Meet your Faculty: Lesley Tye

  • Lesley Tye reads at the Creative Writing Division's 40th anniversary celebration in September 2015.

  • Tye (right) teaches a motion picture arts class in 2016.

  • Tye (second row, third from left) with the 1991-92 Creative Writing Division.

Lesley Alicia Tye (IAA 90-93) is an instructor of Creative Writing and Motion Picture Arts at Interlochen Arts Academy.

A 1993 graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy, Tye earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California and her master’s degree from National University. She has worked in the Los Angeles film and television industry, with credits including casting assistant, below-the-line agent, and costume designer. She has written several feature length screenplays, was co-writer for the television pilot Devin's Chronicles for Caspian Sea Entertainment, and has had her flash fiction published in the anthology Bite from Trachodon Publishing.

As an instructor, Tye has taught screenwriting seminars for Michigan Writers, Northwestern Michigan College’s extension program, the Traverse City Film Festival and Project Cinema MI. She joined the faculty of Interlochen Arts Academy in 2002, and in 2004, she co-chaired the strategic planning committee for development of the Motion Picture Arts program.

Tye has also performed and directed in theatre and film in Los Angeles and Traverse City. She is the co-creator of the Mash-Up Rock ‘n Roll Musical Troupe and writer-director of their shows How Grinchy Met the Who, Grimm’s Alternative Fairytales, The Sound of Uzis and Bromeo vs The Juliettes.

We caught up with Tye to learn more about her personal and professional interests.

How did you get interested in screenwriting?
In fourth grade I saw the film Back to the Future and was so inspired I went home and started writing Back to the Future 2. I had no idea what a screenplay looked like at the time. I think my “script” was about nine handwritten pages. I formally got interested and really saw it as my path when I was a student at Interlochen and took the one film class that was offered through creative writing at the time.

What’s your favorite genre to write?
I really can’t pick a favorite. I tend to focus more on characters and their journey, and write whatever genre fits their world.

You’ve held several different roles within the film production process. Which one is your favorite?
It’s not so much about the role, it’s about the opportunity to collaborate. I enjoy the process of collaboration, when people all bring their various talents to make something that would not be the same without everyone’s involvement. Even writing is this way for me: the most exciting part of writing is when you start to share it, whether to get feedback for revision or with actors and other artists as you bring a script to life.

What’s one piece of advice you give your students?
That they can develop their own voice as screenwriters, and they don’t have to fit some “formulaic” mold of what it means to write a screenplay. I think this is one of the biggest falsehoods of screenwriting: that they all have to read the same. I also tell them if they want to write screenplays they should be reading screenplays, not just watching movies.

Where do you get inspiration for your works?
It might sound lame but it’s from everywhere: movies, TV, dreams, memories, overheard conversations. With my most recent work it’s from the actors and collaborators that I’m working with as well.

What work are you most proud of?
My husband and I created a local theatre troupe and produce our own original Mash-Up Rock ‘n Roll Musicals. It’s given me a chance to write, direct, act and produce, and we have even incorporated some film elements into our shows. Mostly it’s a chance to collaborate with other incredible artists.

Which of your former teachers was your favorite or had the biggest impact on you?
Jack Driscoll was my first fiction teacher at Interlochen, and was incredibly influential because he treated me like a writer, not just a student. He was willing to have the difficult conversations with me about my work. His feedback was honest and nurturing and constructive. I hope that I do the same for my own students.

Would you rather read a book or watch a movie?
I’d rather read a screenplay.

If you were an animal, what would you be?
I have been posed this question before and have trouble coming up with an answer. Someone has said I would obviously be a chameleon because my hair changes colors often, and others have said an exotic bird for the same reason. But maybe I’d be a little pink armadillo.

Want to study with Lesley Tye? Apply to join the Interlochen Arts Academy Motion Picture Arts or Creative Writing divisions. Lesley will also be leading the Creative Writing division at Interlochen Arts Camp 2018.