Tofino’s Erin Linn McMullan is coming off a big weekend on the mainland.
The local screenwriter participated in the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival (VIWIFF) where her screenplay Lotus was featured as an official selection.
“This selection is the highlight for me, and for this little-project-that-could so far,” McMullan told the Westerly News.
“VIWIFF, and Women in Film and TV who also host the film festival, create incredible opportunities for women in the industry and to promote strong female protagonists in film.”
Lotus follows a Romeo and Juliet style story set in 12th Century Japan with fictional heroine Ren, a Buddhist samurai and horse whisperer, snagged into an escalating rivalry between the historic Taira and Minamoto clans.
McMullan said the project began as a scene she imagined roughly ten years ago and started taking shape during her recently completed MFA from UBC.
“It all started with one short story, Lotus, that I submitted for Brian Brett’s fiction class during my MFA and the glimmer of an idea that had run through my mind like a short film clip on and off for a decade since my first introduction to Buddhism,” she said.
“I imagined a little girl, with pigtails, running into an immense gathering of monks and being accepted. I was curious. Who was this young girl? How did she come to live at a monastery? How would that influence her choices as life tested her? It was meant to be one assignment. Instead it became my thesis screenplay.”
She spun vigorous research into creative energy to let Lotus’ tapestry evolve and unfold.
“I followed Ren’s story through my imagination and through research, especially reading the 13th Century Japanese epic, Tales of the Heike, chronicling the two clans’ rivalry, and was excited to discover echoes of my heroine in Tomoe Gozen, who risks her life for love in Tales but whose existence has never been proven,” she said .
“My reaction to learning that Lotus was one of the 11 [VIWIFF] Official Selections was twofold: butterflies in my stomach and gratitude to my thesis advisor, Sara Graefe, who suggested I enter—that first entry of 30 pages was due only 10 days after I handed in my thesis.”
McMullan moved to the West Coast from the Yukon in 2010 and found a landscape perfectly designed for her creative mind.
“Beaches and rainforests provide a writerly walking meditation and our coast, an imagination prompt, as I try to envision Japan’s—with help from research,” she said.
“Even my local discovery of a giant wrymouth—Delolepia gigantean—stranded in the intertidal zone, quickly inspired a key metaphor and story mechanism as Ren discovers a similar dragon-like creature near the floating monastery where she grows up.”
She said she caught the screenwriting bug at the age of 12 and was lured to the craft by her visual imagination,
“The appeal for me is in the spare visual writing—I’m definitely a visual writer—and the exquisite challenge of crafting something so structured where the character, or characters, drive the action,” she said.
“Movies offer us, as writer or audience, a vicarious ride through their growth and worlds we might otherwise never experience, like 12th Century Japan, outer space, or the dystopian future.”
She encourages other West Coasters to let their creative flags fly and suggested they seek out mentors, consume scripts and continue writing and rewriting.
“Enjoy the process,” she said. “I’m hoping to inspire others—come see me at VIWIFF 2016 or when you spot me writing up in the turret at Common Loaf.”
She believes the West Coast offers solid opportunities for creative minds to collaborate.
“We have the incredibly supportive Clayoquot Writers Group, and four of us have gone through the MFA program, including Adrienne Mason, Ashley Little, Jacqueline Windh and myself,” she said.
“Come join us Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. for a ‘Shut Up and Write’ session at Tofino’s Legion.”