Music has always been a part of me. When I was kid, I used to get in trouble at school for banging beats on the desk, or playing rudiments with my pencil instead of taking notes. I recited every line from Nas' Illmatic and soaked in all the RPG scores/themes. My love for writing came from Soap Operas, oddly enough. I would sit in my 7th grade Literature class and writing write scripts to improve different storylines and scenes. However, despite my love for music and screenwriting, it wasn't until the age of 18 that I started producing and even then, I composed boom bap beats. I didn't start seriously writing scripts until the age of 22.
Still, at age 18 I generated a following and started incorporating orchestral, EDM and classical music into my hip hop tracks. As a result, I worked with artists from around the world and had my music played on radio stations. But I wasn't happy. Something was missing. I was ignoring the big giant elephant in the room.
My crippling depression, bipolar and insecurities.
Instead of facing it, I ran. I ran and ran and still asked the world why I wasn't where I wanted to be. I dropped out of college twice and ended up homeless. I let go of a full scholarship to law school. I was down.
But I wasn't out.
How did you turn it around? Where is the success story? I know you all are waiting to hear it.
In 2012, while sleeping on floors and couches, I came across this site. I took my time and started to learn the trade. I found a place that felt like home. I started writing again. Over the years, I started teaching myself piano and eventually enrolled in college. I studied alongside highly trained composers and playwrights. I found my voice.
This was taken in 2013. I just finished scoring this indie feature film, after staying up for 29 hours. I was exhausted but I felt amazing. My first film placement as a composer. I remember a couple days after that I stayed up again, for 48 hours writing a script. I remember saying, "This is what I want to do for the rest of my life".
And so, I tried.
I tried to perfect my scripts. I edited and edited and finally I had - nothing. Just pages of ideas.
I still was a struggling artist who hadn't sold a script or received any major film placements.
You might be in the same situation. Writing and composing or acting, but not really landing and keeping placements. I've had opportunities, but as soon as I reached for it, I pulled back just as quickly. I was afraid. I was afraid of success. Afraid of not being able to meet standards.
Maybe you feel the same?
Let me tell you what my former professor/Yoda told me back in college that I hope can help you.
"You are going to suck. You are going to spend hours working on your drafts and you're going to read it and realize that it sucks. So will your second draft. The third will suck less. The key is to keep going. The key is to write every single day and show your work to others."
You are not going to be perfect on your first go around. Heck, you will never be perfect. You should never want to be, because once you are you stop growing and learning.
After graduation, at age 26, I started joining writing groups and posting more of my music online. I came back to Stage 32 - my home - and made it a priority to interact with other creatives. Not just so I could get work, but because I love film and TV. I love every single aspect of it.
During my journey, I landed multiple PAID placements and scored a short, In Madness that screened in LA Shorts International Film Festival and an animated film, Grey Island. Imagine my delight knowing that these amazing creators were paying ME.
I kept working in music and I kept writing. One night, I searched the jobs board on Stage 32. I came across a listing searching for a screenwriter for their feature film. There were already tons of other writers applying for the position.
I told myself that I wouldn't back down. That the worst they could say was "no" and that if I didn't get it, there was a reason. That reason was that it wasn't for me. This was somebody else's chance. With that in mind, I went for it. I sent in my work and I connected with him through our passion of comics. I got the job. My first screenwriting credit! This was MY chance. This opened a lot of doors for me. I now have the platform to talk to producers and creators about my original works. A platform that I didn't have when I was couch hopping, busking and writing scripts and recording songs off of an eight-year-old computer.
The director and producer was younger than me. I saw so much drive in him. I also saw myself. Or the person I was and could have been. When I was his age, I was struggling and homeless, but I had drive. I had a fire inside of me that I kept lit. That fire was small, but it was burning - keeping me warm. That same fire was in this kid, but stronger and brighter. All of the lessons I learnt the hard way, he was learning now. I was inspired by that. Each and every person I've met on this site has inspired me to grow. All of my struggles have lead me to this platform.
I see so many creators and shakers who are struggling to find their voice. My advice and the point of this article, is to follow your passion. Be present and take action. YOU are enough. Your worth is not based on your education, who you know, how many scripts you have written, or how many films you have acted in.
I was surprised when I was approached to write a blog post. What can I do for thousands of talented and wonderful filmmakers? What can I contribute?
I can only share my journey.
I hope my story resonates with you all. I'm still not making 'it'. I don't think any of us will make 'it'. We just keep growing and getting better.
I still work full time, while taking freelance gigs and writing specs.
But I am home.
I am here and so are you.
You are in the presence of hundreds of thousands of creators and leaders in the game. YOU are part of a community made up of over 100,000 creators and leaders.
About Shanika "Neeko" Freeman
Shanika is a media and stage composer and screenwriter from Baltimore, MD. She focuses on dramatic works when it comes to her writing and tends to incorporate most, if not all, genre's of music.
Like this blog post? Please share it on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email etc) by using social media buttons at the top of the blog. Or post to your personal blog and anywhere else you feel appropriate. Thank you.
As always, we welcome thoughts and remarks on ANY of the content above in the Comments section below...
|Television's Greatest Minds Gather at ITVFest|
|Crowdsourcing for Filmmakers (My Book) is HERE!|