E.J. Tanner

E.J. Tanner

MFA, Writing for Screen & Television '19

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What interests you the most about screenwriting? One of the things I love most about screenwriting is figuring out how to translate my vision into words such that when other people read my words, they see my vision and get just as excited as I did when I wrote it. I also love the challenge of writing something that will potentially be made into visual entertainment. That's what I'm here for, to make compelling, entertaining material and help push the art form forward.

What originally led you to studying writing? I haven't always wanted to be a writer. It wasn't until I was faced with overwhelming tragedy that writing found me. In January 2009, I was involved in a car accident that claimed the life of my best friend, Rene'. After her death, I swam in a pool of grief as I recovered from a traumatic brain injury. About a month after the accident, I was cleared to return to college and finish my second semester of freshman year. The classes I returned to were all writing based--a creative writing class, the standard 1st year English class, and an independent study course. Through these classes, I was able to write about my feelings, work through some of my grief, and also create some compelling, inventive stories. From then on, I've dedicated myself to writing, this art form being the only way I can truly express myself. The success I achieve on my path as a writer is nothing but an homage to my dear friend, Rene'. 

What in your past has given you inspiration or a unique point of view that you bring to SCA? I enjoy writing about characters who get trapped between worlds, struggling to find true belonging. I feel a lot of this inspiration stems from being a person of multi-ethnic descent. My dad is Black, and my mom is White. Growing up, I learned to walk in and out of either culture, although I always struggled to know exactly where I fit in, eternally wrestling with how I see myself and how the world sees me. I've learned that identity is a lifelong journey, and it's a struggle to carve out space for yourself. Yet, creating that space is crucial for our survival as individuals and as a global community of interwoven, multifaceted identities. 

What is your intended career path and how has your program prepared you so far? My intended career path is to be a writer extraordinaire, writing pieces that enrapture audiences in a worlds unknown. Beyond writing for film and television, I'd love to also write comics and maybe even some novels or children's books. My training in the John Wells Division of Writing for Screen and Television has helped me immensely by adding countless, invaluable tools to my writing toolbox, while at the same time creating an environment that supports me in pushing my imagination past its limits.

What have been your biggest challenges at USC? One of my biggest challenges at SCA is balancing writing and my everyday life. It's really easy to get sucked into working on your own projects and let your social life, personal hobbies, and day-to-day adventuring fall by the wayside. However, it's the life I live outside the page away from the keyboard that inspires my work and helps me color in characters and scenes I'm writing. 

Are there any projects you’re working on right now? Where can people find out more about your work? I'm currently writing a feature film and creating my own pilot. If you want to know more about my work, reach out to me and let's grab coffee. I'd love to chat! 

What advice do you have for prospective students looking to apply to SCA? My advice to prospective students looking to apply: Do work that's personal. Nobody else has lived your life. Utilize your personal experiences to help craft your own voice which will further highlight what makes you unique.