This is the next post in a series of interviews with writers who have had their first films, web series, television assignment, etc. make it to the big or small or computer screen. It is an effort to find out what their journey was to their initial success.
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Next up: an interview with Tracee Beebe author of Wild at Heart and My Silent Voice
Tracee Beebe is a working screenwriter whose projects focus on damaged characters and their relationships with each other. She was named one of 2014’s “most recommended screenwriters” by ScreenwritingU and also works as a coverage reader for both screenwriting contests and literary managers. An optioned screenwriter, she has had screenplays finish among the top 20% of the prestigious Nicholl’sFellowship out of 7,000 entrants and as a quarter-finalist in the 2013 Scriptapolooza screenplay competition.
Tracee’s previous career as a horse trainer, and her work in animal rescue, has flavored much of her work and given her the tenacity to believe that anything is possible if you just work hard enough along with the humility to know that there is always more to learn.
Born in Hawaii, Tracee grew up on her family farm in Napa Valley, California where she now raises her son alongside a pack of rescued dogs and horses.
What is the name of your first screenplay that was produced?
I wrote the “script” for my documentary, Wild at Heart, which is in Post production now. My Silent Voice is a work for hire script that is in production right now with Capestany Films.
- Can you tell us a bit about the journey as to how it came about?
Wild at Heart started out as a project for film school but quickly turned into much more (the documentary is about a rehabilitation program at a prison in Nevada where wild mustang horses are trained by the prisoners there). The stories I encountered while interviewing the inmates were very powerful and inspired me to write my second script BRANDED WILD.
My Silent Voice was my first writer for hire gig. Because of my experience in the equestrian world and the fact that I had a few horse stories under my belt, I was recommended for the job by another writer friend. It really is all about who you know in this business but you don’t have to know Spielberg to get work.
- Tell me a little bit about the experience of having the project come to completion.
Writing a documentary was tough. So much of the story has to develop organically, while in the field. So the writing really happened in two phases, preproduction and post. The prepro work was really just an outline. When I went back to the work after we had filmed everything, then I had to write it into a cohesive story. It’s very similar to the work I have done adapting producer’s ideas into a screenplay and was good prep for that. Because I had worked as the producer and director as well as writer on this project, my reaction to seeing it during test screening was both wonderful and frustrating. Sitting in the dark theater and watching the title explode onto the screen was magical but I was critiquing it all the way through to make notes for the editor so I didn’t really get to cherish the moment as I might have otherwise.
My Silent Voice was my first time ever taking someone else’s dream/concept and turning it into a structured screenplay. It was a lot of fun! The producer had a beautiful vision and some wonderful, heartfelt ideas but needed my help developing the characters and building their journey into a story structure that would play out well ion screen. He and I jived well right from the start and when I handed over the finished script, his reaction (praise and tears) was priceless. We are both really excited to see it go into the next phase.
- What was the hardest obstacle to overcome in achieving that first project?
For Wild at Heart, the hardest thing was learning to work with other people. I think this really made a difference for when, two years later, I had to work with the producer for My Silent Voice. It’s one thing to sit in your office writing a spec script all by yourself, making all the decisions, letting your imagination run wild, it’s a whole other job writing on assignment.
The biggest obstacle for MSV was probably just building my network and portfolio. Taking the time to network and market myself took time away from writing but it is such an important part of the job.
- What have you learned about the industry when it comes to being a writer?
So, so much! I think we come into the world with a preconceived idea of how it all works, but I think so much of what we think we know turns out to be just urban legend. As just one example, I thought I needed an agent or manager in order to get deals and I thought that, once I had a couple of scripts under my belt, I would be able to get repped pretty easily. Even after I started making deals – getting scripts optioned and paid writing gigs – I couldn’t get a rep to bite. I thought surely, once I started making some money that an agent would jump at the chance to take their cut, but it takes so much more than just a few good scripts. Reputation and credibility play a huge part. I recently just had my first purchase offer and, even though I now – finally- have a manger, the offer came off of a pitch I made myself from a lead I got through my network.
- What are you working on now?
I have a work for hire project, a new psychological thriller spec, and a work for hire rewrite.
- What is your favorite movie or TV series?
Jaws is my favorite movie. The profound impact it had on my life plays a big part in the person I am today. I love to swim and snorkel and would become a mermaid if such a thing were possible, but was terrified of sharks after watching Jaws at the impressionable age of five. For years afterward I had to make the conscious choice to face my fear of sharks every time I got near water (yes, even the bath tub): I could choose to let my fears control me or I could choose to enjoy myself despite being afraid. This is a trait that has served me well as a horse trainer and a screenwriter!
- Where do you think the movie and television industry is heading? What do you think its future is?
Unlike a lot of people, I think this is a fantastic time to be a screenwriter trying to break in. There are so many more opportunities to get your stuff produced. Sure, the studio wall might be nearly unbreachable, but the indie world is considered almost mainstream now. And with all the non-theatrical options (web, NetFlix, etc), it’s a great time to be a content creator!
- What parting advice do you have for writers?
I know this sounds trite, but never give up. You will run across a lot of people who tell you all the reasons it’s not worth it, find another “hobbie”, the odds are against you. After I got my first paid writing assignment, I asked my son if he was surprised that I had finally gotten to that point in my career (paid!) and his response has kept me going forward ever since – “If you work hard enough at something, you can’t help but be successful.”
Oh, and, when the urge comes to write a dialogue scene (and it will) in a diner, beat it away with a stick.
- What do you do when you’re not writing? What do you do to get away from the industry?
Wait, what? I don’t understand the question.
- Tell us something about yourself that many people may not know.
And check out the other interviews in the series:
Mary Krell-Oishi, http://ow.ly/Olp7W
Stuart Creque, http://ow.ly/O1Ubu
P.J. McIlvaine, http://ow.ly/NIE74
Ken Lemm http://ow.ly/NoT9c
Jane Rosemont http://ow.ly/N6epJ
Todd Niemi http://ow.ly/MOfFq
Gregory Blair http://ow.ly/KZj9s
Josh Kim http://ow.ly/K7obx
Jim Thalman http://ow.ly/JQ8YT
David Au http://ow.ly/JwM0A
Dwayne Alexander Smith http://ow.ly/J8GJI
Haifaa Al-Mansour http://ow.ly/ITabq
Chad Crawford Kinkle http://ow.ly/HXLq0
Mikey Levy http://ow.ly/HA9Xm
Hilliard Guess http://ow.ly/HcOmr
Amir Ohebsion http://ow.ly/H8aPq
Donald McKinney http://ow.ly/GvPfn
Michelle Ehlen http://ow.ly/GvPr1