screenwriter to watch
Tracy Oliver is a writer, actor, producer, and director in the TV, feature, and digital space. She recently co -wrote Barbershop III with Black-ish creator, Kenya Barris, as well as the upcoming Girls Trip movie from Universal Pictures. Oliver has also been tapped to adapt the New York Times best-selling novel, “The Sun is Also a Star” for MGM and Warner Brothers. In the television space, she is currently developing a dance drama with American Ballet Theatre’s Misty Copeland for Fox. She’s written for several TV shows, most recently Survivor’s Remorse on Starz. In the digital space, Oliver is known for writing, producing, and acting in the hit comedic web series entitled, “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl.” She is set to make her directorial debut later this year from a script she co-wrote.
Credits: Barbershop III, Girls Trip, Awkward Black Girl
How did you break in or get your start in screenwriting?
I wrote a script called “Marriage is for White People” that was never made, but won a writing competition and got me representation and several meetings around town. I also wrote, produced, and acted in the web series, Awkward Black Girl, with Issa Rae, which went viral and gave me an even bigger platform for my writing.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
To listen to my own instincts. Throughout my career, I’ve had people tell me what not to write or advise on how to navigate the business based on what the majority of people do. What I’ve found is that following my own instincts and writing what I know and am passionate about versus what is hot at the moment has been more lucrative and fulfilling. Sometimes it’s okay to carve out your own path and do things unconventionally.
What’s the hardest scene or project you’ve ever had to write? How did you navigate the challenge?
The hardest project for me to write thus far was Barbershop III. It was quite a challenge to take an old franchise and make it feel fresh. The other hard part was dealing with the tragedy that’s taking place in the south side of Chicago, while also finding enough humor to make sure the movie’s still funny. What helped was not shying away from tackling the issues head on and whenever possible, finding a humorous way to undercut those dramatic moments, so it never got too serious or too broad.
What was a major turning point in your career?
Getting my first movie made and along with Kenya Barris getting sole writing credit really helped solidify me as a screenwriter. Even before the movie came out, I was getting approached by several producers and execs wanting me to consider writing other projects.
What are you working on right now?
I’m currently adapting a beautiful love story written by Niccola Yoon called “The Sun is Also A Star” for Warner and MGM. I’m also gearing up to direct my first film in the summer.
What are some of your favorite movies?
Shawshank Redemption. When Harry Met Sally. Malcolm X. Clueless. Coming to America. Love and Basketball. (I know, all over the place)
Who are some of your favorite screenwriters?
Nora Ephron. Dan Fogelman.
Share a memorable experience at Austin Film Festival:
Loved connecting with other aspiring writers.