Academy Award-winning BlacKkKlansman Screenwriter Kevin Willmott wins 2020 Spalding Prize for the Promotion of Peace and Justice in Literature

Willmott, filmmaker and film professor, speaks at Spalding University on May 28.

By Kathleen Driskell, Chair, School of Creative and Professional Writing

I am delighted to announce that Academy Award-winning screenwriter Kevin Willmott is the 2020 recipient of the Spalding Prize for the Promotion of Peace and Justice in Literature. The Spalding Prize, which comes with an award of $7,500, was established to honor literary work that exemplifies the mission of Spalding University and its commitment to compassion.

Willmott, who in 2019 shared the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for BlacKkKlansman, is also Professor of Film and Media Studies at the University of Kansas and has spent his filmmaking career taking on the subject of racism in America. He is known as both a screenwriter and director. A frequent collaborator with Spike Lee, his films include a satirical imagining of current-day America if the South had won the Civil War (CSA: The Confederate States of America, which he wrote and directed) and a retelling of Lysistrata in a violence-wracked neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side (Chi-Raq, which he co-wrote with Lee). The film critic Richard Brody called Willmott’s work “brilliantly imagined fictions.”

The prize will be awarded to Willmott during his visit to Spalding’s School of Creative and Professional Writing, home of the nationally distinguished low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Writing Program. After the award presentation, Willmott will speak about his experiences as a screenwriter, teacher, and civil rights activist. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 28, in the Egan Leadership Center at the corner of Fourth and Breckinridge streets. The event is free, ticketless, and open to the public. Free parking is plentiful.

Kevin Willmott is an extraordinary screenwriter and teacher. His most recent film, BlacKkKlansman, which he wrote with Spike Lee and others, is the kind of work we aim to recognize with our Spalding Prize and bring to our students’ attention. BlacKkKlansman is courageous, unflinching, and beautifully written. Like his earlier work, it’s a relevant social commentary on our times. 

In 2019, the year Willmott won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay with co-writers Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, and Charlie Wachtel, the film was nominated for a total of six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The screenplay was adapted from Black Klansman, Ron Stallworth’s memoir detailing his work as the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department, during which he infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan of Colorado Springs. BlacKkKlansman premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Grand Prix. The American Film Institute named BlacKkKlansman one of the top films of 2018.

Willmott may be a familiar face to some Spalding students, alums, and faculty members. He has visited our MFA residency twice before, most recently to talk about Chi-Raq. That film was the first to be produced by Amazon Studios.

We’re excited to honor Willmott with our Spalding Prize and pleased that Spalding graduate students in creative and professional writing will have the chance to learn from him. Students will view BlacKkKlansman, CSA: The Confederate States of America, and  Destination: Planet Negro! and will read and discuss the script for BlacKkKlansman before Willmott visits Spalding to discuss his work.


Award-winning poet and teacher Kathleen Driskell is Chair and Professor of Creative Writing at Spalding University’s School of Creative and Professional Writing, home of the low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Writing program. Her newest poetry collection, Blue Etiquette, is available from Red Hen Press. Next Door to the Dead, winner of the 2018 Judy Gaines Young Book Award, is available from UPKY. She currently serves as Chair for the AWP Board of Directors. Follow her @kathdriskell or visit her blog at kathleendriskell.blogspot.com.


Summer Residency in Paris: The Rest of the Details!

By Katy Yocom, Spalding School of Writing Associate Director for Communications and Alumni Relations

Last week, I wrote up all the details we could announce about our Paris residency, July 6-16, 2020. This week I’m back with final details, including travel costs and an innovative new workshop focused on professional writing.

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Summer Residency in Paris: (Most of) The Details You’ve Been Waiting For

By Katy Yocom, Spalding School of Writing Associate Director of Communications and Alumni Relations

This is the time of year when students and alums start sending me GIFs of impatient cats, with captions like “Me watching my email for news about Paris.”

I know you’re eager to make your plans. I swear we’re not holding out on you; we’re just putting the final touches on the residency. And in that spirit, even though final details are still in progress, here’s what I can tell you.

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Writing for TV and Tabletop Game Design: Two Special Workshops for Spring 2020 Residency. Applications Open Now

Two cutting-edge areas of creative writing—writing for television and writing for tabletop games—gain special focus in two unique workshops offered May 22-31 during the Spring 2020 residency of Spalding University’s School of Creative and Professional Writing.  

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Ohm’s Law

By Debra Kang Dean, Spalding School of Writing Poetry Faculty

For any circuit the electrical current is directly proportional to the voltage and is inversely proportional to the resistance.

As a consequence of my bewilderingly high scores in the electronics section of the battery of tests I had to take before enlisting in the Air Force, I was recruited into the field of ground radio repair. It turned out to be a poor match since I never really got beyond being able to read schematics; I console myself by believing that one need also have mechanical sense to do well, and my scores on that part of the test had been dismal.

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Screenwriter Bruce Marshall Romans Joins the Faculty of Spalding University’s School of Creative and Professional Writing

By Katy Yocom, Spalding School of Writing Associate Director

Spalding University’s School of Creative and Professional Writing welcomes acclaimed television and film writer and producer Bruce Marshall Romans to the faculty. Romans, whose television writing and producing credits include Hell on Wheels and Marvel’s The Punisher, will deliver a lecture about writing for TV at the upcoming November residency before taking on full teaching duties with the Spring 2020 semester, when he will lead a writers’ room workshop at the May residency and mentor screenwriting students in independent study.

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The ups & downs of creating a micro-budget feature film

By Sam Zalutsky, Spalding School of Writing Dramatic Writing Faculty

This week, my “new” movie, Seaside (@seasidemovie on Instagram and Facebook), a revenge thriller set on the Oregon Coast, was released by Gravitas Ventures (@gravitasVOD) on multiple streaming platforms, including iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, and Vimeo. For a while I wondered if Seaside would ever see the light of day so I am really excited and grateful to be able to share it with you.

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The Little Dramatic Writing Program That Could: Part Two

By Charlie Schulman, Faculty, Writing for TV, Screen, and Stage
Spalding University’s School of Creative and Professional Writing

Matt Wohl graduated from the Spalding low-residency MFA in Writing program in 2013. He has been teaching at Broward College for the past two years and is on the Executive Board of Film Florida. His new feature film, SCOOTER, will receive its World Premiere in Miami Beach on September 12. I recently asked him a few questions about his experience writing, directing, and producing his first feature film.

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Thorns Will Be Necessary: The Appeal of the Flawed Character

By Beth Ann Bauman, Spalding MFA Faculty, Writing for Children and Young Adults

One of my favorite TV shows is the HBO crime drama “The Night Of.”  It’s tough and gritty and co-written by the inimitable Richard Price.  I’m going to detour here and mention how at a New Yorker festival years back, I first met Price when he and another author gave talks about their writing. The first was affected and kept tinkling the ice in his glass in a soft, actorly way.  He was sort of full of it.  Price, on the other hand, bounded onto the stage when it was his turn, looking like he was wearing a pajama top.  He looked at us and said, “Hey, did you know there’s a really good bar across the street?”  Well, he had our attention.

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MUSIC AND LYRICS AT SPALDING, OH, MY!

By Katy Yocom, Spalding Low-Residency MFA Associate Program Director

First she participated in the MFA program’s musical theatre workshop. Then she wrote about it for MusicalWriters.com.

Guest Faculty Michael Roberts and Dramatic Writing Faculty Charlie Schulman

In this week’s blog post, we’re proud to highlight Donna Gay Anderson’s (PW ’18) fun and informative article. Take a look and find out why this Spring 2018 workshop was in such high demand … and how creative team Charlie Schulman and Michael Roberts work together like Fred and Ginger!

Read the full article here:

MUSIC AND LYRICS AT SPALDING, OH, MY!
By Donna Gay Anderson

Enjoy!

Fun times at the Musical Theater Workshop – shown here are Charlie Schulman, Jennine “Doc” Krueger, Holly Baldwin, Donna Gay Anderson and Julia B. Rosenblatt.