To Boldly Go Where No Mormon Has Gone Before

To Boldly Go Where No Mormon Has Gone Before

“If I could just get paid to do this, that’d be like getting paid to live at Disneyland,” mused JD Payne as he faced a life-changing decision: continue his studies in applied physics, or dare to do what he loved—write. It was a tough choice between job security versus long nights filled with a writer’s desperation. But it was a choice that paid off for this self-admitted sci-fi geek who will in fact get paid to live his dream after landing the opportunity of a lifetime. He and a team of two other writers took the lead on drafting the third movie in one of the hottest Hollywood franchises: Star Trek Beyond.

So how does a Mormon boy end up writing for Hollywood? “It started when I was in Kindergarten, really,” he explains. “They gave us our first writing assignment, and most people wrote two or three sentences, and I wrote three pages.” Payne’s love of writing followed him through junior high, where he wrote short stories, and through high school, where he met his long-term writing partner, Patrick McKay. The pair began collaborating on short plays until Payne went on a mission to Rome, Italy. But not even an ocean separating them stopped their writing.
Even during his mission, the two continued to collaborate. Payne recalls one P-day when McKay visited, and they walked through the Roman forum brainstorming. “Our goal was, ‘we know we’re not good now, but let’s get better. Let’s write a screenplay every year. Let’s try a bunch of different genres.’”

Back in the states for school, still studying physics, Payne eventually hit his breaking point. “I was stealing time from my physics problem sets to work on my screenplays,” he realized. “And I asked myself, ‘why am I living someone else’s life? Why am I saying I’ll be an engineer and then write on the side?’ It felt like I was studying for a life where I was only doing what made me happy for a few hours a week. But if I could make a living while doing something that brought me such happiness, it felt like that was the right way to go.” Read more at LDS Living. (lead image also from LDS Living)

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