Local Woman Wins Screenplay Contest

It's been said that every Southern Californian has a screenplay tucked away in a drawer, awaiting that moment when, say, Steven Spielberg or maybe Nora Ephron calls.

Oxnard native Shannon Jimenez hasn't heard from Spielberg or Ephron yet, but she's gotten good news nonetheless--her second screenplay was one of five winners of the competition run by the UCLA Professional Screenwriting Program.

"Actually they call it 'filmic writing' now," said Jimenez, a 1990 Channel Islands High School graduate and a 1995 graduate of UCLA's film school. Her professors at UCLA, where she's currently doing graduate work, have told her to be ready for phone calls from producers and agents--it's no small feat to win the competition, and word gets around fast.

Her winning screenplay, "Cry of the Hathi," is set during Britain's occupation of India. Last year, Jimenez said, agents were telling her that period dramas were box-office poison.

"But this year, period movies are what Hollywood thinks film does best," she said, shrugging.

Jimenez, 25, knew she wanted to write screenplays even as a preschooler.

"My first movie was 'Star Wars' when I was 4," Jimenez said. "My dad let us sit through it twice. I remember everything about that night. Even then I could pick out the things I liked about the movie."

At 16, she was the youngest student accepted for a summer screenwriting class at USC. She went directly to UCLA's film school upon graduation from high school. After earning a bachelor of arts degree, she interned with Disney Studios and did a bit of post-production work on Spielberg's "Schindler's List."

She completed her most recent Professional Screenwriting Program class sitting at her desk in her Camarillo home. "I took the whole program online. Since I can be shy, this was an opportunity to be heard but not seen."

Her screenplay was one of 70 submitted to the competition.

Jimenez, who is married, said "Cry of the Hathi" has a strong female lead, "which I'm told by my professors the industry is ready for now."

She also hopes the industry is ready for her third screenplay, which she just finished. "It's a supernatural contemporary thriller," she said.

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