We had the good fortune of connecting with Caledonia Hanson and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Caledonia, career-wise, where do you want to be in the end?
As a screenwriter and storyteller, my goal by the time I reach the end of my life, let alone my career, is knowing I passed on messages of love and acceptance to those who have read and watched my work.

I was adopted into a single-parent household where I was raised by a strong mother and doting grandparents who told me I could be anything I wanted to be when I grew up. I think they all knew I was going to be a storyteller of some kind, even before I did. They happily gifted me books and journals and never discouraged me from telling lengthy stories about what happened at school and with my friends, whether or not my stories may have been a little exaggerated never crossed their minds. At least, not out loud.

I was a really sickly kid growing up and I only grew into my disabilities the older I got. I love my mom, but she constantly discouraged me from saying I was disabled. At first I thought she was ashamed of the fact that I have narcolepsy and require a cane, but I realized the older I got she wanted to protect me from an extremely ablest world. Where a lot of people see anything that’s not able or neurotypical, they assume I’m a liability but overlook the fact that for every two steps they take, I take four. And instead of focusing on that being a problem, they need to realize that it means I really want to be there. More than anyone else because it takes twice amount of time and effort for me to force a seat for myself at a table I was invited to but a chair wasn’t saved for me. I’ve been working with my mom on embracing my weaknesses as my greatest strengths, and that I shouldn’t have to lie to get jobs or advance my career. She’s a lot better at accepting the things that make me unique as a writer, and I’m really proud of her and thankful for it.

It wasn’t until my early 20s I found my birth family, along with all the baggage and secrets that come with any familial connections. One of the things I discovered was my indigenous roots, and finding that connection felt like coming home. That’s been a journey on its own, but that accumulated with being disabled and queer growing up in conservative Orange County was a ride that definitely defined a lot of who I was and how I wanted my stories to be told one day.

When I first started writing, I think my answer to this question would have been “to sell a script” or “maybe win an Emmy.” But I think saying those things aren’t completely true, because as a writer, I don’t think you’re truly done until you’ve cradled the world with your messages your heart longs to spread and refuses to be put to rest until you can make those unique connections only storytellers can. My goals are broken up for now into steps, from finding representation, then selling a script, and finding myself in a writer’s room, then one day leading my own writer’s room for my own television series.

Of course, an Emmy and an Oscar would be nice, but the end goal and where I want to be professionally by the end of my career is feeling so secure with myself and knowing I created a change I wanted to see in the world. Knowing that my stories have inspired little boys to know that it doesn’t make you any less of a boy for liking pink, or that you’re more than tragedy as a queer or BIPOC, that it’s okay to not be okay. I’d like to use that influence and the money accumulated to create opportunities for minority writers to gain access to resources, inspire people to want to help local tribes in times of crises, and feel strong enough to one-day foster children or at least volunteer to make things easier. I’d love to open centers and donate land back and whatever I can to make life easier and fairer to those who normally are at a disadvantage. That’s the greatest gift I can give myself and to the world as a screenwriter and I know I’ve made it to where I want to be in my career when I reach that point.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I think what sets me apart from a lot of people is my passion. I’m genuinely excited about everything and anything, and I have absolutely no idea how to do anything without being extra about it. Going to new places, meeting new people, eating new foods I’ve never heard of, reading new books, and watching new movies; there’s so much about this world of ours that’s so insanely beautiful. The good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly. All of it. I was constantly told to “tone it down” and that I was intimidating and “too much.” I realized the hard way that being passionate could overwhelm others, especially those who showed their passions in other ways or may not know what it is their passion about just yet. But that excitement and wonder are often reflected in my stories.

My scripts are my love letters to the world. One major theme my stories tend to tackle is the concept of greif and mourning. I had lost a lot growing up and I want people who watch my movies and shows to realize they’ve never been alone. It’s okay to feel sad, lonely, and like you’re not enough because the adults in your life failed you in a country where a lot of people and children get left behind because they don’t fit the status quo. Grief isn’t reserved for literal death, it’s also reserved for the death of childhoods and innocence, the death of friendships, the death of ego, and parts of yourself that you grow out of the older you get. Being queer, found families and familial love is often a strong theme in my stories as well, along with being okay with having a coming of age story later in life. One of my scripts is about a 40-year-old man who dies when his cat, Tuna, knocks a tv into the bathtub with him and he’s left to haunt his apartment and three misfit orphans move in. It’s a literal and metaphorical way for me to tell my audience that life doesn’t end at 40. Or any age.

I had written a short script back when I was 16 called “The Magician’s Assistant” that I had put on the back burner for about ten years. I had written another short called “Jonesy” which I tried to play around with while going to college, but that also got put on the backburner, too. As a high school student attending the Orange County School of the Arts, I remember being constantly told that writing was one of the hardest things to break into aside from acting and was encouraged to look for work elsewhere. I got a degree in Film Production with a focus in Production Design where I worked in the art department for a decade before deciding to try my hand at writing again. I was working a dead-end job during the pandemic since I couldn’t find any work, and I started submitting Jonesy and The Magician’s Assistant to contests without much thought, and when I started placing and winning I realized maybe I should have given this a try a long time ago?

Between customers and on my breaks I’d write quotes and plot points and characters in a journal then type up my first pilot script when I got home from a long day of work. I think the hardest part about writing was just starting the journey after so long and being convinced that art was my end game. It was trial and error trying to figure out which contests were worth my time, which weren’t, and who and where to invest my time, money, and energy into. It was an intimidating process and absolutely a second job on top of the full-time one I already had at the hardware store, but I did it. I figured out how to convert my social media accounts into one to celebrate myself as a writer and activist, connected with writing friends on the same journey as me, and tested my luck and gifts by throwing my hat into pitch sessions and meetings not knowing if this will be the one to change my life or if I’ll be back to square one in my search. I’m still not quite where I want to be, but the friends and connections, and experiences I’ve made and had over the last two years have been extremely rewarding in and of itself. Investing the right time and energy into my different priorities helped me overcome most of my obstacles, even though it was hell pushing through my illness flareups. It was Churchill who said, “if you’re going through hell, keep going.”

I’m not someone who is cutthroat or competitive. I hope we all succeed. I’m more than happy to share my experiences, and resources, and offer mentoring whenever and wherever I can to those who need it. My last two years have been extremely educational on my journey as a screenwriter, and honestly, if I can help budding writers and filmmakers cut that time in half, I’m more than happy to help. Their successes are no threat to my own, like I said I hope we all make it.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Physically I’m in Contra Costa County, but mentally and emotionally I’m in LA. I lived there for five years and I’ll be finding my way back soon enough to where I’m going to pretend I’m reading this question from my apartment in Atwater Village where I lived before.

The best spots in LA are the ones you pass on a daily basis. LA is so rich in history, where other cities had newly built on top of the old, Los Angeles was just painted over with time. Every day I’d plan to take my best friends to wherever I think best suits their interests while also respecting and geeking out over the hidden history underneath our own noses. Like, did you know that there’s a rumored curse on the Los Feliz neighborhood? Or that the gay riot at the Black Cat Tavern in Silver Lake never actually existed? Did you know that the abandoned Lincoln Heights jailhouse was home to one of the worst cases of police brutality? Or that the televangelist movement didn’t start with Tammy Fae, but rather Aimee Semple McPherson who created the country’s first Mega Church in Echo Park? Or that Edward Doheny of the Teapot Dome Scandal was the first to strike oil in a developing Los Angeles way before the scandal ever happened? Did I mention there are abandoned Cold War Era sirens all over LA, hiding in plain sight?

I’d take my best friends on a tour to all those places, giving them a glimpse of what makes LA so… LA. We’d stop by plenty of my favorite small eateries, one specifically is Fred 62 in Los Feliz which has some of the best burgers and milkshakes I’ve ever had. It’s also a hot spot for celebrity sightings if you’re lucky enough! I’d also take them to get drinks and do trivia at Bigfoot Tavern in Atwater Village where they have a s’mores cocktail that’s to die for, and a beach day on a public but isolated spot I know of in Malibu where I got a wicked sunburn.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I tell my mom and my family and best friends that I love them every day, they know how much they’ve inspired me and encouraged me to be the best version of myself. I’m extremely grateful for the indigenous groups who have adopted me outside of my family’s tribes, the queer community that have made me feel so at home in my body, and I could try to choose a book that has touched me on a deep level, but this shout-out has to go to one of my best friends. My editor: Austin Burns.

Austin and I had gone to high school together but we didn’t end up becoming close until the summer of 2020, months into the world crashing and burning. I had reached out to her because we both have the same rare disease and I wanted her input on how she manages it, and from there, a friendship blossomed. We talked every day about everything and anything and after realizing the pandemic both put us in an even bigger rut than we had felt even before the pandemic hit, I asked her if she’d be interested in editing my scripts if I started to focus on my writing career and she said “sure! Why not?”

The reason I want to give her a shoutout is that, without her, I don’t think I’d be where I’m at in my career. Austin has not only been arguably one of my biggest supporters as my editor, but also has become one of my biggest influences. I hadn’t written a script in years and, despite having many ideas for TV shows, I had no idea where to start or how. I had worked in the film industry in the art department for ten years, and when Covid hit, I wasn’t getting any work so I swallowed my pride and moved back home to save up money through a temporary job at a mom-and-pop hardware store. I had great managers, and co-workers, and even the job wasn’t that bad. It was mentally, physically, and emotionally challenging and exhausting to keep up with, but Austin saw how much the changes weighed on my soul and encouraged me to try to write the pilot script I had been talking to her about.

Between customers and on my breaks, I had a journal where I scribbled down plot points, characters, breakdowns, and quotes. When I got home, I fought through my fatigue to slam out my first pilot “Necropolis” in under a week. But I wouldn’t have been able to do that without Austin’s encouragement and dedication to seeing me succeed. She helped polish my scripts to perfection and gave me honest feedback about what worked and what didn’t. She never told me “no,” just “how about this instead?” Her unconditional love, patience, perciverience, and dedication inspired me to send my script to contests, always celebrating every win no matter how small with me, and has diligently pushed me to continue writing my next pilot script, then a short script as a proof of concept for a feature, and has been my right-hand man through the process of finding representation and raising my spirit when morale is low with how slow the process can be while waiting for the fruits of our labor to grow.

Austin is the kind of friend everyone deserves, the person everyone should have in their life. She inspires me every day to be a better writer and better person overall, and the future is that much brighter and kinder knowing she’s holding my hand the whole way there. I can’t imagine doing any of this without her, I don’t think I could’ve. I’m so grateful we found each other, thank you Austin for being the greatest friend and adopted sibling anyone could ask for!

Website: https://www.caledoniahanson.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/caledoniahanson/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/caleighhanson/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CaledoniaHanson

Image Credits
Cheshire Isaac, myself.

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