Welcome new Writers’ Program instructor Janna King! Janna is teaching a section of Feature Film I (reg# 384193) in our deadline-driven online format, starting January 12 this Winter. She sat down with us to offer some insight into creative life and her upcoming course.
What sparks your creativity?
People spark my creativity. I’m constantly thinking: “This would make a great movie!” “This is totally a novel!” “I would love to see this as a play!” I’ve written in all those arenas. Sometimes the spark comes from a news story. Sometimes it’s a situation. Or it’s an aspect of a relationship that resonates with me. Those are jumping off points for my imagination. My writer brain runs wild at the smallest provocation. Human emotions can be explored through animals and creatures in animation, which I also write. If there are feelings involved, then it’s a story and I’m inspired.
What do you rely on for those times it’s difficult to find the time, energy, motivation and/or inspiration to write?
I rely on my compulsive nature. I’m an empathetic cheerleader when it comes to helping others through the creative process and I understand that sometimes finding motivation is rough. But I’m an unforgiving taskmaster when it comes to myself. I set goals and I meet them, even if it seems torturous at times. Thankfully, I love writing and I’m not prone to writer’s block. I’ve written through the darkest times of my life and it’s saved my life. Where finding time is concerned, I’ve been a freelancer my whole career and parented simultaneously, so I’ve written sitting in the carpool lane at school, during Little League practice and while my kids ran around our home on playdates. The end result is the prize: a completed piece of writing!
What’s your favorite book and/or movie?
I have so many favorites and they run the gamut. Although I write fiction novels, I tend to read nonfiction: bios, memoirs and essay compilations: Joan Didion, Roxane Gay, Patti Smith. One of my most recent reads was Samantha Irby’s Wow, No Thank You – so smart and funny. I’m now reading Nick Offerman’s new book, Where the Deer and the Antelope Play: The Pastoral Observations of One Ignorant American Who Loves to Walk Outside, since I’m a city girl turned nature-obsessed. My movie favorites list is long, and I love everything from beautiful indies like Little Miss Sunshine and The Farewell to animation with heart like Coco – I’m a major crier and that movie requires much Kleenex for me. I’m not big on horror but I just re-watched A Quiet Place with a pillow handy to cover my eyes during the scary parts. And I’m drawn to messy characters like Cristin Milioti’s Sarah in Palm Springs and bad-ass female characters like Salma Hayek’s Sonia Kincaid in The Hitman’s Bodyguard films. Give me a rock doc any day. I’m a music freak.
What’s your favorite quote about writing?
“The only safe thing to do is take a chance.” ? Elaine May.
And I have my own quote: “I write because I can’t not.” That’s not remotely articulate but most writers must write because it drives their soul.
Who do you wish you could write like (or: Whose writing discipline do you wish you had)?
I’m in awe of anyone who gets it down on the page. I’m in awe of anyone who makes stuff. The entertainment industry is rough, so creatives need to take matters into their own hands. Collaborate, put projects together, don’t wait for someone else to give you the green light. Yes, making money is important and you may have to get a “day job” at times (I’ve had many), but when you see your work in full form, whether it’s a short film, a tiny black box theater play, a blog or even a table reading of your script, your spirit soars. I’m in awe of anyone who gets creative work across their own finish line.
What excites you most about teaching for the Writers’ Program?
I’m a Bruin. My parents were Bruins – my dad was the most diehard Bruin I’ve ever known, and he taught at UCLA Extension (in a completely different subject). He would be very proud that I’m now teaching at UCLA Extension. I’m most excited about inspiring others’ excitement surrounding their own creative work. I’m looking forward to seeing classmates support each other’s efforts and learn from each other. For me, there is nothing more thrilling than experiencing a writer’s enthusiasm and effort, and all the “A-ha!” moments that come with the work.
What do you hope your students get from your course(s)?
I hope to guide and encourage students through a process that’s rewarding and gives them the best version of their unique vision. I want new voices to be heard. And at most basic, I hope my students have fun. Writers are self-entertainment centers, so we’re gifted with a life that never gets boring. We have the opportunity to play forever. Lastly, I hope my students see a future in themselves as creatives and can envision their success – personal and/or professional.
I invite anyone who is inspired to write a screenplay to join me in my course(s). The one most important goal is that you have the desire to do it. The end result is icing on the cake. And if I have anything to do with it, your cake will have icing, so let’s get cooking!
Thank you to Janna for taking time to share with us. Look for more instructor interviews coming soon!