Images by: Chan C. Smith
Writer: Crystal Joy
Screenwriting is something that I have grown to love. I never had the desire to pursue anything except acting – I was completely comfortable being in front of the camera and finding my voice through that medium. As I gained momentum in my career I began to realize the number of stories that weren’t being told. I looked for them, yet couldn’t find the narratives I desired to see in the TV or film world. If I did, people of color weren’t playing key roles.
This was around the time digital content was starting to boom and I was toying with the idea of writing something. Then one day in an acting class a fellow student asked me if I was interested in re-writing her script. She was looking to shoot but didn’t like the arch of the story. I agreed, and a few months later I was on set watching the actors play out what I wrote. After that experience I wrote a second short film, then finally created my own.
Finding your own voice can take time. Here are a few things I have learned on my writer’s journey thus far.
Follow your curiosity. Sometimes I would lose interest in the stories I wrote but continued writing because I didn’t want a slew of unfinished scripts piling up. I realized if you are bored writing your story your audience will be bored watching it. People will have opinions on what you should be writing but stick to the subjects that excite you or even scare you. Be picky and cling to topics that matter to you the most.
Look at what people are not talking about. It’s easy to get sucked into following the trends of what other creatives are doing, especially if they are succeeding at it. Please understand that creating your own work doesn’t have to mean being a copycat of everyone else. It’s okay to be inspired but it’s also okay to swim against the waves and follow your intrinsic flow. You possess a unique perspective, fingerprint, and experiences–show people your personal outlook of the world. If something works for another creator, great, but remember that no one is like you. Don’t waste your magic trying to be like everyone else. Your voice is worth listening to.
Do your research. My second short film, Behind The Silence, circled around autism, a topic I knew nothing about. I couldn’t write that story based on assumptions, otherwise, I would be doing the community a major disservice. I spoke with couples, read articles, watched documentaries and listened to interviews –it benefited me majorly. If you’re going to write about something that is outside your scope of knowledge I urge you to do your research. It won’t be perfect, but you’re putting yourself in an advantageous position by investing extra effort in understanding the environment you want to recreate. Plus, research can provide inspiration for your script, so go the extra mile.
Take classes. I was only able to grow as a writer by enrolling in classes, getting feedback from my teachers, joining writing collectives, and reading books that challenged me to write better. Additionally, I watched interviews and lectures on YouTube and Masterclass from some of my favorite filmmakers, writers, and storytellers. I’m still a student of the art form, but it’s important you put in those extra hours in learning your craft. If you’re going to do this, do it all the way.
Find an accountability partner. I recently finished my first pilot and now I’m on my second draft. I give credit to not only my drive to complete it, but the fact that I met with a fellow writer every week to discuss our scripts, notes we had given each other, and ideas for future projects. I’m big on setting deadlines for myself because it pushes me to get things done. However, having an accountability partner other than myself made me more responsible for the work I started and kept me in check with my writing goals.