Writing For Screen and Television '20
- What interests you the most about your specific division or program at SCA?
People often see writing as a solitary activity. I suppose they're not entirely wrong, since at the end of the day it really is just you and your laptop/notebook/coffee shop napkin. But I think screenwriting is one of few creative writing professions where it's impossible to have a finished product without collaborating with others at some point, whether they be actors, crew, or even fellow writers. While there is a certain part of me that enjoys being alone and figuring things out for myself, I've noticed that I create my best work when I'm bouncing concepts off others. The screenwriting division has been especially good for that. It's impossible to have four years of workshop classes with some of the most talented writers in the country and not come out with at least one good idea!
- Why did you choose SCA?
As a high school senior, I was a little too big for my britches, so as soon as I got in I called Jack Epps, Jr., the chair of the screenwriting division at the time. I demanded he tell me why I should come to SCA over any of the other schools I had gotten into, some of which offered more secure careers that I could do for a while to make money and then try to transition into writing. He was astoundingly patient with me and gave me one of the best pieces of advice I've ever gotten: "If you want to write, write." There's no security in any job, but more importantly, there's no guarantee that security will bring you joy and fulfillment in life. Why spend time doing something that brings you no joy in the hopes that one day you might be able to do something else if you have the opportunity to do that something else right now? Of course, this advice is contingent upon the "joy" option being a realistic one economically and it took several scholarships and long phonecalls with the financial aid office for SCA to become that for me, but his advice really stuck with me.
- What has been your biggest challenge so far in your time here?
It's been really difficult adjusting to the mindset of creativity as an academic/professional affair. Instead of writing being something I do for fun, it's sometimes something I do for a grade or to avoid disappointing my peers and professors. I've always been someone who loves school and thrives in a graded environment, but it definitely has added an extra level of pressure to the creative process. Whenever I read over my own work, there's an added layer of self-analysis - I'm writing to be read. I've noticed this pressure with my classmates as well. If anything, I think that's the saving grace of it. We're all so afraid of what each other will think that there's no time to be competitive or judgmental.
- What has been your biggest success?
My sophomore year I was in a writers room for a web-series a few of my friends and classmates created. By the end of one semester, we had written 8 episodes and by the next semester, we'd produced all of them. We worked 24 hour weekends, called in every favor we had, and ended up with a show we're all still very proud of. Since then I've learned a lot more and I'm constantly struck with the urge to go back and revise my old drafts, but working together on that show is one of my happiest memories here.
- Is there a project you are working (or have completed) that you're especially proud of? (It doesn’t have to be schoolwork. If applicable, please provide a link to the project, or information about it)
The show I talked about above is called Funny Business and it's all available on Youtube!
In terms of my own scripts, last year I wrote a feature comedy about a girl who finds out the world is ending and drags her friends on an apocalyptic quest to lose her virginity. This year I'm working on a half-hour show about a live TV therapist working to restore her reputation after one of her former clients attempts suicide. As I type these up I realize that they both sound very dark but I promise they're comedies!
- How has SCA prepared you so far in your career in entertainment?
As easy as it would be to cite the job/internship application resources SCA provides with its Industry Relations office or the power of the school's reputation in the world outside, I think the best thing SCA has done for my career is surround me with hundreds of people who all want very similar things as me. There's no better way to learn the trick of writing a cover letter for a specific company or what to wear to certain interviews than talking with other people who've done it already. If I'm ever unsure about when to start applying to jobs or whether I'm doing all that I can be doing, all I have to do is look around.
- What advice do you have for prospective students looking to apply to SCA?
There are so many important pieces of advice! Emotional story is more important than technical perfection. Set up situations with characters and worlds who cannot possibly peacefully coexist because of their conflicting wants and attitudes. Think about what you specifically bring to the work you do and make something only you could make. But I think the most important piece of advice I can give is to love what you do. Whatever division you apply to, it should be something you'd find yourself doing for the next four years even if you didn't get in. As I said before, being creative in an academic environment like this one can be taxing on your artistic soul, and the best way to survive with your love of storytelling intact is to make sure that love is so deeply wedged within you that no external force, whether it's criticism, deadlines, or burnout, can possibly pry it out.
Roma Murphy is a BFA for Writing in film and Television from Brooklyn, NY.