U alum brings her dark screenplay back home

by Will Conley

The cast and crew of a forthcoming New Line Cinema film written by University alumna Lona Williams shot a scene on campus Thursday night.
The new film, called “Sugar and Spice,” is being billed as a dark comedy about the travails of five high school cheerleaders. In the script, one of the cheerleaders gets pregnant and ends up in a Lamaze class; that scene was shot in the student lounge of the Civil Engineering Building.
The rest of the 35-day filming schedule will play out on high school campuses in the Twin Cities metro area.
Location manager Tim Hillman said that the Civil Engineering Building was chosen from about 25 different viable venues by production designer Jeff Knipp.
“We were looking for a modern-looking place with some interesting architectural details, and the Civil Engineering Building gave us what we needed,” Hillman said.
The choice was a pleasant coincidence for screenwriter and executive producer Williams, who also wrote the script for “Drop Dead Gorgeous,” also filmed in Minnesota. The film is set to open this weekend.
“It’s a really beautiful campus,” she said.
Williams originally wanted to go into news broadcasting, but that changed when she took a screenwriting class from then-assistant professor Judine Mayerle, from whom she received “the most influential advice” of her life. It was Mayerle who convinced her to pursue screenwriting.
“She said, ‘If you don’t do it, you’ll hate yourself for the rest of your life,'” Williams said.
So after graduating, Williams went to Los Angeles to work as a writer’s assistant for “The Simpsons.” After working on a few television sitcoms without credit, she started writing for “The Drew Carey Show.” She left that job 18 months ago to do film full time.
Williams, who said she is a strong advocate of challenging oneself with unfamiliar activities, is glad she tried screenwriting.
“What’s the worst that can happen with most of our day-to-day concerns? Why not try?” she asked.