When you take action and move in the direction towards a goal, the universe will step in and send you the people, events, and circumstances to get it done. I got out of college and attempted to produce my next short film (I had made one in my undergraduate program), but the people who were supposed to help me got interested in other things. Instead of trying to figure out a way to get it done, I simply gave up on it. However, years later when I actually did make my second short, everything I needed eventually came to me because I was determined to get it done and didn’t give up. The universe only steps in and helps you when you believe that it will. Otherwise, you are flying blind and you don’t understand why things don’t work out for you.
As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joy Cheriel Brown, author of “The Secret of Life Through Screenwriting: How to Use the Law of Attraction to Structure Your Screenplay, Create Characters, and Find Meaning in Your Script.” She is also the owner of Third Person Omniscient Productions (http://bit.ly/2v1XbYl). Her short film, N.O.S., aired on ShortsTV in 2020 and is available for streaming on Amazon Prime. In 2019, she produced the play, Stuck, for the Washington, DC Capital Fringe Festival.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born to Jehovah’s Witness parents so that was a very structured lifestyle without a whole lot of freedom. I remember at a very early age, my father would say prayers with me at night, and he would pray for other Jehovah’s Witnesses that were being persecuted or suffering in various countries, and I remember even at such a young age, thinking that the world was really a mess and that I had to do something to fix it. I started writing screenplays at the age of 10, and I believed that this was how I was going to do my part to make the world a better place. However, I wasn’t consciously aware of the stress I was under being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I had convinced myself to adopt beliefs that I subconsciously didn’t believe in and experienced psychosis for the first time when I was 18, but I didn’t get diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder, bipolar type until I graduated from Howard University, where I studied film, when I was 24-years-old, and it wasn’t until five years later when I was 29 that I actually left the Jehovah’s Witness religion.
When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?
I decided to start writing screenplays at the age of 10, after seeing Home Alone. Macaulay Culkin looked like he was having so much fun in Home Alone that I, too, wanted to become an actor. However, when I asked my parents if I could get an agent, they told me no. I then decided that I would write my own screenplays and direct and produce them and star in those. The only problem was I didn’t know how to write a screenplay, and it was 1991 so the Internet wasn’t a thing then. So, I did what everybody did back then when they wanted to learn about a new subject. I went to the public library. I’m from Prince George’s County, Maryland, which is in the Washington, DC metro area, and the only screenwriting book in the whole library system was “Successful Scriptwriting” by Jurgen Wolff and Kerry Cox. I didn’t know it then, but the book had just been published by Writers Digest Books on January 1, 1991, and it became my bible for the next seven years. The thing I loved about it was it was very thorough on all the different types of screenwriting at the time — features, TV, and even Movies of the Week, but what I loved about it the most was that it taught you how to think like a self-employed entrepreneur. As a result, I’ve been getting my scripts copyrighted even since I was 10-years-old, as well as keeping copious records. I can’t imagine what my habits would be if I had started off with one of the more popular books — like “Screenplay” by Syd Field, which is the first book I always recommend to new writers, but that book wasn’t in my public library, and there definitely was no Amazon, which is where I eventually would purchase all of my screenwriting books years later.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
I attended Howard University for my undergraduate studies and at the time, they had something called the Paul Robeson Awards — they were like Howard’s Oscars. I had transferred to Howard from Prince George’s Community College in the 2002–2003 school year, and I won the Paul Robeson Award for Best Feature-length Screenplay in 2003 for a script that I had written in high school when I was 17. So the next year, I was pretty confident that I would win two years in a row. I entered a different script that I had also previously written, which was a script that I also had submitted for my script writing class, and the professor for that class hadn’t really given me any notes for that script. Her notes consisted of correcting grammar with the dialogue, grammar that was purposely incorrect because that’s how the characters talked. So imagine my surprise when, not only did I not win another Paul Robeson Award, the dean of the Department of Radio, Television, and Film called me into her office to question me about why the script was so bad when the script I submitted the year before was so outstanding. I stumbled through an excuse that I had written it to get through a hard time in my life, which was indeed true. But this taught me two things: 1. Know the credentials of the person reading your script. Even though my professor was teaching script writing, she had no idea what made a script good. The dean of Radio, Television, and Film gave me notes that were totally on point that my professor hadn’t even thought to give me. And 2. You, as the screenwriter, need to be able to read over your own work and detect weaknesses and bad writing before you ever give it to someone else to read. It’s simply not good enough to rely on someone else to do it.
Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?
I learned about the law of attraction in 2012. First from the book, “Think and Grow Rich,” and then from the book, “The Secret,” and it completely changed my life. I learned that everything in my life was the way it was because I had manifested it as such. As human beings, we are powerful creators, but most of us manifest on default. When we manifest intentionally, we can create the lives of our dreams. The law of attraction works with the simple three step process of ask, believe, and receive. You first ask the universe for what you want; believe that you can have it and deserve it; and then you receive it. Early on I recognized that ask, believe, and receive coincides with how a screenplay is written with Act I, Act II, and Act III. With my book, I ultimately intend to change the way stories are told. But first people must understand that the universe is a friendly place and has their back. This is more apt to happen when fictional characters begin to properly use the law of attraction to accomplish their outer goals in the stories people watch. Nowhere in these stories will it be said directly that it is the law of attraction, but eventually viewers will subconsciously learn how to use the law of attraction and will ultimately manifest the lives of their dreams. The way the protagonist manifested his dreams in the book, “The Alchemist,” is literally the way it’s supposed to work for all of us. Life was never supposed to be hard and a struggle, but instead, life should flow. Through my screenwriting book, “The Secret of Life Through Screenwriting,” it is my intention that people learn how to eliminate the struggle and hardships in their lives by watching television, movies, and stage plays.
Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
In my book, I talk about how in most movies, characters manifest what they want in a way that is not how it works in real life. In real life, to manifest what you want, you have to show gratitude first for what you already have. If you are unable to show gratitude, you will never manifest what you actually want. To illustrate this, I use an example from my own life when I left my high school teaching position. I was done with teaching high school English, and I wanted to find another job. But a new job hadn’t manifested for me by the time the next school year started. So, I began to temp in property management, stayed at the part-time retail job at a bridal shop that I had been working at while I was teaching, sold life insurance, and partly lived off the refund I had gotten from grad school. Of course, I looked for a job for several months, but it wasn’t until I accepted that I would be temping, selling life insurance, working a part-time retail job — and got happy about that — till a new job manifested for me as an academic counselor at an online university. It isn’t until a person accepts their current circumstances and expresses gratitude for them that they manifest what they want.
What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?
As I’ve mentioned before, I started writing screenplays at a very young age, and over the course of my three decades of writing screenplays, I had read the majority of all of the major screenwriting books except one. For years, I refused to read the book because I thought it had a stupid title. But the book was everywhere, so one day I decided to purchase it and read it. It made me so angry because the author gives a very specific formula to follow and I began to see it everywhere in just about every movie I would go to see, and I would often see two movies in the theatre per week. What angered me even more was that this guy’s word was gospel simply because he sold a bunch of spec scripts in the 90s for movies that got abysmal reviews and bombed at the box office. I talked to my mentor about it, who was one of my former professors, and she told me that she had met the guy who had authored this book and said he was a great guy; this alone explained to me why his book was a bestseller — he set an intention and attracted this success, but I still complained that his book singlehandedly ruined movies because movies really hadn’t been the same since his book was published in 2005. My mentor suggested that I write my own screenwriting book. Quite honestly, the thought had never crossed my mind. But I had decades of screenwriting experience and was self-taught for about seven years before I met a professional screenwriter, so I had made all of the mistakes. Plus, I had learned about the law of attraction six years earlier, which had changed my life and I loved the law of attraction even more than screenwriting. When I first learned about the three step process of the law of attraction — ask, believe, receive — I immediately noticed how it coincides with Act I, Act II, and Act III of a screenplay. So, I started there and knew I had something fresh and original to say about screenwriting, even though several years before I believed that everything about screenwriting had already been said. In fact, I started on this journey accepting that there was no way to revolutionize it. I guess I was wrong.
Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I wrote an article for Stage32 that explained how my spiritual journey revealed a new way of looking at writing screenplays, and one man made a comment that touched my heart so much that I took a screenshot of it and saved it on my phone for inspiration. He wrote, “I have to digest this article. It speaks to me in ways I can’t begin to determine just yet, but you have managed to strike some chord with me. I attended a church like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but it wasn’t. I’m a diagnosed bipolar and I just recently published a YA novel whose main character is Schizoaffective. This law of attraction is something I have heard about before, and it keeps cropping back into my life. Maybe you’re not the only one getting messages. Thanks for this.” This comment warmed my heart and confirmed that I had done the right thing by writing and publishing this book. I knew that this book would help millions around the world, just as my story had helped this man.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
- Religion can stop teaching people that they are inherently unworthy and are sinners.
- Politicians can stop instilling in members of society that there is not enough to go around. They can stop perpetrating a lack mentality.
- Schools can teach the law of attraction. If they can’t bring themselves to teach the law of attraction itself, then they can at least teach children that they have the power to create the lives of their dreams.
The problem is that most adults don’t know or believe the three aforementioned points themselves.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership means that ultimately you are the person who holds the most responsibility. As the oldest child, this was my role, and this is also my role in my company, Third Person Omniscient Productions. As the leader, it’s my job to set an example. People are only going to put in as much diligent persistence as I do. However, my most important role as a leader is to believe that the impossible is possible. As the leader, our success or failure rests squarely on my shoulders because we are manifesting based on my belief system. As I say in my book, our reality reflects our beliefs. For example, while I was in pre-production on my short film, N.O.S., I was researching ways to sell it, even though everyone was saying it couldn’t be done. Well, I didn’t believe that, but I kept running into dead ends and eventually, I simply gave up and instead decided to just focus on finishing the short and getting it into film festivals. The amazing thing that happened was that a year after we finished the film, and about six months after it screened at the Reel Recovery Film Festival in Los Angeles and New York City, a sales and acquisitions company reached out to me to work together. I signed with them and a year later they had sold my film to ShortsTV, and now it’s included in Amazon Prime’s membership. As the leader, if I hadn’t first believed it was possible, none of that would have happened.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- You don’t have to believe as everyone else around you believes. You do not have to accept conventional wisdom if it does not serve you. Most people have limiting beliefs that actually hinder them instead of helping. For example, the belief that you have to work hard to be successful. When I was 8-years-old, my mother sat me down and told me that all of our decisions were based on whatever the Bible said about it. Even as a child, I wondered why an adult would let a book make all of her decisions. However, instead of believing what I wanted to believe, I talked myself into believing what she and my father believed. Lying to yourself never goes well, and ten years later I experienced psychosis for the first time because I was not true to myself.
- College is not the only path to success. I wish I had known to set out on my entrepreneurial journey much sooner. I could have started selling life insurance right out of high school or begun real estate investing as I wrote screenplays and shot short films. However, in the public school system, no one really tells you how to do this. You are trained to be a cog in the wheel. When I finally did start selling insurance and attempting to invest in real estate, I had the added pressure of having a mortgage due every month, which isn’t the best way to start a business where all of your income is based on commission. However, if I had started while I was still living with my parents, there wouldn’t have been as much pressure. But I wasn’t even familiar with those paths.
- If you don’t know how to do something, you can ask for help. When I was a senior in high school, I was editor of the school’s literary magazine. It wasn’t something that I had gone after; it was simply my turn because I was next in line for the honor. However, when it came to laying out the format for the magazine, I didn’t know how to use the computer program that facilitated this, and instead of asking for help, I pretty much gave up and we didn’t have an issue for the literary magazine that year. The same thing happened when I tried to produce a cartoon with my sixth grade class — at the point where I got over my head, I quit instead of asking for help. I always thought that I had to figure it out by myself. Ask for help. There will always be people willing to assist you, or at least give you advice.
- When you take action and move in the direction towards a goal, the universe will step in and send you the people, events, and circumstances to get it done. I got out of college and attempted to produce my next short film (I had made one in my undergraduate program), but the people who were supposed to help me got interested in other things. Instead of trying to figure out a way to get it done, I simply gave up on it. However, years later when I actually did make my second short, everything I needed eventually came to me because I was determined to get it done and didn’t give up. The universe only steps in and helps you when you believe that it will. Otherwise, you are flying blind and you don’t understand why things don’t work out for you.
- An intention is the most powerful thing. Setting an intention and having a clear vision for what you want is enough to make it happen. When I discovered Law of Attraction Magazine, I decided that I wanted to write for it one day. However, I didn’t think this would be possible because the magazine eventually went out of print. Little did I know that someone revised the magazine, and when I wrote my book, someone from the publication reached out to me out of the blue to write an article for it and to be interviewed. A similar thing happened with selling my short film, as I mentioned earlier. When you set an intention with the belief that it will happen, it will eventually manifest if you let go of the outcome while knowing that you will still get what you want.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson quote is one of my own: “Everything happens for my highest good and in my favor.” Many years ago I received an observation that when things don’t go my way, I fall apart. But after learning the law of attraction, and adopting the aforementioned quote, I realized that when things don’t go the way I had originally hoped they would, it is always for my best. Examples of this can be seen during the production of my short, N.O.S. The film took several years to get made. By the time we were ready to go, however, the original actress was no longer interested so we had to recast the part, which ended up being a great thing because we found an even better lead. Another example is that we ended up finding the absolute perfect location for the film, but if it had happened any sooner, that location would not have been available because nuns would have been living there. What initially seemed like inconvenient derailments ended up working out for my highest good and in my favor. The universe really does have each of our backs.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Funny story, I had never seen a complete episode of Oprah Winfrey’s talk show. So, I didn’t know firsthand, so to speak, why she was such a big deal. However, after I learned the law of attraction, I knew she was a believer in the concept because of her story of how she got cast in “The Color Purple” and that the author of “The Secret,” Rhonda Byrne, had appeared on her show. This piqued my interest and eventually, I believe it was Jack Canfield, whose email updates I received, was a guest on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. So I watched the show for the first time and immediately understood why everyone loves Oprah. After watching Super Soul Sunday, I set the intention that I would be a guest on the show one day because I really want to talk to Oprah about God, the law of attraction, spirituality, and what it all means. So Oprah is the person I would most want to have a private lunch or dinner with.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Readers should click on the link to my production company in the bio, go to the contact page on the site, and join the mailing list. I regularly keep subscribers up-to-date with what I have going on that way.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.
In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.
Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.
With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.
At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.
Also in 2020, Sylvan launched SEGI TV, a free OTT streaming network built on the pillars of equality, sustainability and community which is scheduled to reach 100 million U.S household televisions and 200 million mobile devices across Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV and others.
As Executive Producer he currently has several projects in production including The Trials of Eroy Brown, a story about the prison system and how it operated in Texas, based on the best-selling book, as well as a documentary called The Making of Roll Bounce, about the 2005 coming of age film which starred rapper Bow Wow and portrays roller skating culture in 1970’s Chicago.
He sits on the Board of Directors of Uplay Canada, (United Public Leadership Academy for Youth), which prepares youth to be citizen leaders and provides opportunities for Canadian high school basketball players to advance to Division 1 schools as well as the NBA.
A former competitive go kart racer with Checkered Flag Racing Ltd, he also enjoys traveling to exotic locales. Sylvan resides in Vancouver and has two adult daughters.