"Teddy and Terrie" - Photo by: Emily Taylor Hayes
Along the way, I taught Screenwriting and Film Production to middle school students, which was immeasurably awesome for both my writing and teaching spirits, as well for my low budget sensibilities.
My favorite memory from these years is of shooting a battle scene in a forest clearing with sixteen audacious 11-year-old girls, all wielding magical abilites. The girls had written an 87-page screenplay--inspired by Harry Potter--and they were eager to see their characters in action.
We spent the better part of the school year doing rewrites, rehearsals, and shoots of other scenes, but this sequence would entail a lot of on-the-spot choreography and improv. Still, it was a marvel to see all sixteen girls--on a Saturday, no less--running wild, aiming powerful wands or hands, and falling dramatically to their deaths (over and over again).
In one take, our Protagonist got hurt and started crying. It was a minor injury, thank God, but she shed real tears. When she recovered, I asked if she wouldn't mind putting her tears to good use, and, in a blink, everyone repositioned to shoot the scene where she kneels in grief next to her fallen "sister."
It was a poignant scene to behold--quite somber and serene--and it was the only scene, on and off-camera, where all of the girls were completely still and silent and enraptured by the performance. When the Director yelled, "Cut!" the "sister" started laughing, and everyone joined in. Oh, the joys of that day!
My current and biggest passion project yet is not a film or a script, but a non-fiction book titled: "Triumph of the Watermelon: a Head-Start Guide to Masterful Story Development for Screenwriting and Television." The first draft served as my lengthy MFA thesis, so I'm now compressing it into a much leaner compilation of super helpful story fundamentals and uncommon insights. The pages are illustrated with a rotund, red-caped "Super Watermelon" in all his thespian glory, as a sincere and silly token of love for novice screenwriters. It's the kind of resource I wish I had when I started, and I'm hoping to have it published by Spring 2024.
As for the kind of stories I write, much of my inspiration is drawn from the timeless artwork of American illustrator, Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), who was a master of visual storytelling in the Golden Age of Illustration.
Like Rockwell, I tend to see the world through a wholesome and playful lens and lean toward themes of family togetherness, childhood, friendship, kindness, humor, redemption, healing, and love.
Unlike Rockwell, my stories feature protagonists with exceptional or unusual talents, nostalgic time travel, relational healing, supernatural whimsy, and intrapersonal transformation.
After writing thousands of pages, and several "different" stories, I have discovered that I am almost exclusively a writer of Family Dramas that invariably feature Romance and Fantastical elements. I have also learned that identifying my "Lead Genre" is an important distinction to make, as this key story element is a significant guide in determining which way the story will go and how it will end.
My favorite watchables include: historical romance, sports dramas, superhero flicks, sci-fi adventures, fantasy, romantic comedies, all epics, and the entire Fast and Furious collection.
Outside of my obsession with film and storytelling, I'm a proud mama of three scrappy young college grads (one still in med-school) and a jumbo furry buddy. I love spending time with my immediate and extended families, shopping at antique and craft fairs, and making paper crafts.
FUN FACT #1: In my last year as an undergrad, I was offered an opportunity to intern with one of the head writers of X-Men: The Last Stand and The Avengers. For matters beyond my control, I could not stay in Los Angeles, so I turned it down. A few months later, I was teaching filmmaking to middle-schoolers!
FUN FACT #2: After a one-in-a-million encounter with the gorgeous Kyle Chandler (Early Edition, etc.), I was inspired to write my very first screenplay about a happily married woman who discovers her husband cheating minutes before she is rushed to the hospital to birth their third child. The husband wants to make amends, but a former college boyfriend, who supposedly died in the Peace Corps, appears, in the flesh--(Hello, Kyle!)--to make things difficult for everyone. (P.S. this logline was drastically polished from its original concept and the awful first draft that emerged.)
FUN FACT #3: I wrote my first novel when I was eight-years-old, about a girl who could fly, but she never traveled beyond her neighborhood and never encountered any conflict. It's very possible that this "book" is the most shred-worthy piece of literature ever to be churned out by a manual typewriter! (My father has the only surviving copy--locked in storage--for fear that I will set it on fire.)
Who am I?
I am a Story Developer, Screenwriter, Filmmaker, and Instructor for Film and Television. My educational background includes an MFA in Television and Screenwriting, an MA in Creative Writing and Screenwriting, and a BA in Cinema Art and Science from Columbia College Chicago (with honors). As you can see, the journey has been focused and steady and, ultimately, all about storytelling.