I spent the entirety of my childhood in the quiet suburbs of Chicago. It was a lot of summers of riding bikes with friends to the local pool and playing hide-and-seek in the neighborhood after dark. I also didn’t have bills to pay yet so it was an all-around good time. I think I tried every sport imaginable — soccer, track, volleyball, basketball, softball, water polo, etc. — but eventually settled on soccer.
Several concussions later I decided to not pursue sports in college and went to Northwestern University where I majored in Radio/TV/Film. And then like so many before me, I moved to Tinseltown after graduation to try to make it in showbiz. My first job was as an NBCUniversal Page and I’ve been working for companies on the Universal Lot ever since!
There was never a doubt in my mind that I was going to work in movies one way or another. I’ve been in love with movies for as long as I can remember, but I think the catalyst for me deciding to be a writer was when my family purchased The Lord of the Rings Extended Editions on DVD. Now, I was (and am) obsessed with The Lord of the Rings trilogy and suddenly I had hours and hours of behind-the-scenes content for these movies. I would come home from school and pore over how these movies were made. And that’s when I realized that writing movies/creating movies could be a career.
In addition to that franchise, the biggest influences on me have been the works of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. I love, love adventure stories, especially those that never lose sight of the human emotion at their centers while delving into the fantastical or wondrous. I also love Greta Gerwig and Bo Burnham’s work — I think I cried through most of Little Women and Eighth Grade. There’s such a raw sincerity to their characters where you just know that they come from a place of reality and truth. This is all to say that characters are my ride or die when it comes to storytelling.
I’m thankful to say that I’ve never had a major “all is lost” kind of setback, but this is a hard town. Every moment seems like the moment you’re going to break through until it isn’t. I think a lot of it comes down to patience and trust, while also remembering that you have to put yourself first.
How did you celebrate your first screenwriting success?
"My parents sent me flowers! My roommate also surprised me with flowers and I think we went out to dinner to celebrate. (Shout out to Karl Strauss at Universal City Walk for always being there for me in good times and in bad.)"
A Writer's Routine
I work long hours for my day job as a studio assistant, which makes having a set writing schedule a little difficult. Truthfully, I grab hours when I can. Half an hour before work, maybe an hour or two after, and then carving out blocks of time on the weekend. But as long as I’m getting writing done, that’s all I care about.
Screenwriting: Reality vs. Fantasy
Even if something is your dream job, it’s still a job. It’s still work and some days it really, really feels like it.[Also], before coming to LA, I definitely thought that specs were the be-all-end-all of screenwriting. Obviously, every writer wants their original idea to be purchased and put into production, but it feels like every year the number of big spec sales gets smaller and smaller. So, you have to learn to create your own visions for books, reboots, remakes, etc. while still writing your own original material.
Prepping for That First Meeting
I familiarized myself with the company I was meeting with — knowing what kind of projects a company leans towards can be really helpful when choosing what scripts to bring up in a meeting. You will get asked about what else you’re working on, and bringing up something relevant to that company’s interests can help spark future conversations. I also reread my own loglines before the meeting so I wouldn't be caught off guard.
A Writer's Low Moment
I think there’s probably a moment once a week where I dream about giving this all up and moving to the Alps to raise goats or something. I’m joking (kind of), but sometimes this town can move painfully slow. Especially on the feature side of things, movies can be in development for years. Deals can take forever to close, and meetings get pushed all the time for reasons unrelated to you. It’s hard! But that’s showbiz, baby.
There were moments where I was convinced that I was secretly terrible at this and no one was being honest with me. Because this town is so subjective — one script could be a hit with one studio and a flop with another — it’s easy to fall into a pit of self-doubt. I promise I’m not just saying this to hype up ScreenCraft, but I had hit a low point at the end of January 2020. The weeks prior seemed to indicate that things were turning in my favor but then I got some disappointing news. I was busy wallowing in self-pity when I got an email from Tom saying that I had won the ScreenCraft Action & Adventure Competition.
So, from a low-low to a high-high all within a matter of days. Which honestly is very much how this industry works. The road to success is filled with peaks and valleys and you just have to keep trudging along.
I think my biggest fear is writing something very personal, very much a part of me, and having someone say “I don’t get it.” There’s no worse feeling than showing someone something you believe in and they don’t.
It’s really important to have a good support group in your life. Sometimes things seem like a really big deal to you because you’re in the thick of it, but to an outsider’s perspective, it’s hardly the end of the world. I’m also very stubborn and a people pleaser, which means that when all else fails I am propelled by the raw desire to prove myself.
What is your mantra for when the going gets tough?
"You just need one yes. That’s what I constantly tell myself. Hollywood is full of stories about very successful movies that were passed on initially. You don’t need every single person in town to love your stuff, you just need that one person who will champion it."
A Sigh of Relief
Again, not to keep hyping up ScreenCraft, but winning was such a sigh of relief for me. There’s always that little voice in the back of my head telling me that I’m not good enough. I have a trusted group of friends who read all my stuff, but it’s very nice to receive some kind of validation from someone who doesn’t know you. So, winning was that moment of external validation where I was like, "Okay, maybe I can do this.”
The ScreenCraft Subtext Series is a group of personal interviews with writers who’ve recently taken their first big step into the industry. The interviews hope to shine a spotlight not only on their success but on the journey behind it - the determination, the setbacks, and the persistence that leads a writer to their success. We hope they are inspiring and that you can take a piece of advice or two for forging your path.