C.M. Bratton

Media Arts & Animation

Adjunct Instructor, Media Arts
The Art Institute of San Antonio, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston

Crystal Bratton Headshot

Script writers have to be able to take their internal ideas and turn them into external realities, and that is a process. Crystal Bratton , Adjunct Instructor, Media Arts , The Art Institute of San Antonio, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston
What would you say is the defining moment in your life when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

I was 8 years old and my school was putting on a play. I was extremely unhappy that I wasn’t given a lead role – even though other 3rd graders were. I bamboozled my way as a glorified extra in the center stage group but, by that time, I was already hooked. I wanted to perform. Fast forward two years. We had just gotten back from summer vacation and our English teacher asked us to write about what we did over the summer. I decided to recall diving for goggles at the big pool one afternoon. My teacher loved it, and for the first time, I considered writing as a possible passion, right along with performance. But my trinity wasn’t complete until 7th grade, when I moved schools and was placed in a mariachi class. Though I knew little about music, the moment I heard la vihuela I knew it had become an integral part of my life. And finally, at the end of 9th grade, I discovered my voice and haven’t stopped singing since.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran's sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the profession?

I became a writer a bit backwards. I wrote poetry as a teen, creative non-fiction in college, and academic papers after. Through theatre, I met another performer who had an idea for a movie and asked for help. Fast forward a few years and that same friend pulled me back to San Antonio to work on a few films, one of which was picked up. It was then that I started seriously working on finishing my first book and, 21 books later, I can firmly say I discovered my life’s task. This somewhat circuitous route has always been steeped in my deep and abiding passion to do what I want and make a living off of it, and I use that to motivate and inspire my students into doing their best work.

Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?

One of my favorite assignments is called “POV Standoff." Each student by then has a good grasp of his/her story, and so, in class, I have them write the intro to his/her story in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd POVs. This not only stimulates my own writing (I wrote a book based off an example I showed my class), this is an excellent way to explore narratives outside a student’s traditional comfort zone and look at the story from different angles. We start in class so I can go to every student and work with each of them on how s/he is doing and how to improve. I can also help brainstorm with students or nudge them along, as well as catch early grammar and formatting mistakes. Many of my students get excited and/or challenged, because this exercise is designed to help writers grow beyond their pre-conceived styles and begin to develop more fully his/her own distinct voice.

What role does collaboration contribute to students' success, especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project?

As writers in an industry dedicated to audio/visual entertainment, we’re incredibly dependent on the rest of the programs. We can write a film or animation, but it is meant to be seen and heard, not read. So we must rely on artists, directors, cinematographers, actors, and all the rest to help make that idea leave the page.

In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world? Alternatively, what is the most critical advice you would offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career?

Students have to take their craft realistically. You cannot create without mastering the fundamentals of written communication. You might have an amazing idea, but if you cannot write it well enough to sell it, it might not ever leave your head. Script writers have to be able to take their internal ideas and turn them into external realities, and that is a process. Don’t be afraid to revise. And then revise again. And then tear it down and start over. It all counts.

Is there anything else you'd like us to know about you, your experience, or your role as a faculty member at The Art Institutes?

I currently have 21 books published, with another 3 on the way this year alone. I’m also working on several scripts and TV show ideas, and love to discuss them with anyone. And finally, you can see my work online through one of the films I worked on – it is an amazing feeling to watch an actor take your words and elevate them to a level higher than you imagined. That is why I write, and that passion is what I strive to share as an instructor.


What was the inspiration for your books?

Dragons. I’ve always loved reading about them, and that has spread to an enduring love for fantasy and sci-fi.

Please explain what we are seeing in your books.

There are several themes in my work. Dragons, yes. But also fairy tales, exploring Wonderland, apocalyptic intrigues, post-apocalyptic societies, and of course, zombies.