Will donate time, talent to pen short

Screenwriter Shane Black (“Lethal Weapon,” “Last Boy Scout” and “The Long Kiss Goodnight”) is donating his time and talent to write the short “A.W.O.L.” for the American Film Institute.

Jack Swanstrom will direct the film as part of his thesis and Jessica Wethington, an AFI alumna, will produce under the pair’s indie Bipolar Pictures umbrella. Shane and Swanstrom met when he appeared in a previous short directed by Swanstrom.

This will be one of the first projects to be done on Digital Beta by AFI.

Set in 1971 at the height of the Vietnam War, “A.W.O.L.” is the story of an American soldier sent by the CIA into the jungles of Cambodia to investigate alleged use of “black magic” in warfare. While captured and tortured, he is mysteriously transported to an alternate reality full of his fondest desires.

But with the clock ticking, he must face the reality of his situation to beat the odds one more time, cheat his fate and escape agony. Wethington describes the film as a psychological thriller.

Other select industry professionals donating their expertise to the “A.W.O.L.” advisory panel include writer/director Fred Dekker, producer Debra Hill, Illusion Entertainment VP Jonathan Kraus, producer Tamara Rawit, Steven Bochco’s director of development Moira Kirland, production manager Robert Schneider, Anne McCarthy and Mary Vernieu of Mary Vernieu & Associates, who will cast the film. Director of photography for the short is AFI alumna Lynda Cohen. The editor is Derek Vaughn and the production designer is Ray Yamagata.

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