Editor’s Note: The Flash Today asked Mrs. Elaine Fields Smith to write about her experiences, the screenplay and the festival. She sent the following to David Swearingen and The Flash is honored to share it with our readers.
After Elaine Smith, author and longtime Erath County resident, got word a screenplay she wrote in 2019 is a finalist at a film festival at a beautiful theater occurring next month, she is celebrating. The story is based on her experience of losing a job due to budget cuts in 2017 and not being able to find another position. Her husband’s retirement check paid most of the bills, but over the next year, finances got really tight. Savings was depleted and even 401K money was used. The 60-year-old was worried. Was it age discrimination or what? Overqualified? “Oh, paleeze,” she says.
Meanwhile, the biography Elaine wrote about Virginia Reger entitled “Ridin’ Ropin’ & Jumpin’ Over Cars” won best nonfiction at the North Texas Book Festival in 2018. Elaine took the images and added stories told by the then 90-year-old rodeo star and produced a documentary that year. That film won awards at several film festivals. But it didn’t sell any books and she was still caught in what she calls “Financial Purgatory.” That is being too old to get a good job and too young to draw Social Security.
Back to the screenplay. In mid-2019, Elaine got word the documentary was a finalist at a festival in Tennessee. She called the director and explained how she was poor and likely couldn’t attend. The woman said she should attend, as there would be many people she could meet and RFDTV was in Nashville, just a few miles away, and might be interested in the documentary. Further, the woman said, “Write a screenplay about your experience. I know people in the national Women in Film office who give grants to women to make films.”
Elaine had never written a screenplay, but she studied the genre and started on it. At that same time, she put a call out on Facebook to help fund her trip to Tennessee. To her shock, over $1,400 was donated from friends in just six days. She completed the screenplay with the happy ending of winning an award at that film festival in Franklin, TN. She got to go to that festival, meet those people, and she did win. No word yet from RFDTV, but the film is on www.greatamericanwesterns.com.
That screenplay called “In the Spirit” features Elaine’s real life story of the emotional turmoil and irony of being so successful on one hand and so financially strained on the other. She sat on the back porch when first deciding how to write the story and the rocking chair beside her began moving back and forth. She had an image of a friend, one who succumbed to a dreaded cancer in 2011. They had been buddies in college and had a camaraderie unmatched with anyone else. They even laughed together as the friend lay dying. She would help tell the story and be a spirit guide throughout. The last scene features Elaine soaking in an indoor hot tub at the motel looking up into the sky saying, “We did it. We won!” She wrote that before she even left home. And it came true.
The significance of this screenplay being a finalist at a festival is that it is Elaine’s story. All the awards and recognition she has received have been for telling Virginia’s story. Though that is wonderful, Elaine is beyond happy that her tale of the trials of being an unemployed upper-middle-aged woman and a struggling writer has touched other people.