Shannon Bowen on Taking Charge of Your Story

Shannon Bowen on Taking Charge of Your Story

An interview with Shannon Bowen, from The Write Stuff series over at SF Weekly:

Shannon Bowen is a screenwriter inspired to write strong female characters who (shockingly) have loyal lady friends, because she has been lucky enough to be surrounded by badass women all of her life. You can watch the first two episodes of her web series Cost of Living (about struggling to afford a city that no one can afford) and join the Kickstarter to help film the remaining episodes. She is the co-author of two feature-length scripts, and she analyzes “Downton Abbey” from a funny, feminist, foul-mouthed perspective on her podcast Downton Gabby. Follow all of her crazy adventures on Twitter @LittleLadyBrain

When people ask what do you do, you tell them… ?

I write a fictionalized version of the truth. There are real stories from my life incorporated into each script that I write. Yes, I did accidentally throw away all of my clothes in a dumpster once.

What’s your biggest struggle — work or otherwise?

Balance. Time. Not freaking out about my horoscope.

If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?

Make writing a standing date in your calendar that you CANNOT CANCEL. It must become that friend you can’t disappoint for fear of never hearing the end of it. Also, invest in whiskey — you’ll need it.

Do you consider yourself successful? Why?

More like on-the-road-to-successful. My first feature-length script, CHICK FLICK (a female buddy comedy co-written by Ellen Westberg), has been optioned by Dirty Monty Productions; I just finished my second feature-length script, Stolen (a heist film with a group of badass lady friends co-written by Brandi Sperry); and I just wrote a web series, Cost of Living, and directed the first two episodes, which debuted in March.

When you’re sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?

I’m not into cats-doing-silly-things videos, so I usually watch some episodes of The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae. She brilliantly captures the awkward moments of every day life, especially the shit that happens at a dumb office job.

Do you have a favorite ancestor? What is his/her story?

My grandmother was a rodeo queen. I have this awesome picture of her age 22 riding a bucking horse with a lit cigar in her mouth. She was a total badass.

Who did you admire when you were 10 years old? What did you want to be?

So embarrassing, but I wanted to do musical theater. Unfortunately, I’m pretty tone deaf and can’t sing, but still auditioned for musicals until college. Needless to say, I didn’t cast much.

Would you ever perform a striptease? Describe some of your moves. Feel free to set the mood.

Since I teach ballroom dance, things get pretty elegant pretty fast.

How much money do you have in your checking account?

Never enough to buy all of the fancy cappuccinos that I desire.

What’s wrong with society today?

(Steps on feminist soap box) The issue that I’m trying to solve through my writing is the lack of positive representations of women in media. TV and film shape our culture, and the images they are projecting of women (over-sexualized, a prize to be won by men, fighting with other women instead of being close friends, not in charge of their own story) are extremely damaging. Miss Representation is an incredible documentary that illustrates this issue. I write complex female characters who are the stars of their own dynamic stories to combat this toxic culture.

Are you using any medications? If so, which ones?

Just whiskey.

What is your fondest memory?

I’m really nostalgic, so that one is tough. In terms of writing, Elly and I road tripping down to LA to option our script, CHICK FLICK, was pretty damn amazing.

What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?

Politicians stop attacking women’s right to choose.

What is art? Is it necessary? Why?

Art helps us process the fucked up shit in this world. It shapes our culture and gives us a moral roadmap.

When you have sex, what are some of the things you like to do?

Read novels, make macaroni and cheese, and drink daiquiris.

What are you working on right now?

I’m finishing writing the comedy web series Cost of Living and am writing a TV pilot about the crazy people who work at non-profits in the vein of “Parks & Recreation.” It’s basically therapy for me after working in non-profits for eight years.

What kind of work would you like to do? Or: what kind of writing do you most admire?

I totally admire novelists. I have fallen in love with so many novels that have left a permanent imprint on my soul. At one point, I will hide away from the world and write a book.

If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?

I would slow down the impact that the sudden wealth of the tech industry is having on our beautiful, diverse cities. The rapid influx of massive wealth is pushing people out of their hometowns and homogenizing culture. I’m fascinated and horrified by this process. This is a huge theme in Cost of Living.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen?

Jesus, where do I begin? One image that has always stuck with me is seeing a guy riding a bike with a plastic box strapped to the back with a huge parrot inside. Can’t leave the house without your bird, bro.


Here to read all The Write Stuff profiles; here to watch all the videos.