Jamaal Demetric Pittman is an award-winning screenwriter who has written screenplays for dramas like Long Way Home and The Warriors’ Concerto (cowritten), the former of which won the Drama Feature Script category at Nashville Film Festival Screenwriting Competition. Aside from that, he has cowritten a few comedy pilots including The Doctor Is “In.” As a screenwriter, Jamaal aims to write thematically rich content that centers on the lives of African American characters.
Born and raised in Tarboro, North Carolina, he attended Morehouse College on a full scholarship after graduating as valedictorian of his high school. After college, Jamaal began teaching eighth grade. He taught at the same middle school where he attended and found it to be a valuable experience that allowed him to be a part of a profession that shapes a child’s future.
Later, he decided to move to Phoenix, Arizona, where his acting and modeling career began. In 2006, he was signed with a talent agency that helped him land magazines covers and other print ads, as well as his first acting jobs. Around 2015, he began to pursue a new passion: screenwriting.
Jamaal currently lives in Los Angeles, California.
How did you start in the industry?
When I moved to Phoenix, I got involved with a talent agency that introduced me to acting and modeling. And from there, my career started to grow. That’s how I started in the film industry.
As for my career in writing, I started as a freelancer, which allowed me to hone and master my copy editing and writing skills. For about 15 years, I worked with online publications and helped improve the quality of learning materials through my involvement with schools and e-learning companies like Pearson Education.
Since I’ve been into writing and the film industry for so long, I decided to take a leap and do screenplays too. I’ve always loved telling stories, and screenplays allow me to do so.
What do you love most about writing?
I love the fact that I’m able to tell stories. As a writer, I can explore topics and characters that are often underrepresented.
With writing, you’re able to talk about issues through your scripts and convey messages – whether political or societal – so it’s definitely something that fuels me.
What drew you toward screenwriting?
Actually, for me, it’s more about the stories I want to tell rather than the mediums. But since screenplays are nowadays a very popular medium, I found myself gravitating more toward that.
I’ve always loved stories with rich thematic content centered on the lives of African American characters. In terms of what inspired me to write these types of stories, I must say it’s people like Spike Lee, Barry Jenkins and so many others. The way they tell stories that involve rich themes and provoke feeling is something that inspires me to tell these types of stories myself.
What is one habit of yours that makes you productive and successful?
I’m very organized when it comes to planning for my writing projects. I like knowing what’s in store and with that, I get more accomplished on any given day. So being able to plan things out makes me more productive and successful.
Aside from that, I also make sure I read scripts and connect with other writers during my free time to keep myself sharp.
I also prepare a lot of stuff in advance, like writing down ideas, so even when something happens and I don’t have access to technology, at least I have my ideas to use for later.
What has been the most rewarding experience in your career?
I’ve been writing for my entire life, and writing screenplays for only six years, but in that time I’ve had my fair share of successes and breakthroughs. But what I can say is that my most rewarding experience as a writer so far has been the overwhelming success of Long Way Home. What this script has done in such a short amount of time has been nothing short of amazing. I’m quite proud of it.
On a personal level, I believe starting my scholarship program (with my cousin) is another big one. The chance to memorialize our great aunts and give back to our community holds such great meaning for us.
What motivates you?
I think it’s my desire to be the best writer I can be. For me, it’s not about fame or money but rather about making a name for myself as someone who writes material that resonates and has a lasting impact. I want to make a difference in the world.
What advice are you willing to give to aspiring writers?
My advice to aspiring writers would be to always keep writing. It’s the only way to get better and become more confident in your craft. And to never give up on your dream. You’ll hear a lot of no’s, but it only takes that one yes.
What one book inspired you and why would you recommend others to read it too?
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It’s a great book about following your intended path. I was in the middle of ending a toxic relationship when I first read it. It was a game-changer for me then and continues to be useful in my life today.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
This is what I’ll tell myself: “Do not listen to what other people have to say about your work because you’ll be surprised at how their comments can affect you. Put yourself first before anyone else, be confident in the things that only you can do, and always remember that it’s just a matter of time before everything will fall into place.”
Can you share your best lessons learned so far?
Life is a learning process, so I don’t think there’s such a thing as the “best lessons learned.” But generally, I guess it’s about being comfortable with who you are and accepting yourself for who you are. So after all these years of writing, I’ve come to this point where my focus is not on fame or money but rather on doing what I’m really meant to do in the world. And that’s writing stories that touch people, that make people feel, and that inspire change.
What is your favorite quote and why?
One of my all-time favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou. It goes: “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But they will never forget how you made them feel.” Such a powerful quote, and rooted in so much truth.