On Friday, February 21, New York Film Academy (NYFA) welcomed NYFA MFA Screenwriting grad (Class of ’18) Elon Joi Washington, Development Manager at Monkeypaw Productions, and co-founder of Black Film Allegiance. Terah Jackson, ABA Club co-advisor, screenwriting instructor, and NYFA LAS instructor, moderated the event.
Washington is a screenwriter and story analyst with a passion for shedding light on untold narratives. She studied English, Film and Media at the University of Florida, Film and Television at Savannah College of Art and Design and graduated from New York Film Academy’s MFA Screenwriting program. She is the founder of the Black Film Allegiance, a virtual platform promoting collaboration and creative opportunity for up-and-coming filmmakers. Additionally, Washington currently works as Development Manager at Monkeypaw Productions.
Following a quick clip of Washington promoting the Black Film Allegiance, Jackson opened up the Q&A by touching upon the students’ interest in Washington’s screenwriting background. He asked, “This idea to become a writer and move into film, when did that start for you?”
Washington shared, “I always enjoyed writing. In undergrad I would do open mics as different character roles, and that’s what I started falling in love with character work. I was an English major with a film and media concentration and towards the end my school let me do some production work and I really enjoyed it. But, I was always more interested in what was on the page because it’s where I felt most comfortable creatively.”
Jackson then asked what type of stories Washington found herself most engaged in. She replied, “I like stories that revolve around social events and messages that matter to me; especially things that are quite researched. The genres I enjoy are docudrama, horror, psychological thrillers; however, I will do a sci-fi if there’s a bigger message attached to it, but it has to be grounded in truth with something that I know is happening today. Then, I’ll elevate that story in some type of way through a genre like horror.” She continued, “If there’s a research component, that’s usually the part that will draw me in and then the bigger message and character come after.”
Speaking on her time at NYFA, Jackson asked, “Looking back, what were the opportunities here at NYFA that prepared you for what you did after school?”
Washington answered, “There are so many resources here that I appreciate, partially because it’s so intimate here and the professors are so hands-on with your growth professionally and as a student. Part of what I appreciated was that opportunity to have one-on-one meetings, even as an alumna. The access you have as alumni is unparalleled. ” She continued, “Also, what you do with the network you’ve built here can really change the course of your post-grad experience. Just having a community and being here created such great connections for me.”
The Q&A then opened up to student questions. One student asked, “When you submit a script to Monkeypaw Productions, what is it they’re looking for in order to move forward with a story?”
Washington responded, “In terms of what Monkeypaw looks for–it’ts genre, underrepresented voices, and a focus on social issues of course, but in a way that’s fun.” She added, “When you’re dealing with difficult issues, you don’t want it to be like medicine, you want it to be rewatchable. It’s always that component, which is a very specific formula and very difficult to find.”
New York Film Academy thanks MFA Screenwriting alum Elon Joi Washington for joining sharing her time and expertise with our students!