Joan Philo writes short scripts, feature scripts, and sketch comedy. She graduated from Chicago’s Second City Comedy Writing Program. She lives in Chicago and casts extras (non-speaking talent) for TV and FILM ( “Chicago Fire” “Chicago Med” “The Dark Knight” “Ali”). She also has a blast creating and selling film greeting cards on her Darling Series website. From Joan: I think I have a guitar problem. I own ten of them and I’m really not that good on the guitar. But in my mind…. Oh man! Lastly, I like to give back where I can – I’m trying to get into Heaven.
Joan Philo posing with a poster of a film that she cast.
Joan! Tell us about how you got started in the industry and what you’re currently pursuing.
At 13-years-old I was the youngest female member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, based in San Francisco. I adore stage magic and grew up performing shows for schools, parties, picnics, oh my! I was also into acting and writing. In seventh grade I wrote and circulated an underground newsletter at my catholic grade school. My column was Astrology. Oh, payback was sweet for all those mean pretty 7th grade Leo’s, and Scorpios! From Catholic school to the big city of Chicago I jumped into comedy writing and acting.
I am crazy about comedy, and I studied at most of the improv schools in Chicago, “Second City, IO, and The Annoyance Theater. From acting I moved into casting as I adored film and just wanted to be in it all the time. My entire film casting life I have had my parallel life of script writing. I have written many short scripts (some produced) and feature scripts and my favorite one so far is my winning script “Scoot”, thank you, awesome, “SUMMER IN THE SOUTH” team.
I can say I am the writer I am because of screenwriter and God, Max Adams (Excess Baggage, Ladykillers), and her Academy of Film Writing, where I sharpened my craft of screenwriting and really honed the power and magic of words (light, texture, space), to nail a scene and sculpt a script.
The poster for Joan’s award-winning screenplay Scoot, which took home Best Comedy Screenplay – Feature at the Summer in the South Film Festival.
What sort of stories are you drawn to telling?
I love to tell a good comedy and horror story.
Genre of choice?
If you had to summarize your style with a few movies as an example, what would they be?
Galaxy Quest & Bridesmaids
What steps are you taking to forge a path for yourself in this industry?
I’m really concentrating on getting my scripts out there, it has been my push, hence entering the Summer in The South contest. I have a goal to create a website just for my writing and not to combine it with my casting website. I’m trying to lead more with my screenwriting while I’m casting. Casting is all consuming for me and mostly there is no time for anything else. I am changing this. I must!
Joan on the set of Empire Season 1.
Joan’s Writing Process
Tell us more about your process.
When I write I like to build the world by going out and taking pictures of all the locations, and types of people I see in my scenes. I put the pictures on boards and mull over my characters. It becomes so rich and clear, the world I get to paint; Then I just write like hell.
What’s the first thing you do when you set off to write a script?
I find it’s the situation first that pops into my brain, then characters, then the, “Oh, wouldn’t it be so cool for this to happen” stream of fireworks that set the story in motion, that leads to mad finger flying on my keyboard
What’s one lesson you learned working on your last script?
I won, I won, I won! Ha ha. I learned to celebrate the moment. I almost let it slip by alone at my house. My sister Margery called me up and said, “are you crazy? We gotta celebrate”. And celebrate we did! Thank you again, for the amazing Cinema Life festival experience. These film people really care. I’m super impressed with the passion of this festival.
Thank you! The kind words mean a lot. Any other practical tips for screenwriting?
- Don’t be boring
- Don’t be boring
- Don’t be boring
- Write like God
- Max Adams says so!
Any resources you can share that you’re especially fond of?
- Go to film festivals and get excited and go to all the workshops and learn.
- (Telluride Film Festival, Mill Valley Festival, Summer in The South Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, Santa Barbara Film Festival)
- Second City www.secondcity.com is a huge resource and learning mecca for improv. Learning improvisation helps breathe life into scenes, while adding another tool to the writer’s tool box.
- Max Adams’ The Academy of Film Writing online screenwriting master classes www.theAFW.com
- You can learn a lot from John Truby https://truby.com/the-anatomy-of-story/
- Míle Buíochas “A Thousand Thanks in Irish”
Connect with Joan on: Instagram | Twitter | www.thedarlingseries.com
One of Joan’s greeting card designs – more available on her website.
Joan climbing on the set of a film that she wrote, The Roof.