Who: Former vice president of Lee Daniels Entertainment; filmmaker behind viral video “I Got a Crush … On Obama;” currently in pre-production as the writer and director of Big Bad Billie Gunn.
How did you break in or get your start in screenwriting?
I thought that you couldn’t do both writing and producing, but Lee Daniels taught me that the only rules in this business are the ones that you put on yourself. While at Sundance I wrote a script in seven days. It was probably the worst script ever written. But I loved being creative, and I just continued to write.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
Figuring out what process worked best for me. You hear a lot about how important outlining is, but that doesn’t work for me. I just need to sit down and write and not become beholden to where I thought the story was going before I started writing the actual screenplay. It’s also very hard for me to write in quiet places. I like a lot of noise in the background.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to write?
The hardest script I had to write was Big Bad Billie Gunn. It’s part thriller, part courtroom drama, with a lot of flashbacks filled with real-life characters, so it took a while to figure out the best way to tell that story. I really do like the “note process” but it’s important to understand that there are three types of notes: notes that will make your script better, notes that will make your script worse and notes that just want to change your script. The last is the most dangerous kind because it has nothing to do with the quality of your work; it’s just that the reader wants to read a different movie than the one you wrote.