The Sanborn Identity: Award-winning filmmaker

Sissy Spacek wasn't the only C'ville celeb who made an appearance at last weekend's 18th annual Virginia Film Festival. WINA reporter Bruce Sanborn was also present– but not for his day job.

Sunday afternoon he was at the Regal Theater accepting an award for his full-length screenplay, one of three scripts selected as winners of the annual Governor's Screenwriting Competition, a contest hosted by the Richmond-based Virginia Film Office.

"I've never received an award of this degree before," says Sanborn, "so naturally I'm pleased."

Roughly 90 screenplays were submitted in the statewide competition, but Sanborn's Touch, "a bittersweet romance set in a small town in Virginia," was one of those that stood out.

"What typically sets our winners apart is an original, interesting screenplay," says Virginia Film Office communications manager Mary Nelson. "One of the pitfalls of young writers is that they tend to reproduce genres– but how many more car-chase movies do we need? Our winners, on the other hand, are creative minds at work."

Including Sanborn, who by now knows the ins and outs of the entertainment industry, having acted in Los Angeles and lived in New York as an off-Broadway playwright for nine years before moving to Charlottesville. He's no novice to film writing, either.

"I've written comedies, horror films, dramas," he says. "This particular work is about a mysterious young woman who becomes involved with a shy gardener."

"I think it's a magical story," says local film financier Barry Sisson. "It's one of the best scripts I've ever read."

Sanborn began composing Touch two years ago. And while he says it's a long way from being produced, his fans didn't leave the Festival disappointed. His short film, Uriah had its first public showing Friday, October 28 in UVA's Culbreth Theater.

"It's a great experience to be able to attend a showing of something you've written," says Sanborn of the 10-minute-long work, "especially on the big screen."

Sanborn says he loves the Festival not just because it screened his film but also for the support it provides to independent filmmakers.

"I've started going back to making my own films, including Uriah, because it can be very frustrating working with other people on a single movie," he says. "If you're all working on the same page, it's great. If not, it's not. The downside, of course, is how much extra work is involved. If you see Uriah, you see how many roles I played in creating the film.

"I'll still be making films; in fact, I'll be starting pre-production for my next one this January and February. I'll just be relying on individuals, not filmmaking companies."

Sanborn claims that his plight is common among screenwriters everywhere.

"When it comes to production, we're the low men on the totem pole," he says.

Bruce Sanborn