Natalia Temesgen

Playwright launches groundbreaking webseries in Columbus

Natalia Naman Temesgen of Columbus is the author of "Ace: the Eugene Bullard Story." It is being presented in April as part of the Studio II series in the McClure Theatre at the Springer Opera House.
Natalia Naman Temesgen of Columbus is the author of "Ace: the Eugene Bullard Story." It is being presented in April as part of the Studio II series in the McClure Theatre at the Springer Opera House. mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.com

What does a good story do? It teaches you things about yourself you never really knew. It transports you to another place, makes you laugh, makes you cry. If it’s a really good story, it changes how you see the world and lifts a veil from your view.

I am working on another story, friends. But this one is not for the stage. It’s for the screen. The small screen. The mobile screen. I’m writing a new webseries.

When my family and I moved back here in 2013, the thought of producing a webseries was constantly on my mind. I imagined writing about a version of myself — a woman who had grown up in Columbus, but left for school and work and was only now returning because she had little other choice. She was embarrassed to be home, living with her parents. But over the course of the short episodes, she would begin to really appreciate her city for all of its beauty, innovation and growth in her absence. It was a comedy about maturing. A unique kind of romance about falling in love with the place that raised you and made you who you are. But because I was a new mom transitioning with her family in a new place, I never made that webseries.

Here we are, over five years later, and a webseries about living in Columbus is back on my mind. Only this time, it’s actually going to happen. It’s called “Grounds,” named for coffee grounds, old stomping grounds, and simply learning to be “grounded” where you are. It is a series of six, short comic episodes, each set in Fountain City Coffee, that explores some funny, moving, and quirky dynamics between the patrons and employees of a local area coffeeshop. I wrote the scripts and have teamed up with my long time friends (and film actors and producers) Sara and Jef Holbrook of the Springer Film Institute. Together, we will be shooting Grounds in January with a cast and crew comprised exclusively of local artists and technicians.

I can’t tell you how consumed I have become with this project. I have slept so much less lately, finding myself up until 2 a.m. often as I refine the scripts or work on fundraising. But I don’t feel tired at all. It’s times like this when I am waist-deep in a creative project that I know for sure I am in the right career field. This work is not draining me, but fueling me. And knowing that it is a homegrown project gives me even more joy.

Columbus has continued to grow its profile in the Georgia film industry. In the last few years, we have welcomed the Georgia Film Academy, the Springer Film Institute, and the Way Down Film Festival. We have trained countless film technicians and actors, many of which are able to work right here in town on Netflix series, major feature films, and more. It’s evident that Columbus is a city that Hollywood ought to take note of.

Our new webseries is simply the natural progression of all of this. What sets it apart is that it is truly local and organic to our community, without any of the negative-implications of a “community” arts project. Our city has always produced renowned artists, but too often in our history we lose those people to bigger markets. With the rise of film work in Georgia, that is no longer an imperative for Columbus-area artists. I hope you’ll follow what we’re up to as we gear up to shoot this series in January 2019. Follow us on Facebook (/groundsseries) or on the web at www.springerfilm.org/grounds.

Natalia Naman Temesgen is a playwright and professor of creative writing at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia.

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