By Erin Rohac / Asst. Features Editor
By Erin Rohac / Asst. Features Editor
All bets are off when college starts. Now this may not sound like the best mantra to encourage students to follow, but it’s a saying that’s known beneficially to instructors.
One instructor who states this motto and follows it to the core is Susan St. Peters.
Some may have taken her English 1B class and learned about literature and composition, while others have attended her screenwriting courses, including the one currently in session.
St. Peters began teaching college courses during graduate school at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo back in 1985 and has been teaching at Riverside City College since 1998, originally part-time.
In reality, she never wanted to be a screenwriting instructor, she had original ideas of being an English teacher/mystery novelist.
But while taking courses at the extension center at UCLA, she was asked to create a screenwriting program.
And after two years of development and regulations, she could not bear the thought of not being a part of something she had such a large role in starting.
As a screenwriting instructor, she loves the interaction and face-to-face time in helping her students make their own ideas be conveyed as a script.
“It’s five, six, seven times of trying it out and re-working it, but that’s what writing is,” St. Peters said. “I feel like when they know that I’m a writer and I’m doing it all the time, the re-writing, revising, fixing, I think it might inspire at least some students to keep working on stuff instead of just dashing it off.”
“Her creative process sold me on screenwriting,” said RCC student Kristian Smart. “And credibility is the biggest thing. It’s the best to have someone accomplished read your work, not just your friends.”
She even says that teaching screenwriting as a course helps her on her own scripts.
“Working on someone else’s story helps you to sharpen your own work,” St. Peters said. “When you get stuck on where the story could go, you have to think outside where you’ve taken it before. You have to be open to any ‘what if?’ possibilities.”
While St. Peters focuses on her students throughout the school year, it never quite deters her from continuing to reach her own personal goals.
What she truly hopes to accomplish is to sell her scripts and see them become on-screen, live-action movies.
These potential screenplays, while initially seem to be geared towards children, are in fact ideas that translate to all ages.
One of her favorite quotes is by C.S. Lewis, a writer that she admires and has had a large influence on her, “If a story is great when you’re five, it should be great when you’re 50,” which is exactly what she is aiming for.
“It seems I aspire to write ‘Up!’ or something like it,” St. Peters said. “Something where there’s a story. People will go with you, they’ll have that willing suspension of disbelief.”
While she has yet to sell one of her scripts, she still managed to earn several accolades for her work and has made numerous connections through various screenplay competitions.
Even the Hallmark Channel has contacted her, seeing that one of her scripts has potential.
Her most recent and most successful story “The White Elephant,” is about a 15-year-old graffiti artist who must atone for tagging a circus and discovers his true calling when he learns the elephants are in peril. It is currently a finalist in the Beverly Hills Film Festival.
“I honestly didn’t think I would make it to the finals. My whole attitude is just going to be delighted to be there,” St. Peters said. “This is like a five-day long interview. Because when you get called for a typical meeting to pitch your story, they’re interested, if that happens, but they’re also interested in seeing if you’re the kind of person they can work with… are you a nutcase?”
She will find out the results of this contest at a black tie gala on the final evening of the festival on April 18.
For now, she will continue to write and continue to teach.
“Even if I suddenly got flooded with assignments, that would change life, but I know no matter what, I’ll always teach because I love that interaction,” she said.