I Abandoned My Political Ambitions To Become A Writer/Director & Tell More Women’s Stories

Writer/Director Lila McLaughlin on the set of her film ‘When We Were Young & Beautiful’

By Lila McLaughlin

I’ve always been a storyteller, writing short stories or scenes all through my youth to teen to adult years.  In college I went with a traditional major, political science, thinking I should become a political speechwriter, with visions of one day crafting influential speeches for the president. Part of my studies involved adding film courses, because after all, politics relies on a lot of drama and theatrics. But after taking a few film classes, I was hooked on the idea of film not just as an art form, but also an influencing tool for storytelling. My focus quickly shifted – a speech is easily forgotten, a film is forever.

Consequently, I knew the route I wanted to go. I changed my path, adding film as a minor and sought out work in the entertainment industry. So far I’ve worked as a manager of programming for a TV network, attended the renowned Second City, wrote and directed 3 short films, was an Assistant Director on an independent comedy feature film and had a book, G.I. Hollywood, published.

I’ve had many mini successes thus far that helped me transition to a screenwriter full time. I love being a screenwriter, but it’s often not easy. It is lonesome work and the respect you’re shown is often very low compared to actors, directors and producers. The struggle gets real, but I remind myself that without the script, a film can’t exist. 

Fast forward to today, my main focus is creating more female driven content. I’ve sold screenplays and currently have a few optioned. But sometimes it takes months to years to get a film off the ground and into production. And as I wait for those projects to find to attach talent, I continue to write.  

Lila on set

The pandemic slowed things down to a stop, but writers have to write, so I needed something to work on. I shifted my focus on a screenplay I had written years ago that I could not get out of my head. It’s nothing like what I’m used to writing, which is comedy. This script is dark, mysterious, feral and raw. It’s almost transformative and therapeutic. A script that I could see vividly as if it were already a movie.

Instead of just talking about it, I decided to DO something. I put my efforts into making my passion project.  

The film is tentatively titled ‘When We Were Young & Beautiful’, a chilling and turbulent psychological thriller about a 40 year-old woman who comes face to face with the man she believes kidnapped and assaulted her when she was a child, prompting her to go on a mission to expose her childhood monster.  

The screenplay is 75% female lead cast and shines a light on heavy subjects: ptsd, assault, abuse and trauma from a survivor’s point of view. The main theme in this film is what defines us as people – our resilience.  

The lead character is played by Bonnie Root, an award winning actress, producer and filmmaker. She’s also a survivor of childhood and adult sexual abuse. Her groundbreaking performance in the film comes from experience, knowledge and her soul. It is an honest, yet cinematic portrayal of trauma and transformation. 

Lila directing the Lead

However, raising funding for a film comes with many challenges. First off, it’s tough to acquire funding without a glowing track record. Second, a female filmmaker has a very hard time raising capital compared to a male filmmaker. Third, as an up-and-coming writer or director, you’re left waiting on other people to make a decision to agree to finance it, produce it, back it, believe in it, and this often all depends on them also having a personal connection to it.   

Despite the obstacles, I set up a private funding page through an all women platform called IFUNDWOMEN to raise funds for the passion project, which I’d like to give a shoutout to here

Statistics show that over 50% of moviegoers and streamers are women who are more likely to see films that represent them as a main character or topics they care about. And at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, 52% of the 82 films selected were directed by women. It’s encouraging, and the reason why I’m taking a leap, knowing that the net will appear, because this is a story and a message whose time has come.

My ultimate goal is women supporting other women, and championing other women’s work and voices in the arts.  Because nowadays women aren’t just making movies, we’re also creating a movement.  

Writer/Director Lila McLaughlin

Lila McLaughlin is a screenwriter based in Los Angeles who writes in TV and Film. She writes comedy, drama, action, and sci-fi. Lila is an alum of the renowned Second City. She has sold 3 projects including a comedy to CBS Films. Lila was part of studio writing roundtables for narrative and animated films for Universal Pictures and FOX Studios. She currently has 3 screenplays optioned in various stages of prep. Lila is also a published author, her book ‘G.I. HOLLYWOOD’ published in 2018 by Heritage Builders Publishing and sold on Amazon, and in Barnes & Noble bookstores nationwide.