September 8, 2015
SCA Student Stories: Jen Enfield-Kane
Embarking on her last year as an undergraduate, Jen Enfield-Kane ’16 discovered the power of storytelling as an avenue to reach the world during her time at SCA. Enfield-Kane served as an integral part of several successful miniseries and web series, including CON and The Supernatural Enthusiasts Club. She recently shared her transformation as a screenwriter, her experiences writing and directing miniseries, and her thoughts on the future of web-based creative platforms.
How has SCA changed your view of the screenwriting discipline? Prior to coming to SCA, I wrote solely with the intention of entertaining a reader or audience. However, when I started taking Critical Studies and Sociology classes I realized how powerful a medium film and television can be. People learn by imitation, and since cinema is such a prominent aspect of modern society, it has the potential to change people’s perceptions of the world. Not only can you entertain, but you can also educate, enlighten, or simply intrigue audiences with perspectives they may not ordinarily encounter. I have, now, a drive to do something more with my writing than simply to tell a good story—and this is definitely in part thanks to the tools gained in both Critical Studies and Screenwriting classes at SCA, in addition to the community of intellectual discourse fostered by the events, classes, and day-to-day interactions at SCA.
How have you grown creatively as a writer during your time at SCA thus far? My writing has become significantly more complex and psychological during my time at SCA. While my Screenwriting classes play a major role in maturing my storytelling, I attribute part of this growth, as well, to USC and college life as a whole. Being among such a diverse group of people has given me perspective. I am less prone, now, to cardboard characters and plot-heavy arcs. I want each character to feel real, even Waitress #2. Besides that, I’ve become a lot more confident in myself and willing to trust my intuition when it comes to storytelling—I’ve learned that in order to succeed, you can’t be afraid of putting yourself out there and trying new things.
What advice do you have for prospective/current students in your program? Try everything that you’re interested in, even if it has nothing to do with film or writing. If you want to learn how to dance hip-hop or build a solar car, do it! No experience is worthless for creating a story. That one class you took on ancient Middle Eastern religions could become the subject of your next screenplay, or maybe it'll give you the ability to make a great intellectual joke in your sitcom! Don’t be afraid of branching out.
What in your past has given you inspiration or a unique point of view that you bring to SCA? Probably my fascination with other cultures and languages. I draw much of my inspiration from international folklore and cultural traditions, as well as obscure sources of global media (such as newspaper articles or art pieces). In particular, I like to emulate the style of modern Japanese comics and animation. There’s a sense of offbeat vibrancy in Japanese media that I’ve always been drawn to. Not only does it break a certain barrier of reality that is often kept grounded in Western media, but even among the chaos it often manages to develop a deeply philosophical theme. I want to meld that tone and style into my writing with the hopes of creating something unique to both Western and Japanese styles.
What are some of the biggest challenges you confronted when working on several TV miniseries/web series (CON, The Supernatural Enthusiasts Club, Antidote 15)? There were plenty. For a self-produced product, one of the biggest challenges is always, inevitably finance. Beyond that, every show had different demands. However, the biggest challenge for me, across all the series, was doing rewrites. I have a difficult time killing my darlings, but it’s an incredibly important part of creating a well-sculpted final product. Rewriting while in production is also very different from rewriting in class—you may be rewriting with specific actors in mind or to accommodate for production schedules or to ensure you stay under budget. It can be frustrating because sometimes, the rewrites don’t improve the script creatively, but merely change because of new production demands.
Based on your work in the web series sphere, what are your thoughts on the rise of web-based platforms for sharing creative content? There’s a huge potential for interactive and experiential content—everything from choose-your-own adventure web series to miniseries counterparts of cable TV shows to online games that generate a new story every time you play. And it’s not just your traditional mediums, either—Vine stories, interactive web comics, haikus created collaboratively by strangers each adding in one line at a time—it’s beautiful and brimming with infinite possibility! Of course, web content is not without its downfalls. The rise of instantaneous content has shrunk many audiences’ attention spans. You need to hit them with a punch before they click away to another page. The competition is steeper too. Not only are you competing with other TV shows on the air or movies in a box office, you’re competing with the entire internet, from online newspapers to social media streams to videos of cats on Youtube. But that “problem” is also what makes web-based content truly great. People from all backgrounds, even those not pursuing a career in entertainment, have the ability to share their creativity with the world.
What has been your most memorable experience at SCA so far? My most memorable experience at SCA has been working on CON! I’ve never had the opportunity to be a part of such a large-scale project before, and it was really amazing to take the theoretical skills learned in class and put them to practice. It was also an especially crazy experience for me since I was studying abroad in Japan while we shot our first season, but still had the responsibilities of a co-showrunner. I would wake up at three in the morning to Skype into casting sessions and do rewrites with my writing partner Amy Suto, all while trying to adjust to life in a new country! But the best part was all the positive feedback we received from the cast and crew involved in the project. People were genuinely excited to work on the show and told us how much they appreciated the open and collaborative atmosphere we fostered. Knowing that our passion and excitement was able to reach others and create not just a network, but a group of friends, was truly gratifying.
Looking to the future, how do you see yourself and your work evolving? It’s frustrating because I love so many different storytelling mediums, and it’s hard to contain myself to just screenwriting. However, since seeing how interconnected different mediums actually are, I’ve realized that you don’t have to stick to just one thing. I can see myself working on more immersive and transmedia-oriented projects in the future, combining all my loves into one. The growing variety of entertainment platforms gives me hope—the possibilities are endless! I’m especially interested in the increasing cinematic quality of video games as well as exploring new immersive-experience media. I can’t say for sure what the future holds, but I’m excited to be a part of it!