In the Spotlight: Elizabeth Findley
Elizabeth is making it happen. She is not only writing her own work but she has stepped behind the camera and is directing/producing them as well. She understands what it takes to find success and has the humility and wisdom to surround herself with those who will help her along the path. I am very excited to introduce you to her.
This is Elizabeth Findley...
I’m a writer\director from Meridian Idaho and I’ve been freelancing at a professional level for about 4 years now. Writing is still more of a hobby, but some of my freelance gigs require written scripts. Only recently have people been saying that they think my strength is my writing. People like my concepts and ideas and even my non-film friends enjoy them.
I started getting into narrative film during the i48 2017. I won best film for novice and I had never shot, written, or directed a narrative film before and I was hooked. In 2019 I won best dark drama for my script ‘Love me or Die’ and we plan on filming it this year.
I went to school for Media Productions at Boise State University in 2016-’17. I already had a degree in Music at Susquehanna University so it didn’t take long to finish my second degree. I mostly went to school to study broadcasting, but by the time I graduated I was hooked on narrative film. I still work in broadcasting from time to time, because it’s paid work and I want to keep my skills sharp. For my day job, I produce a morning show at Cumulus Media. It’s the Kasper and Chris show on 670 KBOI. I honestly get a lot of my scriptwriting and research done during the commercial breaks throughout the show. I’m a big believer in becoming as much of an expert as you can in whatever you decide to write about.
On top of the radio, I also do photography, videography and I play and sing around town in local bars. Before I started writing books and stories I was writing songs. I’ve been a featured artist on Reverbnation and I also perform with various bands, playing originals and covers.
Q: How did you stumble upon screenwriting?
I fell into screenwriting because I wanted to direct. It's hard to get on someone else's set as a director so I wrote the stories I wanted to tell. I eventually came up with a feature idea based on the adaption of ‘The Raven’ and now I have three feature screenplays under my belt within a couple of years. My first screenplay was the i48 competition in 2017. I took a writing class at Boise State University in 2017 but I didn’t really start getting into it until about 2019.
Q: Who/what inspired you into taking this path? I don’t have anybody in particular who inspired me to start writing screenplays. I always loved movies like Sister Act growing up and books like ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ inspired me to write in general. I started out by writing poems, songs, then journalism pieces, and short stories first. One of my favorite poets is Edgar Allan Poe and his poem ‘The Raven’ inspired my first feature screenplay.
Submit to the Script Summit
Screenwriting Contest & join our Facebook Writers Group
Q: Who was the first person who believed in you?
My friend Ryan Sciarrotta was one of the first people who believed in me as a filmmaker because he was always ready to help, encouraged any ideas I had, and gave me great feedback, and always encouraged me to keep writing. He helped on my first i48 and was a part of every single film project afterward until he moved. He also helped with my first attempt at a longer screenplay and taught me some formatting tricks. Dustin Glen Montierth was the DP for my first film and I remember in the editing room we were stumbling upon story issues and he recommended a bunch of books and was explaining story beats and other tricks to me and I just remember being really inspired by him and it made me want to keep going.
Q: When was the moment you knew you wanted to be a screenwriter? I probably realized it after my first feature. I’ve had so many people say they liked the script and actors saying they wanted to be in it that I ended up writing two more features and I have ideas for even more. The best thing about writing a script is being able to bring it to life. When you write a book, a song, a journalism piece and or a poem it typically stays on paper. When you write a screenplay you write it with the intention of it being brought to the screen. I like writing because then I can tell the stories that I want to tell and as a woman who’s traveled a lot I have a unique perspective.
Q: How do you define success for yourself? I define success at this point as just finishing a project that you start. You’re never going to get anywhere if you don’t expand on your idea and nurture it. The next step to success is being able to get someone interested enough to invest in your idea. I will mostly consider myself successful when I have to work my day job, and I have my choice of producers to give my screenplays to. When you get to the point where you can afford to be picky, to whom you sell your work too, that is the point that I define as success. Success is the ability to have freedom and choice for your desired career in my mind. It’s not always about the awards and prestige although that can lead to freedom and choice.
Q: Give us a typical day in your life:
Currently, I’m more of an early bird, but only because my job requires me to be up at 5 am. I produce a morning show at Cumulus Media. I love to go out on the weekends and stay up late, but I’ve had to train my body clock to wake up early, and even on the weekends it can be hard for me to sleep in.
When do you get up?
I get up at 4:45 am on the weekdays. On the weekends it can range anywhere from 6 am to noon. It just depends if I'm filming, have meetings, work, or the day off.
What do you do during the day?
I work at the radio station from about 5:30am -11:15 am. In between breaks I work on researching and outlining my ideas for scripts. When I get home I tend to take a nap and then I edit projects, practice the piano, read, work on social media stuff, and lately, I’ve been adding in dance workouts. I will also do any housework that needs to get done typically before dinner.
What do you do at night?
Sometimes I have gigs or shoots, but typically eat dinner, and continue working on what I was working on during the day. During the night is when I write the most when I’m not writing at work. I use the day to think about the current script ideas I’m trying to work out and then I write them down before I go to bed or at work as soon as I wake up.
How do you define a successful day?
I define a successful day when you complete everything you want to get accomplished, and you work on your goals even if it’s just for 10 min. If you want to be a writer you need to write almost every day again even if it’s just for ten minutes. I’m constantly doing research, outlining ideas, brainstorming, and more. I’ve been attracting top talent and crew lately and it’s mostly because of my scripts and so I want to keep my skills sharp and continue to get better. Too many people waste their day by binging their favorite shows, and it’s not bad to keep up with the latest television, but for every episode, you watch complete a goal or chore around the house. Also for every episode, you watch try to read a chapter in your favorite book.
Q: What’s been the most important skill you've developed on your path to screenwriting?
I think a skill that is important that I’ve been developing is dialogue. Dialogue to me is one of the most difficult parts of screenwriting because nobody says what they mean and each bit of dialogue has to have its own personality. To write dialogue you have to listen to how people talk around you and it feels like eavesdropping, but even when you're with your friends, just listen for ten minutes. People love to talk about themselves. My teacher assigned me an assignment in school that I thought was brilliant. He told us to write down a conversation we overheard and use it to build a scene. I think I might start doing that again because then you’re using actual dialogue that is true to how people speak.
Q: What’s been the greatest challenge in your writing so far?
Grammar has always been my enemy when it comes to writing. In fact, a lot of people call me a writer, but I don’t consider myself one, because my grammar is atrocious. It’s one thing that keeps my scripts out of festivals sometimes and I’ll edit over and over again and still miss some silly mistakes. People need to stop thinking that grammar isn’t important because some of the feedback I get back is literally that I have silly grammar mistakes or the format isn’t quite there. Even my script that won, the festival pointed out a couple of mistakes that I missed. It definitely doesn’t go unnoticed.
Q: What’s been the greatest reward in the choices you've made?
One of the greatest rewards has been when people laugh at my jokes that I’ve written, and just in general when I get an emotional response out of someone. I also received the best dark drama award for my script ‘Love Me or Die’ from the Oregon Short Film Festival and that was pretty awesome. I’ve also been getting a lot of local talent and top Director of Photography guys interested in working with me, mostly because they like my scripts. It pays off to work hard, and keep at it. I’m new and I’m already seeing the benefits. People who I never thought would work with me are willing to work with me for free, because they like the stories I want to tell.