2021 Bridge Award Announcement

AITAF StaffBridge Award

2021 Bridge Award Winner Announcement from Colman Domingo (AITAF Artist) and Patricia McGregor (AITAF Artist-in-Residence)

John Ciarlo, 2021 Bridge Award Winner


"It is an honor and a privilege to be named the 2021 Bridge Award winner. As both a veteran and as someone who grew up in an Army family, I am grateful for what AITAF has done and continues to do for our military community. The fact that the Bridge Award exists has inspired me to continue to work on improving my craft and renewed my commitment to just keep writing. One of the things I value most about the Bridge Award is that everyone who submits their work is offered feedback. As someone who had applied twice before I found this very helpful. I want to thank everyone at AITAF for giving so much of their time, energy and talent to help our servicemen and servicewomen."

- John Ciarlo 

"I chose BEND IN THE RIVER because the writing felt very personal and it took me on a journey I wasn’t expecting. Mr. Ciarlo had a clear direction for how his story was going to unfold. One event led to the next in true cinematic style. I felt the two main characters were beautifully drawn and although facing great adversity, Mr. Ciarlo managed to find warmth, humor and grace in his depiction of an otherwise difficult time of life. The respectful loving bond between husband and wife is not one that is often shown in films and I really responded to that. And like all good films, his secondary characters were clearly drawn and had a story of their own." 

- Nancy Meyers 

John Ciarlo Bio:
John Ciarlo is a former, third generation, Army officer, who served in the Field Artillery at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and in Schweinfurt, Germany. He is a West Point graduate who also holds an MFA from Columbia University. A Nicholl Fellowship winner, he has written several screenplays, two plays and published a novel.   

As an “Army Brat,” Mr. Ciarlo moved frequently in his youth, most notably living in Alaska, and then graduating from an American Department of Defense high school in Ankara, Turkey.

He lives on Long Island with his wife and two children.


The Final Selecting Judge was Nancy Meyers

Suzan-Lori Parks
NANCY MEYERS is a trailblazing filmmaker who, as a first-rate writer, director and producer, has created a body of work focusing on the female experience with her exceptionally literate and sophisticated comedies.  Tapping into the very heart of modern relationships, she chronicles women and men, at work and in love, in a singular fashion that makes each film instantly recognizable as a Nancy Meyers movie. In 2020 Meyers was the recipient of the Writers Guild of America’s highest honor, The Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement. Meyers made an auspicious debut as a director—following two decades of successful screenwriting and producing—with the highly popular update of the Disney classic “The Parent Trap,” starring Dennis Quaid and Lindsay Lohan, which Meyers also co-wrote. Meyers then directed the blockbuster romantic comedy “What Women Want,” starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt, which enjoyed critical acclaim and an international box-office success.  For his role, Gibson received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor—Musical or Comedy.


BEND IN THE RIVER by John Ciarlo (Army)
When Buddy's estranged daughter is granted custody of his Alzheimer's-stricken wife Grace, he uses the tactical knowledge from his career as an FBI agent in a desperate gambit: kidnapping his own wife. With the FBI on their tail, Buddy and Grace set out on a Northwestern road trip towards a special place from their past, navigating poignant and violent encounters along the way. A funny, sad, and deeply heartfelt adventure, Bend in the River is a story of love, grief, and the surprising turns that life takes.



TERRITORIAL WATERS by Tevin Everett (Navy)
Carter, a young Intelligence Analyst with charisma to burn, is stationed at the Iraq/Kuwait border. When his best friend and coworkers are taken hostage by an Iranian terrorist group, he has to use that charisma to charm the Iranian General's niece and devise a plan--but the niece has her own charms, and he falls for her. A tightly structured, high-stakes romantic adventure, Territorial Waters charts the perilous and compelling journey of an officer who is caught between new love and old loyalties--someone who doesn't always follow the rules, but does follow his heart.

KILLS FOR THREE HORSES by Anthony Florez (Navy)

Three men in the west--all with different goals. One, a Cheyenne leader trying to defend his family and way of life; another, a newly freed southern slave, looking to escape the ghosts of slavery that haunt him; and the last, a white Buffalo Hunter trying to get rich. Only one succeeds. Set in the Dakota region of the United States in the 1870s, Kills for Three Horses is a sweeping and specific piece of historical fiction populated by a vibrant array of loathsome and lovable characters. This is a fresh take on an old genre, making the capitalistic tensions of post-Civil War westward expansion feel both timely and timeless.

Henry Hughes
HUMAN TERRAIN by Henry Hughes (Army)
In counterpointed timelines across 30 years, an Afghan family intersects with several American platoons, through a ruined wedding night to a troubled birth. A gripping mosaic of interweaving characters--a US soldier, a Taliban fighter, a child laborer, an interpreter, and a bomb-sniffing dog--Human Terrain tracks a family legacy through endless war. With a multi-layered structure of shifting perspectives, it shows us the seismic divides and the piercingly common humanity of people who find it easier to kill each other, than to understand one another.
SUMMER K.A.O.S. by Shamar White (Army)
Trinity, a 16-year-old girl from Chicago, has just had her life turned upside down, but at least she and her friends have the car they scraped their money together to buy. After a blow-up with her stepfather, Trinity and her friends pile in and head to the biggest college party of the summer--but when they arrive, everything seems to fall apart, including the car. Summer K.A.O.S. is a funny, poignant, and triumphant coming of age story, a joyful portrait of a tight-knit group of young people who dance, drive, and dream--and who always have each other's backs.


MIGHTY MONA by Thada Catalon (Army)
EVERY REASON by Shannon Corbeil (Air Force)
A SKI MASK WAY by Joshua L. Edwards (Navy)
THE PIPER by Rachel Farrell Fischer (Army)
THE LENS OF WAR by Robert Ham (Army)
HOA by Sydney Hoffner (National Guard) and Max Thayer (Army)
ABSENT BODIES by Miles Lagoze (Marine Corps)
SPY SISTERS by Melissa Milich (Navy)
DARKER FORCES AT PLAY by Vance Voyles (Army)
MERCURIAN by Caleb Wells (Marine Corps)
WOW! by David Yoder (Army)

The Bridge Award Team

Head Judge
Nancy Meyers

Bridge Awards Chair
Anna O’Donoghue

Honorary Selection Committee

Scott Z. Burns
Clay McLeod Chapman
Marcia DeBonis
Gina Duncan
Kenneth A. Friedman
Jack Greenbaum
Jamal Joseph
Brian Mertes
Mimi O'Donnell
Chris Terrio

Reading Committee

Heidi Armbruster
Brian Bliss
Jason Brownrigg
Anne Carey
JP Chan
Vichet Chum
Caitlin Ferrell
Nick Gandiello
Emma Hall-Martin
Sam Handel
Korey Jackson
Anna Kerrigan
Ryan Levitt
Caroline McGraw
Lila Neugebauer
Oriana Ng
Matt Ocks
Tira Palmquist
Jiehae Park
Abigail Prade
Andrew Ruiz
Natasha Saraff
Tara Sheffer
Melanie Shiele
Claire Siebers
Christin St. John
Lanie Zipoy

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