Our Friday column asks our members about their favorite tool, software, article of clothing, shoes on set, favorite scriptwriting software, etc.
Caitlin McCarthy – Screenwriter and Educator
By Lisa Stahl
NYWIFT member Caitlin McCarthy is an award-winning screenwriter whose films have screened at film festivals around the world. Caitlin, who earned an MFA from Emerson College, has won competitive grants or prizes from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Academy of Motion Pictures, and other prestigious organizations. In addition to writing for television and film, she teaches high school English in Massachusetts.
Caitlin offered us a peek inside her toolkit.
What are 3 things you can’t live without when writing a script?
- Caffeine: I’m a “caffeine achiever,” primarily because I get up at 3 AM to write before my survival job as an urban public school teacher starts at 7:10 AM. I drink my coffee black… I have been known to crack open a Diet Coke before the sun rises.
- Goody Ouchless Elastic Hair Ties: It’s one of my rituals, taking a seat at my desk and pulling my hair into a bedhead bun. Remember, this is all happening around 3 AM so there’s zero glamour involved….
- Post-It Notes: Throughout the day, ideas for my work-in-progress pop into my head and I scribble them down before they slip away into the ether. When I return home, I always have a pocketful of “things to remember” for my script.
What’s one piece of advice that continues to inspire you?
The most influential advice…came from former Hollywood manager/producer Beth Colt of the Woods Hole Inn: “Just keep doing it. Write another spec, submit again. Repeat. Each one gets better, the cumulative matters. Don’t give up! The struggle will pay off in the end.”
What item in your toolkit would you pass along to an aspiring screenwriter to motivate them?
There’s an incredible writing community on Twitter – from Academy Award winners to emerging writers who provide advice, answer questions, celebrate victories, offer encouragement, and even exchange scripts for notes. Check out hashtags like #WritingCommunity, #ScriptChat, #WRAC, #ZD30Script, and #AmWriting….
What’s your strategy for burn-out, writer’s block, rejection, or for surviving crises like the current pandemic?
Routine is my savior. I’m not a morning person at all, but I get up at 3 AM during the week to write before the clamor of the classroom gets into my head. This commitment to writing is an act of defiance. A woman hasn’t won an Academy Award for screenwriting in over a decade. Women represented only 20% of writers on the top 100 grossing films of 2019. If I want to see change… I must be the change. I must do the work. I believe work conquers all. And as the saying goes, nothing works unless you do.
What projects are you working on that you can share with NYWIFT members?
I’m delighted to say both Wonder Drug and A Native Land have attracted the attention of incredible producers. I’m finishing a novel. And I’m about to start cowriting a TV pilot with a talented female writer from the UK. I’m always working on something, but I’m never too busy to say “hey” to another NYWIFT member – so reach out if the feeling hits you.
Learn more about Caitlin on her website: www.caitlinmccarthy.com
And reach out on social media:
(photo credit for top image: Pure Style Photography)
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