Zainab “Zae” Sillah, MFA ’22, Writing for the Screen

Why did you decide to study screenwriting?
I grew up traveling a lot. We spent a lot of time abroad and in different parts of the U.S. I think that’s made me adaptable as a person, and adaptable as a creator, and flexible in how I see the world. Telling stories is a way of making a statement about things that are going on in the world, maybe things that have gone unheard or unseen. That’s why I got into screenwriting—to learn how to tell people’s stories that may go unseen or untold otherwise. 

What types of films and writers inspire you?
One movie that has stuck with me for a long time is Eve's Bayou. I saw it years ago and it’s one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s a drama but it’s also haunting, in a way. I like the magical realism in it. It also feels true to its setting, Louisiana, which has a very particular nature and culture.

As for writers, I would love to work Jordan Peele. Get Out was a perfect movie, in my opinion. I think he reinvented horror with that film, because it was the first time that I saw someone use real issues, social issues that have been around since before our parents were born, in a popular horror film. I admire him for it and that’s something I really want to play around with during my time here. I love both horror and history.

How’s your experience at SFTV been so far?
One thing I like the most here is the time we spend with each other outside of school. We had a Friendsgiving potluck last fall, then a group of us watched the Super Bowl together, and we go out regularly. Having time together outside of the program lends itself to the way we work with each other inside the program. We get along really well. 

I grew a lot as a person and as a creator during my first semester. Not only do the professors and classes and assignments challenge me, but the students in all three programs challenge me with their creativity, their drive, and their knowledge of storytelling and visual storytelling. Everyone wants to support each other in achieving their dreams, whatever those may be. They’re invested in seeing me succeed, and that makes me feel invested in them, too.