2nd year Screenwriter Ava Young shares her first year short film, Sunrise, and why she needs to write and tell stories.
I was fortunate to graduate from a public art high school that offered film courses. I had never touched a film camera before I went to high school, but I immediately started making lots of short films and submitting them to festivals.
My passion for film kicked off in my senior year of high school when I stopped seeing it as just entertainment. In the past I categorized it as either entertainment or art. Now I see them intertwined. I realized, maybe I shouldn’t go to business school – the route my parents preferred.
I’ve learned from making my own films that the stories that meant the most to me are the ones that come from a very personal place. When I watch a film and I feel like my heart is totally torn out, whether it’s a comedy or a drama, that’s what makes me want to make my own movies. If I don’t think a film is coming from a real emotional place, I don’t feel anything.
I made many films during my freshman year, but nothing I am overwhelmingly proud of. I think I was doing a lot to try and impress people instead of doing it because I liked the project. Filmmaking is a very personal art form. I pour my heart out. So when your subjective story is seen objectively, it’s super vulnerable. When you do fail, or you aren’t proud of it, you feel like crawling up into a ball. It’s almost like an extension of yourself, so you feel you’ve failed yourself.
Last year I learned how to approach a subjective thing more objectively. I can take critique and feedback a little bit better, and I think that makes me a better artist. This school has helped me develop confidence in what I’m doing.
I chose screenwriting because I think storytelling is the most important part of filmmaking. Stories have always been a big part of my life because my Dad worked in book publishing, so reading was always important in our house. I like the idea of leaving school with screenplays under my belt.
The screenplay I’m working on now is a about a teenage girl on a family road trip. While she and her family are heading to their Grandmother’s house in Florida, she finds out that her Dad is in a relationship with one of his students. She watches her parents’ marriage fall apart and her love for her Dad fade. Personally, my Dad is the person I look up to the most and is nothing like this character. For this story I just wanted to try and explore the love that I have for him. The story is also about a girl finding her identity. Everyone says “write what you know”, so I also incorporate what I’m going through.
When I pitched the outline in class, which was a very different idea, it didn’t go particularly well. I rewrote the first act to be more authentic, literally take lines from what my parents say to each other or say to me. It definitely feels more authentic, like an extension of myself and a love letter to my Dad.
I write best late at night, before I go to bed. I have note books on note books of little anecdotes and scenes. When I write personal stories, they need to come from a personal place. I wanted to write about a girl and her dad, while also showing how important her mother is. So then I just combined it all together and started writing what felt natural, which was pretty similar to the conversations I have in my own house.
Before I begin writing, I know emotionally where I’m going, but I don’t know plot wise where I’m headed. I have an answer to the character’s development. In this script, I see the daughter finally seeing the dad for who he really is and finally supporting her mother. How I’ll get there…who knows? I just start with my own questions and through my writing process I answer them myself.
You can check out Ava’s previous short film, Sunsets, below!