Screenwriter Spotlight: Finalist Cydney Octavia
Chicago Screenplay Awards Questionnaire
By Chicago Screenplay Awards Dept.
What’s your name? Where were you born? Where do you live? And what’s your hobby?
Cydney Octavia Williams, but I go by Cydney Octavia. I was born on the southside of Chicago, and lived the majority of my life in the western suburbs. Since covid, playing my electric bass has provided enjoyment and a productive outlet.
Where did you come up with the concept that just placed as Finalist in the screenplay contest? How long did it take you to develop it into the screenplay it is now?
I’ve driven for Lyft for over 5 years now, so I just expanded on a prior incident with a rider.
From concept to finished draft, can you take us through your screenwriting process?
With most of my shorts I’ll think and rethink how I want to tell the story before putting something on the page. 75-80% of the script is written out in my mind, and once I start writing, the other 25% are add-ons or takeaways.
When did you realize that you wanted to become a screenwriter?
While in the Creative Writing program at Chicago State University. Fortunately, one of the professors offered me a graduate assistantship, aiding in the Communication, Media, Arts, and Theater office where I met and studied under Christine Houston who is the creator of the 80’s sitcom 227. Before then I never knew or comprehended there were writers for film and television, let alone a program offered at the school. I was truly grateful for that position, because being stuck in graduate classes with all poets was like being lost in a forest when all you know is city living.
Who are your biggest filmmaking/screenwriting influences? What about their style do you like or borrow?
Big influences come from Spike Lee, Lena Waithe, Issa Rae, Ava DuVernay, Donald Glover, Shonda Rhimes, and many others. Spike, Lena, Issa, and Donald all have their own unique ways of adding humor and depth to the race relations here in the US. With Ava her characters are rich and the cinematography is vibrant. Shonda just knocks it out the park with hit after hit and has the longevity that all creatives strive to have.
Have you ever been obsessed with a movie or TV show? If so, which one? Why?
Girlfriends by Mara Brock Akil. While it was on air I never gave the show much thought, but when all I had was my cell phone with no television in my apartment, these 4 women, Joan, Toni, Maya, and Lynn along with their male counterpart, William had me forget I was watching on a 5 inch screen in hysterics. Not only were the women gorgeous, but they reminded me of my highschool friends and I. I was definitely a mix of William and Lynn.
What’s your favorite moment in cinema history? Why?
Being a finalist in this competition. It’s been a while, possibly over 10 years since I’ve had any validation with my work, and I was questioning if I should keep pursuing my dream of being a professional writer hours before seeing this email.
Who’s your favorite character in cinema history? Why?
Will Smith, as Alex Hitchens in the movie Hitch. He was this nerdy, wears his heart on his sleeve guy, who’s first love breaks his heart when caught cheating. Afterwards he turns into this womanizer, even though he’s a dating coach helping guys who are looking for true love. The parallels between the movie and my own life are comical and a little scary, but like Alex told his clients, eventually taking heed to his own advice which was, “Live everyday as if it were on purpose”, has been my motto since first viewing it.
If you could talk to anyone from any era, who would it be and what would you ask them?
George Walker and Bert Williams. I would like to ask both gentlemen how it felt to have to darken their own black skin with burnt cork in order to do what they love, entertain.