Exclusive Interview with Girma Negash – Academic – Screenwriter
Ethiopian-born American, Girma Negash can truly say that he has lived many lives. His early education was in his homeland Ethiopia and his higher education in the United States. After earning a Ph. D. in political science at the University of Colorado, he taught in Nigeria (University of Calabar) and in the U.S. (University of South Carolina) until retirement in 2007. He is a retired professor with experience in academic and journalistic writing and, with a master’s degree in Radio-TV-Film, he has also written a few screenplays over the years. In recent years he happily returned to creative writing including spec scripts.
He entered his script, Fleeting Honor, in the International Screenplay Competition and just became a Finalist. The historical feature screenplay about Ethiopian warriors in the Korean War is very personal to him. His credentials are not as relevant as the fact of who he is and his identification with the story inasmuch as he was both a participant and witness to some aspects of this true story. He saw the Ethiopian bodyguards training near his village, and body bags arriving from Korea followed by mourning in his neighborhood. He participated in the 1960 coup, got caught in a crossfire in the ensuing urban battle, and witnessed casualties. He would work with some of the discredited vets years later. Ever since, he followed their stories of celebration, persecution, and redemption from near and afar. His involvement is threaded into the overall fabric of their story and this script.
NY Glam: What projects are you current working on?
My obsession right now is a feature film, Fate Bender, which is a political thriller based on a true story. In the meantime, I am promoting my historical feature film, Fleeting Honor, to attract a studio or representation. It has so far placed as Honorable-Mention, Quarterfinalist, Twice as Semifinalist, and Twice as Finalist in screenplay competitions. My dream is that it will be produced and that it will be marketed for English, Korean, and Amharic (Ethiopian) audiences. It is a story that needs to be told and represented.
NY Glam: What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?
As a cinephile I like all kinds of films. When I was taking film classes way back when, I went through a period of being snobbish. Nothing but art film for me. Then I got over that sophomoric attitude and opened to the whole gamut of entertainment and art films and those in between. Even an escape film should have the minimum elements of good cinema that evoke emotions and hence engage you. An artistic film will have all the qualities to intensify emotions, to clarify experience, and ultimately give meaning.
NY Glam: As a screenwriter, what is the most important aspect of building a character?
Motivation is the most important element of creating a character whether it comes from within or from without. For example, I am in the middle of a struggle to build a character for a biopic script I am writing. While I have all the external incidents that happened to the character, I am lacking in knowledge of his formative years that would impact on how you would expect him to react to situations later. I need more research and interviews to inform his internal motivations to act, react, and respond.
NY Glam: Top 3 favorite projects that you have been involved in?
Two student screenplays for my M.S. Degree at the University of Kansas. The first is Mamo a dramatic feature about an Ethiopian labor union representative, who comes to New York City for a convention, and is destroyed by an intense culture shock. The second is a short documentary The 3000-Year Farmer is about the daily life of a farmer in the highlands of Ethiopia.
At present, I am promoting the script Fleeting Honor about Ethiopian heroes in the Korean War.
Finally, Fate Bender is a political thriller that I am working on right now.
NY Glam: Do you express yourself creatively in other ways?
Earlier in my life I wrote a stage play, acted on stage during my high school and college, and loved pencil drawing. During my academic year I published articles on the nexus between art and politics which have been widely referenced.
NY Glam: What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career in film?
Do your homework, always. And as Stephen Hawking liked to say NEVER GIVE UP!
NY Glam: What can we expect from you in this actual year?
Finish Fate Bender and test out its reception in screenplay competitions.
NY Glam: Where can everyone keep up with you to learn more? … social media … website
loglines, bio, competitions at: filmFreeway.com Coverfly.com