Creative Screenwriting Magazine spoke with screenwriter Lynn Maxcy to discuss her writing journey. Lynn Renee Maxcy is a writer on the Emmy Award-winning series The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu), for which she won two Writers Guild of America awards. Her debut feature The Complex shoots in the UK in 2019. She splits her time between Los Angeles & London with her husband and their mini labradoodle.
HOW YOUNG AND HOW HUNGRY DO YOU NEED TO BE TO WIN A PLACE ON THE 2018 YOUNG & HUNGRY LIST?
Young and ravenous, maybe? I feel so lucky to be on the list with so many other crazy-good writers who are off making awesome things!
DESCRIBE YOUR UNIQUE PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND AND THE SPECIFIC PROJECT(S) THAT ATTRACTED INDUSTRY INTEREST?
I grew up in Denver (Colorado girl for life!) After university, my husband and I packed up our car and moved to LA at 23 with no jobs & no apartment with all the crazy dreams of making it in Hollywood. I worked on a lot of different television series in production offices & writers’ offices including Eureka (where I met my wonderful Handmaid’s Tale boss Bruce Miller), Alphas, and Covert Affairs working my way up, writing scripts on the side and drinking an inordinate amount of coffee.
I also spent almost two years at Heyday Films, right at the end of their Harry Potter run, which was (no excuse for the pun – I can’t even help myself) magic. All those different jobs gave me a ton of insight into the industry as a whole – and it all got poured into my pilot Tiberion (currently living in eternal development). Tiberion was my first script that really started attracting industry attention, and it was the script that got me into the writers’ room on The Handmaid’s Tale, the show that has forever changed my life and career.
WHAT PERSONAL QUALITIES DO SCREENWRITERS NEED TO MAKE IT?
#1 – Curiosity! There’s a saying “Write what you know,” which never quite worked for me with the stories I tell. (I have never traveled in time, lived in Gilead or run through London trying to avert a terrorist attack. Weird.) So I say “Write what you want to know.” Ask questions. Imagine. Learn from the amazing people around you. Do a ton of research. Figure it out.
#2 – Tenacity. Screenwriting can be a lot of long, lonely days, and you have to be willing to push through and create every single day.
#3 – Being an awesome human. When you sell a project or are writing on a TV show, you will spend twelve hours a day (plus thousands of phone calls and emails) with the same people. Be someone others want to work with and want to spend time with. Kindness goes a long way.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO BECOME A SCREENWRITER ABOVE ALL OTHER CAREERS?
I decided to become a writer when I was 8 because, if you gave me a choice between writing and breathing, I’d honestly have to think about it. But it wasn’t until I was in my first TV writers’ room and discovered the collaboration with other writers, followed by lots of time alone to write… followed by more collaboration with the incredible artists in production that I knew – screenwriting was the way I wanted to spend my life and tell my stories.
HOW DO YOU BECOME AGENT/MANAGER BAIT?
This might be a better question for my agents and manager! But in my experience, WRITE. A lot. Meet a lot of people. And learn. If you have a lot of solid scripts, more ideas for the future – and a pretty good idea of what your own career goals are, it makes it much easier for agents/managers to know how they can best team up with you to help create the career you want. Then, remember you’re all in this together – show up and do the work. Ultimately, you’re the one responsible for your own career.
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR CREATIVE INSPIRATION?
Everywhere I go. My friends and colleagues all over the world inspire me every day – I have a constant list of recommended books and podcasts and music and interviews from them I can’t wait to dig into (What are YOU reading right now?) I have lists of questions I’m still trying to find the answers to. I spend 95% of my time in Los Angeles and London — and I’ve barely scratched the surface of both cities, with all the stories and voices there. Plus, I spend all day in a writers’ room with the best, most creative humans I’ve ever met – they keep me on my toes!
HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHICH IDEAS ARE WORTHY OF PURSUING?
When I wake up every morning thinking about an idea – that’s the one!
DO YOU HAVE A WRITING BRAND IN TERMS OF INTERESTS YOU GRAVITATE TOWARDS?
Yes! I live in the worlds of sci-fi, speculative fiction, and girl-with-gun spy stories. And if they’re set in the US or the UK, so much the better. I am drawn to stories where No matter how dark it seems, there is always hope, stories of connection and adventure that remind us we were never meant to make it through the world alone.
HOW DO CHARACTERIZE THE CURRENT STATE OF THE INDUSTRY AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR EMERGING WRITERS?
I think right now, particularly with the growth of streaming services, there are incredible opportunities for rich, complex, interesting storytelling from screenwriters from an enormous diversity of backgrounds, and it’s awesome. It’s also becoming more global – there are stories being written and produced all over the world for a wider audience.
HOW DO YOU TRAIN AND IMPROVE YOUR WRITING CRAFT?
Honestly? I take big swings and fail a lot, then I try to not fail the next time around. I write for my job and for fun – I’m constantly trying to do new things I’ve never tried before, just for the sheer joy of it. Most recently, I started publishing six-word stories as an exercise in concise storytelling, and I’ve just finished writing a choose-your-own-adventure, branching narrative feature. (170+ script pages = approximately 10381 cups of coffee.)
WHAT ARE THE QUALITIES OF SCRIPTS YOU READ THAT DON’T GET INDUSTRY INTEREST?
From my development background, I think if a screenwriter doesn’t deeply care about the story, that comes through on the page – and then other people tend to overlook it as well. But sometimes, even a kickass script can still get overlooked. It’s frustrating – but totally part of the game.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR SCREENWRITERS WANTING TO MAKE NEXT YEAR’S YOUNG & HUNGRY LIST?
The world needs your voice and your storytelling, so please, please just keep writing!
WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT FEW PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT YOU?
I am a serious NASA and JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratories) fangirl. They’re explorers and adventurers – and they share those beautiful images and scientific advancements with us all the time. My own personal soapbox is that science and art really do belong together (STEM fields and storytelling!) and I think NASA and JPL totally crush it. And the thought of an entire universe we’ve barely started to figure out makes my brain melt in the best way.