Sundress Academy for the Arts Now Accepting Short Films for New Screenwriting Contest


Sundress Academy for the Arts Now Accepting Short Films
for New Screenwriting Contest
Deadline: April 1, 2019

The Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is now accepting applications from filmmakers across the country for their new Film Writing Contest. The contest seeks to award the best screenwriting for a short film of no more than fifteen minutes. One winner and select runners-up will be honored at a unique screening at Sundress Academy for the Arts’ Firefly Farms.

We are looking for films that highlight the creator’s writing abilities and will award the winner $250. Films must be submitted via link (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.) to The screening fee is $15 per entry, though the fee will be waived for entrants who purchase or pre-order any Sundress title or broadside. Films can be no longer than fifteen minutes, but there is no minimum time requirement.

We will also accept nominations for entrants, provided the nominating person either pays the screening fee or makes a qualifying purchase. Filmmakers may submit and/or nominate as many films as they would like, so long as each is accompanied by a separate reading fee or purchase/pre-order. Entrants and nominators can place book orders or pay submission fees at our store.

All films will be viewed by members of our editorial board, and we will choose one film as the winner in mid-2019. To submit, email your Sundress store receipt for submission fee or book purchase, send a link to your film to

Be sure to note both your name and the title of the film in your email header. For those nominating others for our reading period, please include the name of nominee as well as an email address; we will solicit the link directly.

A 501(c)3 non-profit literary press collective founded in 2000, Sundress Publications is entirely volunteer-run, publishes chapbooks and full-length works in both print and digital formats, and hosts a variety of online journals. Although we are conscious of the lack of representation by women writers in literary publishing, we are a non-discriminatory publishing group focused on the creativity of all artists, regardless of race, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, education, etc.



Interview with Letitia Trent, Author of Match Cut

Ahead of the release of Match Cut, her newest collection of poems, Letitia Trent took timematch cut cover to speak with Sundress editorial intern, Lauren Sutherland, to discuss the themes, imagery, organization of the collection, and the darker shadows of writing and psychology that continue to inspire Trent’s work.

Lauren Sutherland: Movies clearly inspired this collection of poems, from the title to each of the poems themselves. How was it incorporating films into your personal ideas for individual poems?

Letitia Trent: I didn’t really choose to write about film, it was the only way I could write poems for a long time, from around 2008 to 2011. I started the movie poems after I got out of my MFA program and moved back to my home state of Vermont. I’m pretty sure I was depressed around this time, and my writing started to suffer, or at least my old vision of myself as somebody who could pretty easily write a poem faltered. I couldn’t figure out how to write the kinds of poems I was writing during my MFA, and I started to feel isolated from community and frustrated with myself. Movies saved me during that time. My husband and I lived walking distance from the local movie theater, so we saw a movie almost every weekend. I also started to revisit films I’d always wanted to watch in the past but had never gotten to.

When I was a kid, I was wild about movies. When I was around ten, my mom bought me this enormous “Rating the Movies” book and I read it straight through, marking all the movies I wanted to watch with a check mark. We would go every week to the video store, and I tried to get all my checked movies in, so at one point, when I was about eleven, I found myself watching Taxi Driver with my horrified parents. Then, I went to college for literature and grad school for writing and kind of lost track of my love of movies for a while. When I got out of grad school, I felt lost, so I came back to movies again. The writing itself came out of the movies–I didn’t really have a pre-conceived notion of what I wanted to write but instead, let the poems come from
the material in the film. Once I got going, almost every movie I watched produced a poem for a period of a couple of years.

Sutherland: Was there a particular strategy for ordering your poems or did it just happen organically?

Trent: I went through so many attempts to organize these poems. I’d say that was the hardest part for me. I had a lot of help from the editors here at Sundress, as organizing a book is probably one of the biggest struggles for me, and I needed as much help as I could get. I usually try to feel it out and organize intuitively, but the more suggestions I got, the more the poems seemed to separate based on theme. There are a lot of poems about gender, particularly about how films define women. Film noir and horror, in particular, have these conflicting ideas about gender, ideas that both appeal to me and feel uncomfortable. I’m interested in these tropes and how we (as a culture and individually) use the raw material of film to build identity. I also wrote a lot about mothers and children and sex. I did not realize that these were my themes until I began the work of reflecting on the poems. Writing and organizing this manuscript was an excavation, sometimes a surprising one.

Did your poems come first or did you like the idea of working with the genre and mold your poems to fit that?

Trent: I’m an enormous fan of horror and tend to be attracted to the murky, the dark, the noir-ish—and since the poems came from the film, those themes were bound to show up. These are wells I’ve been digging for most of my writing career in a variety of genres. All I know is that
these themes have always attracted me.

Sutherland: How did you come to love the darker side of writing and integrate that into your poetry?

Trent: I think an interest in more shadowy parts of life and consciousness pairs with my interest in psychology. I like to wrestle with things that trouble me. Poems have been a way for me to work through the more confusing, slippery, and troubling parts of myself. I think that’s why I’m attracted to genres at the fringe of “respectability,” like film noir or horror or exploitation films. I think they can often access the parts of us that we push away or keep in the shadows because these are genres that don’t use tasteful or acceptable ways of framing the more volatile parts of human life (sex, death, fear, etc.).

Sutherland: Your exploration with form in this collection is vast, including your creativity with capitalization (in “Blue Velvet”), line-breaks (in “The Brood”), and spacing (in “The Dreamers”). Do you find this kind of variation to be necessary when compiling a book of poems, and do you feel like it’s a challenge to branch out from the more comfortable forms?

Trent: When I was writing these poems, I was really interested in OULIPO writing techniques. A couple of the constraint-based poems are in the manuscript, including “Secretary”, which I think was an attempt at a snowball, a poem that increases word count gradually (though I think I messed the word count up and just kept the mistake in the poem) and an N+7 poem (“Kairo”), where I used a dictionary of sexual terms to replace most of the nouns in the poem. I have a few poems where I would initially write a poem response to the film and then do a collage or
OULIPO exercise on the poem I’d just written. I found constraint-based writing to be incredibly freeing. I started to get excited about writing again. While I don’t think it’s necessary for everyone, it was exciting for me to try new ways of writing.

Sutherland: What did you find to be more of a battle, and what did you find to be more innate when writing the poems that make up Match Cut?

Trent: It took me a really long time to make this manuscript exactly the way I wanted it, despite having a pretty clear organizing principle (film poems) right from the beginning. I have to thank my proofreaders and editors for that, as it was really initially just a mess of poems about movies without a lot of shape. Also, because so many of the poems were made in a rush of excitement after watching a film, they were sometimes a bit raw and unformed. It took me a while to have
enough distance from the manuscript to see the themes and to see my way forward for revision.


Order your copy of Match Cut today!


letitia-trentLetitia Trent’s work includes the novels Echo Lake and Almost Dark and the poetry collection One Perfect Bird.  Her work has appeared in The Denver Quarterly, Black Warrior Review, 32 Poems, and Waxwing, among others. Letitia works in the mental health field in a small town in the Ozarks with her husband, son, and three black cats.

Pre-order your copy of Match Cut, today.





Lauren Sutherland is a recent graduate of Lee University in Cleveland, TN and proudly has a Bachelor’s degree in English with a writing emphasis and a Deaf Studies minor. Lauren enjoys reading, writing poetry, but her ultimate passion is for editing. She has been interning with Sundress since July and loves getting the opportunity to have a hand in the literary community.



Katie Hall Goes Behind the Scenes with SAFTA Films & Atomic Oasis


SAFTA Films, alongside Atomic Oasis Productions, participated in the 7-Day Shootout for the recent Knoxville Film Festival. Filmmakers who participated had exactly seven days to film, edit, and produce a seven-minute movie. Here is a link to the Knoxville Film Festival 7-Day Shootout page. I was excited to work with a team of creative filmmakers who were willing to take on making a short-film in just one week! I am taking several film courses this semester at The University of Tennessee, but most of my previous experience with any film production is from my time as a news anchor for my high school. I knew I would be working with group of people who are in a more advanced level of filmmaking, and was eager to learn.

I served as a Production Assistant on set during the making of Atomic Oasis Productions’ short film entitled Freckles. There were talented actors/actresses, these great sound guys, and even a crucial person behind the scenes who handled the scripts, shot order, and schedule for the day (Kristi Larkin Havens). I performed the usual PA tasks such as getting coffee for the film crew, making sure the contest documentation was signed by participants, watched for continuity of the props on set (making sure props are in the same spot for each shot), and was responsible for “clapping.” My PA experience on the set of Freckles was highly informative and often hilarious (I’ll get to the funny moments in a bit).


Everyone met around 9:00 a.m. at the local Curiosities Metaphysical Shop to begin filming for the day. The day began with coffee, as everyday does for me. My first duty as a PA was to make the essential coffee run for the crew. This shop has everything from tapestries to unique gemstones, which provided the mystical feel that was necessary for the film. The director, Gabe Crutchfield from Atomic Oasis Productions, was welcoming and informative when it came to introducing me to their production team. His cameras were of interest to me, as I immediately noticed the compact size of them. They were newer, high definition cameras, which ended up being easier to move around and yielded more dynamic shots. In my previous experience with film sets, I am used to seeing larger cameras like they would use for a news broadcast. The new, smaller cameras showed me just how far cameras have come since my days as a high school news anchor. (If we had these smaller cameras back in the day, we could’ve done more things outside of the studio!)


Gabe assigned me the role of “clapper.” Before every shot I stood in front of the camera and verbally marked the scene and take numbers. I stood just outside the frame of each take in the film and used the clapperboard to keep track of each take. My role as “clapper” was the most involved of my jobs on set, and spanned through two days of filming. On the second day of filming, the cast and crew met at the home of a member of SAFTA, Vania Smkovski. It was on this day that I began to wonder if the clapping role was actually helpful. Gabe informed me that it provides a clear stopping point for editing purposes. He also mentioned that I was the first clapper he has ever used while making a film, so I was pleased to know that I was truly able to help the team!


The artistic and talented people I met from SAFTA Films and Atomic Oasis Productions all worked so well together to produce Freckles for the 7-Day Shootout. Working with a creative team was amusing, insightful, and full of detail oriented tasks. Some of the more intricate details included squeezing the crew into corners to avoid getting the “boom” (sound stick) in the frame. Often times, cameras and people were shifted around to make the shot work. During one of these moments on the first day of filming, one of the cameramen bent over to adjust his camera, and it was then that everyone in the room heard a shatter. His rear-end hit against the window and cracked it. Luckily the window was already broken! The day ended on that note and everyone laughed. I expected the process to be fun, but the people were the best part!

You can watch the finished film here:


Katie Hall is a student at the University of Tennessee but is originally from Chattanooga. She is majoring in English with a concentration in Technical Communications. Katie aspires to be an editor or technical writer subsequent to her graduation from UTK. As the Online Development Intern, she is eager to help increase SAFTA’s online presence by assisting in social media and web design.

SAFTA To Host Script-Writing Workshop with Harrison Young



Sundress Academy for the Arts is excited to present  the “Words Aren’t Everything,” workshop, which will be directed by playwright Harrison Young! This workshop will be held from 1PM-3PM on Sunday, March 15th at Sundress Academy for the Arts’s Firefly Farms (195 Tobby Hollow Lane, Knoxville, TN).

Words are great, but not when they get in the way! This wonderful workshop is designed to teach participants how to utilize improvisation-techniques to isolate how structure and relationships allow them to better focus on their stories. Participants are encouraged to bring up to four pages of their latest material to review with the class. Each participant will work on their personal piece with the guidance and instruction of playwright Harrison Young.

Harrison Young is a Theatre graduate from the University of Tennessee. His produced writing includes Online Fighting (Featured by the Brick Theater, Peoples Improv Theater, Tennessee Stage Company, Wild Thyme Players, and Pandora’s Dream Productions), A Cocaine Comedy (Featured by the People’s Improv Theater and Tennessee Stage Company), and the Secret Disclosures series (Featured by the Treehouse Theater). His performing credits include world premieres like Michael’s Story (Performed with the Treehouse Theater), The Hungry Heart (Performed with the Carpetbag Theatre), and Hoppy’s Trunk (Performed with the Tennessee Stage Company). Young lives in New York City, where he is a house team member of the improv group Vice Cream.

Attendance at this workshop is limited, so secure your chance to work with a published playwright by reserving your spot today! You can do so at our website, HERE!

SAFTA Films and Birdhouse Theater Present…

Open Screen Night Featuring Locally Shot Film, Macbeth!



On Monday, November 24th, the Birdhouse Walk-In Theater and SAFTA Films will be proudly showing the film Macbeth, directed by Rob Simpson, as a part of their monthly Open Screen Nights. In support of local and regional filmmakers, The Birdhouse and SAFTA Films curate these screenings to provide a space for Knoxville artists to showcase their work for free to an audience. The screenings take place on the last Monday of every month at 7:45PM.

In this post-apocalyptic iteration of Shakespeare’s tragedy, shot completely in Knoxville and the surrounding areas, Macbeth is a powerful general in the king’s army who receives a vision that he will be king from a trio of witches. Taking destiny into his own hands he and his vicious wife, Lady Macbeth, plot the murder of their king. In the murders wake Macbeth and Lady Macbeth scramble to maintain a hold of their newfound throne. Facing rebellion on all sides, the tyrant Macbeth stops at nothing to silence all those who oppose his rule.

Director Rob Simpson majored in English literature at the University of Tennessee before going on to attend the New York Film Academy. After producing a number of short films in New York City, he moved back to Knoxville to work in film and television. Before Macbeth, he had produced and directed two other original versions of Shakespeare’s plays: Hamlet and Twelfth Night.

This screening will also showcase short films by Knoxville filmmakers John Fairstein, Mitch Moore, Cary Wolfe, Jacob Boyd, and Clinton Elmore.

Open Screen Nights take place at the Birdhouse Community Center in the Fourth and Gill Neighborhood in North Knoxville. The Walk-In Theater also holds screenings of popular movies every Monday night beginning at 8PM. All screenings are free and open to the public, though donations are always accepted. Free popcorn is provided.

If you are a filmmaker and would like to have your work featured at an Open Screen Night, the Birdhouse and SAFTA Films are accepting submissions for the 2015 season. Contact Blake Wahlert at and Vania Smrkovski at for more information on how to submit.

SAFTA Announces OUTSpoken A Program for LGBTQ Writers, Artists, Filmmakers, & Performers


Knoxville, TN — OUTSpoken is a new program from the Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA). The goal of this program is to create a platform for the LGBTQ community in Knoxville and surrounding areas to record and perform the experiences of sex- and gender-diverse individuals in the South.

OUTSpoken will begin with a series of writing workshops, where community members will develop their experiences into poems, monologues, narratives, or other literary forms. These pieces will then be revised and eventually performed in a staged reading. Artists from all over can also submit poetry or prose submissions, as well as video submissions of a monologue or film, online.

The workshops, which will run monthly from February through April, will be held at the organization’s headquarters, Firefly Farms, in Knoxville. These workshops will culminate in a staged reading in June 2014, showcasing the works of a wide range of individuals, including those whose experiences demonstrate intersectional issues. Participants will have the option of working with actors to bring their writing to life or performing their writing themselves.

As LGBTQ issues gain greater visibility, it is crucial that we explore the complexities of sex and gender diversity respectfully. In order to create a meaningful dialogue, we must acknowledge and listen to the stories, experiences, grievances, arguments, and counterarguments of all sex- and gender-diverse persons. It is our sincerest hope that this project will illuminate the struggles of Southern LGBTQ persons and celebrate sex and gender diversity in East Tennessee and beyond.

For more information on how to participate or to sponsor an artists, visit:

Vania Smrkovski on the First Project from SAFTA Films (Part 1/6)

It’s August 24th, 2013, and I’m standing in downtown Knoxville’s Krutch Park. Behind me on a park bench are several armloads of camera equipment, a Rubbermaid tub filled with plastic swords, forty dollars in gold coins and a dog dressed up in a fetching pirate-style shirt with a bandanna tied around her neck. I meet up with a six-and-a-half foot man in a t-shirt, his face made up in clown-white makeup, eyebrows drawn in dramatic curves, and lips red as a rose.

And I am waiting on a man in full pirate regalia, as he adjusts his peg leg and picks up his bottle of rum.

Actually, the bottle is filled with iced tea.

As we stand there, the man in white face (looking like Tim Curry in Rocky Horror Picture Show, sans the corset), turns to me and conspiratorially says “You didn’t see me, and I didn’t see you.” With that he leaves, his own camera and entourage in tow.


It’s that time of year in Knoxville when a load of crazy people are out making movies. We at the Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) have decided to step up and contribute one of our own. As Director of Performing Arts, I have the honor and the privilege of leading the first effort with our entry in the Knoxville Film Festival’s 7-Day Shootout.

SAFTA has, until now, been largely focused on providing creative support in the form of workshops and other services for the written word. That is how I got involved. With a robust variety of activities, each workshop tackles some aspect of writing — poetry, revisions, page layout and performance pieces have been among the topics covered so far — but SAFTA’s mission is not just about writing. It’s about all of the creative arts.

In June, I was invited to join the board to head up the focus on performing arts, to bring my world of stage and film into the SAFTA fold and help the organization expand.

And my first task: enter a film competition.


Knoxville and the surrounding community have an unusual number of film festivals for a city its size. According to 2011 reports, the population of Knoxville is just over 180,000. Include the surrounding suburbs and the neighboring cities of Maryville and Oak Ridge, and you get closer to 200,000. Locals like to refer to this scruffy little city as a “big small town.” It has a thriving downtown life with a mix of older and newer buildings, great restaurants, bars and an energetic music scene — but nothing about the city cries out film.

Sure, we have the headquarters for the massive theater chain Regal Cinemas. And yes, Scripps Networks is based here, too. However, neither of these organizations actually do much film production here. Except for a few Investigation Discovery crime reenactment shows and the occasional Heartland Series episode, Knoxville’s presence on the world or national stage of film simply doesn’t exist.

And yet in the past ten years, there have been film festivals in Gatlinburg (the Gateway to the Smokies), Maryville, Oak Ridge and several in Knoxville.

Currently, active film competitions include the 54 Hour Film Festival, the Knoxville Horror Festival (currently hosting the annual Grindhouse festival), and Knoxville Films, which has hosted the 24 Hour Film Festival since 2006 and, until recently, was well known as the Secret City Film Festival, active for over ten years.

To be continued…