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White Shadows, Black Dreams
"This is an enormously talented writer. The writing is powerful and poetic. The characters are especially vivid and compelling. I've rarely read a script as good as this one - as a producer I would hire this writer in a second. This is a brilliant script and will make a powerful movie."        
Pamela Wallace, Academy member associated with the film WITNESS





Professor Emeritus


Justin Swingle's WHITE SHADOWS, BLACK DREAMS, is a compelling dramatic script based on the life of one of America's most important but least known women, Madam C.J.Walker. An African-American who was born the daughter of slaves, orphaned at seven, she became through both strength of character and good fortune, Madam C.J. Walker, the first self-made female millionaire in the country and champion of the rights of not only blacks and women, but of all people.


Swingle evokes the era as well as the character and aptly carries us through something of an epic "journey" not only of locations but of emotions as well. Humor, horror, humanity, and love mix and cross leaving us with an all too rare satisfaction in contemporary cinema, even when tackling historical figures; a sense of not only having enjoyed the "journey" along with Sarah, but of having been enlightened and uplifted as well through her pain and joys. 

         —Andrew Horton


Andrew Horton is an award-winning screenwriter, and the author of thirty books on film, screenwriting and cultural studies including, Screenwriting for a Global Market (University of California Press 2004) and Writing the Character Centered Screenplay (University of California Press, 2000, 2nd edition).  The Library Journal wrote about his Character Centered Screenplay, "Horton walks away with an Oscar in the valuable books for the prospective scripter category with his latest rendering."  His films include Brad Pitt's first feature film, The Dark Side of the Sun (1988), and the much awarded Something In Between (1983, Yugoslavia, directed by Srdjan Karanovic). 




Richard Walter

Chairman Screenwriting



Department of Film and Television


Dear Justin Swingle:


Thank you very much indeed for the opportunity and privilege of reviewing your screenplay. Thank you, too, for your patience and understanding with respect to the length of time it has taken me at long last to respond to it. As you can imagine, my responsibilities on campus, coupled with my own writing, cause me, unfortunately, to fall behind in my reading from time to time. But, now that the rush of the holidays is over, I'm pleased to have the opportunity to catch up just a little bit.


White Shadows is a welcome addition to my reading list, and my hat's off to you for crafting an intriguing story with interesting, sympathetic characters. This is the gauntlet thrown down to all good writers: create characters worth caring about, and place them in scenes and settings filled with the sweet stress and tension required of all worthy dramatic writing since its inception. You've picked up the gauntlet, and I salute your efforts. Actresses perpetually—and with considerable justification—bemoan the paucity of substantial roles in film for women; so, is it any wonder then that Sarah is a role that will most assuredly have actresses salivating. It's a meaty part that requires a huge amount of range: She's strong, and yet she's vulnerable, too. In other words, Sarah is a complete, well-rounded, three-dimensional, flesh-and-blood character who leaps off the page and into the reader's imagination. How much more compelling a character will she be when audiences see her on the screen? It's hard to say, but my guess is that the sky's the limit.


I was delighted by the exchanged between Lucille, Becky and Eula Mae in almost every scene where they appear—but especially in church! You set a wonderfully high standards for yourself with these characters and their dialogue!


This story is frequently heartbreaking—as when Jeff is hung by the Klan—but also thoroughly up lifting. Here is a woman who has come so far, and it's hard not to be inspired by her strength and determination and tenacity.


You have demonstrated substantial talent and discipline as a writer with this effort which has tremendous potential. I salute and congratulate you and wish you the very best for the New Year and your writing and in all things. Write on! Perseverance and strength and stamina are the things that are rewarded in this dodge.



Richard Walter

Chairman Screenwriting


Kathy A. Cabrera

Media Manager for Richard Walter




Richard Walter is a celebrated storytelling guru, movie industry expert, and longtime chairman of UCLA's legendary graduate program in screenwriting.







r e c o g n i z e s






Now Adapted Into the Novel


My Journey to Lewaro:

Stories Along the Way



WHITE SHADOWS, BLACK DREAMS is an extraordinary accounting of African-American life at the turn of the 20th Century written in epic form. It's the classic story of  triumphing over insurmountable odds to wealth, prosperity, leadership and independence. The formula has been attempted many times, but rarely does the storytelling transcend from telling the overwhelming story to taking the audience on the journey along with the central character. WHITE SHADOWS, BLACK DREAMS is in the company of THE COLOR PURPLE and ROOTS.


There is no question the writer knows the craft of screenwriting screenplays. The research and detail by the writer shows a strong grasp of the subject matter. The structure is solid, yet enormous. The concept and story ideas are compelling. All of the plot lines are well defined and hone to a fine tune.


The dialogue and main characters really make the script sing. The writer has a knack for dialect and is consistent throughout the script. The characters are real and very human, especially SARAH.


WHITE SHADOWS, BLACK DREAMS is a female star vehicle that could showcase true depth of human emotion and adversity and at the same time provides enormous amounts of dramatic action. There are several pivotal supporting roles that lends to having a strong, powerful cast. By having made the story personal, the script connects to people through core societal values and belief systems.


The movie would appeal to women, African Americans and anyone that relates to the triumph of the spirit. It's a family movie with adult themes.











White Shadows, Black Dreams, a screenplay by Justin Swingle is a look at the all-but-forgotten African American heroine from the 19th and 20th centuries, Sarah Breedlove, a.k.a. Madam C.J.Walker. In several decades of studying women's issues, I had never come across this remarkable woman before Mr. Swingle made her the protagonist in his rich and worthy screenplay in which he displays an amazing feminist perspective.


This is the story of a black woman born into poverty immediately after the emancipation of slaves and her victorious rises to personal greatness, economic success, and public contribution as the seminal self-made female millionaire.


Mr. Swingle's dialogue brings his characters alive with sometimes heartbreaking veracity, but always with a warm sense of humor about human foibles. May we see many more stories like this inspiring woman.

                                          — Cathleen Rountree




For her books of interviews, Cathleen met and interviewed such well-known artistic and public figures as Doris Lessing, Isabel Allende, Gov. Ann Richards, Betty Friedan, Sen. Barbara Boxer, Ellen Burstyn, Mary Travers, Gloria Steinem, Marion Woodman, Maxine Hong Kingston, Gloria Allred, Molly Haskell, Andrew Sarris, Jacob Lawrence, Gwen night, and Dolores Huerta, among many others. She is often referred to as "the Barbara Walters of interview books."

Her passion for movies has led to work as an archivist for the San Francisco International Film Festival and to writing for their festival catalogue, to being appointed as a board member of the Santa Cruz Film Festival, and to her own column "Femme Film Reflections" on www.HeadlineMuse.com. Her film commentaries and analyses are published in a variety of venues, including The San Francisco Jung Library Journal, on www.cgjungpage.org, and in the forthcoming anthology on the Argentine director Eliseo Subiela, Under Other Skies: The Films of Eliseo Subiela. (ed. Nancy J. Membrez). Her next book about how to "read" a film for deeper meaning and the potential transformative nature of movies will be published in 2003


references the novel-in-progress


Borrowed Dreams


 "I found the writing, subject matter and

general direction very powerful!


 This writing is astonishing beautiful

and sensitive — exceptional images."


Elizabeth Bedell

 Founding Editor





Justin Swingle's WHITE SHADOWS, BLACK DREAMS is an excellent piece of writing. His characters are full and rich. The dialogue is excellent: natural, lyrical, expressive and economical. His dialect gives the work a wonderful flavor, without becoming confusing or hard to read.


There is a fascinating proto-feminist, socialist germ of a theme in Sarah's relationships with women, in particular her insisting that Eula Mae be paid for her services instead of just screaming at John Davis in a jealous rage—and this looks like it's going to be followed up and enhanced by Sarah "bonding" with Eula Mae—which would imply that as downtrodden women there are more important things that bond women than the one thing—foolish jealousy—which keeps them apart.


The Sarah Breedlove (Madam C.J.Walker) story is moving and important and Justin tells it well.

                                     — Peter Mellencamp, MA






  the much appreciated judge's comments

below pertain to the first draft




1.   London Winners - Table Read My Screenplay




"There's such a cool, passionate force to this story."


"This is the type of small indie that – when cast and marketed correctly – gets all those accolades that tip people toward great things."


"The characters are also meaty enough to attract heavy hitters to play them and it would be relatively inexpensive to make, baring a couple cameos that might be easy or difficult to arrange."


"I also think that people would go gaga over this type of unhygienic, imperfect romance."


"I think getting a little glimpse of the atmosphere and characters here will help sell this great wackiness."



Title: Red Car

Genre: Drama

Writer: Justin Swingle 



Well, this is one wild ride of a romance…and I kind of love it. It's super short, almost feels more part musical-part play, even though there isn't any music.


I could absolutely 100 percent see Bill Nighy as Ryan and Joel Kinnaman as Liam. There's such a cool, passionate force to this story. It's twisted and fast and frenetic and difficult to follow but not once during the entire time that I read it did I not believe they were actually in love and that they were perfect for each other. That's pretty special, especially with the crazy circumstances presented here.


The writer describes this as the edgy, gritty version of Notting Hill, and it kind of is with a world-renowned rock star who sort of gets taken with his crazy vagrant stalker who's known around Notting Hill for eating squirrels and having an abusive mother and who feels so comfortable with Ryan from the start that even while they're fighting and deciding how they feel about each other there's an electricity there, and sense of purpose and style. This is the type of small indie that – when cast and marketed correctly – gets all those accolades that tip people toward great things. 


The cool thing about this story as well is that it's presented very minimally here in terms of description. It feels like the perfect blank canvas for a director to swoop in and really make it their own. The characters are also meaty enough to attract heavy hitters to play them and it would be relatively inexpensive to make, baring a couple cameos that might be easy or difficult to arrange. 


I definitely think, too, that more could be added at a director's discretion. The plot itself is relatively thin, relying far more on character to hold our attention, which it does. I don't necessarily think additional stuff is called for, though. We all dream of meeting our soul mate but we never expect our soul mate to be so fricken difficult to deal with. That's what this story is. It's trying to deal with fate, two characters that need something…who find it in each other…and who struggle to come to terms with it, to move past the awkward transitional period into something that works. 


The one thing that could be added is a slightly more developed introductory scene for Ryan, the rock star. We sort of jump right into Liam stalking him without really getting a sense of what is missing in Ryan's life that would draw him to someone like Liam. Sure, we get some passing acknowledgment that Ryan's life has become sort of hermetic and sterile, everything provided for him, everyone trying to kiss his ass, but I think the writer could beef up the beginning a little bit by showing us what Ryan's really up against in this world. Give him a reason to want to be with Liam, so that the audience can feel a compelling mixture of emotions through – both feeling like he needs Liam but also acknowledging that Liam's about as sane as someone constantly medicated with LSD. I think this is important because this is really a story about two characters. Liam gets a fully rounded arc, arriving at the end of this piece with a slightly tighter grip on reality. What does Ryan get? I think he gets someone who challenges him and who actually cares about him. However, because Liam is a crazy stalker, to facilitate the audience's desire to see Ryan paired with Liam in the end and not just go, "whoa, he chose crazy?!?!" it could help to add a small scene or a couple of scenes at the beginning where we get a glimpse of Ryan's ennui.


I think this would be a fascinating story to hear read live.  Also, I would love to see this made, and I would encourage the writer if he can to consider making a short of this to use as a selling tool. I think getting a little glimpse of the atmosphere and characters here will help sell this great wackiness. I also think that people would go gaga over this type of unhygienic, imperfect romance. Sort of like Blue Ruin but with gay men and a happy ending.