Victoria Renee Bell
MFA, Writing for Screen & Television '21
What inspired you to want to study the cinematic arts?
I feel the most fulfilled when I am creating. I always enjoyed storytelling. For years, I created books, comics, blogs, vlogs, etc. to simply satisfy my need to express myself. So, for most of my life, I merely viewed these activities as hobbies. I was focused on becoming a psychiatrist, psychologist, and/ or attorney because I wanted to serve as a forensic mental health practitioner and address the needs of underserved communities. It wasn't until after I earned my master's degree in clinical and forensic psychology that I realized I could blend my compulsion to create with my desire to advocate. I started by incorporating storytelling into my therapeutic techniques and I discovered how impactful storytelling could be for healing and social engagement. Eventually, I yearned to impact others on a larger scale. I was inspired by other artists like Issa Rae, Shonda Rhimes, Ava Duvernay, Spike Lee, Justin Simien, Lena Waithe, Tracy Oliver, Kenya Barris, and countless others, who further motivated me to make my storytelling dreams a reality. Thus, I set my goal to become apart of the new wave of artivists, who are telling authentic stories for underrepresented people like me to feel seen and empowered living ordinary to extraordinary lives. Additionally, I wanted to challenge myself to master the craft of writing and filmmaking. I love screenwriting because a simple idea has the power to provide hundreds of filmmakers, from pre-production all the way to distribution, with the opportunity to demonstrate how they can contribute their talents and skills to the collaborative process. I love that. And, I also recognize that with that kind of responsibility, I needed to make sure that I am equipped with the necessary skills of the craft to put my ideas on the page and eventually on the screen. Furthermore, I wanted to be in an environment full of other serious creatives to help me hone my skills so that one day I can contribute to the field with my work.
What scholarship award(s) did you receive directly from SCA?
The Hobson/Lucas Endowed Student Support Fund for Diversity Award and The NAACP/ViacomCBS Fellowship Award.
What has been the impact of receiving a scholarship from SCA?
My SCA graduate education would have not been possible without the scholarships I have received. I am fortunate to have my financial burden lightened so that I can focus more on my work and accomplishing my goals. Furthermore, I have been inspired to pay it forward by working with the African American Cinema Society (AACS) to develop a scholarship for Black students at SCA.
What activities or student organizations are you involved in outside of the classroom?
I am the 2020-2021 co-president of the African American Cinema Society (AACS) at SCA. The late John Singleton started AACS with a mission to highlight and promote art and artists who are invested in showcasing complex and sophisticated representations of Blackness and the Black diaspora. This year we established a scholarship fund for Black students across all SCA divisions and we plan to release AACS merchandise soon to help fund it. We also host Masterclasses, community-building events, screenings, and other networking events. I am a co-founder of an upcoming nonprofit organization for Filmmakers of Color, called Film Family Organization. Film Family provides support, recognition, mentorship, and community for underrepresented filmmakers to be successful in the television and film industry. We aim to create a community beyond the screen where "everybody eats."
What has been your favorite class or project at SCA thus far?
My favorite project thus far is my feature film thesis project titled, "Freaknik '95." It has been fascinating to research Black culture in my hometown during the notorious 1990s Freaknik era. I connect the project with Andre 3000's resounding words during that time of "The South Got Something to Say," by expanding the intention from Hip-hop music to film and television. Also, I'm delighted to have Mary Sweeney as my thesis professor because she's great and she really listens and pushes us to dig deep into our stories. Moreover, the feedback we receive from our peers and accomplished committee professors challenges us to whip our stories into the best shape. I am fortunate to learn these things at this level and I am confident I will be ready to navigate the industry as my various projects advance to the next level.
What is a meaningful experience you've had while at SCA?
I have two answers. One meaningful experience I have had was during my first semester. I think a great deal of us arrive at SCA thinking, "I can't believe I actually got into this school." "Do I really belong here? Am I truly good enough to be here or did I just finesse it?" And I had those Imposter's Syndrome's thoughts creep into my mind as well. It wasn't until I was in class with Professor David Balkan did those feelings finally start to dissipate around the first few weeks of school. You can always count on Mr. Balkan to share a refreshing anecdote that skillfully interweaves writing advice with general life advice. And what he said to us that day reassured me. Before I could catch myself, I said aloud in class, “See, this is why I’m here. I needed to hear that.” I recognized at that moment that I was on the right track.
Another meaningful experience plays in my head kind of like a montage of the great people I've been fortunate to meet at SCA. My peers are some of the strongest writers and filmmakers I've ever met and I know they'll take the industry by storm. That’s the great thing about being at SCA, not only do you meet the next powerhouse leaders of the industry, but you also establish lifelong relationships. That sounds cliché, I know. But my peers and I helped each other get through the unprecedented year of "2020." I remember going through it and I considered leaving SCA but some of my classmates, along with the professor I mentioned above, encouraged and motivated me to keep going. So, ultimately becoming a Trojan includes mastering your craft, creating great works of cinema, being plugged into a powerful network, and knowing that when things get real, the SCA Mafia's got your back.
What are your career goals after graduation?
After graduation, I'd like to work on both feature films and on television as a drama/ dramedy writer. Additionally, I can see myself teaching screenwriting to others. I look forward to my future after SCA because the possibilities are endless.
What advice do you have for prospective students looking to apply to SCA?
Get out of your head and go ahead and apply. You have nothing to lose (aside from the application fee) and a world of knowledge and experience to gain. Also, feel free to reach out to current Trojans for more insight about the different programs. We’re often more than happy to provide our insight, myself included. You can find me on Instagram @VictoriaReneeATL. Best wishes, Victoria Renee