Interview with Bo Shim, 2016 recipient of the Michael Collyer Fellowship in Screenwriting

1. When did you know you were a “writer?”

Honestly, I still get self-conscious saying I’m a “writer.” I think it was in high school that I realized I enjoyed creative writing. It was in college that I learned ways to become a better writer. But it wasn’t until I was about to graduate college that I started to think of myself as a writer. It took some encouragement from some really supportive professors and the realization that I wanted to continue to do this beyond school for me to know.

2. When did you know screenwriting was something you wanted to seriously pursue? Do you write in any other genres?

I applied early decision for the Dramatic Writing Program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts so screenwriting was definitely something I wanted to learn. I don’t think it was until senior year of college that I realized it was something I really wanted to commit to pursuing. Because there isn’t a set path to becoming a screenwriter, it was scary and hard to envision what pursuing it actually meant. But once I admitted that this was what I wanted to do most, I knew I had to give it a try. The Dramatic Writing Program had cross concentrations in playwriting, screenwriting and writing for television so I was fortunate to be exposed to all of those forms, but I mainly focus on screenwriting.

3. What is your writing process like?

I’ll email myself ideas, lines of dialogue, characters, etc. And eventually I’ll organize those random notes into something more coherent in the form of an outline. Once I have a detailed outline, I’ll start writing pages. Sometimes, in the process of writing pages, I’ll realize I need to go back to the outline and figure things out. I wish I had a straightforward, clean process but there are many, many Google docs and Word docs involved…

4. What do you think makes a good story and what kinds of stories are you drawn to?

I think a good story is one that leaves you with a feeling. Even when it’s over, and even if you may not remember all the details of the plot years later, you still remember how that story made you feel. I’m particularly drawn to stories about familial relationships – the complicated dynamics and the unique histories between family members. I’m also a sucker for a good love story.

5. What are some of your favorite books? Movies?

I just finished Normal People – the book and the series – and I’ve been obsessed with it. One of my favorite movies is Still Walking by Hirokazu Koreeda. Recently I’ve been re-watching a lot of my favorite of rom-coms which includes all the ones with JLo (Maid in Manhattan, The Wedding Planner), Sandra Bullock (The Proposal) and Kate Hudson (How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days).

6. What’s the most surprising or interesting thing you have learned from writing?

After finishing a script you’d think the next one might come a little easier. But every time I start a new project I’m always thinking to myself, “How did I write the last one…?”

7. What is your “writing quirk?”

I create way too many Google docs or Word docs while outlining and I’ll keep all of them. I’m probably a file hoarder.

8. What did you learn and accomplish during the course of the Collyer fellowship?

I wrote a feature inspired by true events that required extensive research. It took me a while to realize that I was getting too bogged down in the research and not focusing on the story. Or perhaps I was using research as a way to feel like I was working on the script when in fact it was just more procrastination. I still have a habit of doing that sometimes but I’m definitely more mindful of it now. I also learned the importance of getting to the end and actually finishing the script. It’s so tempting to keep tinkering with the pages you already have instead of writing new pages. But it’s just another procrastination tactic. I’ve had to make a conscious effort to be okay with writing imperfect scenes and know that they can be fixed later.

9. What have you been working on since you completed the fellowship?

This past year I participated in The Black List x Women in Film Feature Residency and workshopped one of my scripts. I’m currently working on two new feature projects.

10. Do you have any advice, guidance or tips for writers?

Keep writing and have patience. It may take some time to get to where you want to be and that’s okay. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. Everyone’s path will look different and it’s not a race of who gets there fastest. It’s about making sure you are prepared when that moment comes for you.

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