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Oscar-Nominated Screenwriter Shares Advice with 8th Grade Theater Students

Friday, March 16, 2018

“Let yourself fail and do bad work at first, and know that a good idea will come 20 ideas in.”

That was just one piece of advice for aspiring artists offered to Heathwood’s 8th grade Musical Theater students by Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Lucy Alibar when she skyped with them on March 16.

Speaking from New York, where she’s currently working on a script rewrite, Alibar, who studied at Carnegie Mellon University with Heathwood drama teacher Jonathan Monk, talked about her experiences as both a struggling writer and a successful one, and noted that not being afraid to fail or look foolish was probably the character trait that was most instrumental in her own success.

Alibar was nominated for an Oscar as co-writer of Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012). She has also written an adaptation of the classic children’s novel The Secret Garden that’s being produced by Disney and directed by Guillermo del Toro and is working on a movie for Amazon starring Viola Davis.

Despite all her recent success, she plainly remembers what it was like to be a young Southerner with artistic ambitions (she hails from the Florida panhandle), and advised the aspiring writers in the room to start writing as much as they can now to build a stock of material they can draw on going forward. “The great thing about living in the South is that you’re going to have amazing stories to tell just about going to the grocery store,” she said.

The 8th grade musical theater students are learning about creative collaboration and are in the early stages of a group project where they’ll work together to develop a musical production, with each specializing in one aspect—lighting design, set design, costumes, dramaturgy, etc. With so many moving parts, noted Mr. Monk, it can be hard to know where to start.

Alibar could sympathize. And that, she said, is why it’s important to be comfortable with failure. “If you can embrace being bad at what you’re doing at first,” she noted, you’ll at least be able to get started, and then, somewhere in the messy middle, “the good idea will come.”