Tasha Huo is a 2004 alumnae who double majored in history and English with an emphasis in creative writing. She is currently working and living in Los Angeles as a screenwriter and was just signed to a blind deal with Warner Brothers.
She was interviewed by Arts & Entertainment Editor Emily Mibach.
EM: So what exactly is your contract with Warner Brothers? Did a movie get picked up, or are you just writing for them?
TH: The way that this works is they didn’t buy my script, but through reading the script, which is about this strong female bounty hunter just after the American Civil War, after reading that one, they agreed to sign me onto what’s called a ‘blind deal,’ which means I can come to them with any project. Blind refers to it not being specific or to one thing. I can say, ‘Hey, I have this great idea or this great book that I really love, let me pitch you my idea for it.’ Or, if they have a project they don’t know how to make a version for a movie, or if a writer has been working on an idea for a really long time and just haven’t quite cracked it yet, I can go ‘I love that story, let me take a crack at it.’ I get a guaranteed, what they call, ‘two step deal.’ First draft, then based on their notes, write a second draft. But they’re not actually making my script.
EM: But could your movie be made?
TH: Yeah, for sure. The contract gave it [her aforementioned script] a lot of exposure, cause it was reported on. I have a director who is attached to the script.
EM: You’ve emphasized the fact that your main character is female and the director you have attached to the movie is female. How much do race and gender issues come up in your work?
TH: In Hollywood, it’s less about race and more about gender here. People are definitely very white in Hollywood. If I was full Chinese, there’d be more prejudice. [Huo is half white, half Chinese]. Being a woman is tough because they paint you as a romantic-comedy person. [They] don’t take you seriously if you bring in another form of a script.
EM: Do you have goals for working on sexism in the film industry?
TH: One of my goals out here is to prove that you can have a really awesome female action movie without the woman being super sexualized, doing things in male dominated fields without it being ridiculous. Hopefully I can help make that possible.
EM: Did you come to Mills knowing you wanted to write screenplays?
TH: I didn’t at all, actually. I had an interest in creative writing and thinking I would be writing prose and novels and short stories, and I also had a major in history. I think it was sophomore year [that] I took a class called ‘History Through Film.’ I had always loved movies. That wasn’t a question, but I was more drawn to more blockbuster movies, and in my writing I was more interested in drama and human stories. [I] never made the connection to write movies of the things that I wanted to write – they were just movies to me. Then I took [Andy Workman’s] class ‘History Through Film’ … [and thought] ‘Wow, I can write something as in-depth as the novels I planned to write, but I can do it with film.’
EM: Did you take any specific classes for screenwriting after that?
TH: After that I wanted to do film minor. At the time, [Mills] didn’t have it, just video classes and I took screenwriting through their theater department. Most people were writing plays and I was like, ‘Hey, do you mind if I write a screenplay instead of a play?” and she ended up being fine with it. I ended up taking every video class I could find… [But] experimental video was the only video we had at Mills. People were exploding bananas in microwaves or making museum pieces that they could play in our museum that were, to be honest, super pretentious and really bizarre. It was really interesting to watch, but I was the only one doing narrative stories, things I’d actually want to write. Afterwards, I was like, ‘Man, I need a real film class.'”
EM: That sounds kind of annoying…
TH: It’s interesting [and] it’s hard because even at film schools, they don’t teach film as a job. It’s a thing you do for fun, and film studies is a class that you just take to bolster your humanities education. In actuality, it’s a huge industry, [and] they need really smart people that understand film and know how to tell stories, you know? In a way they don’t teach you any of that. It’s really bizarre. I hope to one day just go and teach … and bring all of that stuff that I missed in my film education to people.
EM: So to help bolster your writing, I’m guessing you took a lot of creative writing classes?
TH: I took pretty much every creative writing class I could get my hands on…. [For] thesis, I asked to combine my two majors and wrote half of a novel that was set in the American Revolution, which combined the research aspect of my history degree and the creative writing aspect [of English], and I ended up turning that half novel into one of my first screenplays.
EM: Was there a professor in either department [English or history] that really helped guide you?
TH: Andy Workman is definitely the person who, it sounds really dramatic, but changed my life, because he is the one who exposed me to that [History Through Film] and completely changed everything I wanted to do after that. [But] creative writing was great there.… That’s how you learn work-shopping, and as I’ve found out being a writer here in LA, it’s extremely good practice for writing for a living because it teaches you how to take notes. And if someone is a jerk to you in that workshop, [you learn] how to handle jerks when they read your work [and] also [learn] how to handle getting bad notes.