Friday, February 14, 2014

A Tasty Treat for Valentine’s Day (if you like zombies)

Zombie Butterscotch Kiss -- sounds perfect for Valentine’s Day, right? Unless, of course, you’re not so sure about zombies. I mention this title, because it’s the name of a project by a former student of mine. She completed a course I offered last fall through the screenwriting division of UCLA Extension’s Writers’ Program. This particular course is an advanced workshop called “1-on-1 Feature Film Rewrite.” It promises 12 enrollees (chosen for the quality of their script submissions) serious personal attention as they strive to bring their screenplays to the highest possible level.  

Though I’ve long been a classroom teacher, I’ve taught exclusively online for the last seven years. It still surprises me how an instructor and a student can develop real rapport over the Internet, without ever coming face to face. (For one thing, online communication effectively removes the blowhards who tend to dominate classroom discussions, but who are generally more noisy than talented.) An online class, in fact, is ideal for situations where each student expects intense personal feedback.

Another thing about online courses: they attract enrollees from all over the world. My class has contained  some remarkable aspiring writers from Greece, China, Mexico, and Canada. One of my all-time favorites was a Jesuit priest in Dublin. He was depicting a missionary’s life in Africa, and his handling of a scene with sexual implications was definitely unique. This past fall, I had  not one but two talented Aussies on my roster. They didn’t know one another (hey, it’s a big country!), but I helped them connect, and also enjoyed working with them individually.

So I’m finally back to Zombie Butterscotch Kiss. It’s the brainchild (so to speak) of Judith Duncan, who makes her home in Sydney. The ten years she spent doing improv theatre led her to study writing. Recently she earned an Honors Degree in Media Arts at Sydney’s University of Technology, and – through the wonders of cyberspace -- also completed UCLA’s Professional Program in Screenwriting. Now she earns a living as a receptionist (“great training for filmmaking, as I problem-solve all day”), while also teaching “Writing Dr. Who” through the Open Program of the National Institute of Dramatic Art, which happens to be Cate Blanchett’s alma mater.

Judith’s original coming-of-age drama, Zombie Butterscotch Kiss, attracted attention in a horror screenplay competition held by the Australian Writers’ Guild. Despairing of getting it produced in her homeland, she’s turned it into a novel. On the strength of her first 25 pages (which were polished in yet another UCLA Extension course) she’s been accepted into an exclusive writers’ workshop sponsored by the Djerassi Artist Colony. Trouble is – the colony is located near San Francisco, not Sydney. “My dreams being much bigger than my bank balance,” she is now in fundraising mode, and has shot three short YouTube videos in a bid to raise the money to finance her travels. Says Judith, “Roger Corman would have been proud of me. I wrote the scripts, we shot them all in one day in December down at the local park, with four crew including my neighbor, in-camera sound, and my sister did the catering.”

Here’s a link to Judith’s crowdfunding site, which will be up until March 27.  I’ve also promised director Steve Carver I’d remind readers of his unique Unsung Heroes and Villains of the Silver Screen photography project, which is also seeking public support. And anyone interested in my upcoming UCLA Extension course should write to Chae Ko at or phone 310-206-2612.

Enough commercials. Meanwhile, enjoy Zombie Butterscotch Kiss. And Happy Valentine’s Day!


  1. I wish her the best of luck! I like the way she's striking out in every direction possible to bring her dream to fruition. Will you keep us posted on her progress please, Ms. G?

  2. I'll pass along your good wishes, Mr. Craig. Here's hoping she gets the travel funds to help her take advantage of the Djerassi residency.