“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
This six–word Ernest Hemingway poem was the inspiration for one of the first film scripts that Erin Brennan (C ‘23) wrote in high school, titled "For Sale: Baby Clothes/Toys. Never Used." Now, she's one of the co–founders of a new club called the Penn Screenwriters’ Guild.
Erin was introduced to screenwriting through her high school’s film production program, which she describes as “surprisingly strong.” Through the program, she had the opportunity to learn all of the components of filmmaking and even direct a couple of her own films.
She continued to hone her screenwriting and filmmaking skills at Penn. As a double major in international relations and English with a creative writing concentration, Erin's been able to take a breadth of screenwriting classes for her major requirements. But she "only really studied the formal methods of screenwriting in college in Advanced Screenwriting," a course she took last semester that ultimately inspired her to start the Screenwriters' Guild.
Erin’s professor, Kathy Demarco Van Cleve, mentioned in class that there was no screenwriting club at Penn. Erin believed a student organization would be a good opportunity for people to build a community and hold each other accountable for meeting their writing goals.
Over the summer, Erin and her friends from the class put the idea into action. This semester, the group came together to create a Penn Clubs page for the Guild, making it an official organization. For Erin, the new club wouldn't have been possible without Zaccariah Wright (C '22), Ben Gottlieb (C '22), Jack Schenker (C '23), Zoe Young (C '22), and Marialena Mouaikel (W, C '23).
As a writer, Erin gathers inspiration from many avenues. Though her favorite scripts to write are family dramas, she says Game of Thrones and Sex Education are two of her favorite shows in terms of writing style. She also has a strong interest in language and cultural learning. Though she's originally from Michigan, Erin has lived abroad in Australia and China; both countries still influence her scriptwriting and creative pursuits.
"For Sale: Baby Clothes/Toys. Never Used" is one of Erin’s favorite script shorts that she’s written. It tells the story of a teenage girl struggling in the aftermath of a miscarriage. Erin planned to direct the film for Penn’s Bent Button Productions, but the production was canceled due to the pandemic.
Many of Erin's Penn extracurriculars are in the general field of entertainment: She's part of Undergraduates in Media and Entertainment, Penn Button Production, and the Penn Filmmaking Group. “There are a lot of people in those clubs who aren’t even going into careers in films," she says. "They just like doing it on the side, which is also really fun because you get to be around a lot of people who are seriously passionate about it."
Feedback has been a critical part of Erin’s scriptwriting success. “I love to just talk about scripts for hours," she says. "I have friends from high school who I still connect with, and we read each other’s scripts and send detailed notes. It’s just a great way to learn different techniques and have fun with others who have a similar passion.”
A day in the life of Erin is filled with classes, which “luckily start at 12,” she laughs. If you want to catch her afterwards, “You can probably find me in TeaDo or some other bubble tea shop, studying until the late hours of the night,” she says.
On top of all things academic, Erin has worked a few different internships since the beginning of her sophomore year. “When I was home, I felt like I needed to pack my schedule as much as possible because I didn’t want to just be sitting around at home, sad that there was a pandemic going on,” she says. Last year, Erin was a strategic content coordinator intern for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, where she wrote, directed, edited, and translated short social media videos. This year, she's working at XYZ Films, a production and film sales company, and for Allison Friedman, (C '09) a Penn alum and independent producer.
“It’s always been kind of a dream of mine to be a writer–director,” Erin says. With the way things are going, it looks like her dreams are coming to fruition.