There is always a challenge when trying to catch up with a busy screenwriter to have a casual chat, so connecting with storyteller Abdul Williams was par-for-the-course. I had heard the positive buzz about this script a long time ago and the screenwriter behind BET’s “The New Edition Story.” In industry terms, to have the “story on the page” is the mark of a gifted screenwriter and the first drafts of William’s “The New Edition Story” were absolutely on the page.
To prepare for our chat, I decided to read Williams’ screenplay and it was exactly what Hollywood was buzzing about. While reading, the characters lifted from the page. I could easily see them, on the white page, coming alive: singing, dancing—dreaming.
Clearly, Abdul Williams is a powerful storyteller and like most success stories, this man played the waiting game and thereby paid his dues. His credits include the film “Lottery Ticket” and it’s important to note that it took ten, long years, to get “The New Edtion Story” from page to screen.
We finally connected via phone and in an almost cliché scene. I took the call inside my favorite Harlem coffee shop, Cafe One, a spot that many young screenwriters call home. Here is an edited chat with Abdul Williams, who has great advice to aspiring screenwriters.
LOS ANGELES SENTINEL:
Ten years to get “The New Edition Story” to screen sounds like a long time. I remember the buzz about your screenplay, how it was “all on the page,” which is high praise in Hollywood.
Thank you. Ten years is a long time, but between that, there was a Writers Strike (2007) and Bobby held out on the contract. During the in-between years, I wrote many drafts and BET had always been interested, but they kept going through different regime changes, but it finally worked out.
I enjoyed reading your screenplay very much. In fact, I found it inspiring. I and my writing partner are poised to sell our first screenplay—so, again—an amazing read. What are some skills that one needs to acquire as a screenwriter? You are a great listener, by the way.
Thank you. Being a good listener is key and being open to doing the research. That’s a part of storytelling.
LAS: What advice would you give to new screenwriters?
Start. Finish. Don’t let that be an obstacle. You have control over that part of the process. Start and finish! Some people stop when they run into roadblocks and they never finish. Writing is rewriting!
Wait. Sorry to interrupt. But, please repeat the very last thing that you said.
Writing is rewriting. A lot of people don’t like to do it. I was rewriting and rewriting all the way up to the end. It never stops. Don’t be afraid to rewrite, because a screenwriter always rewrites!
To learn more about BET’s schedule for “The New Edition Story” go to https://www.bet.com/shows/the-new-edition-story.html. Follow him at @abdulthewriter