Thursday, August 4, 2011

Mary Got an Email Today

     My dear friend Mary received an email today from someone she doesn't yet know, but will probably develop a deep personal connection with.  New person, I'll name her Amelia, is a graduate student at the University of Michigan (Go Blue!), which is our Alma Mater.  Amelia is in the Urban Planning Department within the School of Natural Resources and Environment.  She contacted Mary via an alumni newsletter (?) because Mary is fantastic.  Amelia wants to be a screenwriter, and has questions.
     Our first response was, of course, "Oh, well naturally she wants to be a screenwriter.  She has a background in Urban Planning."  We had a good laugh.  It's funny for a few reasons.  First of all, there's a pretty decent-sized cliche about writing a screenplay.  A lot of people try to do it.  And a lot of people fail at it.  On the surface, it can kind of look like it's easy to do, which is why so many people try and fail, because it's not easy.
     Another reason this is funny is because there isn't an immediate link between Urban Planning and screenwriting.  Mary has wanted to be a screenwriter forever, and that's what she's gone to school for, which is why Amelia contacted her to begin with.  Mary knows the craft.  You'd think Amelia wants to be an Urban Planner since that's what her major is.  In a very brief interaction, we have determined she's studying Urban Planning as a natural segue into screenwriting.
     That's probably not what happened.  I am often confronted with the same tone and the "Oh, naturally" when I talk about my background.  I have a bachelor's degree in Aerospace Engineering, was an Officer in the Navy for 5 years with a background in Nuclear Engineering, and then I went to film school.  Naturally.  And in film school I majored in production, but I would still really like to be a writer.  I wonder about it sometimes, too, because sometimes people don't take my writing seriously because I don't have formal training in it.  Except I actually do, because no matter how much English majors like to put down Engineers, we don't actually hand in reports drawn in crayon with Xs all over them.  We use words and sentences and paragraphs, just like real people.
     I understand the naturally comment, and I've made it myself.  I've made it myself about myself.  The thing is, people don't have to be just one thing.  Sometimes doing one thing, be it rocket scientry or urban planning, can make you want to do another thing, like write scripts and make movies.  And sometimes it takes a few years to really figure that out.  And sometimes you're not as naturally gifted at writing so you have to ask for advice from people who are.  Like Mary.  Which is why Mary gets emails from potential screenwriting-urban-planners.  Amelia has a story to tell, naturally.

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