Script brings you behind the scenes to get to know our family of contributors on a more personal level. Meet Rebecca Norris, author of Writers on the Web.
Rebecca Norris is an award-winning writer, director, producer, and actor, and owner of the production company Freebird Entertainment. Her most recent film, On Becoming A Man, continues to find success on the festival circuit, with a selection to the Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner, and wins for Best Comedy Short at the IFS Film Festival and Best Short Film at the Athens Jewish Film Festival. Her short Toasted won the Audience Choice Award at the ShortsNonStop Festival in Toronto and was a finalist in the Dances With Films Festival’s 2-Minute, 2-Step Screenplay Competition, where it was produced with sponsorship from Canon and Adobe. She's currently working on Split, a thriller/soap web series that she co-wrote, co-produced, and directed. Much of her work has found distribution on television, DVD, online platforms, and has aired on PBS.
What was the first movie you ever remember seeing or the one that made the most impact on you as a child?
The Wizard of Oz. My parents taped it off of TV and I watched it over and over again. Over the years it was always entertaining to see how dated the old commercials became! I still remember the Jell-O Pudding Pop commercial on there. Man, I miss pudding pops.
What’s your favorite movie of all time?
The Shawshank Redemption. It has nearly every type of genre—drama, comedy, crime thriller, mystery, heartfelt buddy movie, redemption story. A true rollercoaster ride.
What word or scenario do you never want to see in a screenplay again?
The female characters solely described by their level of attractiveness: usually “Gorgeous,” “Beautiful,” “Hot,” “Attractive,” or a “MILF” while the male characters have a full character description. Happens more often than one might think, and both men and women are guilty of it!
What profession did your parents want you to have?
My dad thought I should go into sales. I have no idea where he got that idea, because I was more on the quiet side growing up. Back in the Midwest, it was all about getting a “good job” and getting married and having four kids. When I told them I wanted to study theater and film and move to Hollywood, they were not pleased! They’re on board now though. : )
What profession, other than your current one, would you like to try if you could have a do-over?
If I had it to do over I would have taken voice lessons and learned to play guitar. I think it would have been really fun to be a singer and musician and play in a band.
What drew you to the entertainment industry and specifically, why did you want to help writers?
I started off as an actress; acting helped bring me out of my shell and allowed me to become more talkative and make friends. However, I realized after a while that I didn’t like the lack of creative freedom I felt when I was acting, and I didn’t enjoy the audition process. I felt like I had to constantly please and get the approval of others before I could perform my art. With writing, I perform my art first, and I don’t need an audience. All I need is my laptop. Then later I put my writing out there. It’s much more liberating to get to be creative on my terms.
I love helping writers because writing and producing my own work has been such a creative awakening for me. I found skills and confidence I didn’t know I had. It opened up a new world of possibilities in my life, and I enjoy encouraging other writers to open up new doors for themselves as well.
Tell us something we don’t know about you.
I’m a very fast runner...yet I can also be quite clumsy. I have tripped and fallen while running on numerous occasions. One time I knocked out one of my front teeth. Last year I ran too fast down a hill and wiped out into some bushes and tall grass, covering myself in scrapes and bruises (ouch).
Life lesson: Don’t run if you’re clumsy!
What do you wish you knew about the industry before you jumped in?
The old cliché that your career is a marathon, not a sprint, is so true. It can be painful to watch others progress quickly while you’re struggling. But I truly believe if you keep at something, you will eventually have your day in the sun. Quick success is not necessarily lasting success. You’ll appreciate and better handle your success once you’ve earned it. If you spend the amount of time thinking about what others are doing thinking about your own work, you’ll get where you want to go a lot faster.
If you could impart only one piece of knowledge onto writers, what would it be?
The quality of your writing and your presentation is the only thing you can completely control. You can’t control people’s reactions to your work, if someone’s going to buy or option your script, or if someone’s going to produce it. But you can become the best possible writer you can, and also present a polished, typo-free screenplay. Working in development, I can’t tell you how many ‘professional’ scripts I read that are riddled with misspellings, words with missing letters, sentences with missing words, and sentences with missing punctuation. I’m not talking one or two small typos, I’m talking dozens. There’s no excuse for this.
To give an analogy, my fiancé and I have been going to a lot of open houses on weekends lately, in preparation for buying our own place one day. Last weekend we visited two open houses. In one home, the walls had dark scratches all over them, and the carpet had huge stains. The rooms were all empty and the floors were dirty. The other home, in contrast, had been freshly painted, was spotless, and the rooms were thoughtfully staged to show off the potential of the house.
Which open house (and realtor) do you think left a better impression on us?
Since the written word is the writer’s only instrument, make sure your script is polished and gives off the best first impression it can before sending it out.
If you could go back in time and talk to your 18-year-old self, what advice would you give? (it doesn't have to be about writing)
Another oldie but goodie: You can’t change people, you can only change yourself. I think my 18-year-old self would have been spared a lot of grief with that vital information! Also, my favorite quote is: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them; the first time” by Maya Angelou. It never fails to be true yet often I forget to heed its advice!
If you have any other fun tidbits you want to add, go for it!
- I was a gymnast for many years and can still do a killer cartwheel (although last time I hurt myself doing one…wha?)
- I’m a good blues singer!
- I’m a Route 66 enthusiast
- I’m a recovering HGTV addict—I don’t turn it on much anymore lest I be sucked into 5 straight hours of HOUSE HUNTERS
Get more web series advice in Rebecca Norris' webinar
Writing the Web Series