Theresa Ann James Shotwell

Thank you Theresa for taking the time to answer all of our questions. We are grateful for everything you have shared with us. At Oxford Script Awards we are wishing you a huge success with your next projects. Keep up the amazing work!

Hello Theresa, can you tell us about your background and how you got started in screenwriting?

Born in Virgina, raised in Memphis, TN by a career Army Seargent and gospel/singer homemaker. Music and storytelling were always a part of our lives for every holiday, birthday, and Sunday. I was always dreaming and storytelling to others. When I moved from Memphis in 1971 and moved to California, about a decade later, I started to write down my stories which lead me a to become a playwright and screenwriter.

What's your writing process like? How do you go about creating characters and developing a story?

My characters are based on individuals I know in true life with a bit innovativeness in fiction stories, but stick to actuality in a non-fiction story while writing it.

Can you talk about a recent project you've worked on and the challenges you faced while writing it?

Currently, I am writing a screenplay about my memoir “Middle Child.” In a non-fiction story, I am always concern for others’ feelings. I feel that their insight of the story should be told by themselves. Therefore, I did not use real names which allowed me to stick with the facts as I remembered them.

What do you think is the most important element of a great screenplay?

Two elements of a screenplay are very important to make a great story and they are Dialogue and Action. The story is none effective without both. What you say and how you say it through Action make a great story.

How do you feel about the current state of the film industry and the role of screenwriters in it?

I am not the expert and do not have the working experience in the field. But I support WGA and happy to know that there is an agreement. I always felt that the screenwriters were underpaid. They are the backbone of every story and should be respected and properly paid.

How do you approach writing for different genres and audiences?

I approach any writing with diversity. The world is filled with many diverse-cultures and I love to use as many of them in all my stories from my international travels and experiences. I also wish to reach all audiences. I avoid cursing or using unnecessary offensive words, yet getting the message out clearly.

How do you handle feedback and criticism?

I love and encourage getting candid feedback. It makes me a better writer. It helps me to ask the right questions and to enhance my work. I would send my work to friends and pros, looking forward to their candid feedback.

Can you talk about any upcoming projects or collaborations you're excited about?

I expect to hear from a producer soon for a late fall date for a full production of my award-winning musical play, Maggie: Never Bitter. It is a family-faith fiction drama about a young teacher who learns her father is dying and becomes prey to deranged stepmother. I wrote and published 16 songs for the story. One song won Best Song and Vocalist awards in 2023. All songs can be heard on YouTube and sold on iTunes.

How do you see the role of screenwriting evolving in the future?

Without screenwriters there would be no films. The world is looking forward to more stories. It may take a little more time, but I feel strongly that screenwriters will be treated with respected as they should and paid accordingly.

What advice would you give to aspiring screenwriters?

I would tell an aspiring screenwriter to Keep-on writing your story the way you see and feel it. Keep-up with current guidelines. Always seek feedback.