Community: In Screenwriting

When I attended the Austin Film Festival for the first time, I quickly realized that I needed to do something for myself. I needed to free myself from the pressure of networking so I set out to attend panel discussions, screenings, and other events using my impulse as my guide. I excused myself from going to the bar to mingle and decided that I didn’t have to meet another soul if I didn’t want to. You see, I am an introvert. I adore people but I don’t recharge from interactions with them. I recharge by being alone so forced interacting, even when it’s self-induced, can be draining and stressful.

I found myself at a random assortment of discussions and I loved everything I attended. I stumbled across Issa Rae who was just emerging as a major creative voice. By this point, she’d had success in her low-production value but brilliant video series on Youtube and I feel like the universe did me a solid by urging me to attend that session. I sat in on a table read of a pilot that was disturbing and endlessly fascinating. I loved hearing someone’s work come to life so quickly and then watching the creator address audience questions after.

I also met people despite my determination not to. I met people in line as we waited to enter rooms. Inevitably, I’d introduce myself to the person I randomly sat next to. I even met a great friend on the stairway at the Driskill. We still exchange emails to this day and I love that I have a friend in New York.

My favorite thing from the AFF experience was the conviction I walked away with: I can create any experience I want. I felt so empowered and I started immediately once the conference ended. My biggest desire at that point was to be a part of a writer’s group that was nourishing and consistent. With my newfound courage, I talked to a friend who had an ongoing reserved space at Genuine Joe (a coffee house) and I dug out my emails from every Screenplay Workshop I had ever attended. I invited those old friends and they came.

Fast forward to three years later and the group is its own self-sustaining, amazing animal. We have an official name--the MoJoes and we have created something really special together. We trust each other and we’ve grown together. One of my favorite things is how we celebrate together. We have table reads for completed work and when I tell you I’ve heard some amazing work, I’m not exaggerating. I have really learned the value of community and though I’ve taken it for granted lately, I recognize how instrumental that group has been in my growth.

For me, community means a group of fellow creators who share a goal: create the best work we can. We all have different approaches and styles. We write in very different genres. What we share is a commitment to this artform and a commitment to show up for each other. Everyone shares ideas and resources generously and we genuinely love each other. Thanks to the MoJoes, I’m a firm believer in the huge value of community and I also believe in the power of creating what we need, when we need it--not a bad outcome from a festival where I walked in determined not to meet anyone.