This week, we sat down with Jaye Beekhuis, a junior at Azusa Pacific University in Cinematic Arts working toward a double major in Screenwriting and Honors Humanities.
Tell us a little about your background before coming to APU, especially as it relates to your interest in pursuing Cinematic Arts.
When I was younger, each day after school I would board the bus, plug my headphones into my brand new iPod, and press my face against the glass to eagerly watch the world rush by outside. Day by day, I began to transform the familiar monotony of my small town with the help of a fun new game. The rules were simple: spot something I had never noticed before and weave it into the narrative of my ride home.
Ever since I can remember, I have been hyper-observant to stories in the world around me, so when I began to write them down, it felt entirely natural. French film pioneer Agnès Varda once said that cinema is “one part conceptualizing and ordering the world. The other is accepting the world as it is.” This has become my screenwriting mantra. I consistently focus on embracing the messy world around us, for better or for worse, and transforming its organically human stories into beautiful works of art with truths that transcend.
Though I am a Screenwriting major at APU largely due to my aptitude for writing, there are countless other factors that seem to have destined me for this path. Before I could even write, I used to disappear into my room for hours and emerge with pages of scribbles, which I would then proudly translate into stories to present to my family. I spent my summers reading, and I like to think the patriarchy shivered in nervous anticipation when I wrote my first novel about a princess who saves a prince. In fifth grade I read Little Women ten times, and I decided I wanted to be just like Jo March (yes, before Greta Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan, I’m an og fan). Add to the mix my mom, who graduated from APU, and my dad, who works in television, and everything seemed to fall neatly into place.
Love the reference to Agnès Varda! Truly, one of the all-time greats. You’re also in the Honors Program. How has that been and how has it intersected with studying cinema?
The Honors College has stretched me in every way imaginable, and I truly mean in every way. It has challenged my preconceived and socialized ways of thinking, improved my writing and research skills, and tested the boundaries of just how little sleep a student can run on before falling apart. However, most importantly the Honors Program has led me to discover my immense passion and calling for creativity and its relation to the Divine. I believe so deeply that we are instilled with the ability to be creative, and even called to be creative, because we were made in the image of the ultimate and original creator. Delving deeper into this passion through the lens of the Honors Program has taught me so much about the spiritual foundations of beauty and truth, and this knowledge has greatly impacted my work as a screenwriter and student of cinema.
In a more literal or logistical sense, double majoring in Humanities and Cinema is a lot less poetic. As papers in the Honors College are due Saturdays at six pm I have spent many Friday nights writing until the wee hours in the morning only to finish just in time to get up for set on Saturday morning. As a Screenwriting major in particular, I spend a lot of my time writing. I am always working on pitches, essays, speeches, treatments, or scripts, and as exhausting as it may be, it truly is what I love. Along with enough writing practice to last a lifetime, both majors have introduced me to some of the greatest storytellers of all time. I am extremely lucky, and I do not think there are many better ways to study story.
Can you talk about your interests in screenwriting as well as any interest or experience you’ve had in other levels of production? Related: can you talk about the project you’re currently working on that will be a Capstone film?
As a screenwriting major here at APU, I walk a fine line between the world of writing and the world of production. Due to living in such a weird in-between, I have racked up quite a patchwork collection of credits. From writer to AD to social media coordinator to sound operator, and even (my personal favorite) an unofficial Stater Bros ice-cream-shopper for when things inevitably fall apart days before production.
More seriously, studying to become a screenwriter has shaped my views of life in countless ways, and not just in how I view movies or television shows. I love sitting in traffic because I love imagining the characters in the cars all around me, or the La La Land-style opening shot that could take place at any moment. I love when I have a boring day or have to spend hours catching up on chores because the comedy montage with a signature song to fit the mood writes itself. As offbeat as it may be, I have turned my life into a screenplay, and outside of my own experiences I truly believe in this world shaping power of screenwriting. There is nothing that influences the younger generations more than the media they consume, and that places an immense responsibility on content creators. We have the power not just to create, but to change culture, and what makes writing special is that it has no borders.
There is something about a story that needs to be told that writes itself, and worms its way into every aspect of our lives until we can at last no longer brush it aside. I am currently working with the brilliant Bryant Hyun and Jared Brown on developing an important and insistent story that refuses to leave our sides. SAIGU is a purposeful and provocative snapshot into the LA Riots of 1992, and our whole team is very excited to see where the story takes us. The script will be the basis for a short film that will become our cohort’s senior capstone, and in many ways it will be a culmination of all we have learned, our final APU hurrah.
Do you have any particular ambitions for the future? How does the work you’re doing now—in your classes and beyond—align with your future goals?
We are currently facing an unpredictable and quickly evolving beast of an industry that no one has ever dealt with before, and that leaves a lot of question marks for the future. However, I am also walking into an industry that is, ever so slowly but surely, opening its doors to lending voices to diversity and justice. While my priority is going on to tell stories I am passionate about, my reality looks more like hustling as a stereotypical “starving artist,” which in LA seems to mean spending thirteen dollars on a salad but still struggling to pay the rent. Plus, not to flex, but I have been working on mastering my coffee-fetching skills, so I feel fairly equipped to succeed in my perhaps long time run as an assistant or intern. Stay humble, right?
Any advice for a prospective APU Cinematic Arts student or, for that matter, honors student?
Have the courage and persistence to find your own groove. It is easier said than done, but every moment spent looking over your shoulder at the people around you will only hold you back. Find what you are passionate about in every assignment, every project, every activity and run with it.
Also, you can make it through 260, I promise. Try not to get caught up in the pressures of expectations of your inevitable mistakes. Coming from someone who has been there, it feels great to laugh at your amateur ignorance on the other side.