A Different Kind of Truth

By Sam Zalutsky, Spalding MFA Screenwriting Faculty


I used to read the New York Times cover to cover, every day. I’d start with the Sports pages (no lie!) and then move on to business, and then arts, and finally open the first section. Sometimes it was a challenge to take in all the events happening around the world, but I was raised by parents who saw the Times as the great American truth-teller, the arbiter of the news that mattered. And despite its many biases, it really is a great paper.

We got the daily subscription in Portland, Oregon, when I was in high school as soon as it became available, and since college I’ve subscribed pretty consistently. My father still reads it cover to cover every day. For both of us, it is a type of addiction, a feeling of absence when we don’t read it. But lately I’ve needed a break; reading the news is too much to bear. And it’s not even the “fake news.” I like to know what’s going on. But I also realize that the truth can be hard sometimes and that I need to protect myself and put a buffer between me and the news. But it doesn’t mean that I am not interested in the truth. I think I’m just more interested right now in other kinds of truth, the truth that we writers know a lot about. It’s the truth of art, the truth of connection with others, the truth of nature, the truth of shared experience. It is something I think we do at Spalding really well and I think it’s something that is even more important when basic norms of our society are being upturned daily.

One reason I love the Spalding MFA so much is that our residencies are intense times where these other truths prevail. And I encourage everyone to find other times and places to experience these truths as well.

In September I participated in two events that reinforced my need for these truths. First I went to Ft. Collins, Colorado, where I had a photograph in a group show called Center Forward at the Center for Fine Art Photography. I had never been to Fort Collins, a beautiful town full of college students, wide streets, bars with live music, and outdoor enthusiasts. I randomly chose an Airbnb where my host is an adventure photographer, so we spent mornings on her back porch drinking coffee and talking about photography. She and her adorable dog spend months at a time camping and hiking around the West, taking photos (her, not her dog). I loved breathing in the clean air with her in the mornings and I loved hearing about her life, which is so different from my own in New York City.

meat rack couple

Meat Rack – Couple by Sam Zalutsky

At the show were probably ten other photographers from many different places: New Jersey, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Boston, Boulder. We ranged in age (I think) from our 20s into our 60s, straight, gay, men, women, mainly white and Asian. We all met the night of the opening when hundreds of people came through as part of the city’s first Friday celebration. Two college students enthusiastically interviewed me about my work for their photography class. And the following day the other photographers and I were able to share our work with each other (kind of like a workshop), opening a larger discussion about our processes and goals. Each artist’s work was very different, but it was exciting to share our themes that we were working and the similarities and differences in our work. Although it was just one weekend, I felt a strong connection to the other photographers and know I have expanded my community further. Those connections might be fleeting, but they were real and they were true.

After Ft. Collins I attended the Klamath Independent Film Festival in Klamath Falls, Oregon, for a special screening of Seaside. Despite growing up in Oregon, I had never been to Klamath Falls, a sweet little town near the California border. I drove up from San Francisco with my husband and two friends. We stopped at the Lava Beds National Monument near the Oregon border and spent an incredible day visiting Crater Lake, which has some of the bluest water I have ever seen. To say something looked like a movie feels increasingly cliche yet these blues looked like they had been digitally enhanced. But it was real and it was true.


But the film festival was the real reason I was there. There were all types of films, features and shorts, documentaries and fiction, but everyone there had a connection to Oregon and were making work about Oregon. The opportunity to show my work to local Oregon audiences and other Oregon filmmakers was a real gift. There were filmmakers of all ages, from high school into their sixties and local film fans who don’t have many opportunities to see independent film on the big screen. What brought us together was a love of storytelling and art and a very special part of the world.

After just a few days of sharing our work, we returned to our regular lives and I returned to New York, a very different place. But my time in Southern Oregon was real and it was true. A different kind of truth from the constant news cycle and a truth that feels more essential today than ever.



Sam Zalutsky recently completed his second feature, Seaside, a thriller set on the Oregon Coast. For his first feature, You Belong to Me, he was shortlisted for the Independent Spirit Award’s Someone to Watch Award. The film, available on iTunes and Amazon, and won the Audience Award, Best First Feature at San Diego FilmOut. Sam has directed second unit on two true crime shows, including Emmy-winner A Crime to Remember. His short film How to Make it to the Promised Land premiered on Shortoftheweek.com. He also directed and produced the comedy web series The Go-Getters. Sam earned his BA in studio art from Yale and his MFA in film from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and is on twitter and instagram @zalutsky. He teaches screenwriting in Spalding University’s low-residency MFA in Writing program. Visit Zalutsky’s website here.



Special Events at the Spring 2018 Residency

By Katy Yocom, Spalding MFA Associate Director


The Spalding low-residency MFA in Writing program is gearing up for its spring residency, May 25-June 3 in Louisville, Kentucky. The residency features dozens of special events and sessions, acclaimed guest speakers, and faculty craft lectures. Continue reading “Special Events at the Spring 2018 Residency”


by Jody Lisberger
Spalding MFA faculty, Fiction

Many people want to know, “What does an MFA in Writing at Spalding get me?” So we asked our alums of all ages and from all over the world to help us out.

Forty-eight graduates, 19 men and 29 women, starting with the first class of 2003 to the present, responded to our open question: How did the Spalding MFA in Writing low-residency program impact you professionally, creatively, and personally? Their responses extol and probe both surprising and not surprising reasons to pursue an MFA in general, and a Spalding MFA in particular. Continue reading “WHY DO AN MFA IN WRITING, AND WHY AT SPALDING UNIVERSITY?”


by Larry Brenner
Spalding MFA faculty, Screenwriting & Playwriting

(originally published 2012)

IMG_6846I’ve heard that one of the great parts of being a dad is that you can recapture what it’s like to be a kid again. Relive your childhood.

But I don’t think my childhood ever ended. Not really. Not where it counts. I think it’s more like watching how my childhood got started. Because the processes I developed back then are still the processes I use right now.


LIVING IN LIMBO: How to Stay Focused & Motivated on Large Projects

By Sam Zalutsky
Spalding MFA faculty, Screenwriting

Right now I’m finishing up Seaside, a microbudget feature which I wrote, directed, and produced. I’m so eager and excited for people to see it. But the filmmaking process is definitely a marathon and not a sprint. Maybe it’s a little like what happens when you are waiting for a book to be published. Postproduction can be particularly challenging. The immediacy and control of pre-production and shooting are replaced with a much slower and less intense schedule. And sometimes it feels like nothing is happening. Argh! Continue reading “LIVING IN LIMBO: How to Stay Focused & Motivated on Large Projects”

NO EXIT: When Endings Disappoint


By Dianne Aprile
Spalding MFA faculty, Creative Nonfiction

I’m a big fan of ambiguous endings. I have no problem with being left in the middle of things in the last scene. In fact, I find pleasure in lingering with a range of possibilities after the final page is turned. I have no quarrel with a novel or memoir that closes with its main character teetering on the brink of change—rather than safely ensconced on the other side of it. Continue reading “NO EXIT: When Endings Disappoint”


By Katy Yocom
Spalding MFA Associate Administrative Director

The Spalding low-residency MFA in Writing program is gearing up for its spring residency, May 26-June 4 in Louisville, Kentucky. The residency features dozens of special events and sessions, acclaimed guest speakers, faculty craft lectures, and a special performance by the nationally acclaimed Louisville Leopard Percussionists.

In addition, the MFA program is pleased to welcome a new faculty member in writing for children and young adults, as well as a special guest workshop leader in poetry.


TAPPING INTO THE “FOREVER EMPTY”: A Conversation between Mentor & Mentee

by Gabriel Jason Dean
Spalding MFA faculty, Screenwriting
cassie headshot

Cassie Brower

Spalding Screenwriting student, Cassie Brower, is currently the Director of Original Programming at Disney Junior in Los Angeles. DISNEY JUNIOR LOGOCassie has overseen the hit shows Sofia the First, The Lion Guard, Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Mickey and the Roadster Racers, Sheriff Callie’s Wild West, as well as several short series. I had the pleasure of working with Cassie as her mentor during her first semester at Spalding.  We inevitably discussed time-management and daily practice during our time together. And since those are topics I’m asked about by almost all the Spalding students I mentor, I reckoned a blog post was in order. But rather than just espousing what works for me, I thought it might also be beneficial to hear from Cassie, arguably one of Spalding’s busiest students.  Continue reading “TAPPING INTO THE “FOREVER EMPTY”: A Conversation between Mentor & Mentee”