The Blue Mountain Review- July 2022

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INTERVIEW WITH

ALISON BONN BY: DEBBIE HENNESSEY

Your writing has taken many forms - songwriting, stand-up comedy, articles, screenwriting. you said you wanted to be a screenwriter early on, but it took you a while to get there. Tell us a little bit about your path. I’ve always been drawn to so many diverse aspects of the entertainment industry that it took me a while to figure out where I belonged. My dad and I used to watch stand-up comedy together growing up, and I always knew it was something I wanted to try one day. At the same time, I always loved singing and expressing myself through music and song lyrics. I feel so fortunate to have had a chance to explore these different avenues of artistic expression. The one thing I’d always—ALWAYS wanted to write was a screenplay. I tried for years to complete a feature-length script and could never get through one. I couldn’t seem to write one, but also? I couldn’t stop trying to write one. When I was 38, I was diagnosed with a very early, easily treatable form of breast cancer. It was just enough of a wake-up call for me to get my act together. The key turned out to be joining a writing group. I’d bring in ten pages at a time, and eventually, with the encouragement of my fellow aspiring writers, I finished one. Preschool Wars was about two friends battling to get their toddlers into a fancy LA preschool. The script was by no means a masterpiece, but just finishing it was such an accomplishment. I learned to put aside my perfectionist tendencies and embrace the concept of a “vomit draft.” In other words, I finally accepted that the story didn’t need to be perfect before I started writing. I just needed to get it down on paper.

You’ve written a lot of comedy but Built By Hart is a drama. What was it about this story of 1930s dust bowl migrants in California that drew you? The biggest challenge I faced as a beginning screenwriter was developing the plot. I’m very good at coming up with a concept and characters but executing the details—the actual “what happens and when” was difficult for me. So, as an experiment, I decided I wanted to try to adapt a true story to see if that made the process any easier. As a parent living in the age of climate change, I wanted to find a story that reflected the challenges of raising a child while facing an uncertain future. I imagine perhaps that’s how parents felt during the Great Depression, so I searched “children” and “The Great Depression” and came across the book, Children of the Dust Bowl, which chronicled the lives of refugee children who had fled the Midwest in the 1930s and settled in California. This was a few years ago when our own nightly news was full of reports of immigrants being placed in cages under the Trump administration. The parallels between the way our country was treating immigrants, and the way the desperate Midwest farmers were treated when they arrived in California in the 1930s, were too glaring to ignore. So here was an uplifting, true story that I’d never heard of, where acceptance and generosity triumph over the forces of oppression and fear. The stars aligned, and I felt I had to write it.

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