StoryTellers on WalkAbout:
Putting Passion on the Page and Screen

September 9–16, 2017 – Lucca in Tuscany, Italy​

Booking Closed

If you’re a screenwriter, filmmaker, novelist, actor, playwright or director who wants to learn how to put passion on the page and translate it onto the stage or screen, join screenwriter-director-producer Heather Hale in the ancient city of Lucca in Tuscany, Italy for a soul-stirring week and be immersed in one of the most passionate cultures on earth.

Imagine waking to the sound of church bells in an ancient walled city.

You inhale the aroma of a cappuccino and cornetto at a café in a Roman amphitheater-turned-piazza and watch local families and friends greet each other with kisses.

A shopkeeper welcomes you with a song.

The air bubbles with laughter, music and the buzz of conversation.

16th century ramparts encircle a tiny Tuscan city. You bicycle along its verdant top and drink in the breathtaking mountain views.

Golden sunlight paints the tops of rolling hills lined with ribbons of grape vines.

You revel in the camaraderie of fellow filmmakers and writers as you indulge in local wine and a Tuscan meal to nourish the soul.


Anyone crazy enough to believe us isn’t gonna want to help.

We don’t need someone crazy. But one step short of crazy, what do you get?




While being passionate may be “one step short of crazy,” it definitely goes beyond mere excitement, and telling passionate stories goes beyond your own personal passion.

Passionate stories are about our biggest life issues – love, death, religion – and let’s not forget life-sustaining food and wine!

To tell passionate stories, you must awaken your senses.

Do you move people with your writing? Do you stir their souls?

Do your stories burst at the seams with emotion and resonate viscerally with your audience?

Are your characters passionate? Do they act with every ounce of their being to achieve a life-changing goal?

Is your passion on the page and do you know how to translate it to the stage or screen?

StoryTellers on WalkAbout:
Putting Passion on the Page and Screen Retreat

Join screenwriter-director-producer Heather Hale in the Tuscan city of Lucca for an immersive exploration of past and present, and experience your own creative renaissance. She’ll help you recognize and nurture the seeds of passion in your stories and learn how to translate them onto the page and screen.

Let Lucca’s unique sense of place trigger your memories, free your creativity, stimulate your imagination and innovate your signature voice. Discover how to imbue even the most marketable of high concepts with primal emotions to engage your audience.

Become a part of our authentic, intimate community in Lucca, Italy as you learn to unite meaning with emotion, intent with entertainment, and crystalize how to cinematically express your world view.

At a recent film festival I had the pleasure of hearing Heather speak and I can say that the film industry does indeed have a heart -and it beats in this woman… she continues to amaze me, both with her knowledge and her integrity. She’s a great speaker, holding the audience captive and imparting many pearls of wisdom, and she’d be a wonderful person to have on your side as a consultant.

William Roetzheim

CEO, Award-winning Playwright, Jamul, CA

Heather Hale: Southern Arizona Independent Film Festival

Schedule a VIP session with Heather Hale!

During your optional VIP session, Heather will work with you one-on-one to help you move your career forward.

See VIP Session details below.

Where is the retreat?

The ancient walled city of Lucca — one of Italy’s best kept secrets — will be our classroom: in the cobbled streets and bustling piazzas, in churches and concert halls, and in the many restaurants, shops and cafes.

Our immersion into the passion of Italy begins with a group dinner in one of the fabulous restaurants in Lucca. We’ll share a traditional Tuscan meal, so satisfying and rejuvenating after a long journey.

We’ll toast to a week filled with discovery and delight!

We’ll be in Lucca during their most important annual festival, Luminara di Santa Croce, procession of the Holy Cross, a stunning example of how Italians passionately express their sacred beliefs through art and celebration.

No visit to Tuscany is complete without experiencing the verdant hills, colorful seaside houses and juicy wines of this region.

Sign up for one or both of our optional small group tours, and you’ll venture out into the glorious Tuscan countryside for some special treats to satisfy the palate and the soul, with a private tour of an olive oil producer and winery with wine tasting and lunch, and a private tour of the enchanting Cinque Terre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Be a sponge and absorb the sights, sounds, aromas and tastes of Tuscany.

You’ll experience the passions of Italy in the heightened emotions of opera, religious fervor, luscious food and wine, spectacular landscapes and warm sense of community.

Wander the narrow, cobbled streets of this quintessential Italian city, enjoy exquisite architecture, ride a bike atop the Renaissance-era wall, observe and interact with residents, shop, savor amazing food and wine, and delight in cultural events, including an evening of opera.

Can we say bucket list?

Here’s what you can expect:

Putting Passion on the Page and Screen

Storytelling is the art and craft of translating our understanding of life into words, sounds and images. Film and television artists transform metaphors into moving pictures.

Walkabout: the spontaneous fulfillment of wanderlust; a satisfying, far-flung mingle; a rite of passage; a transformational journey.

Writer-producer-director Heather Hale will lead this small group, immersive exploration of Lucca. Let its unique sense of place trigger your memories, free your creativity, stimulate your imagination and innovate your signature voice.

While Puccini’s live opera sampling still reverberates through your soul, absorb ways to echo and counterpoint your theme through your symphony of storylines and master distinct character introductions and plot point arias.

Assimilate the energy of the crowd, people watch to pinpoint idiosyncrasies and ways to use light and color palettes to create powerful image systems that convey our most fervent emotions.

Discover how to imbue even the most marketable of high concepts with primal emotions and how the critical choices characters make are the reflections of the distinct decisions of writers, directors, actors and the whole spectrum of multimedia collaborators.

Learn how to emotionally engage an audience whether by emulating the viewing experience on the page or embodying the authentic on stage.

From dawn to dusk, let the sensory collision of past and present tear down your walls to experience your own renaissance. Become a part of our authentic, intimate community as we nurture you to unite meaning with emotion, intent with entertainment to crystalize how to cinematically express your world view and be the hero of your own story.

The Passion of Puccini: Opera Recital


Love and death. Lust and deceit. These are the essence of operatic stories, told through the most sumptuous and unforgettable music in the world. There are no stories more passionate than in opera, born out of our most powerful and primal emotions.

Whether you love it or hate it, you probably have an opinion on opera. But have you ever heard opera sung live? It’s truly a thrilling experience.

We’ll enjoy an evening recital of arias and duets from Giacomo Puccini’s masterworks, bound to send chills up your spine and maybe evoke a tear or two.

Puccini is one of opera’s greatest composers, and there’s no more suitable place to experience his music than in Lucca, Puccini’s birthplace. You’ve probably heard of some of his most important works, La Bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly.

“Opera is complex for those who perform it, but also for those who listen to it. It takes more time, more patience and more spirit of sacrifice. All this is well worth it because opera offers such deep sensations that they will remain in a heart for a lifetime.” –Andrea Bocelli

Luminara di Santa Croce Festival


We’ve arranged to have this festival held just for you! Well… actually, we planned our retreat so you can be in Lucca to experience the fervor of this important religious festival, held annually on September 13th.

The Luminara Di Santa Croce festival dates back to the medieval period and is a stunning devotional procession through the streets of the historic center of Lucca. At dusk, huge crowds gather along the parade route, many carrying banners and wearing medieval costumes, singing hymns and beating drums.

Hundreds of Luccheses participate in the procession as they carry the Volto Santo through the streets from the Basilica of San Frediano to the Cathedral of San Martino, illuminated by thousands of small candles.

The Volto Santo is a larger than life wooden crucifix with the holy face of Jesus carved into it, reportedly by Christ’s disciple Nicodemus.

After the procession, the city celebrates with the Mottettone concert in the cathedral and fireworks on the banks of the river.

Mouthwatering Winery Tour (Optional Tour)

On this optional tour, we’ll venture out into the glorious Tuscan countryside for an olive oil and wine tasting tour at Sant’Agnese Farm, a small production winery in the heart of Chianti Siena in Tuscany that produces high quality wines, balsamic vinegar, truffles, extra virgin olive oil and honey.

This is an exclusive small group tour just for us!

Our hosts, brothers Carlo and Sandro, are truly passionate about their produce. You’ll taste their finest Tuscan wines: limited edition Super Tuscans, Dincanto and Chianti Classico, and sample white truffles, extra virgin olive oil on bruschetta, cheese with honey, and their 30 year old balsamic vinegar, served over ice cream.

After the tour, we’ll enjoy lunch at the winery, surrounded by the beautiful, evocative Tuscan landscape. You’ll dine on a savory selection of delicious traditional Tuscan dishes, including a variety of pastas seasoned with traditional sauces, different varieties of honey, pecorino and cinta senese, and salami, accompanied by excellent Chianti Classico wines and tiramisu.

You can sign up for this optional tour when you purchase your retreat package.

Breathtaking Cinque Terre Adventure (Optional Tour)

I bet this UNESCO World Heritage Site is on your bucket list. If you opt in for this small group tour, you’ll spend a day here enjoying the delightful sights, sounds and tastes of this most special location on the rugged Italian Riviera.

This is an exclusive small group tour just for us!

Cinque Terre is a group of five centuries-old fishing villages in the Liguria region, connected by the Sentiero Azzuro cliffside hiking trails, with unparalleled seaside vistas. Put on your walking shoes!

The hallmark of these villages is their colorful houses and vineyards that cling to the steep, terraced hillsides. Fishing boats bob in the harbors and trattorias cook up heavenly fresh seafood dishes and the pesto sauce that is so famous in this region. And wait till you taste the prawns!

You can sign up for this optional tour when you purchase your retreat package.

Bucket list. Check!

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Your Chic Accommodations

Hotel Ilaria and Residenza dell’Alba will be our home in Lucca. This chic, beautifully renovated property is located in the historic center of Lucca within the Renaissance city walls, overlooking a lovely park. You’ll enjoy gorgeous architecture framed by a majestic plane tree.

The hotel was originally the old stable of the Villa Bottini. The hotel’s delightful annex, the Residenza dell’Alba, is situated in a 14th-century church, which you can access through its elegant portico.

We’ll be a 6-minute walk from the 11th-century Cattedrale di Lucca and 8 minutes from the Piazza dell’ Anfiteatro.

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You’ll feel relaxed and cozy in your intimate, elegant room located in the main building, which was at one time the stables of the Villa Bottini.

All rooms feature free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs and tea and coffeemakers. Some have period wooden beams or exposed stone walls. The modern, en suite bathrooms are decorated with tile and glass.

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Discover Lucca with free use of Hotel Ilaria’s bicycles and free audio guides explaining the history of this famous city.

When your day of sightseeing is over, come back to Hotel Ilaria to relax on the lovely terrace, siesta on a sun-lounger, and savor free snacks and drinks as you admire the view of the rich gardens.

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Your Tuscan Table

Italian Soul Food and Wine


Tuscan food is rustic food, yet its flavors are deeply satisfying. You might even say it’s Italian soul food.

You’re probably already aware of the prowess of Tuscan wines, with varietals like Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Montepulciano. These world-class wines are primarily made with Sangiovese grapes.

You’ll have lots of opportunity to sample the local and regional cuisine and vintages in Lucca and on our optional adventures into the countryside.

Your Luscious Meals


Each morning, you’ll enjoy an American style buffet breakfast on our hotel terrace overlooking the gardens of Villa Bottini. It’ll be a little touch of home to get your day started. There is a free cafeteria during the day in the lobby, where you can grab refreshments.

We’ll celebrate together at our group welcome dinner at a fabulous restaurant in Lucca’s historic city center and again at our group farewell dinner.

If you opt in for our excursion to a Chianti winery, you’ll enjoy a delicious, traditional Tuscan lunch with wine, fresh pasta, cheese, truffles, tiramisu and more.

For the rest of your meals, you’ll be on your own to explore and discover the many culinary delights to be found in Lucca and the Cinque Terre. Dine by yourself or with a group; it’s up to you!

What Tuscan food or wine will be your new passion?


I have a passion for soul food!

Sign me up!

Luscious Lucca, Italy

Awaken your senses in one of the most intoxicating cities in Italy. The sights, sounds, aromas and tastes of Lucca will linger in your soul long after you leave and entice you to return again and again.

The 16th century walls that surround Lucca’s historic center are some of the best preserved ramparts in Italy. In the 1800s, the top of this wide wall was planted with trees and grass turning it into a park, a lovely place to walk, bicycle, have a picnic, read a book or write.

Vehicles are banned from most parts of the historic city center. Just watch out for the bicycles!

Lucca is a feast for the eyes, with architecture, art and music everywhere for you to enjoy. The city glows with the rich warm colors of yellow ochre buildings and terracotta roofs. From Romanesque churches and formal gardens to lovely statues and fountains, chalk art in the piazzas and decorative knobs on ancient wooden doors, there is so much eye candy you hardly know where to look.

Even the graffiti is beautiful!

Wander through Lucca’s narrow cobbled streets, lined with buildings of Roman origin, medieval merchants’ palaces and churches that stand as monuments to Lucca’s wealth from silk, banking, and the tidings of the devout.

Climb to the top of La Torre Guinigi, where you can drink in a breathtaking view of the city under the shade of Holm Oak trees planted right on the rooftop as a symbol of rebirth and renewal.

Explore the network of medieval alleyways that open into multiple piazzas, all throbbing with activity.

Pass through one of four arched gateways and discover Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, one of the most charming locations in the historic center of Lucca. This popular dining hub and marketplace is an elliptical plaza on the site of a 2nd century Roman Amphitheater, ringed by medieval houses.

Lucca is known as the city of 100 churches.

You’ll find a fascinating assortment of loggias, blind arcades and imaginatively twisted columns on the facade of San Michele in Foro Church, perhaps Italy’s loveliest church.

The Cathedral of San Martino, with its ornate marble façade, originates from the 12th and 13th centuries. Next to the cathedral stand a 13th century bell tower and the medieval era Casa dell’Opera del Duomao.

Its gothic interior houses the Volto Santo, a larger-than-life wooden crucifix, reportedly carved by Christ’s disciple Nicodemus.

On the evening of Luminara Di Santa Croce, we’ll mingle with the crowd during the holy procession, when the Volto Santo is carried along the streets of Lucca’s historic center from the Basilica of San Frediano to the Cathedral of San Martino.

The streets will be illuminated by thousands of small candles on buildings and carried in the procession.


There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. -Nelson Mandela

Schedule a VIP session with Heather Hale!

30-Minute Private Consult ($195)

  • Logline analysis
  • Pitch practice

90-Minute VIP Session ($495)

  • 1st ten pages review (send in advance)
  • OR

  • Pitch package (send in advance) review and pitch practice
  • OR

  • PowerNetworking: Brand Analysis and Career Strategies (i.e.: who’s the best Agent and/or Manager? Or what’s the best next project to write?)

Spots are limited. Add your optional VIP session when you purchase your retreat.

30-Minute Private Consult ($195)

  • Reel review/branding discussion (send link to reel in advance)

90-Minute VIP Session ($495)

  • Project Review and Brainstorming (Send materials in advance: storyboards, look book, cast wish list ideas, director’s vision, challenging scenes)
  • Career Analysis and Strategies

Limited spots. Add your optional VIP session when you purchase your retreat.

30-Minute Private Consult ($195)

  • Pitch practice


  • Quick budget and schedule review (send in advance)


  • Investor presentation review (send in advance)


  • One Sheet polish (send in advance)

90-Minute VIP Session ($495)

  • PowerNetworking: Project Analysis and Strategies (i.e.: Brainstorming for Potential Buyers, Financiers, Equity Investors, Distributors, International Sales Agents, Reps, studio strategies, social media promotional or crowd funding campaigns, affinity marketing, product placement, sponsorship or grant ideas, etc.)
  • OR

  • Project Assessment Assistance (send in advance: up to 9 loglines or 3 1-page synopses to review for creative and marketing potential)
  • OR

  • Investor, Distributor, Sales Agent or Brand presentation practice and strategizing

Limited spots. Add your optional VIP session when you purchase your retreat.

30-Minute Private Consult ($195)

  • Headshot selection/reel edit suggestions (send links in advance)

90-Minute VIP Session ($495)

  • Audition practice
  • OR

  • PowerNetworking: Brand Analysis and Career Strategies (discussion and long-term/next step(s) strategies)
  • OR

  • PowerNetworking: Brainstorming Producing Personal Passion Project

Limited spots. Add your optional VIP session when you purchase your retreat.

I need passion and a VIP session.

Sign me up!

Retreat Schedule

Saturday, September 9
Transfer from Florence Airport to Hotel
Hotel Check-in
Welcome dinner

Sunday, September 10 – Friday, September 15
Retreat Program and VIP Sessions

Saturday, September 16
Buffet breakfast at Hotel
Transfer to Florence Airport​

What’s Included

  • Putting Passion on the Page and Screen program with Heather Hale
  • Seven nights’ accommodations in the chic Hotel Ilaria and Residenza dell’Alba in Lucca, Italy
  • Round trip transfers from Florence Airport to the hotel
  • Daily American buffet breakfast
  • A joyous welcome drink for a group toast
  • Two heavenly group dinners with wine
  • Group walking tour of Lucca with local guide
  • An exquisite evening of Puccini opera in recital
  • The magical Luminara Di Santa Croce Festival
  • Optional private small group olive oil and winery tour with wine tasting and lunch (additional fee)
  • Optional private small group day tour and park admission to the colorful Cinque Terre (additional fee)
  • Optional VIP session with Heather Hale (additional fee)

What’s Not Included

  • Flights*
  • Meals, drinks, tips, souvenirs, and other items not listed in the inclusions above

*Although flights are not included in the retreat package, you may book your flights through our travel partner, Journeys of the Spirit. They’re also happy to help you with any pre- or post-retreat travel arrangements you may need. For assistance, please email Ales Struna at or call him at (866) 866-5566, Ext. 2.

I'm ready to tell passionate stories.

Register me now!


Heather Hale

Heather Hale is a multi-award-winning independent film and television director, screenwriter, author, producer and force of nature! She was approved as an independent producer for NBC Universal by the International Film and Television Alliance, the non-profit that runs the American Film Market where she served as their Industry Liaison in 2013. Her book How to Work the Film & TV Markets will be published soon by Focal Press/Routledge as part of their “The AFM presents…” series. Story$elling: How to Pitch Film & TV Projects will be published shortly thereafter.

She directed, produced and co-wrote Absolute Killers starring Edward Furlong (Terminator 2), Ed Asner (Up, Lou Grant) and Meat Loaf (Fight Club, Rocky Horror Picture Show). Her 50 hours of award-winning television productions include: The Courage to Love (2000), the $5.5 million dollar Lifetime Original Movie she sold off of a spec screenplay after attaching Vanessa L. Williams to star opposite Diahann Carroll, Gil Bellows and Stacy Keach.

For Faith for Today TV, she wrote and produced The Evidence, which won “Best New Series Pilot,” and Lifestyle Magazine, which won two Tellys. The two distance learning edutainment series she wrote for PBS (KOCE): Personal Finance: Dollars and $ense and Psychology: The Human Experience both won Emmys and ACE awards.

Read full bio.

The first time I heard Heather speak, I was captivated by her passion, insight, warmth and humor… and I immediately knew I wanted to be her friend. As I got to know Heather, I soon discovered that her immense talent is equally matched by her extraordinary generosity and that her passion for teaching and helping others is unsurpassed. She is a true gift to the Los Angeles film community.

Eve Honthaner

Deputy Director of the California Film Commission; Titanic; Tropic Thunder; Dreamworks; Founder, Film Industry Network; Instructor, USC School of Cinema

Diana Osberg

Diana Osberg is the owner and founder of Mia Terra Retreats. She produces extraordinary retreats to inspire writers, artists and creative souls. Diana is a screenwriter and has worked in the entertainment industry for over 30 years in production, creative development and administration.

Diana is a world-traveler, or as she likes to put it, a “world citizen,” and loves to go on unusual adventures. She has helmed a 165 meter barque in the Strait of Gibraltar, sailed as crew on tall ships in New Zealand, Spain and the Canary Islands, participated in an English immersion program with Spanish business people in Spain, and tracked Mustangs in the wilds of the Nevada mountains on horseback. She has kissed the Blarney Stone, but did not get the gift of the gab. She’ll have to kiss it again, I guess.


To my dear retreat participants: You are the ones who dare to dream, who dare to jump into life and seek joy. You are the ones who have the audacity to live a life of passion. – Diana Osberg

Hotel Iliaria