Interview with Céline Geiger ’04
Q: During your time at Hamilton, what kinds of activities and course-work did you explore? Did you know that you enjoyed writing in the beginning, or did you discover it during your time on the Hill? If the latter, what made you realize your love of writing?
A: I always loved writing -- I actually chose Hamilton because of the emphasis on writing. I majored in English and took a number of creative writing classes. I wrote for “The Spec” for all four years. I was published in Red Weather and was on the editorial staff my senior year. I loved taking writing-intensive classes -- being able to grow my skill of communicating effectively on the page. And the round tables I participated in during my creative writing workshops were foundational -- giving and receiving criticism and creative feedback made me a better writer.
Q: How did your liberal arts experience at Hamilton help you in your work in the film/tv industry? In other words, what did you learn on the Hill that you carried throughout your screenwriting experiences?
A: I think the best thing a liberal arts education provides is the confidence to explore a number of avenues. Especially at a small school like Hamilton, there is so much opportunity to get involved in different clubs and activities, to study abroad, to pursue classes outside of the discipline you are studying. When I left the Hill, looking back on the breadth of my experiences there, I felt confident I could conquer anything--even a move to Hollywood!
Q: What are your favorite parts of your job as a screenwriter? Alternatively, what is your favorite project you have worked on so far? Why did you enjoy it the most?
A: My favorite part of being a screenwriter is getting to be creative every day. It is a gift to get paid to write, to do what I love, to create new characters and new worlds. There is no better feeling than watching your script get made, and then put out in the universe, and having people you've never met before connecting to something you wrote. My favorite project I've worked on so far was my own--I wrote and executive produced a digital series called Relationship Status for the now-defunct platform go90. We filmed three seasons, and it was so fun being in charge of the creative and seeing my vision come to life.
Q: What do you think is the most challenging part of your job?
A: There are a number of challenges on any given day. The biggest is probably self-motivation. It can be really hard to look at a blank screen and know you have to turn it into an entire script. There are also some days when I just feel like everything I've written is junk. Sometimes it takes a day or two--or just a walk around the block--to get some fresh air and a fresh perspective. I think any time you're in a situation where you have to collaborate with someone creatively, you have to be respectful of what they are bringing to the table, even if it's not aligned with your vision. There is a delicate balance between knowing when to push for your own idea, and knowing when you're not getting anywhere and need to let it go. A lot of times, you're getting notes from various producers, executives, directors, creative department heads, etc., about why something you've written isn't working for them or isn't possible from a production standpoint. Then the challenge becomes figuring out how to appease your team while holding onto whatever you love about what you wrote in the first place.
Q: What advice would you give to Hamilton students currently interested in pursuing a career in screenwriting as well as the entertainment industry, and the arts in general?
A: It sounds obvious, but the best way to prepare for a career in writing is to write as much as possible. The more you write, the more you show your work to people, the more feedback you get, the more critical you become, and the better at writing you will be. I also think reading is hugely important. I never took any sort of screenwriting classes--I just got copies of TV and film scripts (you can find a lot printed online on various sites!) and studied all of them--paying attention to tone, breaking down arcs by character, noting how characters changed over time, being mindful of how many pages there were per scene, how many pages per act, how many scenes per act, etc. I also think you need patience and humility. There are going to be so many nos--maybe more nos than yeses--and you have to be able to rebound, not take the losses personally, and figure out your next move or next idea. It took me almost seven years from the time I moved to Los Angeles to the time I got paid to write a script. It's definitely a marathon, not a sprint. But I always believed in myself, and my ability to figure it out.