Sarah E. Southern / Film

Sarah Southern, Watkins College of Art

What’s your ritual to get prepared, or in the zone, to create?
I listen to film scores through noise-canceling headphones. I find that listening to certain scores makes me feel the same strong emotions I felt when first watching the corresponding film, and I can use those emotions to fuel the scene I’m writing.

What was your childhood ambition?
It was actually to become an archaeologist. But when I was around 14 years old, I realized that I didn’t want to be an archaeologist so much as I wanted to have the exact experiences Indiana Jones had, which I soon found was not too likely. I discovered instead that my ambition was to have grand adventures and delve deep into history, which my writing reflects today.

What experience would you like to have that you haven’t yet?
I would love to experience total comfort in myself and my identity. It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m told with time and age, it will come.

If you weren’t an artist, what would you want to do professionally?
I would teach history. With an understanding of history, we gain crucial context around why our society functions the way it does. History also leads to a deeper appreciation and understanding of ourselves and others.

Favorite addiction or guilty pleasure?
Dungeons and Dragons. Give me a fantastical landscape, a dedicated DM, and a blank character sheet, and I will happily spend hours in a made-up world, with made-up people, and made-up, brilliant stories.

If I wasn't an artist, I would teach history. With an understanding of history, we gain crucial context around why our society functions the way it does.

What advice do you most often give yourself or other people?
You can’t control the reactions people have to you or your work, so stop caring so much about them. Your happiness is first and foremost, so see to yourself before you see to others.

What have you lost that you’d like to regain?
I’ve lost my ability to be carefree about my art. When I was younger I’d start writing books and short stories without worrying about if they were good or not. I think the ability to grow as an artist is obviously important, but I wish I could regain the giddiness and unabashed love for the things I create.

Where in the world have you gone where you feel most at home?
I have found that any place feels like home when I’m with the people I love. Even storms are comforting if you’re standing in them with people you can be yourself around.

Which has been your favorite course at Watkins?
Without a doubt, any class with Steve Womack. Steve taught me everything I know about screenwriting and improved my storytelling craft by leaps and bounds. But I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention how important classes with Tom Williams were to my education at Watkins. While screenwriting classes and art history classes are wildly different, both teachers have such an incredible way with words and storytelling. I found myself just as fascinated looking at The Raft of Medusa with Tom as I did learning how to craft a short film with Steve.

When do you know a piece is finished?
It’s never finished for me, which is both good and bad. I constantly think back on scripts and films that I’ve made and consider what I could have done better or differently, and it can be exhausting. It’s hard to let things be what they are. On the other hand, it brings me comfort to come back to characters I thought I was done writing, and stories I thought I’d closed.