Originally Published July 5th 2016
I knew from a very young age that I wanted to work in TV. It just made sense. My first babysitters were Aunt B (Andy Griffith) and Scott Baio (Charles in Charge). My preschool education came at the hands of Square 1, Beakman’s World, and Wishbone. TV Provided me with my first loves, Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Home Improvement) and Jonathan Jackson (General Hospital). Most importantly, through television, I found the means to escape my nightmarish childhood by mentally projecting myself into the lives of “real” families like the Tanners (Full House), Winslows (Family Matters), and most importantly the Ingalls’ (Little House on the Prairie).
I started writing scripts when I was 10 years old. The first script I ever wrote was a skit about Nancy Kerrigan and Tanya Harding for a current events class. Realizing the attention that got me, I began writing Power Rangers skits as a way to make friends. The popular kids would act them out on the playground, eventually, they even let me be Trini! Soon my little playground skits became school-wide productions with even our principal joining in to play Zordon. I am still convinced that my incessant calls to Saban Entertainment, trying to pitch my kid Power Rangers show, spawned the creation of Beetleborgs.
I continued writing throughout my adolescence as a means to cope with the world around me that was falling into chaos. I would write characters for myself into different TV shows and pretend that that was the life I was actually living.
I became fascinated by the worlds that writers were creating for movies. At 12, inspired by A Secret Garden and Radio Flyer, I wrote my first full length feature. It was about a girl who runs away from home, stows away on an airplane that crashes. Then with the only other crash survivor, a 14 year old boy, she finds herself stranded on a deserted island full of dark secrets and a dangerous government conspiracy..It’s basically Lost, staring kids, but 16 years before lost premiered.
I continued to write stories about girls who “run away” to have grand adventures throughout my time in foster care. I also returned to my old tricks of writing skits to make friends. During the Heyday of the Tom Green Show, I became the most popular kid at my group home after writing the sketches for the Mike Hunt Show (say it out loud). My endless stream of ideas and scripts led one counselor to become convinced that I’d be the next Spielberg. Instead, I ended up 16 and homeless. I spent the next four years of my life on the streets.
As a homeless teenager, I became obsessed with film. During one of my brief stints in high school, I managed to enroll into a media productions class and fell in love. For fun, I would download screenplays at the library (during a time where sites like simply scripts weren’t readily available). At a time where most kids in my situation were out spray painting graffiti and doing drugs…I’d pass my time reading, analyzing, and acting out scripts. I am not an actor..but, I must say, my one girl rendition of Cruel Intentions was spectacular.
My first job was at an AMC theater. I spent more time watching the movies than I actually spent working (labor laws limited me to 15 hours a week so i didn’t really have a choice). As soon as I was old enough, I got a job at Blockbuster and I became a veritable library of film knowledge. I was the go-to person for recommendations. It took a few more years of struggling, but eventually, that job helped me pay for my first apartment and my first taste of stability. I finagled that stability into a scholarship at UMASS Amherst and subsequently Emory University.
After an adolescence spent fighting for access to an education, I walked into college hellbent on making the people who forced me into this struggle eat crow. I set aside my dreams of being a television producer because I thought it was unrealistic. Instead, I focused my attention on becoming grounded in the real world. I majored in Neuroscience because the academic bragging points that the major provided gave me a nice ego stroke after having been robbed of an education for so long. It was basically psychology and human behavior, but instead of dumb-ass theories by cracked-out old Victorian white dudes, it was evidence-based science from cracked out old modern day white dudes. I set my sights on becoming either a neurosurgeon or a diagnostician. I was going to be a doctor. No. I was going to be THE doctor and eventually, everyone who ever threw me away would know that I had value.
Unfortunately, due to all of the gaps I had in my education, essentially 6th thru 12th grade, I had to work 3x as hard as my peers to get through.
I still made straight “A”s, but except for courses on rare diseases and personality disorders, I wasn’t enjoying my pre-med studies. I stuck it out cause, I didn’t want to switch majors after switching colleges and eventually end up 30 still trying to finish undergrad. Plus the financial security offered by the title M.D. was gonna make it all worth it in the end. I wanted that white coat! No matter how many endless all-nighters it took to get it.
To stomach the endless calculus, chemistry, and physiology courses, I padded my schedule with classes focused on the study of humanity and culture. I actually minored in science, culture & society and technically, media by way of electives, sociology and film studies. I wanted to know what makes people tick. Why do we make the choices we do. What role do our environment, upbringing, and the media play in shaping our perspectives? In these classes I thrived. My love of film led me to fit media and theater studies into my schedule wherever possible, even back in my Jr. College days
The cycle of the cell was something I had to learn. The intricate beauty of the femme fatale and the cult appeal of the heavily recycled dullard male protagonist duo was what I enjoyed learning.
During this period, nearly all of my volunteer work involved raising awareness for social causes through media production. I was subconsciously creating my backup plan.
By the time I graduated, I was burnt out. I decided to take a gap year and enjoy at least a little of my adult life and focus on my son who had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome while I was in college. When my gap-year turned into 3, and I realized I was so bored in the monotonous world of clinical research it felt my brains were seeping out of my ears. I knew it was time to take a dump or get off the pot.–i.e go to med school or reevaluated my career goals.
When my son started acting, I was a bit jealous of everyone in every crew he worked with. I started pitching in whenever I could and realized I was actually enjoying myself, for once. This made me chose to finally pursue my passions professionally. Though production hours don’t really bode well for raising a kid, I knew I had to find a way in. What I have always loved to do is do is tell stories and create worlds. And while I don’t profess to have the writing chops to have a sustained career as a screenwriter
I want to become a part of the industry that brings new compelling messages and characters into the homes of the American public.
Yea.. I thought I wanted to be a doctor while in college… as it turns out, I was just way too into the show Scrubs….and House and ER and Bones and Chicago Hope and Third watch and..well, you get the point. What a perfect example of the role powerful media has in shaping one’s life!