Why I write?

I wasn’t like a ‘Gordy’ from Stand By Me kind of young writer. Throughout all of my childhood I never kept a journal nor diary.

I never wrote short stories or poems. I never wrote beyond what was required for school. What I did do was read. And as de-facto latchkey kid-my sister and I are ten years apart with no middle child. I had a ton of imaginary friends.

My mother bought me an encyclopedia set when thats what you did back then if you were serious about your child’s education. I got it at around five years old. By ten I had read it front to back and back to front at least two dozen times.

I found the more you read the faster you got. The more I could retain the info, it was like chemistry one thing you learned could change your entire view on a subject. If it was in a book I read it. I read magazines. I read the Source, XXL the New York Times, and the Village Voice-all in high school. I actually read the Playboy articles.

I became fascinated by corporate culture by reading up on how rap labels were financed. It was stunning that these huge corporations profits came down to two kids from the projects.

A lot of my discussions around hip hop often included my nuggets about who owns what and what corporation is on the chopping block and how all of it had a play in the biggest rap album of the year.

Something you wouldn’t expect from a sixteen year old rap fanatic in the early Nineties. Still I had no urgency to write. Much of what I had gone through had been covered already by either a rapper or a “hood film” from that era.

When I went to college writing started to gain steam but didn’t really take off until a few years later.

I was a good enough writer to get paid for the truly lazy students looking to breeze through.

But then again I went to a division three community college in upstate New York.

After I had a falling out over a grading policy I found myself now going to a community college back home in New York City.

I was in college to learn film. In the mid Nineties, film; the business and education of it was in its waining days of its analog chain of command.

During this time to learn anything about the business meant go to school. And the “Fickle Four” of UCLA, USC, NYU and AFI were the only film schools worth talking about.

So I did what kids do in this case. Go to any school that kind of-sort of-even remotely teaches film making.

For me that meant a community college that teaches communications.

A degree The Simpsons famously mocked in an episode featuring a kicker from the Springfield football team. Upon a severe injury Dr. Hibbert told the kicker his career was over but at least he had a degree-then the Doctor checks his records and cries out “communications”. And the kicker cries back “I know, phony degree”.

Yet most of these programs hovered between news gathering and some kind of “tv production” model. Back home, the Borough of Manhattan Community College taught tv production. And it was real tv taught by the soap opera tv directors employed in Midtown.

But writing was never taught. Years later I realized it was some kind of issue with the English department of just about every school without a bona fide film program, who teaches screenwriting the English department or the tv/communications department?

I didnt start to write until I got to NYU-no not Tisch School of Arts the famed film school. It was the routine brick and mortar School of Professional Studies (back then is was SCPS-the ‘C’ was for continuing). A no frills “Adult” school where mercenary corporate workers swooped in did some kind of Rocky like montage to sharpen their professional swords before reengaging the work force. Or at least thats how teh marketing wants you to see it. It really seemed like a hamster wheel. Spend four years or more get out and get a job.

When that runs its course re-up and come back for more education, you know to stay competitive. These adults schools are in a lot of the big time university’s. And they are old, SPS was formed seven years after my grandmother was born. I must say that it was formed in the middle of the Depression isn’t some footnote. I guess even in the 1930’s the workforce, the hamster wheel was up and running.

However SPS did offer a film education of sorts. They had a degree that offered a lot of real film courses. You would learn the basics. It was nowhere as intense as Tisch and no where near as in depth.

For most of the students who took the Film Production I & II courses in the Pless Building on NYU’s Main Campus it was a filler course an elective. An “easy A” to pad the GPA. For me it was a way to get a little bit more education in film.

The internet was actually starting to become the “information superhighway” that it was not for its first decade. And I was a *student* in New York University. I had access to Bobst Library enormous collection. They had all of the films. You couldn’t take them home so I got a job in the library. Every Tisch student that checked out a film I took note. The library also had screenwriting books and screenplays.

Remember what I said if it’s in a book I’m going to read it?

By now I had something to write about, something that had been on my mind for a while. Higher education, with all of its promises and all of its warts. The same issues we have about higher education now I heard of back in 1994. I wanted to capture those issues in a coming of age tale in a way most coming of age tales don’t approach.

I’ve come to write about half dozen scripts yet I still haven’t chosen to write you know to just write. Until now, so wont you join me? As I do this from time to time I cant say exactly what I’ll cover but I will always try to keep it worth your time.

And will do everything to not bore you!




a filmmaker who lost it all and now fights to get it back...oh and I'm an East New Yorker, Brooklyn native.

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James E Heggs

James E Heggs

a filmmaker who lost it all and now fights to get it back...oh and I'm an East New Yorker, Brooklyn native.

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