Area teacher touts screenplay at Sundance Film Festival

by Sue Austreng
Staff Writer

Like a happy wanderer, Jesse Hendrickson travels along life’s winding road, watching stories unfold and meeting fascinating characters along the way.

Jesse Hendrickson and his screenplay-writing partner – his mother Laurel Aarsvold – pose in Park City, Utah, where they attended the Sundance Film Festival last month. Photo courtesy of Jesse Hendrickson

Sometimes those stories are his own, the lead character he himself. Other times, Hendrickson is simply a bystander, witnessing the joy and celebration, tragedy and pain of another.

Those stories accompany Hendrickson like faithful companions as he travels life’s highways and now, one of those stories has taken on a life of its own.

You see, Hendrickson co-wrote a screenplay several months ago, entered it into the Smashcut! Screenplay Contest and was named 2011 Smashcut! Overall Winner out of some 600 entrants.

The prize: a trip to last month’s Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, with an opportunity to hobnob with writers and producers, directors and film makers.

“There are so many stories… I knew I wanted to write something. First I wanted to write a children’s book, then I thought about writing a screenplay and that’s when I called my mom,” said Hendrickson, an Adams Elementary School, Coon Rapids, special education teacher whose mother is the author of a few screenplays herself.

And so, Hendrickson and his mother, Laurel Aarsvold of Laguna Beach, Calif., put their heads together, put pen to paper and crafted “Editing Chase Parker.”

It’s the story of a children’s book author who finds himself in a downward spiral after the death of his father, a man who had also served as illustrator for his son’s children’s books.

When the downtrodden author becomes acquainted with an artistically talented teenager, life for both begins to turn around.

“It’s kind of a dramedy, but really it’s a redemption story,” Hendrickson said.


Close to home

“Editing Chase Parker” is set in the Twin Cities and scenes include the main character’s Columbia Heights home, Psycho Suzi’s restaurant in downtown Minneapolis and Cedar Avenue’s Triple Rock Social Club.

Local folks also show up in the screenplay, including “Principal Tammi,” head of an elementary school that plays a small part in the movie. (Jeremy Tammi is principal of Adams Elementary, where Hendrickson works.)

The special education teacher said his work at Adams played an instrumental part in his screenplay-writing endeavor.

He said teaching his students how to write a story also educated him as to the proper way to write a screenplay.

“Only through teaching kids how to write did I really get into it,” Hendrickson said.

As Hendrickson wrote the screenplay, he also read books on how to structure such a story, he said.

“And I learned the secret to making a good movie is making the characters real and making them relatable without being predictable,” Hendrickon said.

“Editing Chase Parker” is a story rated PG-13 and suitable for 18- to 35-year-olds, he said.


Production plans

Hendrickson said he and his screenplay partner/mother have been thinking about self-producing their movie.

Imagining his screenplay showing on the big screen, Hendrickson said he would like to see Ryan Gosling play the lead part with Will Smith’s son Jaden playing the part of the teenage boy.

“Of course, that’s just wild thinking, but you’ve got to dream,” Hendrickson said.

Dreams, in fact, sometimes produce results. While at the Sundance Film Festival, Hendrickson and his mother met an actor who took a liking to the screenplay.

“So something might come of it. You never know,” said Hendrickson.

To read more about the Sundance Film Festival, visit

To learn more about the Smashcut Screenplay Contest, visit

Sue Austreng is at [email protected]