January 2020 was the day my dream came true. I made my first movie, and it was a short one. I was ecstatic and elated to be directing and calling out shots, contributing my quota in the creative process. No, I didn’t attend film school and haven’t worked on any movie set. Though I have been on a few, one as an observer since my apartment was used as a location. When did it all start for me? Writing.
My love for writing started way back to my childhood days. I love reading and listening to stories, and then weaving words to tell my own. Being a novice in the industry, everything was new and had to learn as I went along. First of all I learnt that for you to get your script optioned you should:
1) Get An Agent/Manager
There is a list of Hollywood managers and agents to download from Scriptreaderpro.com. To get an agent you must have at least 3 feature length scripts to prove that you’re not a one hit wonder. So I wrote 3 features and lots of short scripts. One frustration every writer feels is to have a lot of material and no way to get it out there. It’s like you’re pregnant forever. So following this advice,I did send query letters to some agents, got some replies but nothing concrete yet. Anyone who has gone this route knows that the wait is long and can be frustrating.
2) Script Competitions
There is a list of top script writing competitions you can enter on studiobinder.com. Competitions like ScreenCraft, Academy Nicholl fellowship, Austin Screenwriting Competition, Sundance Script lab. Most of these charge extra for feedback. Save the cat screenwriting contest does not charge extra for feedback.
3) Make A Short Movie
Script reader pro, a site I subscribe to, suggested that one of the best ways to get your foot in the door or get your voice out there is to shoot a short film. It can be a compelling scene from your feature script; lots of scripts have been bought through this method e.g. Whiplash. This can be used as proof of concept to draw the attention of the powers that be.
This I liked better. With the determination that my stories are good stories, I decided to find a way to make them and get them out there. So there in that moment was born a filmmaker, the only scary thing is that I was making this decision at age 46.
This is a business that people start at a very young age, the oldest I have heard started in their 30’s but late 40’s? With all the stories of the struggles involved, when will my day come? When will I be a force to be reckoned with? If it takes years and years of toil to get there, how old will I be? Am I having a mid life crisis or is it a phase that will pass just like other phases in my life. Who will want to invest in an old black female filmmaker with no film experience or tangible reel credit?
My background is Geology, my training and career path doesn’t actually say filmmaker in the making. If someone had told my younger self that you will end up as a filmmaker, she may have laughed so hard she would bust a gut. There was nothing in my past that suggested I was going to want to make movies. One thing I know is that the critic in me has seen me wishing I could show people how it’s done; how a good storyline or movie should be like.
I was content with writing and just being a writer, all I wanted was to write and sell scripts, plays and books. To churn out scripts both on demand and on desire; to be the go to person for comedy scripts with deep meaning or some serious scripts about life and supernatural beings. All I wanted to do was write, write and write some more so, write I did. Landing a book or script agents is no small feat neither is getting them optioned. Though they said script competitions are a sure way to get noticed I decided to explore other options, namely filmmaking and film festivals because I believe in the power of visuals. People may not get it while on paper, but a visual picture will give a better perspective.
My first film cost a stipend but since it was my hard earned money, it felt like a million. Got my cast from my Facebook group Atlanta Film Production . They were fun and I received validation on my script from their feedback. They loved it and one of them said my script was better than most, how’s that for feedback? Yay! The film is done and now in post-production.
To get it all, you have to give it all. You have to have laser focus without turning to the left or right. I remember the high I got when making my first film. It’s an exciting experience that only those who live it can truly grasp. I want to feel like that all the time and if filmmaking gives me that high then I’m willing to stake it all, I am willing to dream that even at my age it’s never too old to be a filmmaker. Watch out world, I’m coming out!