To MFA Or Not To MFA... THAT Is The Question
I recently had an epiphany; I finally know what I want to do when I grow up!! I still plan to write books and songs and anything else the strikes my fancy, but my heart belongs to screenwriting. I want to write for television and film. There, I said it out loud... well I wrote it anyway, which is even worse. When I look back over the years I have always had a borderline obsession with television and film; specifically with characters, dialogue and story. I get so caught up, but I always thought I was just being starstruck. It wasn't until I was talking to a friend several years ago about a show once and I said, "You know how when character X said blah blah and you thought to yourself, 'that's not something she would say.' He replied, "Um no... I never do that I just watch what they give me." This was my first inkling that everyone doesn't watch and perceive television/movies the way I do. The story matters to me. The dialogue matters to me. The characters matter to me. The message matters to me. Many of these elements are weak or missing altogether in today's presentations.
Add to this the fact that I have been lamenting the state of television and film for the past several years. I've been mourning the loss of the kind of creativity and writing that I grew up watching. Granted some of the concepts were a stretch, but the creativity sparked my imagination. So you can see why my heart sinks at the growing trend of following people around with a camera every week watching them live their lives... Where's the imagination in that? Where's the creativity. Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of most of the singing competitions and of the one dancing show. I even got a bit caught up with Real Housewives of Atlanta, Braxton Family Values, Mary Mary and Dance Mom's for a spell, but they don't hold a candle to the creativity of old and they don't hold my attention for long. I miss the good stories that played out week after week on the small screen. I miss the characters that drew me in and got me invested; who became like extended family members Okay, I'll quit whining now. I think you get my point.
Toni Morrison once said, "'If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." I've taken this quote to heart not only with regard to books, but to any place where I see as a lack in television and film. Even as I was thinking these thoughts, I was afraid to give voice to them. I mean, what do I know about the industry? What makes me think anyone else feels like I do about the state of the media. Obviously reality television is just fine for everyone else... What could I possibly have to contribute and more important HOW would I do it?
Oddly enough the answer came a few weeks ago when I was at a friends and Oprah was on interviewing Shonda Rhimes. As I listened to her speak about writing for Grey's Anatomy and Scandal - both of which I am a fan - her words hit the pit of stomach like BBs. Her story resonated in me and confirmed in some inexplicable way that this is the path I am meant to take. Not to duplicate what she's already doing, but to do me in the industry. I couldn't wait to get home and Google her. When I did, I noticed that she earned an MFA. I have shied away from the idea because I was afraid that I would be taught to conform my writing to someone else's idea of what it should be [don't ask me where that idea came from]. I also noticed that a few of the other women I admire both behind and in front of the camera, also earned advanced degrees. Truth be told, I've been tossing the idea around for some time and now it just seems right. I'm not afraid anymore of being forced to conform because I know I control whether or not that happens. Instead I am committed to honing and perfecting the natural gifts I have been given to produce the best possible product in hopes that years from now someone will see my interview and be inspired by what I've created.
All that to say, I'm looking into low residency MFA programs in creative writing for television/film/screenwriting even now, and I'm excited for what's to come.