Local screenwriter wins first-place Equus award

Posted 12/1/17

Local screenwriter wins first place award

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Local screenwriter wins first-place Equus award

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“Stubborn,” a screenplay about an orphaned black girl from New York City who triumphs in the elite equestrian sport of show jumping, earned Luann Still Chappell first-place honors at the 2017 Equus Film Festival.

Chappell is the daughter of longtime Cleveland resident Jimmy V. Still and the late Joan Lovell Still. She grew up on the Lovell family farm, from where many of the screenplay’s scenes were captured. She attended Cleveland High School and graduated from Tennessee Tech. She now resides in Gallatin.

The “Winnie” award for best screenplay was presented after the festival held in November in New York. The screenplay’s main human character is Lou Ann Washington who is orphaned and living precariously in a violent and crime-ridden area of New York after the death of her mother. She is rescued by her grandparents and taken to their small family farm in Middle Tennessee.

“Hope, courage, redemption and triumph are at the heart of this story,” said the writer.

She wrote the story while working as an engineer with Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, the company that operates and maintains the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. Her position there meant working for 12-hour two-week shifts in remote and environmentally extreme locations. It is her first literary work.

“The idea just came to me. I had hours to think while flying to and from work and then when I’d get home, I had 10 days to focus on the subject and get it down on paper,” she said.

To help Lou Ann cope with conflicts in her new environment, the grandparents rescue a mule for her to tend to and which Luann names “Stubborn.” He becomes Lou Ann’s best friend and four-legged therapist. Lou Ann begins learning basic equine care and horsemanship.

One day while working with Stubborn, Lou Ann meets a neighbor, a retired horse trainer who had been forced out of the business by unethical clients. The trainer sees the natural talent of both Lou Ann and Stubborn and is struck by their energy and bonding. He begins to encourage and train both the girl and her mule.

Training leads first to competitions at small county fairs. There public attention is grabbed by their amazing performances and the novelty of a black girl competing on a mule in events that usually attract elite mounts and riders. Fueled by social media, their accomplishments make them popular heroes as they vie in increasingly competitive events.

“This is a story of overcoming huge obstacles, of never quitting, of knowing that you cannot fail,” said Chappell.

Lou Ann was not the only one overcoming obstacles. When her grandparents mortgage their small farm to pay medical bills, the note on the house is bought up by a rich and unscrupulous competitor who uses a threat of foreclosure in an attempt to take Stubborn.

The screenplay concludes as years have passed with Lou Ann climbing to the center of the Olympic medals podium to receive the gold medal.

“Stubborn” has been published and is available through Amazon.

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