The Tirota/Finish Line Social Impact Script Competition has selected Morehouse College Professor Stephane Dunn’s screenplay Chicago ’66 as the very first grand prize winner of the inaugural screenwriting contest.
For Chicago ’66, Dr. Dunn took inspiration from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s impactful but largely forgotten crusade in Chicago. The crusade in question is set in the summer of 1966 when a coalition of civil rights and community organizations came together in a high visibility initiative across a range of social and economic issues to encourage an end to discrimination and de facto segregation in Chicago. This effort even further amplified when the civil rights pioneer Dr. King joined them. For at least one summer, Chicago became the frontline in America’s civil rights battle. Chicago ’66 tells the story of a grieving young boy living with his grandfather in a Chicago slum who becomes inspired and emboldened when Dr. and Mrs. King become his neighbors that summer.
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“I’ve been intrigued by the last years of Dr. King’s life, when his politics were at their most radical. He criticized capitalism, militarism and poverty, and in going north to Chicago he showed that change was needed all over the country,” said Dr. Dunn. “Plus, my mother, who was just 18 at that time, had arrived in Chicago from the South, and moved into an apartment just a short walk from Dr. and Mrs. King’s place.”
She continued, “I hope this honor will help call attention to this important and overlooked story of the summer of 1966, so resonant with our times more than 50 years later.”
“Chicago ’66’s authenticity shows how Stephane consistently embodies the world of Dr. King’s fight for justice,” Finish Line Script Competition co-founder Jenny Frankfurt said. “But her choice to fictionalize the family aspect of the screenplay shows an emotional and relatable aspect of the story that will touch all those who read the material, and it will connect with actors and filmmakers.”
“The Tirota/Finish Line Social Impact Script Competition was designed to address the public’s hunger for purposeful entertainment that raises awareness, creates empathy and leads to social change, and Chicago ’66 absolutely fits with that goal,” Tirota partner Rob Densen said. “Dr. Dunn is a talented storyteller and knowledgeable academic who brings both of those attributes to bear on an important, excruciatingly timely, and largely untold story.”
The Tirota/Finish Line Social Impact Script Competition is a new addition to the Finish Line Script Competition which is in its fifth cycle. The competition was launched this year to celebrate writers of film and television screenplays who aim to raise awareness and inspire change around critical social issues — and if you haven’t noticed, these types of stories and issues speak loudly to the current movement of social and civic unrest. As the winner, Dr. Dunn received a package including $1,000 for an option on the script, along with meetings with literary agents, managers and development executives.
Dr. Dunn is a co-founder and academic coordinator for the Morehouse College’s Cinema, Television & Emerging Media Studies Program (CTEMS). Her work focuses on race, gender and class in American and African American culture, particularly popular culture, TV and film. Dr. Dunn also consults about issues of race and diversity on screen and beyond, and is author of the book Baad Bitches & Sassy Supermamas: Black Power Action Films (University of Illinois Press).
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