contest.

The Indiana-based film company invited high school students in the state to write short screenplays — 12 pages or less — based on their own experiences in Indiana, with submissions due in February. According to their initial press release in December, Pigasus filmmakers select the winning screenplay and then bring a crew to the winner’s town to produce the film, with local students involved in the process.

As the film is made, there will be a student crew working alongside the professional crew, Armstrong said.

“We’re going to gather you and all of your friends together, and you’re going to learn, piece by piece, how we actually make a film,” said Spicer. “And you guys are all going to be working the actual positions under all of the professionals that we have on all of our feature film sets. So anything that you’re interested in in filmmaking — whether it’s directing, or it’s editing, or if you’re interested in lighting, or you’re interested in the casting process or acting or any of those things — you just let us know , and we’re going to walk you through all of the stuff.”

The finished short film, he said, is usually screened ahead of one of Pigasus’s feature films. Spicer estimated that the entire process — from the date of Monday’s announcement to the film being screened — will likely take about nine months to a year.

“Tentatively, the producers and I have set May 7, 8, 9 for the three-day filming, which will take place in downtown Columbus,” CSA New Tech English teacher Joe Steele said.

In addition to having students work on the film set, the producers would also like next fall’s students to help with post-production elements such as editing, sound work and “finalizing” the film, he said.

Steele had encouraged his students—Piper being among them—to enter the Project Pigasus competition. Seniors in English 12 studied visual storytelling and each wrote a 12-page script of a “compelling ‘Indiana’ story” set in their town, with extra credit offered to those who entered the contest. Steele hopes to make this an annual assignment.

Parks, who enjoys writing poetry and plans to major in English in college, was surprised to learn that she’d won and said it means a lot to her. “Blue” is the first script she’s ever written.

“I’ve been nervous about the future with my writing and stuff, so this made me really happy,” said Parks. Additionally, since she’s interested in the acting side of the film industry, she expects the project to be “rewarding.”

According to a synopsis by Parks, “Blue” is inspired by her own experience struggling with loneliness and depression amid the pandemic.

“Over the past year, I’ve been dealing with a lot of mental health-related stuff,” she said. “And I figured, since I enjoy writing, this would be the best way to get it all out.”

“That’s one of the reasons exactly why we chose it,” said Armstrong. “… It is about finding the beauty in the world around you, especially in times of struggle, and deeply resonated with us and thought that it was the perfect the project to work on as we come out of this really difficult time.”

According to Steele, the story features different locations in downtown Columbus, including the Crump Theater and the “Eos” statue on Fifth Street.

Parks said she included places she’s been to in the past year that mark important memories for her.

She wrote in her synopsis that going outdoors and looking at the “art and beauty” of Columbus helped with overcoming her depression.

“Opening up is hard, I know it is,” she said. “But with a little help, you can see the color in your life again. I know I have, this is because of the help I got and looking at my beautiful surroundings. I mean, why make things harder on myself when there is such a colorful world around me?”

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