Eric Haywood was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He began his career as a music video director while still enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Filmmaking. After relocating to Atlanta, Haywood went on to direct and produce videos featuring such artists as Usher, Cee-Lo Green, Outkast, New Edition, Ice-T, Tupac Shakur, and legendary Parliament-Funkadelic bassist Bootsy Collins. His video for Bay Area rapper E-40‘s song ―Sprinkle Me‖ was selected by MTV and XXL Magazine as the #10 Greatest West Coast Rap Video of All Time.
Haywood then turned his focus to writing and moved to Los Angeles, where he landed work as a writer on ABC‘s Private Practice, Showtime‘s Soul Food: The Series and NBC‘s Hawaii. Along the way, he has periodically returned to his filmmaking roots, writing and directing three short films (Nick of Time, Intersection, and Staring at the Sun), each of which screened at various film festivals around the country. Haywood went on to write the Hallmark Channel original movie Relative Stranger, starring Eriq LaSalle (E.R.) and directed by Charles Burnett (Killer of Sheep). After premiering in 2009, the film garnered three NAACP Image Award nominations and a Best Supporting Actress Emmy nomination for Cicely Tyson. Most recently, Haywood wrote and directed the independent feature film Four of Hearts, and is currently a co-producer/writer for the hit FOX network drama Empire, starring Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson.
What’s the hardest scene or project you’ve ever had to write? How did you navigate the challenge? For me, there’s no one scene that stands out as harder than the others. They’re all hard. Every scene presents a different set of challenges, so if I find myself getting stuck on a particular scene, I try to take a step back and identify its purpose in the story and what the central conflict is. Sometimes a scene is especially hard to write because it simply doesn‘t belong in the story and you‘re trying to force a square peg into a round hole, so that‘s another pitfall to watch out for.
Do you have a favorite or memorable experience at Austin Film Festival? A script I wrote called Liberators won the AFF Pilot Screenplay Competition, and the moment my name was called at the awards luncheon, my mind sort of went blank. I had to give an acceptance speech in front of legends like Vince Gilligan, Callie Khouri, and Jonathan Demme, and I have a passing memory of people laughing at whatever joke I told, but I literally don‘t remember any specific details. It was a pretty powerful moment and I was overwhelmed with gratitude at the recognition of all my hard work…and then I got to carry my trophy around the festival for the rest of the day!