In the Spotlight: CJ Knapp
Updated: Nov 18, 2019
CJ Is truly a devoted screenwriter with a passion for the craft. Her focused commitment to perfecting what she loves has led her to achieve a status that most writers desire... she is paid for her work, and any writer will tell you that it is no easy task. I’m not surprised at her accomplishments, though, because CJ Knapp lives and breathes screenwriting. I believe we will see much more to come from this dedicated screenwriter which is why I am pleased to introduce her to you.
This is CJ Knapp…
I was born in Delhi, New York but my family moved to Illinois when I was two months old. I was safely packed in an orange crate for the journey. We proceeded to move around – 16 times by time I was 18. I guess that’s where I get my desire to try new things. Today I write from Kansas City Missouri. I love the Midwest and the change of seasons.
My educational background is in business which gave me the opportunity to travel and work in other countries such as Luxembourg and Canada, which in turn has opened my eyes to different views and new stories and potential twists and turns as I write.
Taking classes from ScreenwritingU has helped me to be a better, more confident writer and to define my brand – Thrillers! I love the mystery, intrigue and suspense that comes with thrillers.
My goal as a screenwriter is to take people out of the day to day. I want them to forget their problems and be a part of my story. I want to transport them to an exciting world providing them a thrilling experience.
Q: How did you stumble upon screenwriting?
Ever since I was a child, I loved the written word. I would devour book after book. I loved being transported to new worlds and learning new things. In grade school when they would give me a list of words to use in a sentence, I would try to make a short story out of using all the words instead of stand-alone sentences.
I knew I wanted to write, I tried article writing, even wrote a very bad novel, and then I went to a screenwriting conference in Santa Fe. I met William Kelly of WITNESS fame. He brought his Oscar to the event and passed it around. I was hooked and have never looked back.
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Q: Who/what inspired you into taking this path?
The screenwriter conference in Santa Fe opened my eyes to this amazing world. I have found that I am visual, when someone tells me about something, I need to see it to better understand and retain the information. ScreenwritingU made it real for me.
Q: Who was the first person who believed in you?
There have been many who have supported my ideas, many who don’t understand what a screenwriter does. (My aunt keeps asking me when my book will be published.) I consider myself very lucky to have the support of many friends around the world who believe in me and closer to home “my village” always stays engaged with my journey and encourages me.
But my husband has been my constant and continues to tell everyone he will be in the audience yelling “that’s my wife” when I accept my Oscar. Well that may be a while yet, but I love his support, faith, and enthusiasm.
Q: When was the moment you knew you wanted to be a screenwriter?
Standing in Santa Fe, early 2000’s, after the first session, I called back to my then boyfriend in Toronto and I couldn’t stop talking about how exited I was about screenwriting. It was a whole new world for me. I never thought about what the foundation was for a movie until then. I have had an on again off again love affair with screenwriting. In 2015 I left the corporate world and have been “all in and committed” to screenwriting and I’ve never been happier.
Q: How do you define success for yourself?
I already feel pretty good about being an optioned screenwriter and having done a paid writing assignment. And I feel good about being able to pursue screenwriting on a full-time basis.
Looking ahead, I look forward to being produced and having my family and friends be able to see something on the screen – big or small – that I wrote. And being sought out for writing assignments.
Q: Give us a typical day in your life:
Are you an Early Bird or a Night Owl? Definitely an early bird
When do you get up? During the week, I get up at 4:30 in the morning. We have two pugs and I walk them in the quite of the morning – no matter what time of year. Then I go to the YMCA for an hour. After that, it’s butt in the chair and no guilt to focus on my writing. Weekends I might sleep in until 6:30 before attending to the pugs.
Do you have a morning routine or ritual? Yes, after I take care of the extraneous household things… I work on my networking and connections within the industry. Then organize my day and write.
What do you do during the day? Check in with my writing group, read posts from fellow screenwriters and write or rewrite any project I am currently working on. I try to balance my day around my commitments as a writer, marketing my works, and judging for Cinequest contest.
Do you have a pre-bed ritual? Go through what I didn’t get done that day, make a list for the next day.
How do you define a successful day? When I can cross off items from my To-Do list. The best feeling of success is when I feel that I nailed a scene and it just feels right or I solve a scene problem that I couldn’t make work.
Q: What’s been the most important skill you've developed on your path to screenwriting?
Networking and write no matter what. Give myself permission to write – even write badly – as long as I am writing. Avoid trying for perfectionism and editing – at least until my story is laid out.
Q: What’s been the greatest challenge in your writing so far?
Getting past the silence after a pitch, verbal or written, and not taking it personal when producers pass on my project. It’s all a growing experience.
Q: What’s been the greatest reward in the choices you've made?
I love the medium and a way to tell a story. It’s so visual and fulfilling for me personally.
Q: What do you want to learn from a community of your peers?