The following interview is part of a class assignment for Entrepreneurship and the Hero Adventure at SMU, Meadows School of the Arts. Each interview has been conducted and created by students for this course, which celebrates those heroes in our communities. Heroism, for the purpose of this course and assignment is described as:
- Service of something larger than oneself.
- A willingness to sacrifice in the name of service.
Author: SMU student Ariana Howell
Please write a brief paragraph describing your business. What initially inspired you? What continues to inspire you?
I am a screenwriter. I focus on heroic true stories, but have also written thrillers and comedies. I was an investment banker originally and found myself bored and frustrated. Remembered how happy I was in acting class in college and decided to try something that made me happy. I started acting and soon realized there were few good parts for women so I decided to write one for myself. Once I wrote my first screenplay, I realized I loved writing more than acting.
I am inspired by the power of story. How by telling a transformational story, we heal ourselves and others. I am inspired by the emotional outlet that writing gives me. I am inspired by the responses to my writing. I am inspired by the real life people whom I write about. I am currently writing a movie about visionary Debrah Constance who, by opening a youth center in South Central, saved thousands of lives. I am honored to tell her story. I feel that I become a better person by spending time with courageous people.
What is a major challenge you faced in the process? How did you overcome this challenge?
Learning how to write a screenplay well is a major challenge. A life long quest. Every story needs to be told it’s own specific way. Which characters do I choose to focus on, what part of the story is most important? What am I saying in the telling of this story? What is my personal philosophy about this protagonist and what she stands for? How do I share this with the audience without preaching? How do I keep up my energy and enthusiasm as I work on draft after draft? How do I make sure I have enough income to do the several drafts this story requires?
This is always one day at a time. If I thought about how hard this is, I would never continue. I just focus on finishing each draft and making it the best draft possible. I have learned that this is an exercise in faith. I pray a lot. I ask my angels for help. I light candles.
There is also the challenge of getting films made. As I mostly write serious dramas (which are less viable commercially), I must constantly look for allies. This business is all about creating alliances.
Did you find there was resistance in manifesting your ideas, either from yourself or an outside force? What is your advice in overcoming this resistance?
There is always resistance. You just have to fight through it. Chocolate helps more than you can possibly imagine. If I procrastinate early in the day, I must work late into the evening. (read THE WAR OF ART: Great book on overcoming resistance)
There is great resistance in the market place for serious films. If this is what appeals to you, write them anyway. These stories are for you. If you are called to write them, you must. These stories will heal you as you write them.
What is your favorite part of your creative career? Why do what you do?
I love being on set — as both the writer and the director. I love seeing actors say my words. Act out my scenes. I love collaborating with actors, directors, producers, DPs…
I love reading through my finished scripts — seeing my characters become real people.
At this point, I do what I do because it is the way that I make money. It is one of the only things I know how to do well that can earn me money without leaving my house. Without getting out of my PJs. I do it because it is a great challenge. And because it is fun and awful and fantastic and scary and rewarding and frustrating.
How long have you had the dream for your business? Was it something you planned to do while you were in school?
I never imagined I would be a writer in college. I was terrified of writing. It was not until I was acting in 1992 (years after college) and found myself rewriting scenes and creating scenes for movies I’d been cast in that it occurred to me that I could write. I was lucky in that the first thing I wrote lead to a paying magazine gig. Though the first pay check was small, that lead to a bigger ck. I still don’t make anywhere near the money I made on wall street but I do something that is much more valuable than selling money.
What three (or it can be more) pieces of advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who are entering the market, following university?
Take every job in the industry of your choice that you can. Early on, I had a rule. Only take work in entertainment. In 25 years, I have broken it once – for a month. The more people you can get to know in the industry the better. Take internships. Work for free. Join meet up groups that concern your profession. Join writers groups. See lots of films, theatre, read lots of plays, screenplays. Take classes even after graduation. Be a perpetual student of your craft. Practice what you do. If you are an actor, memorize your lines for every audition. Spend hours preparing. Enjoy the process. If you don’t, find something else to do. If you love it, never give up. It’s your dream. You are the only one who can make it happen. Oh, and ask for help. Ask, ask, ask.