Reel Women: Emily Dell of ScreenCraft Writers Summit

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Emily Dell

Editor’s Note: They are leaders. They are inspirational. They are mentors. They are visionaries. They are, quite frankly, badasses. They are our 2020 Reel Women During Women’s History Month, you will be able to meet these incredible personalities in Advertising, Entertainment, Media and Production. Get ready.

Emily Dell is the Executive Director of the ScreenCraft Writers Summit, and also an award-winning writer and director whose work has had over 16 million views online. For CryptTV she created the series TROUBLED YOUTH (>14M views) sold screenplay THE RULES OF BUSINESS to The China Film Group and Dell’s last feature, B-GIRL, is available in 32 countries worldwide, and on Amazon Prime.

Dell attended NYU film school, and UC Berkeley, with dual degrees in Neurobiology and International Literature.

What did you originally want to be when you grow up?
As a small child I wanted to be the person in the wetsuit at Sea World that got to swim with the dolphins! (A “marine biologist” my parents would say) but the years of putting on shows as a kid (without dolphins) made it clear that telling stories, through film and entertainment, was all I wanted to do.  

How did you get into the film industry?
It’s been a challenge, I had no family nor past connections to this highly insular community, so I just moved to LA, started working and building my network. I learned that I had to give before I could ask, and so would volunteer my time on film sets, and for any help anyone needed. I still try to do the same, because people in Hollywood get asked for favors all the time – you have to earn trust, and prove your willingness to work, as a first step.

Who were your mentors?
For independent artists it is not an easy road to finding mentors, and so I would seek them out wherever possible.  My mentors have been more senior writers and directors, and on my first film my casting director and editor were incredible mentors. You need people who believe in you but also will tell you the truth.  Lately, the best mentors I have are good friends who are a few steps ahead of me, and can break-down their experiences in details. 

Working with ScreenCraft has been an opportunity for collective mentorship, as the company is small yet has grown together. We try something, assess, embrace failure as part of the process and support each other.

What is your greatest achievement?
That’s hard! I have made a lot of work I’m very proud of, from TROUBLED YOUTH for CryptTV, that has over 15 million views, to graphic novel VERONA to creating the ScreenCraft Writers Summit that inspires and creates community and has grown 300% in the past four years.  Since I’m always looking forward towards the next milestone I would say my biggest achievement is when I can rally a group of people behind a shared idea, and create a finished product we are all proud of.

What is your biggest disappointment?
The entertainment industry is, unfortunately, still rife with bias and backward behaviors. It’s undeniable that my male peers and friends who began careers at the same time as me have seen bigger success, far more rapidly. This was a disappointing surprise to me, learning that such a forward-seeming industry could still be so backwards. Arriving in Hollywood after college I expected to find a meritocracy, and it is not. But it’s still a place filled with wonderful, creative people, and what matters is to find the forward-thinkers who believe in you.

ALSO READ: MORE REEL WOMEN

What are your biggest pet peeves? 
Negativity and cynicism.  It’s too easy.  Believing in something, and in people, is hard.

What are your predictions for the film industry over the next decade?
Whatever ways we “used” to do things will get more and more obsolete! Innovation and fresh voices are breaking down the old barriers and bringing light to stale environments. With ScreenCraft and our partner brands like Coverfly, I’m proud to stand with a team looking to disrupt the old ways of doing things. 

Name a job you had that would surprise people.
I used to tutor, in the first few years living in LA, and sometimes would work with the children of movie stars and rock artists!

Who plays you in your life story?
Emily Blunt! Or Emily Ratajkowski.
(see the pattern?)

What do you wish you had more time to do?
It’s a blessing to be creative every day and work with people who inspire you, but being so busy I miss out on reading, visiting museums, volunteering, and travel – the seemingly ‘aimless’ things that actually serve to re-charge your creative reserves in the most important way.

Do you talk to yourself?
All the time!  Pep talks, stern talking-to’s, talking through story or negotiations, acting-out roles… I’m a verbal processer and don’t really know any other way to do it. 

What inspires you to be creative?
I’m inspired by the things in the world all the time – the natural world, science, people with cool jobs, etc.  But then I’m inspired to sit down and do the work by the people who are excelling in the industry while building teams and giving back. 

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