Scriptwriting is an often unheralded role in the world of film and filmmaking. The creators behind the stories that make it to the big screen set the stage – from the smallest indie film to the biggest blockbuster. Their points of view and unique experiences can bring to life worlds, cultures, and ways of life that the movie-goer may have never experienced otherwise. The Scriptwriter’s Showdown was created to shine a light on these very important members of the industry, and to help open doors to those whose stories may have not had the chance to get heard.
Our Black History Month edition of the event on Saturday February 19th, will feature 8 incredible Black screenwriters. Filmocracy is dedicated to transforming the future of the industry and empowering those who have been historically underrepresented. “Hosting a truly unique competition is what Filmocracy is all about. We’re very proud to showcase these talented Black writers while utilizing our virtual platform. Writers need more opportunities and attention. Black writers even moreso,” said Filmocracy CEO Paul Jun.
Scriptwriter Showdown producer Natalia Buckley added: “I am thrilled to be working with such a talented group of screenwriters for our Scriptwriter Showdown competition. At Filmocracy, we are honored to provide our platform and community for these Black screenwriters to show off their skills and talent!”
RSVP here for the free event: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/filmocracy-scriptwriter-showdown-tickets-251084499497
We asked the 8 screenwriters four questions each. They shared their passion for scriptwriting, their unique perspectives, motivations, and backstories:
Vernard Fields: I fell in love with screenwriting or the art of storytelling from the time I was in the second grade. I remember watching movies and wanting to share my ideas of movies I would make up and this was done by creating short stories or comic strips.
Foster Solomon: An acting job of mine in the 90’s had me traveling all over the world as the host of a show. On my days off, I would borrow camera equipment and write simple scripts for my fellow actors to perform in. It was Guerilla filmmaking at its finest! I learned by doing!
Madelyn Gee: Growing up, I saw movies as a way of escape. As a girl facing the societal pressures of being the “strong Black woman” in a world constantly breaking me down, writing truly saved me. I could create a world where myself or people like me were the stars of the show and not just supporting or stereotypical characters. I decided to take my love for movies further with my minor in Film and Digital Media at Baylor University and eventually created my own movie as well as a TV pilot. Words are so incredibly impactful and I hope through my own screenwriting to provide the laughs, love and reassurance I needed growing up as a Black girl in today’s society.
Jamila A. Jackson: I have always had a passion for writing for as long as I can remember. When I was eight years old I would write poems and give them to my family and teachers. Soon that turned into begging for a word processor and typing stories. I enjoyed building worlds and was encouraged when I would share my stories and people would ask for more. As I got older I noticed the lack of people who looked like me writing stories for my community, and the lack of diversity in the stories that were being told. I knew that I had a skill to engage others and began writing screenplays. I wrote the things I wanted to see. My early drafts of what I thought screenwriting was got the people around me excited and I knew I was on to something after a friend said, “If I had the money I would produce this right now.” After that I was hooked! Once I committed to being a screenwriter the way I told stories changed and the passion I have for the craft puts me into the action of everything I write. As much as I love screenwriting I recognize that it is more than just being a storyteller, but it is my calling to create film and television for women who like me and girls like my daughter searching for their place in the world.
Jasmine Ogunjimi: I believe storytelling has been a part of me as long as I’ve been alive. I truly think it’s a part of my life’s purpose. But “overachieving scholar athlete Jasmine” had no idea that anyone could make a living in the entertainment industry, let alone as a writer. Screenwriting was introduced to me during what I felt was a roughly convenient, (but in retrospect, divine) time in my life. After my basketball playing career was threatened to end prematurely during my senior year in college, I enrolled in an extra class to cope. Unbeknownst to me, that class was taught by an Emmy award-winning screenwriter. After reading my roughly formatted 3-page short story. She looked me square in the eye and said “Jasmine. You have raw talent. And Hollywood needs to hear your voice.” And those words right there, planted the seeds that led me to where I am now!
Rosa Falu: I discovered and fell in love with Screenwriting in 2016. Several years prior to this life-changing discovery, I had gone through several physical and emotional traumas that resulted in a struggle with PTSD. As part of my self-care, I would go to the movies several times a week and binge on classic television and films. I was awarded a Folds of Honor Scholarship and enrolled in an online feature screenwriting -month course with New York Film Academy and that was it! I was hooked! I then took another online course for tv-writing, which resulted in furthering my education and obtaining a Master of Arts in Screenwriting from NYFA in late 2017.
Mason Greer: My love for writing started at a young enough age that my mother had to type for me. I was inspired to pick up a pen by two fictional movie characters. First is Harper Stewart from “The Best Man” and second is Jamal Wallace from “Finding Forrester.” Seeing these two young men find their voice and succeed in their craft was amazingly inspiring for me. It was the launching pad for me to write my own novel and by the age of 16 I published said novel. By 17 my book was put into my high school curriculum for minority literature (long story) and by 18 I decided to pursue filmmaking at my university.
Lina Isaacs: My love for screenwriting stems from my love for art. I often went to museums, dance studios, and stageplays with my parents while I was growing up and loved it. My mom helped a bit with wardrobe at Santa Ana’s Saint Joseph Ballet when my sister danced there, so I had the privilege of watching Beth create the most beautiful art pieces through dance as well. I was always fascinated by her work at the theatre. I admired the stage, the sounds, the lights, everything they incorporated to tell stories. I always left her shows feeling inspired. My love of film began in Anaheim at the Cinedome. We would often go and movie hop, and be there for hours watching movies. I wouldn’t discover my love for screenwriting until I took my first film class in community college. After that, I decided to go to film school.
Vernard Fields: My scripts are unique in that they have little hidden Easter eggs in them or have hidden messages that go along with the visuals seen on the screen. There’s always more than meets the eyes and ears of my audience.
Foster Solomon: I grew up a black kid in the suburbs so I was raised on comic books and D&D. Sci Fi and fantasy is what I feel I bring to scriptwriting, but from a uniquely black perspective. When I discovered writers like Octavia Butler, I thought “maybe I can do this too!”
Madelyn Gee: In my work, I aim to make what society sees as “taboo” or “inappropriate” at the forefront of my work. My scripts focus on BIPOC characters from every race, sexuality and gender in order to provide as much inclusive content I can. I want human nature to be portrayed exactly as it is – human nature – and not make my characters or the viewer feel as though they cannot be themselves. Additionally, my writing is deeply personal – I want the audience to feel as though we are having an one-on-one conversation. My work so far has mostly explored the horror/suspense genres, where I focus less on jumpscares and more how truly interacting with one another can be a terrifying experience in itself. Personally, I see my content as a way to normalize the human experience while relying almost solely on it to produce relatable experiences and new horror by a person of color for people of color.
Jasmine Ogunjimi: I believe my unique life perspective naturally bleeds into my scripts. In addition to being Nigerian, living across the world, and transitioning into Screenwriting from a professional athletic career – I am invested in creating grounded dramedies rooted in faith based beliefs that center the intersectionalities of women, social institutions and the authentic Black/African experiences. And as my faith is the core of everything I do, my pursuit as a TV writer is ultimately fueled by the desire to bridge the gap between Christ and culture through creative storytelling.
Jamila A. Jackson: If I had to sum it up in one word it would be joy. As a comedic writer I’m just going to say the 80s did it best when it came to finding the right mix of comedy and fantasy. You felt invited into this crazy adventure happening in front of you, but somewhere along the line that changed. What makes the scripts that I write so special and different is that I open that door back up, and put characters of color in the driver’s seat. I write strong female protagonists who are in their forties, because I’m in my forties and life has just begun. My features and pilots are not about college kids trying to figure it out, but grown women who are rediscovering who they are and going on wacky adventures or stepping out of line of what black women are supposed to be.
Rosa Falu: My scripts are unique because of the richness of cultures and inclusion, not just color that are laced throughout the stories which give them a universal reach. Each script is crafted with lessons of kindness, growth and self-discovery. And no story is complete without a dog in it somewhere…
Mason Greer: My stories are always derived from very large concepts or themes but get broken down to their most simplistic level to create an engaging and very personal story. Whether it’s time travel, morality of cloning, zombie apocalypse, meta-horror commentary or larger-than-life heist film, the main priority is always story and that story is propped up by the intentions and flaws of its characters.
Lina Isaacs: There is a lot of healing that needs to be done within my community, and I feel there are conversations that are not being had because they are uncomfortable. I am attempting to cultivate a space for these uncomfortable conversations to breathe by acknowledging them in my stories.
Vernard Fields: I believe the film industry needs to take risks in telling black stories beyond slave or black oppression stories. There’s more to black people and what we’re interested in. Give us our multimillion-dollar fantasy film.
Foster Solomon: Trust that there’s an audience for this material. Movies like Black Panther we’re not a fluke. People want to see these stories!
Madelyn Gee: There needs to be a focus on making Black voices the main characters in content. There also is a need to break down the “funny Black static character” and “strong Black woman” stereotypes consistently seen in today’s entertainment. There are so many LAYERS in the Black experience that I truly feel Hollywood doesn’t want to touch to avoid potentially being called out for their misdoings. There needs to be more of a focus on what it means to be a Black person today, rather than the trauma and hardships that our community has been through. Not every story about us has to be this dark and brooding tale – If there are thousands of positive comedies, romances and more centering around a white cast, then the same can be done for the Black community as well.
Jasmine Ogunjimi: Oh boy, where do I start, haha. I have plenty to say about this topic, but I believe the strongest and seemingly obvious answer is to let us tell our own stories. Western culture views Black culture as a monolith. So if art truly does imitate life, then the art we see on screen consequently reflects this false narrative. The way the industry can improve on representing Black voices happens before the screen, and before the script. Change how you view us in real life. Change the way you view us on screen.
Jamila A. Jackson: I would love to see more black women in science fiction and comedy. I think the industry falls in love with a particular type of black storyteller and just hits copy, because they bank on it being safe. I am starting to see more diversity in the stories that are being told, but that has been slow when it comes to science fiction and comedy. There are black women who write in these genres and I absolutely admire them, but we need more. This is why I have stepped into this lane and hope that I have an impact on where I want the industry to go when connecting with black writers.
Rosa Falu: The industry can improve on bringing in Black voices to the world by focusing on the many cultures that are amongst us, besides the color of our skin and texture of our hair. Afro-Latinos, Islanders, Africans and African-Americans are all different, it brings a whole myriad of awesome story possibilities.
Lina Isaacs: Providing resources and opportunities to Black children at an early age. Expose them to a blue sky mentality so they can think big and dream bigger. Providing more scholarships, grants, and training opportunities as well so they can get an education, create art, or land a job if they seek one. Accepting that there are a variety of voices, not just the stereotypical ones so that shows like “Awkward Black Girl” get funded without hesitation. Hiring us, is how the industry can improve.
Vernard Fields: I’m looking forward to the Screenwriters Showdown to build meaningful relationships with others who have a passion for screenwriting. I’m also looking forward to properly representing black screenwriters when it comes to creative storytelling.
Foster Solomon: I hope to have fun! I enjoy a good challenge and creating something in an hour will be an exciting experience.
Madelyn Gee: I am looking forward to showcasing the talent I always knew I had but was too afraid to show. I am looking forward to working alongside people who not only look like me but are passionate about getting our stories out as well. I am looking forward to being able to hear feedback from professionals and being able to get my name out there in an industry that tries to silence BIPOC voices. I am looking forward to having my friends and family watch my writing process for many of them for the first time. Most importantly, I am looking forward to making the little girl inside of me that wrote in the dark in her room proud – and letting other Black girls know that their content is worthy of being heard and broadcasted.
Jasmine Ogunjimi: Through the Filmocracy Screenwriter Showdown, I’m looking forward to building a community and connecting with writers I’ve never met before, as well as being challenged creatively. In addition, a unique competition such as this one can help open professional doors and establish industry connections that I may not have access to otherwise!
Jamila A. Jackson: The opportunity to connect with other black screenwriters, build community, and encourage other screenwriters who are black, women, or older wondering if this is something they should do. I’m hoping this event gives more black screenwriters a platform to be seen and heard. It also gives me an opportunity to put my skills to the test in a fun way. This is such an exciting event! I’m looking forward to leaving it all on the page. I can’t wait to see everyone in action and connect with any new opportunities.
Rosa Falu: I look forward to seeing what a literal ticking clock does for my creativity in the Screenwriters Showdown. I have done exercises in the past, but have never been challenged like this. I am definitely the small fish and underdog in the group, but I love a challenge. I am honored to have been selected to participate.
Mason Greer: I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone in the competition. I’m also excited to try a different style of writing and with an audience that is completely unique to the normal writing process.
Lina Isaacs: I am having a great time already with meeting everyone involved and making connections. Everyone is so nice! This platform is amazing and so creative, I am happy to be a part of this! Writing live is definitely going to be something. I can’t wait to see what we all come up with.
Scriptwriter Showdown: Black History Month Edition is happening this Saturday, February 19th at 11am PST!
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