Growing up in Burkina Faso, West Africa, I learned very quickly that language and communication were important. In addition to learning English from my parents, I learned a local language called Dioula from my babysitter, Mamou, who was like a second mother to me. Then later, in school, I learned French.
And no matter what language I was speaking at any given time, I was constantly having to understand and ensure I was understood by others. Whether I was barefooted and chasing a soccer ball down a dirt road with my friends, or conjugating verbs at the chalkboard, I was always learning to improve my communication skills, which soon included written communication skills.
Eventually, my teachers at the small international school I was attending took notice of my writing ability and put in the extra time and effort to help me grow that ability. My 5th grade teacher, Mr. Chowan taught me the five paragraph essay. In 10th grade, Mr. Loewen taught me how to make my writing more clear and concise. I went on to take AP classes and participate in creative writing workshops in college that taught me how to break down the writing process, and to listen for and write in my own, unique voice.
The point is that writing has always mattered to me. But what is it, specifically, about writing that makes it so meaningful to me?
When UYD founder, Tayo Rockson asked me if I would consider putting together a story for his publication, I told him I would think about it, but in the back of my mind, I had already accepted. I knew there was at least one story, if not more, knocking around inside my head, just waiting to be written.
This is because throughout my sometimes chaotic life as a TCK, writing has been therapeutic in the sense that it has allowed me to organize, and make sense of, my reality. I believe that everyone has something meaningful to say, but I find that TCKs have a lot to say, and that writing and storytelling can be good ways to process and express those things.
For the same reasons that I would encourage TCKs to explore their abilities as writers, I would also recommend they pick up a good novel, or watch a critically-acclaimed T.V. series. Yeah, I know. I just lumped books and T.V. shows together in the same sentence. That said, it should come as no surprise to learn that my dream is to be a filmmaker.
In fact, I believe that both writing and film can be welcomed distractions from our day-to-day lives. Further, I would argue that film is a natural extension of writing, and that T.V. shows are today’s novels. That’s not to say that I believe books have gone extinct, or even that they will go extinct, but rather that television has become a more gripping, intellectually-engaging version of itself.
With plot lines so complex and characters so dynamic, it’s no wonder we grow attached to the Tony Sopranos of television, or that we simultaneously love and hate the Don Drapers of the T.V. world. After all, just like in a novel, it is the writers who bring these characters to life.
For me, this was particularly true of Breaking Bad. Its superb storytelling pulled me in from the first episode, and I couldn’t stop watching until I saw the finale – five seasons later. The slow burn transformation of Walter White’s character was a remarkable thing to witness in this cautionary tale of a crime drama. So naturally, the writer and aspiring filmmaker in me had to pay tribute to the show when it was over.
And then I thought: what better way to pay tribute to Breaking Bad, than to visit the show’s filming locations and document that visit in a creative way? I decided I had to go to New Mexico, so I wrote and filmed a story about a fan who was doing just that.
Fast-forward to this weekend, and in anticipation of Better Call Saul, a Breaking Bad spin-off series premiering on AMC this Sunday and Monday, I’m releasing that story in the form of a documentary-style fan film called #BreakingBillinghurst for free online.
Do you know someone who loves Breaking Bad, and who is as excited about the Better Call Saul premiere as I am? Then chances are, they’ll dig my fan film, so help me spread the word.
Thanks for reading. And thank you for your support!