Graduate student wins Georgia screenwriting award

Kandace James
Kandace James

KENNESAW, Ga. (Dec 3, 2020) — Kennesaw State University graduate student Kandace James has won first prize in the Georgia Shorts Film Festival for her short film screenplay “Cutting Teeth.”

A second-year student in KSU’s Master of Arts in Professional Writing program, James beat out four other finalists in the contest, which was part of a consortium of film festivals nationwide but focused on Georgia-inspired narratives.

“This win felt close to home because I was closer to home,” she said. “I didn’t need to fly to Los Angeles; I just drove 15 minutes down the street. And I consider Georgia to be my home, so to win at a local film festival is something I hold close to me.”

The screenplay follows a self-conscious tween, who while being burdened with black teeth and the memories of her mother, strategizes to replace her teeth with white ones, but runs into trouble.

This is the fourth honor for “Cutting Teeth.” In 2019, the screenplay won Best Short Screenplay at the LA Live Film Festival. Earlier this year it won a Laurel at the Short. Sweet. Film Fest in Cleveland, Ohio, and was an official selection at the Scriptapalooza Screenplay and Shorts Competition.

James earned her bachelor’s degree in English from KSU in 2018 with a focus on poetry. In her final semester as an undergraduate, she took an introduction to screenwriting class from assistant professor Gabrielle Fulton Ponder. The class changed James’ course, and after earning her bachelor’s in English, she enrolled in the MAPW program to focus on screenwriting, though she still writes poetry.

Fulton Ponder said she has observed James’ evolution from poet to screenwriter with great interest and pride.

“To see her honored on a regional and national level is immensely satisfying because she works so hard at her craft and is so courageous about putting her heart on the page to tell emotionally charged, meaningful stories,” Fulton Ponder said. “She has a clarity of voice and a perspective that deserves recognition."

In addition to James, who plans to graduate in spring 2021, several other MAPW graduates recently have received awards for their work. Walter Lawrence (’19) was selected to present his script at the International Christian Film and Music Festival earlier this year, Laura McCarter  (’18) was a finalist in the AFF Pitch Competition, and Ed Gadrix (’19) won the Los Angeles International Screenwriting Competition and was hired to adapt a play into a full-length feature film, which concluded production last month.

– David Shelles


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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu

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