Beyond The Workweek: Elias Higham (Screenwriter)

[Welcome to Beyond The Workweek, a series in which I interview young people doing creative work on the internet. I first met Elias in college, and now he lives in Los Angeles where he balances his day job with his creative pursuits to break into the entertainment industry. We were able to catch up via video chat and I was able to take notes regarding how he operates]

Elias sells garage doors and fireplaces, and it pays the bills. “I enjoy the contemplative nature of my job,” he tells me. There’s a lot of driving in his work (and this is Los Angeles so there is a lot of traffic as well), which allows Elias to really dive deep into the podcasts he listens to.

“I finished this entire ‘History of Rome’ podcast,” he tells me. “And I loved it.” He tells me about a Roman emperor named Aurelian, who was, according to the podcast, “essentially the Sandy Koufax of Roman emperors.” The podcast’s host, Mike Duncan, speaks Elias’s language on multiple levels, through being a Seattle Mariner’s fan and simultaneously getting down to brass-tacks history. In college, I remember Elias making similar connections whenever he geeked out with me in the dining hall. A storyteller by nature, Elias remarks, “If you’re friends with me, it’s because you understand that I like to talk about things.”

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Elias brings a similar focus and intensity to his creative work. 

Along with selling garage doors and fireplaces, Elias is a math-tutor for K-12, which he says is some of his most fulfilling work. “I love seeing the light bulb switch on when a student finally understands a concept,” he says. This love for walking people through concepts is Elias’s strong suit, and lends itself for well for his career goals to be a screenwriter.

“Breaking into the Industry heavily depends on who you know,” Elias tells me (referring to the entertainment industry). His current search for work involves trying to get his first Industry job by meeting the right people, which has proven easiest through his tutoring circuit.

“I have come to the understanding that every time I walk into a house it could change my life,” says Elias. “I’ve told you about the time I met Slash, right?”

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Tutoring connected Elias with some franchise producers that like him so much they offered to help him find his first “real job” in the Industry. “Basically, [Producer X] was really grateful for helping me tutor his kid, so he asked me what I was hoping to do career wise, and so I told him that I wanted any kind of foot in the door for a screenwriting position. And he told me ‘I know someone who is pitching a show to [Studio Y], and if it gets picked up, I could probably get you in as writer’s assistant.”

Elias takes a breath. “I think I can safely say that writer’s assistant is one of the most coveted jobs in Hollywood. An opportunity like this happens to about a dozen people a decade. If I get this, it would be a) mind-blowingly awesome and b) establish me in the Industry.”

Elias is currently working on a couple sci-fi scripts. One is a magical-technology TV series that explores drama surrounding the discovery of a unique weapon-of-mass-destruction. Another he’s working on is based on the life of the Roman Emperor Aurelian. “They called Aurelian Restitutor Orbis, or ‘Restorer of the World’, and the idea I have an idea for a series called Restitutor Galaxis.

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With conscious positioning, off-the-clock work, and occasional check-ins with his connections, Elias hopes to make the switch from “day job” to “career”. “I’m happy with the progress I’ve made,” he says. “I think the biggest thing is that I’ve gotten so much better as a writer.” Looking back on some of his old scripts he submitted to screenwriting competitions, he knows that he has improved. “I now have this pilot I’m working on, and I don’t know where it’s going, but I love collaborating with my friends on it. I think that’s my favorite way to write, which is ultimately why I want to write for TV.”


You can follow Elias on Twitter @highameli

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