Shoshana Rosenbaum: Coming to Screenwriting Late, and Making A Mark
COMING TO SCREENWRITING LATE, AND STARTING TO MAKE A MARK
by Shoshana Rosenbaum
I got into screenwriting and filmmaking late, in the midst of another career, and while being a mom to three kids. I’ve been a writer of various kinds of stories since I was kid, but once I took a screenwriting class, I never looked back. The terse, visual form appeals to me – plus I love movies.
I never formally studied filmmaking, and I still have a lot to learn, but I’ve been training my eye for years as a photographer.
When I turned 40, I decided to just go for it and make a film. I didn’t know exactly how to do it, but I knew I had written a solid short script, one that people responded to. I jumped in with both feet, learning everything I could from anyone who was kind enough to teach it to me. In 2014, I completed the film, THE GOBLIN BABY, a supernatural thriller about the first year of motherhood. This past year I made my second short, HIDE AND SEEK, about a rock musician turned stay-at-home-dad whose impulsive wish propels him into an alternate reality. HIDE’S festival run kicks off at the DC Independent Film Festival in February.
Three organizations have helped my evolution to filmmaking. I couldn’t have made my first film without Women in Film and Video (WIFV-DC). I learned so much from their programs and ScriptDC conference. Much of the crew for both my films came through WIFV connections. A huge well of support for me is the Story Broads, an international collective of women filmmakers who support each other and consult and collaborate on each other’s projects. I’ve found both community with fellow writers and insightful feedback from the mentors at Stowe’s Fall Lab and Spring Writers’ Retreat. Stowe is now one of my happy places and I can’t wait to go back.
I continue to be inspired by both reading and watching movies. This past year, among other things, I read the Icelandic Sagas, and then reread Jane Smiley’s 1984 novel inspired by them, The Greenlanders. (Who knows what, if anything, those books will have to do with my future creative work, but now I really want to go to Iceland and Greenland!) I try to make a point of showing up in person for certain movies in the theater – especially those by female/underrepresented writers and directors. Among others, this year I saw in the theater: GET OUT, WONDER WOMAN, LADY BIRD, RAW, THE BIG SICK and MUDBOUND. I loved all of them, but GET OUT was my favorite move of the year hands down – it’s at once the smartest, funniest and most chilling horror movie I’ve ever seen.
I’m also lucky that I have a great creative partnership with my older brother. He is a prolific science fiction writer, and as my work has moved into more genre territory, he’s one of my best story consultants. He usually lives in Switzerland, but for two years recently we got to live in the same D.C. neighborhood, where we spent a lot of hours in Starbucks hashing through story problems, or standing on the sidewalk in front of my house talking about story and making each other late for work.
In 2017 I was thrilled to get my first writing assignment, a political thriller/horror feature that was cathartic to write after the political happenings of that last year or so. Now that I’ve completed that, I can’t wait to start writing a new science fiction thriller spec I’ve been thinking about for months, as well as move forward on setting up my first feature as a writer/director – the expanded version of my first short, now titled AT THE EDGE OF THE WOODS. I’m moving forward with it in no small part thanks to the invaluable feedback I got from mentors and peers at Stowe in May.
May your 2018 hold excitement and satisfaction for you. I hope we meet in Stowe soon!
Shoshana Rosenbaum, a Stowe Story Labs alum, is a writer/director and educator based in Washington, D.C. Her screenplay AT THE EDGE OF THE WOODS (formerly THE GOBLIN CHILD) was named to The 2017 Bitch List, and her latest short film HIDE AND SEEK premieres at the 2018 DC Independent Film Festival in February.