Eric Haywood’s career has taken him from directing and producing music videos in Atlanta for artists like Usher, Cee-Lo Green and Tupac to writing scripts in Los Angeles for Showtime series and Hallmark Channel movies. But this L.A. writer’s career got its start far from the coast, at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Peck School of the Arts.
“During the summer before my senior year of high school, I decided I wanted to be a filmmaker for a living,” he says. “I didn’t know that UWM had a program but once I found out, I knew it was the natural choice. I could stay in my hometown and study what I wanted to study.”
The freshman Haywood quickly realized just how challenging filmmaking is. “When I started in the department I was overwhelmed with the amount of information and equipment that was available to us. Filmmaking is not that simple!” he says, laughing. “But all these new ideas, the process of learning the craft, it was conveyed in a way that was digestible and understandable.”
As a budding filmmaker at the Peck School, Haywood gravitated toward screenwriting: “I made sure to take as many writing classes as possible. The program had a lot of emphasis on the visual, experimental side of film, but I was also interested in the idea of narrative filmmaking and storytelling.”
Before graduating, Haywood began to transition into “the real world” of filmmaking, writing and directing music videos for local artists. “Working with a production company for paying clients, the pressures of bigger budgets – it was a continuation of my education,” he says.
Haywood continued writing and directing music videos after graduation before transitioning into screenwriting, most recently writing and directing Four of Hearts, an independent feature. He urges those who want to do what he does to just go for it.
“My advice for young filmmakers is to break through whatever you think your barriers are. If film is something you want to pursue, whatever kind of film it is, then go for it. You have the access to the equipment – all you need is a camera and computer. Nothing is standing in your way.”