In an attempt to escape from reality, Danielle Erlich has created an alternate reality that allows readers to do the same and escape from their own reality. Screenwriting wasn’t always the end goal for Danielle, and it still isn’t. Initially, Erlich aspired to act and initially moved to California in her efforts to begin a career. It was only after developing a long time undiagnosed autoimmune disease that she decided to take a step back from acting and began writing as a form of therapy. Erlich speaks fervently of writing and her hopes of using her writing as both a form of escapism as well as a way to deliver a message to her readers. Though she suffered from multiple symptoms and the frustration that can come with undiagnosed health troubles, she continued writing and believes that in a way, getting sick even helped her career. By writing, Erlich has created an entirely new world filled with characters she feels reflect herself and her life. Her passion for fantasy and the characters she has created is clear in her voice as she describes her works and the inspiration behind what she writes. Writing doesn’t come easy to everyone, many finding it unfulfilling or too draining. It’s clear though when talking to Erlich that she was meant to write. She describes the feeling of being a tool simply writing what is constantly on her mind and never being able to turn off the ideas. Though, to be fair, if we all had the thoughts Erlich does, would we ever want to turn them off?
A writer whose who writes escapism literature as she strives (and achieves) to capture your mind and force you to delve so deep into an alternate world that you lose a sense of yourself.
In her first screenplay, Legacy, Danielle explores a fantasy world full of magic, castles, and creatures that take the reader along on the journey of self-discovery and adventure. Danielle has a way of writing fantasy in a way that both captivates the audience as well as involves them in the story itself. The characters are relatable and vulnerable, both understandable depictions given the fact Erlich wrote the stories and characters with her own life in mind. While fantasy can oftentimes be hard to follow or troublesome in both plot and character development, Legacy seems to accomplish the unlikely by encompassing endearing characters with actual emotion and depth as well as a complex story that captivates. Not an easy feat.
Erlich’s follow up screenplay, Luana, is a prequel to Legacy that follows a young dragon whisperer on a quest of vengeance. Though you would think, as most times is true, that the follow up is a step below the original piece, Luana fights that stereotype aggressively by introducing new characters who are relatable and charismatic along with a story that doesn’t drag on (as sequels tend to) but instead keeps the audience engaged. Erlich, mostly a self-taught screenwriter who doubted her own writing skill prior to beginning her career, has already racked up numerous accolades for her two pieces. Between the two, Erlich has been awarded 1st Place in the Fantasy genre at The Hollywood Hills Screenplay Competition in 2017, 1st Place in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre at The Chicago Genre Screenplay Competition in 2018, a Top Finalist in The Hollywood Hills Screenplay Competition in 2018, and 3rd Place in The Depth of Field International Film Festival in 2018 to name a few. Now the screenwriter has more pieces in the works and even hopes to one day find herself behind the camera.
You currently live in Arizona, but at one point you were living in Los Angeles?
Danielle: Yep, I was in LA trying to act actually when I came down with all of these health issues and symptoms that led me to return home.
That was when you began writing Legacy?
Danielle: Exactly, so I initially began Legacy 10 years ago as a way to escape from the health issues I was facing at the time. I needed to escape and the next Harry Potter book at the time hadn’t come out yet (laughs). So I chose to write. In Legacy, there are three characters that I consider to be myself. Those characters are me and how I see myself. The other characters in the story are different sides of me in different times of my life.
How was the writing process for Legacy compared to Luana?
Danielle: Legacy definitely took a longer time to write than Luana. I was having a really bad writer’s block at the time, or what I thought was writer’s block. It ended up being this symptom of my autoimmune disease called Brain Fog and it kept me from writing a lot at the time, which was why it took so long for me to finish the screenplay. Luana wrote itself. It didn’t take long at all, it all flowed. It was as if I wasn’t in control of the keyboard, I was just a tool.
Had you studied screenwriting when you began Legacy?
Danielle: I had only taken a semester of screenwriting before I got sick and left school so after that I basically had to teach myself.
Can you explain your writing process in general?
Danielle: Ideas come to me in the middle of the night. I try to write everything. I write all day. I wake up at 5 AM and write
5 AM? That’s insanely early.
Danielle: I just can’t get the voices in my head to shut up (laughs) It’s constant. I just write what’s in my head.
Have you always enjoyed writing?
Danielle: Oh always. I wrote my first book in second grade, “Lady in Red.” I’ve always enjoyed writing, whether it be essays or poems for crushes I had growing up. I remember the first time I saw cocaine and I mistook it for powdered sugar. I had never seen it before! Someone had to tell me what it was. I remember heading home after and writing a poem about it that led some concerned family friends to reach out to my parents thinking I had a drug problem (laughs)
So Legacy and Luana are your first two screenplays?
Danielle: It’s so weird. I think at this point I’ve won 27 awards. It’s weird because these are my first two screenplays. I didn’t know I was good enough to win awards or get into festivals. I’m so grateful. I think I had to go through being sick so I’d get back into writing and have emotion. As they say “suffering breeds creativity.”
Any other pieces in the works?
Danielle: Legacy is actually a saga, there are going to be five installments, not including Luana. I also have another screenplay in the works as well but I am procrastinating a bit when it comes to ending Legacy. I don’t want to say goodbye.
Can you explain your type of writing style or genre?
Danielle: Think Chronicles of Narnia meets Game of Thrones. Fantasy, action, adventure, etc. I love writing fantasy, it allows me to get across messages that I wouldn’t be able to otherwise.
What do you mean by that?
Danielle: If you were talking to someone in person face to face, they wouldn’t take in the message the same way as if you wrote it. You can deliver certain messages, mental illness, politics, how to take care of children, etc. and people may not be aware of what they’re taking in. Legacy even touches on Stockholm Syndrome between certain characters. People are more open when reading fantasy.
Any hopes for future work outside of writing? Possibly back to acting or even behind the camera?
Danielle: I do want to be behind the camera at some point. Possibly directing or even as an executive producer. I love the idea of story-telling. It allows people to escape. People can turn their pain into art. I tell myself everything happens for a reason and just because acting didn’t pan out does not mean I wasn’t’;t meant to be in the entertainment industry.
Anything you’d like to leave with readers?
Danielle: Obstacles aren’t put in your life to block you, they are there to build you into the person you’re meant to be.
Did you write that? Definitely inspirational bumper sticker worthy.
Danielle: I did write that (laughs) thank you