August 4, 2014

SCA Alumni Stories: Victoria Aveyar, BFA Screenwriting '12

Victoria Aveyard, BFA Screenwriting '12, is the author of the highly- anticipated young adult novel, The Red Queen, which is set to be published in January 2015. The first book of the trilogy, Red Queen has been optioned by Universal Pictures and will be produced by Benderspink and Pouya Shahbazian. She recently took time away from her hectic schedule to answer some questions from Reality Ends Here.

What made you want to be a writer, and more specifically, to be in the BFA screenwriting program? I've wanted to write since I was little, but I didn't really connect writing and my love of movies until I watched George Lucas's AFI award ceremony. Then I realized someone had to write movies, not just direct them, and a career path was born. The award show went on and on about USC's film school and I was immediately hooked. I did my research and realized it was the mother of all longshots, but applied and somehow got in!

What's your favorite SCA memory? It's hard to beat my first football game (beating Ohio State in the Coliseum), but my favorite SCA memory takes the cake. I took the critical studies class on Steven Spielberg, and got to see the man himself. That was insane for me, since Jurassic Park, ET, and Indiana Jones were the movies that made me love the moving image. I can't pinpoint a BFA screenwriting moment, since there are honestly too many. Completing my first screenplay, learning how to revise and make it better, controlling the copy machine in the writing office, and the relationships I made are also memories and experiences I wouldn't trade for anything. 

How has being an SCA Alum already impacted your career? I would not be where I am without SCA, period. I landed a meeting at Benderspink, now my management, because I was graduating from SCA, and they knew the quality of an SCA education. Every bit of success has been a stepping-stone from that. Now that I'm living and working in the industry, I feel like I can't turn around without bumping into another SCA alum. It's awesome! And of course, all the best bits of my writing ability have come directly from my classes at SCA. I would not be the writer I am today without the SCA Writing Program.

How did the First Pitch process help you in your career? What was the process like for you?I didn't actually meet anyone from Benderspink at the First Pitch event, but they emailed everyone they didn't get to see to ask for portfolios. A pilot I wrote got their attention, and they called me in for a general meeting. That's when I pitched the idea of writing a young adult novel and they wanted me to run with it. This was in May of 2012. I finished the book in January 2013, signed with a publishing agent in February, and we sold the book to HarperCollins in April, then the option to Universal in May. It was a wild year.

What differences have you experienced in writing novels compared to screenplays?There's a lot more freedom in novels, obviously, because you don't have to stick to 90-120 pages and screenplay format. You can also delve a lot deeper into a character's mindset (my novel is first person POV), and for the most part, it's just me writing the book. Edits happen later on, but I'm almost completely in control of the work and where it goes. Screenplays are a lot more collaborative, and much more visual, in my opinion. They're also, again in my opinion, easier to write - screenplays are almost written in shorthand, and a lot of times it's easier to communicate the image you want to portray. But then, some days, the novels are easier and more fun etc. It depends on my mindset.

What is your advice in regards to writer's work ethic? Where did you write best during your undergraduate career and where do you write best now?

Routine. I keep store hours, meaning that I shoot for working on a "normal schedule", maybe 10-6 or so, and then I'm out. Unless I'm on deadline, I find that keeping limits and boundaries stops me from overextending myself to the point where I'm just typing nonsense. It helps me stay refreshed and ready to work each day. I'm also very forgiving, probably too much, of times when I just can't get any good writing done. When I was in school, I wrote best in my dorm or apartment, preferably alone where I could be isolated and focused entirely on my work. The same is true now. I have an office corner in my bedroom, but I've recently started to branch out and work in coffee shops occasionally, usually with another writing friend. Bricks and Scones is steadily becoming my temple.