Rodney Stringfellow, Screenwriter, Filmmaker and Educator: Charlotte Film Industry Insider

An interview series highlighting local experts in the business with insight for the Charlotte community and those aspiring to break into the film industry.

Rodney Stringfellow, Screenwriter, Filmmaker and Educator

"If we define “success” as being firmly established as a working professional in the film industry, my short answer is that you have to develop a specific skill set and then place yourself in the world where there is a need for that skill set.

Being more specific to becoming a working professional screenwriter, my advice is to write original screenplays that highlight your humor, your interests, and your voice. Rewrite your work until you’re genuinely proud of what’s on the electronic page. Then, once you’ve written a number of scripts that demonstrate just how fierce a writer you are, then enter the world of filmmakers. Go to meet-ups. Take classes. Join workshops. Jump into the world of where people are doing what you want to do. Although it’s unlikely that the people you meet will be able to offer you a gig, they will be able to offer you advice, directions, connections, and opportunities.

Image from “Manhood,” written and directed by Rodney Stringfellow

A friend of mine once told me to “go.” She wasn’t telling me to go away from her (at least I don’t think she was); she was telling me to go to an industry event to network. I had recently lost a job and was feeling pretty crappy so I didn’t want to meet a bunch of folks and pretend that everything was going well. However, my friend was persistent and I went. At the event I found myself speaking to a woman in the television industry who asked what I was doing. Before I could answer, my friend spoke up and said I needed a job. Long story short: I started working for that woman on a children’s television show, first as an assistant, then as an associate producer, and then as a writer.

Everyone hates networking and feeling awkward but you should “go.”

I was working as a graphic designer in a teeny design firm in New York City while also volunteering at an organization called the Black Filmmaker Foundation. When the founders of the organization opened up their film production office, they asked me to be their Development Assistant. I think I debated the opportunity for about fifteen seconds before I leapt into the unknown.

A number of years back, another friend of mine asked if I was interested in working on a children’s series for a Singapore-based animation company. Although it sounded like one of those mythological projects that never quite comes to life, I said yes with no expectations that anything would happen. Six months later, however, I found myself in Singapore as the co-head writer of the series, “Olive and Rhyme Rescue Crew.” I got to meet a bunch of amazing people, got to experience an incredible country, and got to eat the most disgusting fruit on earth (try some durian for yourself, but remember you’ve been warned)."