Zoë lives and works in LA as a Film and TV writer. In film, she has written screenplays for Stan Lee, Rob Reiner, 20th Century Fox, the Walt Disney Co. and independent films for Good Deed Entertainment and Hyde Park. She has sold pilots to ABC TV and to George Clooney’s co, Smokehouse. She writes for TV on shows including Wolverine and The X Men, Ash Vs. Evil Dead, Sleepy Hollow, Carnival Row, Siren, and the Game of Thrones video game.
What is your favourite memory of Roedean?
Roedean was my home away from home from the ages of eleven to eighteen, so it encapsulates the entire growing up process for me! I was a little girl there, and later (almost) an adult. When I was little, my friends and I would roam the fields behind the school, pretending to be World War 2 planes, and burying time capsules (my offering was a cassette tape featuring “Eternal Flame” by the Bangles, on repeat.)
We danced to “Grease” in our JH cubicles, we held Seances and the local Vicar got called in to read us the riot act, and we watched Dirty Dancing on a Saturday night lying on our duvets in the big playroom!
Then it was House 2 and theatrical shenanigans - stealing retro ’60’s uniforms from the attics and wearing them around the place to confuse people, visiting each other’s Houses at night, and trying to avoid the infamous Mr Harvey and his security dogs…. Once we reached the sixth form, we produced an alternative school magazine called Teen Idle and left copies all around the school overnight resulting in Big Trouble as it was way too risqué! As you can imagine, I have stayed very close to all my comrades in arms…. Roedean is family.
What was the best piece of advice you were given whilst at School?
The 90’s weren’t huge on advice giving. We found our own way, pretty much. The thing which was enormously liberating was that there was simply no awareness of our gender as being in any way an impediment to achievement, or even as something to consider. We were all just people. When I got to Cambridge (and later Hollywood) I experienced sexism for the first time. But by then, I was formed internally enough to be able to reject it. So Roedean gave me that. Plus resilience, which is indispensable in Hollywood - see below…
When you were at Roedean, what did you want to be when you ‘grew-up’?
I remember interviewing with Mrs Longley when I was ten and telling her I’d either like to be a writer or a hairdresser. It became clear to me as time went on that writing was my passion - Mr Christie and Mrs Packer encouraged my short story writing, and Mrs Packer called Cambridge when I got a B in my Latin A-level (my grammar was never a strong point) and told them I was one of her best students in decades, and to take me. They did. I owe her one! When I reached the Upper Sixth, I got hold of a video camera and forced my friends to appear in movies such as “The Real Ref” shot in the Ref, naturally! I also produced our own versions of Jane Austen’s Emma and The Canterbury Tales to revise to. I wasn’t big on revising… There was a rumor going around that I had finally started revising for my A-levels, and apparently everyone in House 3 got up and left the ODR in a panic to resume study!
What are you now you've grown up?
After being involved in lots of plays and short films at Cambridge and having interned on New York movies each summer, I became obsessed with going to film school in America, and I got a scholarship to UCLA in LA. I thought I’d be there for three years before returning to the UK…. but I got an agent, started my writing career, got married and had 2 children. Oops. I am now a dual UK and US citizen!
I define myself as a ‘Film and TV writer” because I go back and forward between both. I started mainly in film, doing feature assignments, then as streaming got bigger, I started to work in TV as well.
What does your job involve?
Lots of coming up with ideas and trying to sell them! For the past five years I’ve pretty much split my time between what we call ‘staffing’ ( working in a writers room as part of a writing staff) and ‘development’. Staffing pays the bills, then in the 6 months off on hiatus, we all write our own scripts, and pitch ideas to executives. People move back and forth between working on shows for other people and on their own shows when they can sell one. No easy feat. Then I keep the film side going too - I have 2 films currently being ‘packaged’ with financiers, directors etc - one is a Holocaust drama and the other is a 1970’s supernatural thriller.
What have you done that you are most proud of?
The jury’s still out on that one but I know what I am grateful for, so we’ll go with that! I’m grateful that I have the resilience to pick myself up again and again, because the film/tv industry is brutal, but I love creating with every bone in my body, and so I go through endless “no’s” until I get a “yes”. Rinse and repeat. I am very grateful for my family - I have two small children, Orla and Kit, and a new nephew in England I’m longing to meet after COVID.
What are the three objects you would take with you to a desert island?
Are we assuming that the forces manipulating my stay on the island (see: THE WILDS) have provided water, purification tablets, soap and sustenance? If not, them. If so….a comfy bed (which washes itself), an outdoor rain shower and hot tub combo, notebooks and pens, and access to my apps!
What books have had a significant influence on you and why?
Orlando - Virginia Woolf, The Magic Toyshop - Angela Carter, The Passion - Jeanette Winterson. These are three I remember buying at Roedean bookshop.
What is on your bucket list?
It’s basically to just enjoy being with everyone I love as often as possible. I think the lesson of this past year has been - a roof over your head, food to eat, health and loved ones are all that really count.
If you had one year and unlimited funds, what would you do?
Gosh! Can I also press ‘pause’ on external events so I can just relax and not worry about missing things I should be doing? Ok, first up is the selfish six months… This involves an intoxicating combination of day spas, yoga retreats and global travel - with a nanny and a chef in tow of course! After that… time to set up a foundation. You said I had unlimited funds! This means I can find a million good causes and give millions of dollars away.