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Meet Anissa Morgan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Anissa Morgan.

Anissa, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My family reunions run the entire color spectrum. It’s a beautiful melting pot of everything. We have blue collar, white collar, brown collar and no-collar relatives all throughout the family tree. My grandfather grew up as a sharecropper and broke that cycle of poverty and became a successful entrepreneur. As first-generation college students, my father and mother both achieved successes that were unheard of. So, due to my upbringing, I “get it” when it comes to understanding the “how” and “why” behind my family’s obstacles, achievements and contagious optimism for life. Embracing those differences, extracting the best and learning from the worst can only make humanity stronger.

I grew up in an extended family of socializers. They spoke what they felt, voiced their pain in public, didn’t care if anyone heard them laugh at restaurants and easily befriended strangers. That wasn’t me. My journal was my confidant and “disappearing” was my ultimate superpower. I wasn’t so much enthralled with my story but more so with the mysterious stories of those around me. I was awed at how people managed to get through the vilest of circumstances and still be joyful in the midst of their personal tragedy. This was how I went through life – growing up juxtaposed between two identities: a misfit and a dreamer who just wanted to write the world that was presented to her. My southern heritage also prepared me for being “that black girl” who could easily “code-switch” in a community that didn’t always embrace my tinted caramel hue and in a way pushed me to dream bigger – think taller. I now look back and realize how far I’ve come – how I chased the dreams that as a child I often vented to my mom about. Although on my wall there are three college degrees bearing my name, it should bear the names of all those who came before me; as they were my inspiration and fortitude in completing my education. Even when it seemed like I couldn’t catch a break – I finally did. I got through it. I survived.

I’ve been discriminated against. I’ve also been the bully as well as the victim. I’ve failed classes and achieved Summa Cum Laude. I’ve moved across the country and I’ve had moments when I just wanted to “click my red heels” and go back to North Carolina. Being the oldest in my family gave me unbridled courage to be the example even when my road map was still blank. Working with disadvantaged youth in my community emboldened me to help the homeless and lessen the food insecurity crises in America. My faith gave me the wisdom needed to share what I’ve learned on my “journey of becoming.”

Telling stories that nudge individuals to shift their mindsets – or at least be open to new ones – is why I write. Maybe my words will open their hearts and give them the valor to be merciful, empathetic and passionate. I want to write content that gives people a feeling of optimism for their own situation. To me, writing is the most serious of professions because it creates change. It’s powerful, and anything that significant is worth protecting at all costs. With my preparation, life experiences and background, I stand ready to be that protector.

Has it been a smooth road?
Months leading up to grad school, I was excited to take my first film class with a man who wrote some of my favorite movies of all time. He was the professor everyone wanted to impress and I was no different. When I finally got to his class, the first prompt he gave us was to write an outline of a feature we wanted to develop during the semester. I worked on this outline day and night. When the time came, he called on me first. He flipped through my outline, reading it pretty fast. He looked at me and said, “Do you wanna know what I think?” I held my breath. He stood up and ripped the outline to shreds, in front of the entire class. I was mortified. He said, “This is not your best”. He proceeded to embarrass me further by saying, “If you don’t come in with something better by the next class, don’t bother showing up.” In that moment, I wanted to run right back home and pretend this day never existed. But I knew that wasn’t an option. I had to keep going, I had to prove him wrong. I was determined.
That whole weekend, I drove through the city, hoping I would get inspired by something. I wracked my brain until I finally I came across a short article online about tension rising in the west bank. It was only two lines but it was then that I saw a story evolving through my eyes. I wrote up an outline and the next class, he read it out loud. Everyone was quiet. He stood up and held the papers in his hand. I thought he was going to rip them again.

Instead, he smiled for the first time and said, “finally. Something real.” That professor ended up being my mentor in film school and a true friend. I finished that feature and I hope to one day see it brought to life on the big screen. By my professor ripping up my outline and calling me out, he actually prepared me to work harder and forced me to push myself beyond my limits. I didn’t think I could write that screenplay – in fact, I didn’t think I was even qualified to write about it. However, I think back on those nights of doing my research, calling up organizations, asking people to share their experiences and reading until my eyes gave out that I came to the conclusion that nothing is impossible if you refuse to give up. This informs my storytelling by writing content that speaks to the superhero in you that tells you to keep going even when you yourself feel unqualified.

Creating content that fuels people’s sheer desire to dare to experience a re-birth of sorts and “come alive” – becoming their best version is why I write. Forcing the viewer to identify and then probe the “dark spot” in their lives is where I want to take them. Whether that “dark spot” is their inability to forgive, their perceived underdog status in society, their guarded yearning for adventure, their unwillingness to love or hesitation to chase destiny – tapping into it will keep the film relevant and thought provoking. Whether brown or black, poor or disenfranchised, forgotten or ignored – those are the voices I capture in my writing. It’s imperative to demonstrate the personable truth in the film by depicting the struggle before the victory or illuminating the defeat despite the apparent triumph. Thus, enabling the viewer to tap into their dark spot of defeat, turmoil, victory and ultimate conquest. I hope I can do that with everything I write. I hope my life makes a difference for the next generations to come… because that’s the goal. Not to gain millions of dollars, millions of followers or millions of friends. But to be able to leave something on this earth that people can look back on and know that I once stood there. That I once created something beautiful.

Please tell us about your work.
My name is Anissa Morgan, and I am a recent graduate student at Chapman University obtaining my screenwriting MFA degree. I am a passionate student dedicated in taking my youthful exuberance, unbridled energy, creative optimism and diverse perspective and channeling those traits through every professional funnel I encounter. On a granular level, I have written full newscasts, complete screenplays, served as an editor and commentator on peer screenplays, directed and produced a variety of short segments and been afforded the opportunity to personally act in them. In addition, I engage in continuous learning by taking every possible opportunity to sharpen my skillset and lending myself to a higher goal and purpose. Through my life, I have gained a diverse array of work experience; all designed to round me out as an individual and develop my insight, knowledge and appreciation for the industry.

My own experiences as an African America woman inform my writing tremendously without overtaking it, allowing me to be extremely versatile. My characters, dialogue and story arc has landed me with the success of a manager. I always aim to be hardworking, disciplined and not be fearful to test the creative boundaries and create original and professional content that is true to myself.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I love Los Angeles because it’s a place where you don’t have to question why people are there. They want to chase their dream. They want to be the next great musician, dancer, actress, writer, director or creative professional. They want to thrive. LA really speaks to the dreamer in me to keep going, even when it’s incredibly hard. I’ve met people who have this grit and resilience about them which is remarkable. For me, I believe I’m in Los Angeles for a reason and I’m honored to have the opportunity to grow in a city that has embraced me so well. As I keep working toward my career as a screenwriter, I also want to go back to the south and share with my community what I’ve learned. Since moving to Los Angeles, I’ve noticed that everyone is extremely talented. This makes the opportunities harder to attain. This can be a good thing because it forces you to hone your craft more and work harder, however, it can also be very tiring to do so. If you move to LA, you really have to want it and you must fight for your dream harder than anyone else. That’s the beauty in it – it really does push you to believe in yourself and that’s why this city inspires me.

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