Associate Professor of Communications Joan Stein Schimke co-write The Buried Life—one of 12 projects selected for the Sundance Institute's Screenwriters Lab.

During winter break, while Adelphi’s Garden City campus was blanketed with snow, Joan Stein Schimke, associate professor of communications, was on the other side of the country, in a place known for its own beautiful snowy landscape—Utah. A co-writer of The Buried Life, one of 12 projects selected for the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters Lab, Ms. Stein Schimke spent an intense five days at the Sundance Resort, furthering her craft and working with fellow screenwriters from around the world. We caught up with Ms. Stein Schimke to find out more about her work and her experience at this renowned institution.
Joan Stein Schimke

Joan Stein Schimke, associate professor of communications

Q: What is the inspiration behind the film you co-wrote, The Buried Life?

The theme of family dynamics and the role that history plays in destroying relationships are deeply personal. Both my parents and extended family survived World War II. They lost so many relatives and friends. I had wanted to explore what it means to confront painful memories and how to move on with one’s life. My co-writer, Averie Storck, and I connected over these issues and we were able to craft a story around a woman in her 30s who is brilliant at her work as an archaeologist, but just can’t seem to work out her own relationships within the family.

Q. What does it mean to have been selected as a Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab Fellow?

I feel so fortunate to have been selected. The goal of the Institute is to support writers and filmmakers throughout the entire process of making a film, which creates an ongoing relationship. There are times where you just feel like you’re spinning your wheels trying to get a movie made, and the amazing people at the Institute let you know that you’re not in this alone, that they’re going to help see you through the process.

It’s also quite an experience to have lunch and dinner, in addition to scheduled meetings, with incredibly accomplished and talented advisers. Hearing about their writing processes and the stories they are interested in telling was inspiring. They’ve gone through some of the same struggles that we are now facing as writers, so they really understood what we were going through.

Joan Stein Schimke, associate professor of communications, cowrote The Buried Life—one of 12 projects selected for the Sundance Institute's Screenwriters Lab.

Joan Stein Schimke, associate professor of communications, cowrote The Buried Life—one of 12 projects selected for the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters Lab.

Q. This was a five-day intensive workshop that encouraged collaboration, innovation and risk-taking and provided feedback and support from creative advisers (notable writers such as Patty Jenkins, Walter Mosley and Quentin Tarantino, to name a few). What was the experience like for you and what did you take away from it?

As writers, Averie and I were confronted with what the story really means to us and how to be more truthful in telling the story. We had to learn how to go deeper to get to the real emotions of the story. Although it was very difficult, it was also freeing. We found out that we could let go of some of the characters and story lines that weren’t really helping us tell the main story. Ryan Koo, one of the other participants, stated it well when he said he learned that the lab experience was about writing from the heart out.

Q: There were writers from around the world in attendance. Were there any common themes that you discovered in their works?

We didn’t workshop all of the scripts, so I didn’t have a chance to read all of the other screenplays, but I have to say that after spending five days together you really felt that all the writers were willing to share their ideas, fears and inspiration with each other. We were able to connect and have fun on so many levels.

Q: This time to fully devote to your work must have been invaluable. How is it to balance furthering your professional projects with the demands of being an educator?

It was wonderful to have time to be away from all the obligations in my life and to be surrounded by compassionate and committed mentors who have a wealth of experience to share. As a full-time professor and a mother, I’ve had to learn how to find time for my own projects, especially my writing, since that takes the most time. Writing a screenplay is a challenge for me, and I needed the emotional space to be able to think clearly and creatively.

I feel lucky because my Adelphi students inspire me with their stories, their energy and the desire to always try something new—which always keeps it interesting.

For further information, please contact:

Todd Wilson
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