This #firestarter is more than credentials

I often talk about #Firestarters. In the spirit of the holiday, I’d like to introduce you to a firework (insert eye wink here).  Check out these credentials….


  • Professor at Baylor University
  • Emmy-nominated Writer & Producer
  • Member of #50WomenCan
  • Author of Three Act What? and Basics of Story Design
  • Founding Co-Chair of NEXUS Film, Media, & Story Working Group
  • TedX “Hardwired for Story” and “Write and Wrong”

From Storyteller to Movement Maker

Simply put, Dr. Sarah-Jane “SJ” Murray is a storytelling movement maker. As a professor, screenwriter, and filmmaker, SJ spreads her storytelling wisdom across the country and globe and inspires her students and filmmakers alike to use stories for the greater good. After studying French and Italian literature in grad school and Romance Languages at the PHD level, something like screenwriting and storytelling might seem like the last concentration SJ would have. But SJ’s love for stories started from the moment her father read to her the first lines of The Hobbit, and ever since she knew they had the power to change the world. She chased her calling to the professional screenwriting program at UCLA and uses her wealth of knowledge from her former studies to teach that not only does the past play into the present, but we can learn life lessons and the art of storytelling from folks like Dante and Shakespeare. While SJ has had some push-back for her creative view on a great texts program and morals in stories, SJ has never stopped storytelling. This tenacity for stories and passion to change the world is exactly why I think SJ’s inspiration will keep spreading for years to come.

Preserve and Practice

There are more things that can fit on a page to say about SJ, especially with her work alongside the recent #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. But here are a few things that all of us can learn from SJ’s passion, boldness, and willingness to persevere and put into practice today:

Be yourself: There are many in the film industry who don’t subscribe to faith, and it’s a difficult topic to bring up and maybe not seem judgey or close-minded. However, SJ has never wavered from her morals and how her belief shapes her passion for storytelling. Event when people question or seem “put off” by it, SJ would be the first to say never compromise your beliefs to fit in with those around you.

Have purpose for your work: As someone who uses her filmmaking skills to fight big topics such as human trafficking, SJ focuses her work around shifting the needle on important issues and pushing these things to change. SJ says, “Yes, call me an idealist. It takes idealists to not give up – and follow through – for the needle to shift ever so slightly… Change takes time. It doesn’t even have to happen in our lifetime. But we can fight for it every day.” No story is neutral, and everything has something that it’s trying to teach us.

Connect, connect, connect: As a person with a huge network of friends, SJ is quick to catch up with those around her with similar interests, but she’s even quicker to connect others with people out of her pack. “I’ve come to realize that one of my super powers is connecting people. Bringing together talented individuals, who can go further, and be stronger, together,” shares SJ. It’s as simple as hosting a dinner party before a screening or starting a Facebook group with a bunch of storytellers. The options are endless!

Create the resource you need to succeed: Something SJ encountered early on in her storytelling studies was that, while there were tons of resources on theory and interpretation on things that already exist, there wasn’t very much out there to help a writer confront the blank page. Questioning this opened the door for SJ to create resources such as Three Act What to help writers fix their stories before they ever write a line of dialogue.

Read as many books and watch as many movies as you can: Maybe you’re not into screenwriting, but stories are one of the greatest ways for us to share culture, ideas, and movements to millions of people. “Storytelling is essentially, at its core, a human activity,” SJ says. Our brains are hardwired for it, recording it to memory like it’s our own experience. The stories we see on the screen and page are life lessons that we can learn from for ages to come. Oh, and if you haven’t seen Casablanca or read anything by Tolkien lately, well now you’ve got something to do!

Celebrate the sparks in your life

#Firestarter, I hope you throw on some red, white or blue this week and enjoy all that life has to offer. This holiday is one of my favorites because it reminds me of the possibilities for all who aspire anything in life. Let’s celebrate those who add spark to our lives, communities, and the world.

If you haven’t heard, I launched an insider group for the #movementmakertribe on Facebook. The insider group is where we have conversations, I offer tips and there are contests. There’s still a chance to win a book from my library! And don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and Twitter to see what I’m up to regularly.

Copyright (c) 2018 Williams Strategies, LLC. All rights reserved.