“I am curious about what you are curious about,” said Hollywood screenwriter and Cleveland native Travis Beacham during a recent question-and-answer session at Cleveland High School. “So, any questions about anything?”
Three classes were given the opportunity to pepper Beacham with questions.
Some asked about his writing process while others wanted to know about the reality of living in California.
Beacham answered each question with frank honesty, much to the delight of the gathered high school students.
“I love that L.A. can be as many different cities as you want it to be — and you will be fine. It sounds scary, but you will be fine,” Beacham said. “You will step off the plane, the breeze will hit you and you will be like, ‘Ah, I was lied to all of these years.’”
The last time Beacham stood in the Betsy Vines Theater he was a student at Cleveland High School. He took a minute at the beginning of the Q&A to give students a glimpse into his memories of the little theater.
“I am in awe of this theater you have, because when I was here, we used to have somebody stand behind the curtain and run it across,” Beacham recalled. “To change scenes, somebody changed hats, basically.”
Students appeared to be in awe over having someone who had interacted with Hollywood big-wigs in their midst.
“Do you live in a big house?” one student asked.
Beacham replied he bought a bungalow in Los Angeles. It was not necessarily the answer students were expecting of the “Pacific Rim” writer.
He said the purchase is what made him realize he is really living his dream.
“How many movies have you written?” a student asked with hand held high.
Responded Beacham without missing a beat, “Way more than have been made.”
He explained it is possible to make a comfortable living as a screenwriter and never have any movies made.
“A friend of mine said a movie does not want to get made. It will fight you every step of the way,” Beacham said. “You have to drag it kicking and screaming into the world and if it [makes it], that is a really rare thing. It means all of the stars have aligned.”
Beacham continued , “If you are sitting in the theater watching the most terrible movie you have ever, ever seen, it would knock you flat in your seat to know how many miracles had to happen for even that terrible movie to get made.”
Seeing the process of initial inspiration to silver screen success has tempered Beacham’s snarky comments about movies, whether good and bad.
“Killing on Carnival Row” was a spec script Beacham wrote while attending the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. A friend of his received an internship in California where he mentioned Beacham’s script. After that, Beacham told the attentive students, nothing was the same.
He explained his journey to California began at Cleveland High.
“What happened here was this is where I started taking my aspirations seriously,” Beacham said.
“There is a time in high school where ... you are either going to put [childish dreams] aside and adopt more practical aspirations, or you are going to pursue them. My choice was to pursue them.”
Added Beacham, “Mainly because I just wasn’t good at anything else.”
“Have you ever thought about making a movie about yourself?” questioned another student.
Beacham said all of his movies are kind of about himself. He also prefaced his answer by admitting it might sound a little weird.
“You take the things that are happening to you in your life, whether you mean to or not, you take them and they influence your writing,” Beacham said. “‘Pacific Rim’ is a product of the mood I was in when I wrote it, but you would never make the connection between what happens in it and what was happening in my real life.”
Continued Beacham, “You always have to approach these things personally. Some people say write what you know. I think that is a terrible idea. I think you should write what you love.”
Beacham’s parents, Joy and Bryan, and his maternal grandfather, Bob Travis, had the opportunity to watch Beacham in action.
“These are his people,” Joy said of the gathered students from Renaissance Choir, theater and assorted clubs. “He is in his element.”
Travis added it was enlightening to see his grandson in a different light answering questions in front of the large group of high school students.
Beacham stayed afterward to sign autographs and take photographs with the students.