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2022 Write of Passage Interview

Meet Rhonda Dragomir (RD)

By John Ware on
2022 Write of Passage Interview

Introducing 2022 Write of Passage Winner: Rhonda Dragomir (RD)

Our Winner is: “Grace Comes Home” by Rhonda Dragomir (RD), from Wilmore Kentucky with help from Development Executive: Denise Thurman (DT). The story is about a disgraced socialite who is now a small-town pastor’s wife. When her daughter gets engaged to the son of a man her father swindled, she must decide whether to divulge her true identity.

Rhonda wrote the best 12-page screenplay in one week (168 hours) with an advisor called a Development Executive (DE). Both are interviewed below.  

Prizes include $600 cash ($500 to the writer, $100 to the DE) and writer introduction to Hollywood Pros, including Brian Bird ("The Case For Christ" and “When Calls The Heart”). 

Any WP script may be produced for the 168 Film Festival's Write of Passage Spotlight.  Writers and mentors (DE's) receive screen credit if their film is made.

Some Quotes From This Interview with Rhonda Dragomir:

“I definitely learned I can write faster and trust my instincts. In novel writing, I tend to edit as I go, which really slows down my production. I think I’ll progress more quickly in all my writing as I move forward.” 

“My degree in social work combined with more than four decades in ministry has made me a keen observer of people from every walk of life… I have been an outcast… This story comes from the pages of my own history.”

“The takeaway of these verses (Amos Ch. 9) to me is that God promises, being an exile is a temporary condition.“

“Jesus was the most amazing storyteller who ever lived, but he also treasured and encouraged everyone who listened. I want to be just like Him.” 

The interviewer is John David Ware (JDW). “WP” means Write of Passage.
We asked some probing questions and got probing answers.

Interview with Winning Writer: Rhonda Dragomir (RD)

John David Ware (JDW): Tell us about yourself. What do you do for work?
RD:  I am a self-employed web designer and graphic artist, but writing is my main profession.

JDW: Tell us about your family and where you live. How has your environment and family shaped your writing? What obstacles have you had to overcome in life? How have they helped your writing?
RD:  I have the world’s most supportive husband. We’ve been married 43 years, and I’m a pastor’s wife, just like my main character in this short film. My degree in social work, combined with more than four decades in ministry has made me a keen observer of people from every walk of life. Their hopes, dreams, and challenges are no different than mine. Like my main character, I have been an outcast. The lessons I learned through that season have shaped all my writing. I focus not only on the circumstance, but also on the underlying reasons for it, my emotions, and the wisdom and healing God always brings. 

JDW: Is this your 1st time in WP? Have you won awards, been optioned, etc?
RD:  This is my first time in WP and my first completed screenplay. I’ve won numerous awards for writing both fiction and nonfiction, but never an award for screenwriting. That’s what makes this win so exciting to me.

JDW: Besides the verse, what inspired you to write “GRACE COMES HOME?” 
RD: This story comes from the pages of my own history, and a painful separation following a 23-year ministry in a local church. I still grieve the loss of friendships with people there whom I love. My yearning for total reconciliation and restoration propelled me to write the happy ending for my character that I’m still waiting for.

JDW: How did this year’s theme hit you?  Describe your journey from theme and verse?
RD: Everyone faces conflict that separates us from “home,” whether that’s a physical place, friendships, or sometimes family members. Our innate desire to return to a place of peace and acceptance after a crisis is universal. When I learned this year’s theme, it reignited the longing in my soul that still lingers from my personal experience. I imagined several stories even before I learned the verse, but the announcement of the passage in Amos launched my thoughts in a new direction. This story emerged just a few hours later. The takeaway of these verses to me is that God promises being an exile is a temporary condition. Ultimately, He is our home. His forgiveness makes it possible for us to return to Him regardless of circumstances, emotions like false guilt, or human misunderstandings. In that way, GRACE COMES HOME is also an allegory.

JDW: How are you planning to shape the story going forward? Any plans to make the film?
RD: At this point I don’t plan to make the film, but a couple of months ago I never planned to write it, either! I have imagined ways to lengthen it into a full-length film, and I plan to write a treatment to see if it works as a longer story. 

JDW: Tell us about your pursuit of the arts?
RD: The arts have always played a central role in my life. I’m an accomplished flutist, and my family includes several talented musicians, including my brother, who is a composer. I took art lessons even as a girl, and that has developed into my current passion and talent for digital art. I have produced several informational videos, and I love nothing better than creating something interesting, beautiful, and informative that also touches the heart.

JDW: How did your Mentor/Development Executive, help shape your story?
RD:  Denise was amazing. She always responded to me right away and made herself available for all my rookie questions. She never made me doubt my abilities, even though I made early mistakes from lack of knowledge. She helped me focus on the writing and the message, and she also identified an inconsistency in my main character’s attitude. When I acted on Denise’s suggestion, everything flowed better, and Grace became more likable.

JDW: Tell us about your writing process.
RD:  I’m a total plotter, and never once considered “pantsing” (write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants). The time pressure of this contest forced me on a walk through the pantser camp. I didn’t have time to overthink every detail. I also faced the challenge of an impending ice storm that might have knocked out our power. Worrywart that I am, I wrote the script in a matter of hours in case that’s all the time I’d have. I focused on creating engaging dialogue, and I did not abandon my fiction tactic of injecting humor into tense situations to lighten the mood. Even in writing the action beats, I tried to use evocative verbs and tight, pithy sentences. My goal was to make reading the script as fun as watching the movie.

JDW: How has WP helped you grow as a writer? Would you recommend it to others?
RD:  I definitely learned I can write faster and trust my instincts. In novel writing, I tend to edit as I go, which really slows down my production. I think I’ll progress more quickly in all my writing as I move forward. I highly recommend this contest to anyone who wants to break into a writing career, whether as a novelist or a full-time screen writer. If someone wants to learn better storytelling principles, WP is a hothouse for making them grow.

JDW: What are your plans for the future?
RD: If I may use a metaphor from my script, I feel like the glass has been blown out of my Victorian conservatory. I’m preparing myself to walk through any door that opens by the grace of God. Now one of those doors might be an opportunity to become a screenwriter as well as a novelist. I just completed my second historical romance, set during the Civil War at a fascinating site five miles down the road from me. I’ll begin adapting it for the screen, and we’ll see what happens!

JDW: Anything else we should know about you?
RD: I love to encourage people, and if I gain any success, I’m more than happy to share what I’ve learned. Jesus was the most amazing storyteller who ever lived, but he also treasured and encouraged everyone who listened. I want to be just like Him.


Interview with Winning Development Executive: Denise Thurman (DT)

JDW:  Where are you from and what do you do?
DT: I’m originally from Bloomington, Indiana and I ended up in Los Angeles twenty years ago after chasing a band in Alabama and attending film school in Nashville. I’ve worked as a litigation legal secretary for half my life.

JDW: You are a frequent participant in WOP and 168.  What have you learned?  Do you still find it useful? You are a first time DE? How did you like shaping and leading the writers?
DT: I have entered quite a few times in the past as a writer. I have learned a lot about making stronger choices and cutting out the fluff, getting to the core of the story and building from it instead of just adding in a bunch of scenes that I think are really cool. I find it very useful to have a mentor that can point things out that I don’t necessarily see. It’s always hard when I read my own material because I know it’s fantastic, until they tell me it needs some “tweaking” - in a polite manner. This is my first time being a DE and I was hesitant because I still believe I’m learning so much about the craft myself - but I realize we will always be in a state of learning. My first screenwriting book was from the 80’s and things have certainly changed and continue to change. I didn’t know how to really approach the writers on this end of the stick so I just prayed profusely that God would lead me and he has. And it helps that I’m a big believer in encouraging others, building them up and being a cheerleader of sorts. I never want to shy away from my dreams just because I don’t have experience and I want to impress that on others. This is where you get the experience as a writer and a mentor. I had some cream of the crop writers and I learned so much as well with their different styles of telling their stories. They were all amazing.

JDW: What do you see as some differences between telling stories in your region vs. other places?
DT: As writers we tend to write best what we know and I can write from experience in four different states. Now that I live in Los Angeles I love watching old television shows that are set here, and seeing all the familiar landmarks and streets that I hear them talk about. When I hear Mulholland, the 405 or the Valley mentioned, it’s not a place that’s foreign to me anymore. Back home we call Indianapolis “Indy” and some people may not get that unless it’s explained - let alone what a Hoosier is. Indiana, Alabama and Tennessee seem to be wide open spaces and Los Angeles is as well, but it’s all concrete until you get to the beach or Temescal Canyon. One of the skits on Carol Burnett mentioned Canoga Falls at one time. And now I get that it was a play on words because I live in Canoga Park- in the Valley.

JDW: How has being a DE in Write of Passage helped you grow? What have you learned? What would you tell writers about the experience?
DT: Being a DE in Write of Passage has helped me grow in giving constructive criticism. I’m a person that always like to be nice because I never want to hurt anyone’s feelings or make them feel inferior and I used to believe what I thought didn’t really matter. So it’s been hard for me in the past to find words to express my real thoughts. But this has taught me how to be openly honest and supportive while also, hopefully, helping to strengthen their stories in some fashion. And I certainly had some divine intervention. I wasn’t really sure I could do this, but God knew differently and he used this experience to strengthen my skills in this area, because he knew I needed it and it would prepare me for a job in film/script development, which is my focus now.

JDW: What are your plans for the future?
DT: Keep writing, keep entering contests, keep building my network, collaborating and helping others along the journey as much as I possibly can. I am now more focused on faith-based films and how to tell them better and step it up a notch because our world is hurting and we need to get the message out there in a way that will take root and start a movement. We need revival and media arts is an amazing way to get the fire started. So, I’m going to take my match and march on.

JDW: Anything else we should know about you?
DT: I recently found a baby opossum hiding behind my toilet at 3 a.m., which will soon become part of a children’s book series I’m writing. He was caught the next day at noon and released. Since then I have adopted two beautiful cats. I fell in love with every pair of cats I saw but when I came across sisters Faith and Grace, I knew it was a sign because I certainly needed a little more Faith and Grace in my life. So far so good. I have not had any experiences with unwanted critters of any kind.