Kelly Qiu

Kelly Qiu

BFA, Writing for Screen & Television '19

Writing for Screen & Television Division Page
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How has the School of Cinematic Arts changed your view of writing for film and television? Just being here for the first year has been such an eye-opening and wonderful experience. While creative writing has been my first love, coming to SCA allowed me to see stories in new angles. No longer do stories only take form in novels, short stories and poems, but in images and in the interactive world! It’s such a big blessing to be able to experience storytelling in such diverse ways.

Through the classes we take, I began to see that writing for film and television is a collaborative endeavor. Sure, there are days you spend alone, typing away while being immersed in your own world; but in the end it’s about working together with others. It’s a beautiful art form where each of our visions and voices take part in the exciting journey!

What advice do you have for prospective students looking at applying to the Screenwriting program? Don’t be afraid to branch out of film and writing. Often times, great stories are inspired by life experiences and observations. So venture out into the world! Take interesting electives in high school. Have fun in science labs. Treat history class as story-time. Take risks and go for it!

Those experiences are able to shape your voice in your writing—which brings me to my next point: Let your voice be evident in your writing. It’s easy to try to fit ourselves in a mold we think is the “standard,” but I encourage you to write the stories you want to tell, not what you think others want to hear. Yes, write about what inspires you and what you’re passionate about, but also don’t be afraid to tap into your fears and failures. Your stories become raw and alive when you’re honest with yourself.

How has the School of Cinematic Arts prepared you so far for a career in your discipline? SCA provides students with the best faculty and facilities to help develop their voice as writers. The classes we take give us a comprehensive view of the industry and practical skillsets. Last semester, I took a class where students are given the chance to crew and help produce a show that airs live…and that class is offered to you as a first semester freshmen! The screenwriting classes are workshop–intensive classes where you get detailed notes from your professor and classmates. The screenwriting class I am taking this semester imitates a writers’ room for writing for TV! It’s a lot of fun and very rewarding.

What have been the biggest challenges for you at USC? There’s so much to do at USC that time management and prioritizing what’s important is a challenge I’ve faced. SCA has many screenings and events, and USC also has numerous speaker series, club activities, and so much more! I felt that twenty-four hours in a day was just not enough time to explore, learn, and attend events. But with planners and making a schedule, I’ve learned how to budget my time.

What in your past has given you inspiration or a unique point of view that you bring to USC? Definitely my family and cultural background. I was born in Redwood City to Chinese immigrant parents from Shanghai. The first language I learned to speak was Shanghainese as it is the language spoken at home. I learned Mandarin through Chinese dramas my grandmother watched as I loved and still love keeping her company. My breakfast consisted of bowls of wontons instead of cereal on most mornings. When I was in elementary school, my dad would read picture books with me after dinner to help me catch up on English.

As I was growing up, I felt stuck in between two cultures, between home life and school life, between imagination and reality. These sentiments still carry over to the stories I want to tell and the characters I create. With the stories I write, I want to explore the boundaries of identity and belonging. I want to tap into the human condition and free my characters out of stereotypical shells to become people who are alive and relatable.