screenwriter to watch
After graduating from the American Film Institute, I was hired to write an ABC TV Movie, and re-write a feature comedy for Lions Gate along with other, smaller projects. Having children caused a major disruption in the writing process which resulted in a nearly decade long break. But when my youngest was in kindergarten, my close friend, Cylin Busby, approached me about writing together. I jumped at the chance- it’s so much more fun to work with her than to toil away by myself! We wrote the comedy/horror, REBECCA AND QUINN GET SCARED, which was a finalist in the comedy category at AFF, now has a director attached and is being packaged by UTA.
How did you break in?
I went to the American Film Institute. A year or so out, I was able to secure a manager but still wasn’t getting work. One lunch we had together, I was telling my manager a personal story and he insisted I turn it into a script. Meanwhile, he introduced me to a large agency in the hopes that that would get my career going. They met with me but weren’t willing to sign me until I wrote some TV specs- that was the direction they thought I was heading. On the way out the door I mentioned the script I was working on. The agent was willing to read it and after she did, they signed me and I got my first writing job- adapting a teen memoir for an ABC TV movie.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
That there’s always more to learn and then re-learn about writing. And I love that. There’s always a new way to look at a script, a new tact to consider, new questions to ask. I’ll never be done learning how to write.
What has been your hardest scene to write?
The hardest thing I’ve worked on was the most personal. It was based on my life and it was incredibly difficult to maintain perspective. I had to leave it alone for a while. I also had to keep asking for feedback until I heard the notes that helped me take it where it needed to go. With most scripts that’s easy- a note is a note. On this script, some feedback was paralyzing. So I kept asking for more until what I heard helped me move forward.
What do you feel was your turning point?
Joining up with my writing partner, Cylin Busby. Writing can be such a solitary process and it can also be terrifying (for me at least). Doing it with a close friend makes it a thousand times more fun. Every time we get together, we spend at least the first half hour catching up- no matter how many times we tell each other we’ll get straight to work! Every idea gets an immediate second opinion- no need to write an entire draft before knowing if it’ll work. When we’re writing separately, just knowing that someone is waiting for those pages helps me focus. Each draft of a script we’re writing together is like three or four drafts of a script I would write alone.
What are you working on right now?
Something that will blow your mind.
What are your favorite movies?
I love so many movies. If I name some, the others will feel left out. But I’ll try. About a Boy, Sense and Sensibility, Better Off Dead, LA Confidential, My Cousin Vinny, Get Out, Iron Man (the first one).
Who are your favorite screenwriters?
Susannah Grant, who kicks all kinds of ass, and John Hughes who could not have possibly been more prolific or more fun.
What is your most Memorable AFF Moment?
Emily Ferenbach moderated a panel called, ‘The Women In The Room’ with panelists Christina Hodson, Kay Oyegun and Pamela Ribon. They closed the doors, would not allow taping and spoke very honestly to the overpacked ballroom. This set the tone for an open and intimate (despite the size) discussion. It was incredibly moving and I felt indebted to the women on the panel for putting themselves out there like that. Cylin and I had met Emily Ferenbach at the round table discussions earlier in the weekend. And because Austin is such an intimate film festival, we stopped to say hi when we saw her working diligently on her computer at the bar. She told us how much it meant to her that she do the best job she could possibly do leading this panel. We couldn’t imagine what she was nervous about, but once I was in that room I saw her hard work pay off. She did an incredible job and I’m so appreciative of it.