Thursday, Kevin Willmott, screenwriter of Blackkklansman, shared his expertise with Millersville University Students. Willmott visited classes, lunched with students, dined with faculty and students, and participated in a panel discussion with Dr. Tracey Weis, Mr. Barry Kornhauser, and Dr. Theresa Russell-Loretz.
Professor Willmott gave students great advice about writing for the screen, including how to establish a controlling idea for a narrative. In the discussion, Willmott and the MU students discussed the concept of “twoness,” the controlling idea which grounds Blackkklansman. For example, characters in the film identify as African American and a policeman, as Jewish and a policeman, as African American and American, etc. As many people live with such double identities, the film reaches out to diverse audience members through its central concept.
The discussion also explored how this narrative set in the 1970s connected to the white supremacist actions in Charlottesville and elsewhere. When Willmott was questioned about the suggestions the film made for addressing racism, Film and American Society student Aliya Brown suggested that the final scene offered answers: to work together to expose racist acts for what they are.
Willmott generously discussed narrative ideas with film students like Ismael Miranda, pictured above to the right of Willmott, Dr. Craven (to left of Willmott) and Dr. Theresa Russell-Loretz (on right). Willmott encouraged students to set aside some time each day for writing, even just half an hour. He noted in his own writing he often tried to make his hero’s life as difficult as possible. To write realistic dialogue, Willmott advised students to always identify the point of a scene; then characters should be talking about that point. Students who attended were grateful for the practical writing advice so generously offered by Willmott, who was written such films as C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America and Chi-Raq.