Rae Benjamin had always been a writer. She just didn’t know how, exactly, to make a career of it. “I thought being a writer meant you had to be a novelist,” she says. “That was ingrained in me. And I knew I didn’t want to write novels.”
In college, she didn’t think much about pursuing a career as a writer. But after she tried a screenwriting elective during her junior year, something clicked. “I fell in love with it,” Rae says. “And I was like, ‘Oh. I can do this.'”
Afterward, Rae started thinking about how to turn her newfound passion into a real-life paying job. Since she was already in the home stretch, she didn’t really entertain the idea of changing her major. Instead, she talked to the dean of her university’s film school about graduate school.
He was reassuring. Kind of. “I graduated in 2009, so this was the height of the economic recession,” she says. “And he point-blank told me, ‘Unless you have money to spare, it would be irresponsible for me to tell you to go into debt for this. You don’t need to have a degree to be a writer.’
The dean left her with one crucial piece of advice: Rae should focus on her work and building her network. The former was a breeze. But the latter was more difficult than Rae had expected. “I grew up in L.A. But I’m from regular L.A. I didn’t really know anyone.”