Writer Snapshot: Q&A with Screenwriter Natalie Higdon
At Upward Media Partners, we’re in search of stories that break out of the cultural norms that have dominated Hollywood storytelling since the start of moving images on screen. So when we connected with the award winning playwright and screenwriter Natalie Higdon – we knew our stories and missions were aligned and we’re excited to work with her on a new feature film project in development.
Natalie Higdon is a screenwriter, playwright, and fiction writer who occasionally ventures in front of the camera, most recently in her digital series Zoomed: A Socially-Distanced Workplace Comedy.
She currently has several screenplays in pre-production including Pick Up Sidney, a 2020 Nicholl Fellowships with The Academy Quarterfinalist and Official Selection of LiveRead/LA, which Upward Media Partners is attached to produce!
In this Q&A we learn more about Natalie’s tenacity for the screenwriting craft and her inspiration for the character stories she brings to light:
1. Where do you get your inspiration from for the characters who are the heroes in your screenplays?
Natalie: This is tough to explain, but I'll do my best! The initial spark of inspiration usually happens when I listen to a specific song, find an interesting old photo at an antique store, or read an interesting news article. I often see a first scene in my head with the protagonist who is facing a big challenge or having a "Pinch me, I think I'm dreaming" amazing life moment and I'll start thinking more about who that person is and why they feel the way they do in that scene. I'll then keep building from there.
2. When did you start to truly believe that you could make it as a writer, and what is your encouragement to other writers to stay committed?
Natalie: Placing in competitions like Nicholl and Austin Film Festival was really huge for me. I was swiftly rejected in the past when I submitted my very first screenplay to those same competitions, so it was affirming to me that I was growing as a storyteller and getting better.
It's important to keep writing, but you also need to find people you trust to give you actionable feedback. Listen for the themes and the constructive criticism that rings true, and keep working to improve. I also think connecting with other writers is so important. We're in this together and I believe we can all succeed by lifting each other up.
3. What keeps you inspired?
Natalie: Making time and space for my writing is a must. For now, that's two big chunks of time on the weekend vs. every day. I also really enjoy reading books about creativity that help me better understand and enjoy the actual process of creating, with all its ups and downs and self doubt. A few of my favorites are: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, everything by Austin Kleon, and Writing from the Inside Out by Dennis Palumbo.
4. What are some of your favorite movies and why?
Natalie: A few of my favorites are Fargo, Brokeback Mountain, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, and a recent film I truly enjoyed, The Novice. I really love intense character studies and crazy good dialogue.
5. Who are some of your favorite writers who inspire your work, such as book authors or screenwriters and why?
Natalie: Some of my favorites lately are Otessa Moshfegh, Ling Ma, Jessamine Chan, and Maggie Shipstead. They're all amazing and if you read their work (if you haven't already), you'll see why.
6. When did you first decide to start getting into writing, was it at a young age?
Natalie: I remember a short story I wrote in elementary school about a man named "Mr. Meaner" which I thought was what everyone was saying on crime shows when they were talking about misdemeanors. I've dipped in and out of so many forms of writing, from journalism to my least favorite, copywriting. Creative writing is definitely my favorite and I stress a lot less now about whether I "should" stick to a specific form.
7. In addition to writing screenplays, what other creative projects are you working on?
Natalie: What a great segue from the last question! I'm working on revising my first novel, which is a big learning process for me, and I'm loving it. Once that's done I'm not sure what's next, but I do have an ever-growing Google doc list of writing ideas to pull from. I've been thinking I'd like to work on the next project with a co-writer from the beginning because I've never had that experience.
8. Where can people find out more about your work?
Natalie: My website is nataliehigdon.com. I'm on a social media break at the moment while I focus on my novel, but feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram.