Chloe Owens wrote the incredible short script, IN ONE SPLIT SECOND, which won the shorts category of the Diverse Voices competition. It is about small crime that creates ripple effects in a neighborhood that brings devastating consequences, pushing race relations and expectations. Our judges were really moved by how much emotion was packed into this extremely relevant script – an amazing read from start to finish.
Why did you write your winning script? What inspired the concept?
I wrote In One Split Second for two main reasons. The first being a reaction to feeling helpless. How could I BEST lift up my voice to the relentless news of police killings of unarmed black people around the country? From the sweet 12 year-old Tamir Rice who was playing in a park with his toy gun; to Sandra Bland who went to jail for failing to signal when changing lanes – and winds up dead; to Eric Garner whose infamous last words were “I can’t breathe” when three cops towered over – choking him – for no justifiable reason. With each of those cases, if any of those people were white, it is likely they would still be alive. I wanted to make a creative message that addressed this perception of black men. I also didn’t want the story to end depressing, I wanted something that made you think optimistically about solutions to this problem we have in our country. My second reason for writing a short film, is because I hope to actually make this script come to life. To create a visually-impactful short film that could be entered into contests and win awards. But also a video with the intention to be shared digitally. Digital is how most of the younger generation watches videos. I hope to create a moving piece, interesting enough to share; because it may influence a young person to choose non-violence in real life.
Who was the first person you told when you found out you won Diverse Voices?
Twitter I believe, then my dad, then Facebook. Interesting caveat, after my FB post my Aunt Donna asked to read my script. Unbeknownst to me, she passed it to her husband my Uncle Reggie who text me the next day "Hey Chloe, I just read your script and wanted you to know that I loved it! What a great story, it really hit home for me, in fact I couldn't put it down! I hope you are proud of yourself because I am sure proud of you!…Love Uncle Reggie". Due to life. I haven't heard from my Uncle Reggie in several months, and getting this message from a very hard-working, strong black man – it not only made my day, but reminded me why I wrote this story in the first place.
What types of stories do you like to read or watch? What type of stories do you like to write?
It is a major two-fold, something I’m constantly torn between with my writing projects. First, I am a huge sci-fi nerd. I watch a ton of fantasy shows and tend to read a lot of those scripts. I’m drawn into writing what I want to see on TV, so I lean towards action-fantasy. I’ve often been met with surprise when I tell people this, because apparently most women don’t write action. Personally I love it. That being said, I think I have a real gift to create gritty storylines with relatable characters. I excel at capturing urban voices and providing narratives that thread inner-struggles of diverse backgrounds. I can step into seedier worlds often forgotten, and provide vivid images that people relate and learn from. Both are fun for me to write, but it depends on what head space I am currently in – which is why I go back and forth.
If you had one piece of advice to give other writers, what would it be?
Work in the industry for a little bit (to understand it); then quit and focus on your writing – while you work a shitty (but flexible) paying job to keep you motivated. This advice is targeted for people of color, as I think white people often have an easier time getting those coveted writer assistant jobs, or staff jobs. That’s a great route to go if you can network into one of those jobs. But for me I would settle on the random executive assistant jobs, that never helped me as a writer, and I didn’t fit with. Regardless of color, if you are a creative person, you need to have your creative space, or the creative doesn’t have a chance to really spark. That’s awfully hard to do, when you are working 14 hours at an office hating your life. But this is the stage I am in right now, I’ve only recently adopted this philosophy, and I’m in the crux of a transition. Fingers crossed it is the right choice!
How do you feel about the current state of diversity in entertainment? Do you feel like Hollywood is making improvements or only digging its heals into the way of the past?
This contest has given me hope. Knowing Ava DuVernay is out there, (and now Oscar nominated) about to direct on of my favorite books of all time – gives me hope. Knowing Issa Rae is on HBO gives me hope. However, I think the problem is so systemically deep, it will take a long time to remedy. I could say A LOT more on the subject, but I don’t want to offend anybody. What I can say, is that after this infamous election, I’ve never been prouder of the state of California and the reaction from Hollywood with their stance towards equality. Plus I’m extremely grateful to be involved as a WeScreenplay winner, and the assistance they've set out to do. I plan to work harder as a writer, so I may uplift voices of many.
What are the big and little successes you've had with writing?
One of my most exciting moments, was when I was in NYC casting for a webseries I had written. I had rented out this rather large theater, and was shocked at how many actors were there for the audition. It was very exciting hearing my words, portrayed by real actors. I knew I found the lead actress, when I was so moved, I found myself crying to her performance. She was incredibly talented and breathed life into my main character. After the webseries came out, I got dozens of emails from young women, saying they could relate to my series, and thank you for creating. It confirmed that I had a gift with connecting to others by the stories I think in my head. One guy even told me he was my "biggest fan", I’ll never forget that.
Have you ever thought about giving writing up? Why didn't you?
I’ve never thought about giving up writing, I think its part of my purpose for being here on earth. However, I have thought often about leaving L.A. and I was at a real turning point a few months ago, trying to decide if I should stay here. I’ve worked a great deal in the industry, predominantly as an EA/Coordinator, and I wasn’t happy. I’ve only recently made an inner-choice, that working in the industry (the business side) is not my path – not even for a day job. It should be left for people who want to become Executives, not people who want to write. And so I may be poor for awhile, (not that I was making lots of money prior) but at least I’m mentally re-focusing on what makes me happy, which is crafting film and TV stories. I will say, that I’m more prepared for once the project gets picked up – for the next stages of notes, and “development hell” as I’ve witnessed that side of things being an assistant. I’m actually really looking forward to that!
What's the most important part of your writing process?
Getting the first draft done, is THE most important part. Recently I’ve taken some time off to write this pilot that I’m so stoked about. I’m right in the thick of it, so time goes fast. Imagining it, simmering on it, then cranking them words out; that’s my favorite part. The first drafts are always horrendous, but you can’t do anything without it. So I tell myself “get it done”, it’s a numbers game, and I need to write 5 pages a day. I’m trying to stick to that currently, so I may have my rough first draft of a pilot in two weeks. Whenever I finish the first draft I glow, because I know once I’ve reached the end, the real writing begins for me. I love that part; draft two is always so much more fun then the first draft. The whole process to me is so exciting, I go into a “writer zone” and I don’t want to do anything but write (plus research) its so fun, and I hope I get to make a living doing this one day.
Where will you be as a writer a decade from today?
Besides making a good living as a writer which is HUGE in my books. In ten years I hope to be a writer, who has successfully created powerful characters particularly for women and people of color. Stories that will spread into our consciousness; film and TV shows that I can be proud of. Also I’d like to imagine myself binge watching the franchises I’ve written; on a massive TV in my bedroom, drinking wine. That would be sweet.