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Sewickley Academy teacher's short story being adapted for film

| Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
Author and Sewickley Academy senior school English teacher Lawrence Connolly poses with a few of his books as well as other spooky titles in which his short stories have appeared at the academy Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016.  A short story from Connolly's Bram Stoker Award nominated collection 'Voices' is being adapted into a 20-minute film that  will be released this year, along with four other shorts under the title 'Nightmare Cinema.'
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Author and Sewickley Academy senior school English teacher Lawrence Connolly poses with a few of his books as well as other spooky titles in which his short stories have appeared at the academy Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. A short story from Connolly's Bram Stoker Award nominated collection 'Voices' is being adapted into a 20-minute film that will be released this year, along with four other shorts under the title 'Nightmare Cinema.'

Some dreams take longer than others to reach, and for Sewickley Academy teacher Lawrence Connolly the dream of seeing his words on the big screen has been in motion since 1994.

A short story from Connolly's Bram Stoker Award-nominated collection “Voices” is being adapted into a 20-minute film that will be released this year along with four other shorts under the title “Nightmare Cinema.”

Filming is set to begin next month, said Connolly, a senior school writing and English teacher at the private Edgeworth school.

“Writing and teaching go hand-in-hand,” he said. “I am a better teacher when I incorporate my writing experience, and I am a better writer from what I learn as a teacher.”

In the early 1990s, David Slade — who would go on to produce “Hannibal” and “Twilight's Eclipse” — contacted Connolly about his story “Traumatic Descent.”

“He was in London for quite some time and began working on a script to adapt my story to film,” Connolly said. “It just kept getting bumped back and bumped back. Before I knew it, 15 years had passed since we had first talked about it, and I pretty much had given up.”

Connolly remembers the day he came to terms with the fact his story likely would not make it to the big screen. “Literally, the day after I accepted that nothing was going to happen, I got an email from David Slade saying he wanted to include my story as part of a five-story anthology,” Connolly said.

The two collaborated again, renaming the story “This Way to Egress” and writing a new script.

The story features a mother who has been battling some unfortunate circumstances, Connolly said. With her children by her side, she attends her first counseling session. When she returns to the waiting area, her children are gone and she attempts to find them in the older, run-down building. The rooms become more and more distorted. She is working against the clock to fight demons that have captured her children, and exit the building before it closes.

While the story will be classified as horror by many, Connolly disagrees.

“I don't like to classify stories into genres,” he said. “If I had to say anything about my stories, it would be more along the lines of a sci-fi sense of wonder that can overlap into a sense of dread. ‘This Way to Egress' is all about perceptions. How different individuals can view the same situation.”

Connolly said the horror of the story can come from a few places: being in a deserted building, feeling out of control and losing your children with the possibility of never seeing them again — all aspects in his story.

Mick Garris — the producer of Showtime's “Masters of Horror,” which ran from 2005 to 2007 — has partnered with Good Deed Entertainment to coproduce “Nightmare Cinema,” which will feature the five stories from authors including Connolly.

Garris made the announcement in November on his Facebook page.

“I've always really liked multiple stories with dissimilar cinematic personalities, especially in the horror genre,” Garris said in a written statement.

Connolly doesn't know who will be playing in the film.

“I don't write my stories with specific actors or actresses in mind, but I do write them cinematically,” he said. “I act the story out in my mind while writing.”

Connolly said he's excited for the film's release.

“Writing is a long game,” he said. “I've learned it doesn't matter how long it takes, as long as it gets picked up by the right person. I'm very excited for the future.”

Christina Sheleheda is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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