URI Alum Wins Rhode Island Film Festival Screenplay Competition

Thursday, July 11, 2013


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URI graduate Rachel J. Smith was recently crowned the winner of the prestigious "Spotlight on Rhode Island" competition, part of the Rhode Island International Film Festival.

Budding filmmaker Rachel J. Smith was named the winner of the Rhode Island International Film Festival's "Spotlight on Rhode Island" competition for her moving screenplay, Fix You Up. Smith, a graduate of the University of Rhode Island's Class of 2006 that now lives in London to pursue her career, wrote Fix You Up about a doctor obsessed with her work. This is the second year for the festival’s “Spotlight on Rhode Island’’ contest, which invites screenwriters in the United States and throughout the world to submit scripts set in Little Rhody.

Rory, the screenplay's protagonist, is a workaholic transplant surgeon who is indifferent to her patients. When she breaks her wrist and is sidelined from the operating room, she meets Grace, a spirited musician, who inspires her to re-examine her life. “Rory is slowly but surely isolating herself from everyone around her out of a fear of external and internal intimacy and in desperate need of human warmth,’’ says Smith. “I am drawn to stories about people who feel disconnected from life and those around them; people in need of love and care.’’

Raised in Hope Village in Scituate, Smith wrote her first play when she was 7 years old and got hooked on filmmaking after watching the iconic Woody Allen film Annie Hall. She graduated from URI with a double major in creative writing and film studies and went on to get her master’s degree in screenwriting in 2011 at the London Film School, where she worked on Fix You Up.

"The Rhode Island International Film Festival has been a long-term supporter of the film media program at URI,’’ says George T. Marshall, executive director of the festival. “It is fitting and appropriate that a graduate of the program would win this prestigious award. It speaks volumes about the great faculty and the talented students in the program."

There was a tie in the first place category: Bare by Mike Ryan of Providence, and Running Men by Jeff Kimball of Fairfield, CT.

Finalists' scripts were read and judged by a panel chaired by Helen Buttel, associate professor emeritus of English and Film Studies at Arcadia University in Pennsylvania.

Smith’s award-winning script comes with five free pitches to Hollywood studios and producers on VirtualPitchfest.com and a copy of Final Draft 8 screenwriting software. She will also receive a 2013 pass to the festival, including the ScriptBiz Screenwriters Workshop.

Fix You Up is just one of many film projects for Smith, selected out of 77 contestants from as far away as New Zealand. She wrote and directed the autobiographical Life's a Beach while studying at URI. She was also script editor and script supervisor in London for another film, Like Spinning Plates. She has written two other screenplays: My Own Private Myocardial Infarction and The Godmother.

Smith writes in the morning, before working as a nanny to two children, aged 6 and 11. She’s juggling many writing and film projects now and is looking for a female director to direct Fix You Up.

The Rhode Island International Film Festival showcases international cinema. Ranked as one of the top 12 festivals in the United States, the festival is one of 75 worldwide that is a qualifying festival for the Academy Awards through its partnership with the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences.

The festival will run from August 6-11 at The Vets, 1 Avenue of the Arts, in Providence. More than 200 films and videos will be screened for the thousands expected. Smith will fly across the pond to attend opening night festivities.

For more information, visit www.RIFilmFest.org or call 401-861-4445.


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