Sheridan Watson

Sheridan Watson

MFA, Writing for Screen and Television '20

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What interests you the most about screenwriting? Oh, this might be impossible to answer succinctly because it is my greatest love and passion (my family is cool too, I guess). Though I love all kinds of writing, I think the visual aspect — seeing your work not just on a page but also on the screen — is one of the most intoxicating feelings you can experience. I used to daydream a lot as a kid — it was the only way I could get through 12 years of math. And I spent my childhood watching movie after movie after movie, escaping into these stories. And then I realized I could possibly start writing them by translating what I was dreaming about onto the page. I’ve never been musically gifted or a math savant. But when I started writing, I felt like I could hear dialogue as musical notes in my head. I’m also well aware that this makes me sound insane, but I’ve accepted it. There’s also something magical about the industry where whether it’s four people or four hundred, you get to collaborate and learn and grow through the experience of creating something that could have an effect on someone’s life, just like how movies had an effect on me growing up.

What originally led you to studying writing? I’ve always been obsessed with writing, and when I was 10 I emailed the author of a book I loved, asking to option it. She declined politely, saying New Line already had the rights, but since then I was hooked. I didn’t have a ton of film opportunities at my high school, and during my USC undergraduate years, I became the Editor in Chief of the Daily Trojan and focused more on journalism. After a few years of working for a media company, I realized it was now or never to follow my passion and I only applied to one school — my alma mater. I decided that if I got in, it would be a sign that I was ready to embark on a career as a writer. I knew that USC would give me the tools to jumpstart this new path, and I didn’t want to be on my deathbed wondering why I never gave it a shot.

What advice do you have for prospective students looking to apply to SCA? Yes, write your heart out and spend time on the application. But I think, most importantly, stay true to yourself. In your samples, write something that you would love, that you would pitch. Don’t try and do what you think SCA might want, because they actually want authentic people with their own voice. And when you get accepted, you want to know that they accepted you for you and not for some idealized version of yourself.

How has this program prepared you so far in your career in entertainment? Even after the first semester, I realized how important it was for me to go to school to study my craft. This business involves a lot of luck, but SCA has taught me that what if you weren’t just relying on luck to get jobs or become inspired. What if you could, through hard work, become the writer you always wanted to be? I’m so fortunate to be a Trojan and have exposure to the alumni network, but also be taught the ins and outs of my craft from the best of the best. I no longer just write to write, instead I am beginning to write with a purpose, and with an understanding of how to create the best work I possibly can.

What have been your biggest challenges at USC? Pushing myself! My professors have pushed me to think past the first idea, past the first draft. Instead of handing things in that are merely passable, they want us to create screenplays and pilots that could sell, that are great on their own. It’s taught us all to be better writers and realize that it’s a process.

Are there any projects you’re working on right now? Where can people find out more about your work? I’m currently working on rewrites of a family horror feature and a queer rom com. I’m also finishing up an action comedy, a half-hour pilot, and a period short. If anyone wants to reach out, please do, I need friends! But in all seriousness, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email or find me on social media.