Saiya Floyd is a Japanese-American, Brooklyn based screenwriter, playwright, and novelist who writes history and/or sci-fi fantasy stories. She graduated from Boston University with a degree in Film/Television, with a focus on screenwriting. She has gone on to place in and win several screenwriting contests. When not creating her own stories, Saiya is also a contributing writer at CineVue, an online publication that highlights Asian and Asian American art and artists.
Briefly describe who you are as a creative! What got you into pursuing a career in entertainment, and why your field specifically?
I’m a Brooklyn based writer. I gravitate towards sci-fi/fantasy and historical works, and write screenplays, novels, and plays. I had a really active imagination as a kid, and was really shy, so I spent a lot of time making up stories to entertain myself, or to tell my sisters. Eventually I realized that people got to tell stories for a living, and decided that’s what I wanted to do too. I initially wanted to be an actress, but I realized that I didn’t see a lot of people of my background (half-Japanese) on screen, so I decided I would write the stories I wanted to see.
Can you think back to your first piece of work and what you learned most from it? How much of your voice was changed since you began?
I was always writing stories in my head, or putting on little shows for my family. My elementary school had an annual project where the students would write books – everyone would write their own stories, make illustrations/artwork, and put them all together in a binder and decorate it – which the local Borders bookstore (RIP) would display for a few weeks. So for those first stories I made up when I was a kid, I would only chase what interested me – if I wasn’t interested in what I was creating, I didn’t want to spend time on it. The euphoria of chasing stories I loved is what has stuck with me. As I’ve grown, I still hop between genres and mediums to follow the stories I’m most excited about it. But I’m more disciplined about it now and can dig a little deeper to bring out more nuance.
Do you feel you are still finding your voice? What can you say your voice is right now?
My voice as a writer has constantly evolved, and I think will continue to evolve as I grow as a person. It’s something that I’ll have to continually discover and rediscover, but I find the idea of my voice growing exciting. One thing I am proud of is knowing the story I want to tell. I have definite people pleasing tendencies, and so when I was at film school, or in writing groups, it was easy to let other people get in my head. Something that happens a lot is people pitch you their take on your story. It’s not that they’re bad ideas – they’re just not the story you’re trying to tell. When I was younger, I didn’t want to be someone who was bad at taking notes, so I tried to incorporate everyone’s feedback, which made me lose sense of my own work. I’m a lot better at sorting through feedback now. I can incorporate critiques without losing sight of my own vision. And sometimes I’ll get a note that just doesn’t resonate, and I’m confident enough in my voice to say, “that was a great note – but that’s not the story I want to tell”, without feeling bad about it or second guessing myself. I think walking that line of being open to feedback but staying true to your own voice is one of the most important skills for a writer to have.
What do you hope to be known for during your career?
I hope that I’m known for telling exciting stories that either entertain people or provide them some kind of emotional release – or ideally both. I also hope that I’m known for being a good collaborator, and someone that helps other artists. I’ve been very lucky to meet other writers and individuals in the entertainment sphere who have blown me away with their kindness and how generous they are with their time and talent. If I could do the same for other creatives, I think that would be a wonderful legacy to leave behind.
In what ways do you plan on utilizing your platform to better the world?
Stories can help people understand new points of view. The stories we choose to tell are indicative of what our values are as a society. Media is a very important tool we turn to when trying to understand what life was like in a given historic time frame. I’m researching for a project set in medieval England and France, and a lot of the books and records we rely on were written by monks. To them, women were not important, and so a lot of the time, they didn’t bother to record women’s presence at certain events, or even their names. If you compare noblewomen vs noblemen (let’s not get into disparities between classes), the amount of invisible women in the records is so frustrating! If we go back more recently to Hollywood’s history, mainstream Hollywood is overwhelmingly white. When Black, Asian, or Hispanic actors were given roles, they were usually one-dimensional stereotypes. If you were to look at Hollywood as a record, you might think this was what America was like at the time, when in reality, there have always been diverse communities – they just haven’t been given as much big of a platform. It’s time to make sure everyone has a place on that platform, so 10, 50, 100 years from now, people looking back can see that all these diverse communities with rich inner workings existed. There’s a push and pull between what we see in the media, and what we see in the real life. But if certain voices aren’t being heard, that’s a good indication those voices aren’t valued in society. Representation won’t fix all our societal problems, but you have to acknowledge people’s existence before you can acknowledge their problems and fix anything. Showing the humanity of communities that have historically been ignored or reduced to stereotypes can also help people understand and empathize with each other.
I like exploring new perspectives, and writing protagonists who haven’t traditionally been centered because of their gender, ethnicity, sexuality, socio-economic class, etc. The current movement for more representation is bigger than any one person, but I hope writing these stories contributes in some small way. I also want to help other people tell their stories. That’s really the only way things will get better and change – if a lot of people make small steps and lift each other up.
What do you have in the works at the moment?
I just wrapped up a sci-fi heist feature that I’m very excited about. I’m working on the aforementioned historical pilot set in medieval England, reworking a bible for a pilot I wrote on Japanese internment camps, and am writing two plays (a rom-com, and a horror) that I’m hoping to produce once we’re able to have theater in New York again. I have a few other ideas for novels and screenplays that I’m researching/outlining.
Where can folks find you on social media?