Updated: Oct 8, 2018
Screenwriters come in all shapes and size. Creeds and Faiths. Cindy O’Halloran is a writer who has faith. She is happy to share it. See, Cindy is on a path with her writing to help better the world one story at a time. Her faith based writing hasn’t just won her several awards around the country, more importantly it’s touched people. This is Cindy…
My writing career started in a flower shop in Wisconsin. As I spent my day arranging flowers and writing beautiful sentiments on the attached cards, I was encouraged by customers to write professionally. That sounded like a good idea, so I bought a book about writing and wrote…Yikes! I enrolled in the Creative Writing program at Stratford University. On graduation day, as I held up my highest honors diploma, I knew I was on a mission to save the world with words.
A member of my writers group announced a nationally distributed newspaper was seeking a short fiction columnist. I jumped at the opportunity and emailed a writing sample. Maybe…just maybe it was good enough. The NEXT DAY the editor called with good news…a two-year contract offer! From that, I added more to my plate. I reviewed a friend’s book on Amazon and within a few months, new authors, book publishers and even music producers were asking me to review their content. Through various contacts, my reviews drew the attention of Agape Press News Service and a few other news services that catapulted my writings to hundreds of newspapers in the USA and Canada and thousands of websites.
Over the course of time, the face of the publishing industry changed. The news services changed formats and many were no longer accepting reviews, fiction stories and freelance articles. Doors were closing I considered leaving writing altogether, but then a piece of “junk” mail showed up in my mailbox. A newsletter that contained an article titled Your Writing Matters. It could not have been clearer. I stepped out with peace and a new writing vigor to complete my mission…my call in life…to change the world with words. But how? That’s when screenwriting crossed my path.
Q: How did you stumble upon screenwriting?
Screenwriting kept coming up…an ad here-n-there, script writing being mentioned in conversation, an author I reviewed was also integrated in the film industry. I don’t believe those introductions of the idea were a coincidence. I am a Christian and truly believe God has a plan for every person. We can choose to follow our own plan…we have a freewill…but I chose to follow. I believe God’s plan for my life is changing the world with words. And this was the season for that plan to be implemented through writing scripts.
Of course, I knew nothing about screenwriting. Therefore, I bought every book available and saturated myself with this fascinating world of visual drama. Loved it! It was so different from anything I’d written before.
I wrote my first script titled STEALING WISHES which landed interest from an indie producer who invited me to be part of his projects. This opportunity boosted my confidence and determination to be the best screenwriter I could possibly be.
Q: Who/what inspired you into taking this path?
What really propelled me into this form of writing was when I applied for a spot in the Faith-based Act One Writing Program in Hollywood. Out of numerous applicants, only 30 were chosen; I was one of them. The program offered not just a screenwriting education, but a networking circle that to this day is priceless.
Q: Who was the first person who believed in you?
The first person outside of family and friends who really believed in me was a professional screenwriter who I “met” in a Yahoo Group. (Not sure kids these days even know what a Yahoo Group is!) He became affectionately known as MikeMike.
MikeMike took me under his wing and read every script I wrote. He would call me on the phone and we would talk for hours hashing through my script. Not only did MikeMike help my writing to improve, my writing was changing him.
MikeMike was not a Christian. Actually, he was the opposite. He was rough around the edges and had a shady background as a pit boss in Las Vegas. Yet there were times he would be choked up when he’d read my script about forgiveness and other biblically moral characteristics. As he grew more fascinated with my script subjects, he asked many questions. After a while, he would say things that I never heard him say before. “I’m praying for you.” Or “Remember God is good.” The thing is my scripts are not all in-your-face Christian. But my moral compass showed through enough for a lost man to find hope.
Unfortunately for me, MikeMike died suddenly of a massive heart attack. The last words he spoke to me 4 days before he died…”You’re gonna make it someday, Cindy. Remember me when you win your Oscar.”
Q: What was the moment you knew you wanted to be a screenwriter?
When I read Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. That book was the first time I saw screenplay structure laid out. Since then I have formed my own way of structuring, but it was amazing to know how to show a story within a fairly simple structure.
Q: How do you define success for yourself?
I can tell you that I don’t define success by money. I have turned down well-paying jobs because I didn’t believe in the message of the project. If I had to choose a well-paying job that would require compromising my personal conviction vs. a less paying job that supports my beliefs, I would take the less money. To me, success is the progressive realization of the will, God has in my life.
Q: Give us a typical day in your life.
This question has really made me think! I’ve concluded that my typical day is not really typical. My way of thinking is so project oriented that I go from project to project and whatever is typical for the project that I’m doing determines my typical day. But for the sake of the question I’ll share my general activities.
Generally, my day consists of getting up no later than 8:00am; I’m a night owl so that is tough at times. Once up, I clean my house, eat a high protein breakfast (Nothing gives me energy like a blueberry protein smoothie!), walk on my treadmill for at least 20 mins and then get ready for my working day.
I find it helpful to treat my day as if I’m going to work. Interacting with people in phone calls, texts, emails…yes, it helps to not be in my PJ’s when engaging with others even if they can’t see me. Once I am ready, I get to work on whatever project is priority for the day.
A few months ago, my hubby and I worked on a short called THE REDO. That was a fun project that we played at my church on New Years Eve. Right now I’m working on my own scripts like the short I’m planning to produce this summer called: DAD CALLS ME HIS about an adopted boy, who breaks his father's iPad, then agrees to be his sister's slave if she'll keep his secret. But he discovers his father's love is greater than his sin. The short placed in the top five of the Write of Passage writing competition that is an arm of the 168 Film Festival.
After a day of writing (or whatever was scheduled), I look forward to relaxing after supper. The evening is generally my time for activities at church or time with friends & family or a bible study discussion with my husband. Or just watching a good movie.
Q: What’s been your most important skill you've developed on your path to screenwriting?
My most important skill I’ve developed is structuring a story. Many writers I’ve talked to over the years seem to think structure is a hindrance. I believe it is the opposite. Once I understood structure, freedom to write a story was amazing. Story structure minimizes bunny trails and gets right to the heart…the essence of what the story is about. That in-turn engages the reader/audience, which is the whole purpose for the story in the first place.
Q: What’s been your greatest challenge in your writing so far?
My greatest challenge in the past was dealing with all the rejection. But over the years, I’ve come to realize rejection is a change in direction not a personal attack. Even though it hurt at the time, the challenge made me a better writer. These days my greatest challenge is having a balanced life. Writing can easily become all-consuming and, when I’m involved in a project, that is understandable for a season. Nevertheless, I have other people and activities in my life that are just as (if not more) important and I need to remember that.
Q: What’s been your greatest reward in the choices you've made?
There have been trials, tears and brinks of walking away from writing. However, in the end, after pushing through the obstacles that comes with every choice, peace always shows up. Having peace when you know you’re doing what God has called you to do…yes, that is the greatest reward to me.
Q: What do you want to learn from a community of your peers?
I believe there is power when individuals come together in unity. I wouldn’t be where I am without the company of like-minded people. In a community of my peers, I want to encourage others and be encouraged by sharing experiences and testimonies. A place to help and be helped on how to move forward in such a challenging industry.