An Interview with our 2023 Script Development Fund Winner Christy Smith-Sloman

By: Laura Huie

 

Christy Smith-Sloman is a New York City-based playwright, screenwriter, and journalist who won second place in our 2023 Script Development Fund with her feature TO BE YOUNG, GIFTED & BLACK; THE LORRAINE HANSBERRY STORY. The script tells the story of barrier-breaking playwright Lorraine Hansberry who makes Broadway history while exploring her sexuality in bohemian 1960s Greenwich Village against a backdrop of repression, homophobia, and conventionality.

 

Keep reading to learn more about what inspired Christy to write her script, and why she decided to enter Shore’s Script Development Fund.

 

The Beginning

 

When asked what inspired her to start writing, Christy had always harbored a deep love for writing from a young age. As a fourth grader, she found herself drawn to the school newspaper, an interest influenced by her father’s avid newspaper reading habits. Journalism became her initial career path, a means to support herself financially. However, her true passion was always in screenwriting, a field she pursued fervently despite its lack of financial stability.

 

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What Inspired Her Feature Script

 

The script, titled To Be Young, Gifted, and Black: The Lorraine Hansberry Story, delves into the life of groundbreaking playwright Lorraine Hansberry. In 1959, Hansberry made history as the first Black female playwright to have a Broadway production with her renowned play, A Raisin in the Sun. The narrative of Christy’s script follows Hansberry as she navigates her sexuality and the vibrant yet oppressive landscape of 1960s Greenwich Village.

 

Hansberry’s story, often overlooked by many, captivated Christy due to its complexity. In fact, Hansberry’s struggles and triumphs resonated deeply with Christy.

“Most people have no idea who she is or her story at all, and I just really connected with her. We’re both African American women, we’re both playwrights, we’re both journalists, and we both dropped out of the college after two years and moved to New York City for a different type of education.”

 

One aspect that enriched the writing process was delving into Hansberry’s relationships with prominent figures like James Baldwin and Nina Simone. Through portraying these connections, the playwright discovered parallels between the management of Simone’s career by her husband and Hansberry’s similar dynamic with her spouse, unveiling the intricate dynamics of power and partnership in their lives.

 

Digging into Historical Research

 

Christy immensely enjoyed the research process, spending the majority of her time immersing herself in historical sources. About two years have passed since she first embarked on writing this feature, with the bulk of her efforts dedicated to gathering information.

 

One of their invaluable resources is the New York Times Time Machine, a digital archive that allows users to access historical articles and photographs. Through this tool, Christy unearthed a treasure trove of articles dating back to the 1950s, including the original review of Lorraine Hansberry’s play.

 

“I love history and I’m a journalist as well, so it’s a nice way to combine both of these mediums that I love.”

 

Submitting to the Development Fund

 

Feeling the need for honest and constructive feedback to elevate her work, Christy sought avenues to improve without breaking the bank. The affordability and accessibility of feedback were paramount considerations, especially in an industry where comprehensive coverage reports could cost hundreds of dollars and writers don’t get to work one-on-one with a reader.

 

After deciding to submit the first ten pages of her script to the Script Development Fund, Christy admitted to initially forgetting about the entry, assuming it would likely result in a standard rejection. However, receiving unexpected recognition from the contest propelled her forward, igniting a renewed sense of motivation.

 

“I just thought ‘Why not?’ It was only the first 10 pages. I actually completely forgot that I entered the contest. I figured that if I didn’t hear anything, I’m sure I wasn’t picked. So now, this has really geared me up, to say the least.”

 

Working with Our Head of Development

 

One of the prizes for placing in first or second place in our Script Development Fund is that our Head of Education and Script Development, Lee Hamilton, offers support with script development over 12 months. When asked about how the process is going, Christy said:

“I’m having such a great time working with Lee. It’s like a dream come true. Writing a screenplay is such a lonely endeavor. And it’s even harder to get anybody to read it. […] Her notes have been completely spot on and she’s really helping me elevate my script.”

 

Advice to Other Emerging Writers

 

We asked Christy if she had a piece of advice that she would give to other emerging writers, this is what she had to say:

 

“I recommend reading as many screenplays as you can, especially a screenplay that you love and know very well. It provides a whole new experience of seeing how the story is on the page versus how it played out on screen. I believe it’s more helpful than almost any screenwriting class you can take. That’s the education in itself.”

 

Submit Your Script to the 2024 Script Development Fund!

 

Find the precious time needed to not only finish your screenplay but to also provide you with the support to craft your very best story. Our Cash Prizes will allow you to go on a writer’s retreat, take time off work, find a babysitter, or spend in any other way that our Winners see fit to help them find the time to write.

 

On top of that, our Head of Education and Script Development is there to support you with script development on your screenplay every step of the way for 12 months. That time, and our expert championing you and your work, will help you not only finish your screenplay but allow you to write your best piece of work ever.

 

Plus, you only have to submit a treatment or the first ten pages of a script! Learn more about our Script Development fund here.

 

Watch Laura’s interview with Christy over on our YouTube Channel.

 


Laura Huie is a writer and editor involved in comedy-drama screenwriting, fiction editing, and full-time marketing copy. Laura is also a freelance article writer for Shore Scripts and has worked with Script Pipeline on their live Symposium series. She is one-half of the screenwriting duo, Bloom & Huie. Together, they have written multiple television series as well as a feature-length film. Their mission is to write honest and witty female stories wrapped up in unbelievable worlds.

 

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