After nearly three years of online-only meetings, members of the Tennessee Screenwriting Association joined together for a much-needed gathering in the “real world” at NECAT studios in West Nashville. But this wasn’t just a business-as-usual meeting of the educational non-profit, which was formed in Nashville back in 1988. It also happened to be the first episode of Page 2 Screen, the region’s first television show produced by and for Tennessee’s aspiring screenwriters.
The project’s origins began back in January 2020, when Watkins College of Art (the long-time meeting place for the TSA) announced that it would merge with Belmont University. TSA board members began to explore the idea of a new venue to hold its weekly meetings, which led to board member Bob Giordano scouting the NECAT facility located at Nashville State Community College in West Nashville.
Giordano began to wonder if holding TSA meetings in a television studio would excite TSA members and better inform their screenwriting. It turns out that Giordano was on to something. “Even before the lockdown, there was a lot of interest by the members for a new meeting place that wasn’t just another classroom, but more of a place that could spur our creativity,” Giordano says. “NECAT fit the bill.”
The plan to move TSA meetings to NECAT was interrupted by the lockdowns from the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020. Like many other business and social practices that had been altered by the pandemic, it became a foregone conclusion that TSA gatherings would be online into the foreseeable future and indeed it would be nearly three years before members seriously revisited the “live” option.
After multiple discussions and various proposals, TSA’s board agreed not to just hold meetings at the NECAT studio, but to use the facility to create an educational public-access show centered on screenwriting and local filmmaking. Over the next few months, a team of TSA members – most of whom had not worked in studio television production before – went through NECAT’s rigorous training program.
On Wednesday, January 25, 2023, after some long-overdue fist-bumps, hugs, and a visit to the “craft service” table, the cameras and lights came on and “quiet on the set!” was called by Director Daniel Spear. With a wave of the hand by Floor Director Pete Kremer, production began on “Episode 101” of Page 2 Screen, which uses a 30 minute talk-show format. TSA’s own Irish Johnston hosted the episode and the series’ first “guest” was TSA President Jeff Chase, who examined one of the most basic questions every aspiring writer and film buff must confront: “What is a Screenplay?” Plot, character, theme, and formatting were all explored as an attentive audience of nearly 20 people watched and in some cases, took notes.
And yet, despite the flash and sizzle of a live-on-tape television production, the real draw of the evening was fellowship and old friends finally getting to re-connect in the real world. “I made some good friends at TSA over the years and it was such a great feeling to get back together with them in the real world,” said longtime member Glenn Whelan. Newer members who had really only ever interacted with the TSA through Zoom had a different perspective. “It was fun to finally meet all these people in person that I’d only known as a face on the Brady Bunch zoom screen,” laughed Margaret Hayes.
With an untested crew and an unfamiliar facility, the experience was somewhat tense for the show’s Executive Producer, Mark Naccarato. “It’s been almost 25 years since I produced a TV show, so yeah, I was a little nervous,” he said. “It helped that we had a patient, well-trained crew and a studio audience that was rooting for us to succeed and in the end we all had a lot of fun.”
Tapings of Page 2 Screen are scheduled for the last Wednesday of each month beginning at 6:30 pm and are open to the public, though an rsvp on TSA’s Facebook page is strongly encouraged. More details on airdates, episodes, and
filming are all available on TSA’s website, www.TennScreen.com.