Cindy McCreery: Assistant Professor of Screenwriting in the Department of Radio-TV-Film at The University of Texas at Austin

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Bio:

Cindy McCreery is an Assistant Professor of Screenwriting in the Department of Radio-TV-Film at The University of Texas at Austin.  Previously she taught screenwriting at UC Santa Barbara and The UCLA Professional Program in Screenwriting.  She is a graduate of the Walt Disney/ABC Feature Writing Fellowship program and has sold feature projects to New Line Cinema, Walt Disney Studios, Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, National Geographic Films, Warner Brothers, MGM and most recently Branded Entertainment.  

She has also written two original movies for The Disney Channel.  In the Spring of 2014 she co-wrote two episodes of the SyFy series, “Haven” based on Steven King’s short story, “The Colorado Kid”.  In the Fall of 2015 she sold the one hour drama, “PARKER” based on the Richard Stark/Donald Westlake Novels, to TNT and is currently finishing the third episode.  In December of 2015, she and her TV-writing partner, Scott Shepherd were hired to adapt the book, The Seventh Day (written by Shepherd).  She and Shepherd are co-writing all ten episodes for Televisa USA.  Together Shepherd and McCreery have a blind pilot deal with NBC/Universal. 

What do you do best?

Making up stories and getting into the minds of characters.  

What makes you the best?

I’m definitely not the best!  Not even close.  I’ve never had trouble being prolific in my writing and I find helping my students work through their stories comes very naturally to me.  I’m currently juggling twenty six of my student’s stories, several thesis projects and five of my own projects – managing to keep all of these stories straight comes easy for me, but I do drink a lot of coffee.  Basically, I make stuff up and luckily I’ve found two careers where that ability fits – teaching writing and being a writer.  

What are your aspirations?

I aspire to make a difference with my writing.  Screenwriting can be very unrewarding because there are so many different challenges.  First, to just sell a script is hard but then that isn’t enough because you now have to get it made.   There’s the struggle not to be replaced by another writer and if you’re not replaced, hoping and praying those who hired you aren’t!  Then, if all goes well, there’s the struggle to actually see your work made into a film or Television show, which can be impossible, even after you’ve sold the work.  I would love to write a story and see it made that I can not only be proud of, but could be the type of work that inspires and promotes change.  I also aspire this with my own students, to help guide them into thoughtful and creative writers who create work that has something to say about the world.  Even some of the most successful movies written for kids can make a difference — look at FINDING NEMO – a story about a dad learning to let go and allow his son to grow up.  

Biggest Success?

Besides my marriage and two amazing kids, probably getting into the Disney Feature Writing Fellowship.  This success really was the beginning for both my paths into professional writing and also teaching at the University level.  It’s amazing how one shot can snowball.  

Most Challenging Moment?

After the Writer’s Strike, it seemed like my career had lost a lot of momentum.  Prior to the strike I was working in Hollywood and doing everything I had dreamed of.  Felt like I was right on track, but then it all came to a halt.  Honestly, before the strike I was feeling restless as the business worked so incredibly slow, at least for me.  I have always been very hard working and I thrive on being busy.  The screenwriters life just wasn’t as fulfilling as I had hoped — getting a big check for something that never was made, felt false and unworthy. It was during this time that I realized just how much I loved teaching.  I had been teaching one screenwriting course a year at UC Santa Barbara and this was always my favorite time of the year. So I applied for a faculty position at The University of Texas at Austin on a whim, certain nothing would come of it.  And luckily, I was offered the job and have found the meaning that was missing in my writing life.  

Favorite Motto?

My mom has always said to me, my entire life, “Attitude is Everything.” which I would honestly roll my eyes at… yeah okay mom, whatever you say.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that she was and is right.  Attitude is Everything.   Whether you’re stuck in a crummy job, stuck in traffic or stuck in a terrible illness, a positive attitude can do wonders and make life more bearable.  Being grateful for what you have, even if it’s not exactly what you had hoped for can make all the difference in your life.  It’s not always easy to have a good attitude and it’s probably not healthy to not allow yourself to feel anger, frustration and annoyance, but to not dwell and always think the world is against you can make all the difference in all parts of your life.  

Favorite People?

Wow – so many.  Too many to name and each for different unique reasons.  Favorite screenwriter – Nora Ephron.  Favorite Food Network Star – The Barefoot Contessa.  Favorite musician – Dolly Parton because I really just want to be her best friend.  Favorite movie reviewer – David Denby.  Favorite Comedian – Steve Martin.   Consistently my favorite celebrity who I have always looked up to - Gilda Radner because she was funny, kind and brave.     My husband and kids are my top three favorite people and I’m not just saying that.  They probably won’t even read this.  

Favorite Places?

On a paddle-board in the middle of a lake surrounded by pine trees and mountain peaks.     

Favorite Products?

When someone says “Product” I think they’re referring to shampoo.  I’m assuming that’s not the case.  I love the record player my husband gave me for Christmas and the collection of comedy records I’m slowly building.  I’m also madly in love with my Martin acoustic guitar even though I’m in no way worthy enough to play it.  I also have a weakness for old cameras and have a pretty large collection.  

Current Passions:

I’m currently reading “The Notorious RBG”, a biography about Ruth Bader Ginsburg that has been all consuming in my brain.  The Amazon Prime show, “Mozart in the Jungle”–  I’m obsessed with right now.   Not sure it would qualify as a passion but I do love watching my kids play in their basketball leagues and going on long hikes with my husband and dog.  I wish I had a more exciting answer for this question.  Maybe my new passion should be finding a cooler passion.  Wait, writing….that is always my passion!  Right?!  Oh boy.