Shannon Phipps never set out to be a screenwriter, never even entertained the notion. Then, one day in 2000, she watched the blockbuster movie The Sixth Sense. The superbly written plot sunk its tentacles into her creative mind, wound around her heart and pumped a craving into her veins. She too wanted to take audiences captive the way M. Night Shyamalan had with his script.
She too wanted to write for the screen.
But she had no idea how to begin.
“I really didn’t understand story structure or character building, but I knew that I wanted to create something that would leave people feeling glorious, the way I had felt that day,” she said.
Shannon also intrinsically understood the secret weapon for success:
When challenges come, she says, “you can react in two ways: say, ‘I can’t,’ or say, ‘How can I?’”
She chose the latter and took classes in screenwriting basics, listened to director commentaries on DVDs, read books, watched the Project Greenlight series – whatever she could to gain skills.
Just as she saw momentum, her can-do attitude smacked against the most brutal challenge of her life.
In 2008, her husband of 10 years left her. With two young children, no place to live, no full-time job and $11,000 in debt, Shannon was nearly consumed with rebuilding her life. She moved in with her parents and got serious about her finances.
Though it was a low point, she refused to lose her spirit. Step by painful step, she trudged forward, got out of debt and bought her own home.
Throughout it all, she never stopped dreaming or clinging to hope her dream would one day come true. She never stopped writing.
By 2010, she had managed to pull together enough money to travel from her home in Kansas to Los Angeles for the Screenwriters Expo, now called Story Expo. Despite pitching her script to a handful of people, she gained no interest from anyone.
“But, I didn’t count that trip a loss for a few reasons,” she said. “First, I learned from some of the best instructors, professors at UCLA Film School no less, and second, I met a ton of people in the industry. So I went home and wrote more.”
She became MORE serious about chasing her dream.
She enrolled in classes through the prestigious Gotham Writer’s Workshop in New York, where the spot-on feedback she received helped her hone her script.
She returned to the LA expo and made 13 pitches. Nearly half resulted in solid interest from industry people.
The door, so long shut tightly in her face, had begun to open.
“I signed on as a writing partner with a writer/director who directs for Lifetime and Hallmark,” Shannon says. “We currently have one polished spec script and seven other story treatments, four of which are at Hallmark/Lifetime as we wait to hear their fate.”
Meanwhile, she connected with an LA-based actor and producer named Caitlin Carleton. Together, they hatched a sketch comedy called Corporately Challenged about a 20-something young woman trying to find her way in a new job with a crazy group in corporate America.
A crowdfunding campaign for the show is underway, and Shannon hopes to begin filming the series later this summer in LA.
By the end of 2017, Shannon also hopes to have enough material to find an agent or manager to represent her.
Her attitude, combined with her Christian faith, makes Shannon more determined than ever to keep chasing after her dream.
“God is always faithful to me in every single thing,” she says. “If something doesn’t go my way, I know that it cannot be the best thing for my path. I’m not saying I’m not bummed, but I am looking for a greater purpose. Knowing God is always faithful keeps me on the journey.”
If she gave up now, she says, she would never make it.
“One hundred percent of all great scripts come from writers who chose not to give up,” she says. “They may have wanted to give up, but they chose to keep at it.”
Despite the hard times, the fails and the doubts. Despite how easy it would have been to walk away.
All choices she could have made, many times over. But she opted to keep the future in mind over the trials of the present.
“Be content in every stage of your journey,” she says to every dream chaser. “Discontent breeds discontent. Be amazed at how far you’ve come and hungry to see more progress.”
She is living proof faith and attitude are invaluable weapons in chasing your dreams.
This article is part of a summer series spotlighting the stories of my fellow dream chasers. Come back next week for another story.
If you want even more encouragement to find the courage to pursue you dream, order a copy of my new book Uncage My Brave: Pray Brave, Fly Free.
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