Hilary Weisman Graham, Filmmaker & Screenwriter, Francestown
by Julie Mento
It’s one of those all-too-familiar rainy days we’ve had this summer when I travel to visit Hilary Graham. As if directed by the weather, everyone and everything seems to be in shades of gray. A soggy trek to her door isn’t the way I want to start out. Hilary greets me as I step in to her home, dripping wet. “Welcome! Would you like some green tea?” She beams, seemingly unaffected by the disagreeable weather.
The first time I met Hilary was at the State Arts Council’s annual Arts Education Conference back in 2002. She was appearing at the conference as a new member of the Artist Roster. She has come a long way in those few years, and I’m looking forward to catching up with her.
We climb the stairs to the loft where she writes most of her screenplays and organizes her past and future projects. The first thing I see there is her direc tor’s chair from her stint on Fox Channel’s reality series “On the Lot,” produced by Stephen Spielberg and Mark Burnett, in which she competed against other filmmakers for a million dollar development deal with Dreamworks. “On the Lot” received 12,000 submissions from across the country; Hilary made it to the Top 10 in the competition before being eliminated.
Humor is a common thread throughout her work and, more specifically, the work she submitted for review to the fellowship award panel. One of the four short film submissions, “The Legend of Donkey-tail Willie,” introduces viewers to a young man named Willie, born with a donkey’s tail, and his tale of misfortunes.
As we discuss her various projects, we chuckle about the s torylines and Hilary’s misadventures and struggles while participating in “On the Lot.” The conversation is a welcome antidote to the drab day.
Hilary has even more good news to share about her work. “Censored” was the grand prize winner at the Gimme Credit Screenplay Competition and the film will be produced this autumn. “Censored” is also one of the top five short screenplays at the Bare Bones Screenplay Competition and one of the top four finalists at the 2007 Picture Start Awards. “The Green Balloon” was one of the top 10 screenplays at the Wild Sound One Page Screenplay Contest. Her feature screenplay “Freebird” was selected as one of 20 finalists in the 2008 Script Pimp screenwriting competition and both “The Grass is Always Greener” and “Bad Mommies” are semi-finalists in the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards.
The $5,000 fellowship award will buy Hilary some time, literally. Some of the funds will go to day care for her young son so she can concentrate on future projects. Living in a small town has afforded her focus time and quality of life for her young family. The use of the Internet and other technologies allows her to not just stay informed and in touch with Los Angeles and other film hubs, but to compete and thrive as a writer and filmmaker.
Closing the door behind me and walking back to my car, the sun has come out. It’s as if it had been there all along.
On the web: www.hilarygraham.com
to 2009 Fellows page
Photos by Julie Mento, NHSCA
September 17, 2008