By Fehintola Opanubi
“I like telling stories, I’m very interested in people. You see stories on television (I admit I like watching television), and there’s stuff I really do love and then there’s stuff I really don’t love and I can’t imagine why that got on television. So my motivation was, well if that got on television then there’s something I can write or have something better than that.” This is how screenwriter, Jackie Thornton describes what motivates her screenwriting.
Thornton is a screenwriting student at UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, and first time award winner of the Screenwriters Showcase. Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, Thornton had several different careers before she found her calling as a screenwriter.
Before Thornton ventured to UCLA where she will be graduating in Spring 2011, some of her careers included: working at Duke University as an assistant dean, and working as a technical writer. She also wrote and performed her own extended monologues that were one woman shows performed in Berkeley and San Francisco. The shows were performed at a rented out theater space in Berkeley and primarily focused on growing up in the south with her mother. Jackie described her stories as being “very comedic and funny.”
She believes in herself and mentioned that one of the things for her as an African American woman that propels her to write is, not seeing enough of our [African American] stories on the big screen or on the small screen. After she graduates Thornton plans to work with a current or up and coming television show. Thornton spoke that what you usually see is the same kind of stereotypical roll that includes a big bosom type woman comforting people and how these stories are not written by us [African Americans].
“I just decided that we’re multi-dimensional, we’re very different and I want to tell our stories from a person who’s lived them. You know our hopes and dreams, our loves, our laughs, and to do it from a place of truth and understanding. Because I never see it and I was like, I cant wait til’ somebody else creates these stories. I have to do it myself”. Since she could remember, Thornton has always had a wandering soul. When she graduated from college in the Chicago area, she decided to move to Los Angeles and attend law school. Jackie described that as a situation that “fell through” after she worked at an law firm and found out first hand what it was like to be a lawyer. She later decided that she didn’t want to do that. Soon after, Jackie began writing but wasn’t sure because she was in her early 20’s and didn’t know how to go about conquering a career in writing. She didn’t feel focused and wanted a “fresh start” out of Los Angeles.
Thornton moved to Durham, North Carolina set on providing herself with a new atmosphere. “I moved without even a job interview. I felt like the best way for me to get that job was to move to town. After six months I actually did get the job. It was quite a risk but that’s when I realized that I am a risk taker.” Before long, she applied to UCLA’s film school without ever have written a script. Ambitious, and goal oriented Jackie knew that it was “pretty bold” of her but felt that it was her time and was ultimately accepted to attend UCLA.
Following her intuition and having such bravery has helped her get to where she is now. She suggests that if you just feel it in your heart as she did, go for it. “Sometimes a lot of people will tell you what you should and shouldn’t do. But if you listen to that voice inside of you, inside your heart, and it tells you that you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do this, then yes. Do it.” Thornton said if she hadn’t gone with her hearts decisions, it would’ve steered her terribly wrong. So the lessons that she has learned are to go with your own heart and to turn off all negative voices. “Just follow your bliss. You only have one life to live.”