Q&A: ‘Outstanding Senior’ Amanda Coote

Amanda Coote will be recognized at the 2019 College of Fine Arts’ 2019 Fall Graduation Convocation on Dec. 19 as the College’s ‘Outstanding Senior.’

Amanda is graduating with double degree: A Bachelor of Arts in Film and Television from the School of Theatre, Film & Television and a degree in Creative Writing from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

In addition, she was a four-year member of the Pride of Arizona Marching Band, playing her piccolo at such iconic locations as Disneyland, Los Angeles Coliseum (USC), State Farm Stadium (Arizona Cardinals), and Levi’s Stadium (San Francisco 49ers).

She is also a member of the Sigma Colony of Delta Kappa Alpha, a professional cinematic fraternity, where she has served as head of the screenwriter’s circle. She has a passion for writing, particularly novels and various media platforms. After graduation, she hopes to move to LA to work in video game pre-production and continue to write novels.

Photo by Rebecca Sasnett

Q&A with Amanda Coote

Why the double major?
I’ve always loved fiction writing in terms of pros and creative writing. But I wanted to learn all of the industry rules of film and specifically screenwriting, which is very different from fiction writing. So, my creative writing classes taught me more of the how to craft a story, how to get my prose to sound good. Whereas my film major taught me all of the techniques for script writing, what types of stories Hollywood likes, how the industry works, how making films work. And what types of stories get made in film versus what types of stories get turned into short stories and novels.

Favorite screenplays?
I actually really liked the screenplay for “Jojo Rabbit.” I thought that the satire and the heart of it were really well blended together. I think it helps that Taika (Waititi) was directing it. He does a really good job with comedy that has heart to it.

I really adored the screenplay for “Into the Spider-Verse.” I thought that that was very well crafted the way that it wrote itself for the animation style.

I’ve always liked Stanley Kubrick’s films … the screenwriters that he works with … Wes Anderson’s stories are always really fun and unique. I’m very much a concept writer; I like working with fun concepts.

What types of concepts?
I’m really inspired by sci-fi movies. My dad raised me on 1950s sci-fi horror, so Vincent Price is my favorite actor of all time. I love those kinds of kooky concepts that come from them. My first novel that I wrote was an homage to 1950 sci-fi. I really love Kurt Vonnegut as a novelist. That is where my ideas come from, start with a wacky scenario than trying to find the heart in it.

What is your writing style?
Whenever I write a story, I know the basic concept of where the plot’s going. I know where it ends and I know where it starts and then the rest of it, I just write as I go. It’s what Stephen King does. I read his book “On Writing” when I was in high school. It makes the characters get a life of their own because you’re not trying to force them into what you’ve outlined. They can take control and build their own character arc. So, it feels a lot more natural and you get surprised. (The story) takes a turn and I’m like, ‘I didn’t know where this was going here, but let’s go with it.’ And it’s really fun.

I have to fight some of my characters from dying, they just keep making stupid decisions. I’m like, ‘No, you’ve got to live to the end.’

How did you get involved at the planetarium?
I had a class there my first semester, “Great Debates in Astronomy.” We had it in the mezzanine above everything. Walking through it every day, I saw that it was really cool place.

I was almost an astrobiologist. I was a president and co-founder of the astronomy club in high school. I wanted to study astrobiology; that was my thing. And then in my senior year of high school, I just fell in love with writing. I completely changed my life around and I don’t regret it at all, but I wanted to keep my interest in space and also rocks and minerals there in my life.

Rocks and minerals?
Rocks and minerals. My dad’s family is hard in the rocks and minerals business. His dad owned a jewelry shop. His mom’s parents worked in a lapidary. They met at a gem show and my dad worked at their jewelry shop for a long time. He taught me how to make rings and necklaces. We’re working on learning how to use enamel now to get the color out on the metal.

Do you have a favorite rock?
I like tourmaline and how that looks, especially when it’s a watermelon, which is where it has pink and green on the same little crystal. So, it looks like a watermelon.

Favorite Zelda Game?
“Breadth of the Wild.” It’s the only one I’ve beat. That’s the newest one for the switch. It’s like completely open worlds. You can beat it at any pace you want. You can go right for the final boss or you can never go to the final boss. I think I had like a hundred hours on it before I beat it. I tried to do everything before beating the final boss.

“Second, right below it, is “Wind Waker.” I have it on the GameCube. I tried to replay it and I can’t get past like the second dungeon. I’m stuck. I’m not good at dungeons. You’d think I would be because I’m good at puzzles, but for some reason those dungeons just, I can’t.

What kind of game do you want to write?
I have just really started getting into my ideas for video games, but the one I’m turning in my head right now would probably have fit like first-person shooter. I want to use video games for how they are interactive and work on stories that depend on that interactive-ness.

Amanda is going to start her career working freelance for an L.A. company, Blindlight, which specializes in pre-production work for video games. She interned with that company last summer. Her long-term goal is to write video game or TV scripts and fiction novels.

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