From Mic to Screen:
My Screenwriting Adventure
My love affair with writing began early in life. First, there were those alphabets I carefully penned in my big writing tablet. Upon learning that the simple rearrangement of those alphabets could craft endless words was simply amazing. Then came sentences, paragraphs, chapters, books. Those amazing books filled with ancient and modern tales opened the door to my own imagination. I was an avid reader in my early years and my teen years found me ferociously writing poetry and songs. I have a big blue binder stuffed with over 200 completed songs or concepts as proof to my learning to shape my thoughts into text. I’ve always enjoyed “painting pictures” through spoken and written words. With my imaginative mind, storytelling, in its rawest form, has come easy to me.
However, screenwriting was not my first stop along my creative life journey. Music and radio would capture me first. In my twenties and early thirties, I was consumed with singing, songwriting, stage acting and performing poetry. In my mid-30’s, I totally focused on my radio career. The interest in writing movies, piqued in a college screenwriting class, would hit me from time to time and I would jot down movie ideas but not with the direct intent of crafting a screenplay.
Oddly enough though, it was at the onset of my return to radio in 1999, that I “stumbled” into screenwriting. My love affair with tales had moved from the printed page to the silver screen years earlier. As an avid movie-goer, it was commonplace for me to take in two matinees on a Saturday and discuss them endlessly the following week at the station. My movie “critiquing” opened the door for a local concert promoter to ask if I’d read over a script he had written. My reading the script and subsequent feedback eventually lead to me becoming a co-screenwriter on “N-Secure,” an independent film released October 2010.
My transition from radio into screenwriting was a ten-year journey. As fate would have it, the year I decided to leave radio, my co-screenwriter’s production company secured a director and the movie was finally filmed in Fall 2008. With my life at a crossroad, I pondered the “what next” question. The answer: school. The following year I returned to Oral Roberts University to complete my Bachelor’s degree in Drama Television and Film Performance after a 20-plus year hiatus. Upon completing this degree this year, I plan to pursue a MFA in Screenwriting to further aid me in my new adventure as a produced screenwriter.
As my focus turns fully to screenwriting, I am learning a lot about myself. For example, I realized while I’d been in the entertainment and media industry for almost 30 years, I had never given myself permission to be a professional writer…of any kind. My writing, like my visual artistry, was always for self-expression and never for professional pursuit. Well, ladies and gentlemen…permission has been granted. I’ve aligned my conscious and unconscious mind with my stated intention of becoming a screenwriter.
The other thing I’ve become quite aware of is my creative process. My process for screenwriting, as with my previous forms of writing, is all about the muse and inspiration. I’ve found I’m the hybrid of creative and analytical thinking. I have a Muse AND I have to muse..often. I’m greatly moved emotionally by nature, art and simple wonders of life, yet I find equal pleasure in ruminating the experience. I’ve found it is important to me to order my thoughts while allowing poetic expression.
I get a kick out of writing. I enjoy chiseling a work of words into the form of a song, poem, blog post and even a well-crafted business letter. Yet I find screenwriting offers me the luxury of delving deeply into research and psychological motivation. When a story comes to me, I usually get a title immediately to hang the idea on. I do intensive research on the topic, muse over story components, mellow out to clear my mind and when the writing flow comes…I go for broke.
While I am enjoying trekking down this new path of screenwriting, I do offer advice for aspiring screenwriters, specifically those entering this profession from another industry: EDUCATE and NETWORK.
Every aspiring screenwriter is at a different place in their lives, so your educational route will vary from reading books on screenwriting, taking an online course, joining a writing group or enrolling in a community or four-year college. However, you will find whatever educational path you take will be more than worth the time, money and effort in the short and long-term. Even if you are a successful songwriter, novelist or playwright, you will find learning the craft of screenwriting will be essential to your scriptwriting endeavors. Also be sure to watch tons of movies from a screenwriter’s point of view and get into the habit of reading screenplays, especially award winning scripts.
Building a network is paramount, in my opinion. In any profession, advancement is linked to abilities and connections. However in the entertainment industry, you will find your connections can even make up for what you lack in ability. So super talented, aspiring writer please don’t rest on your writing laurels…get out of the house and network.
Yet before you leave the house, network via social media on sites like Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter. To remove the fear of making online connections, just remember to be your natural self, talk often about your screenwriting pursuits and only interact with those you would hang out with offline. Don’t be afraid to unfriend or unfollow people. It’s your world (online) so make it a happy and safe one. When it’s time to get out and about, do your research and stretch yourself.
I strongly suggest that every screenwriter expose themselves to all things creative. Join a writing group or become an actor at a local theatre to meet future actors for your projects. Contact your city’s film commission or local film festival organizations and offer to volunteer. Work the crew on local film projects. Yes, screenwriters need to work on the set too; especially if directing is on your to-do list. Give back to the community by writing ten minute plays or shorts and have youth from a local church, school or non-profit organization collaborate in the effort. Allow your creative juices to flow as you devise ways to network in the political and creative circles of your community. Lastly, attend national festivals and expos designed to advance your writing career.
Offline, as a full-time student, I am building a nice network of future actors, directors, cinematographers, set designers, musicians and writers. I know I can tap into them as they advance professionally. Online, last year, I began to use Twitter to build connections with writers around the world. From my Twitter relationships, I’ve joined in the formation of TFWScribes, a consortium of emerging and well-established TV, film and web writers networking worldwide via social media. I am lending my radio expertise to co-host the monthly Scribe Show on BlogTalkRadio featuring industry professionals. The blogsite at tfwscribes.wordpress.com will assist in providing support and information to scribes, especially those living outside of Hollywood. These are just two simple ways I can keep my commitment to networking on and offlline.
With this mid-life career change, I reflect often on advice from a radio colleague who was very well-connected and helped me build my personal “brand” in radio. They stressed the importance of seeing everyone as an equal, making friends before deals and offering help before asking for it. As they would work the room filled with movers and shakers, I would hear them say, “If I can ever be of help to you, just let me know”. As a budding radio personality, I wondered how could I possibly help those already established in the city. However, I took their advice to heart and it worked beautifully for me personally and professionally. It is advice I pass on to you today. As we ease on down this road, remember screenwriting is just another extension of the gift you already are to the world.
Christie Taylor is a radio veteran turn professional screenwriter. She loves putting words in people’s ears and mouths. Join her as she co-host The Scribes Show every last Sunday on BlogTalkRadio.com/TFWScribes and visit her Blog often @ christietayloronline.com.
Connect with Christie on Twitter @ChristieTaylor