August 16, 2021

Shannan Johnson '04 has worked both on and off stage in the entertainment industry, pursuing her career from coast-to-coast and across the ocean.

Having visited 19 countries and 48 states, Shannan Johnson ’04 knows the entertainment world like the back of her hand. As a screenwriter, creative development executive, actor, dancer and script consultant, Johnson has always been destined for Hollywood, even off-stage.

Her journey began in third grade, when a creative writing assignment sparked a love of writing that would lead her to the big screen.

“I spent an entire page describing a blade of grass and my teacher, Mrs. Jones, said to me, ‘You should be a writer,’ Johnson recalled. “Of course, when you’re that age, if your teacher says you can do something, you believe it.”

Taking Center Stage

After attending Booker T. Washington Senior High School in Houston, Johnson arrived in Aggieland as a Century Scholar majoring in English and journalism. She was interning at the research magazine Pathways to Discovery when she discovered a career path destined for her.

“While I was interning there, my mother sent me an article about a Black female TV writer,” Johnson said. “My mind was blown, because this whole time I only wanted to be an author because I wanted to get books produced into movies. I didn’t even know that screenwriters existed.”

In the musical "Amazing Grace," Johnson portrayed Princess Peyai, an African royal.

With this new goal and applications pending at film schools across the country, Johnson packed up after graduation and traveled to Los Angeles, where she interned for “Dr. Phil,” ABC, Cubevision and more. Upon her acceptance to the Florida State University film program, Johnson left the bright lights of Hollywood and directed her passion toward script editing.

“I could always give people great notes to improve their writing,” Johnson said. “So, when I graduated, instead of trying to become a writer, I decided to go into development, which is the process of taking ideas from pitch to production.”

Despite being new to the field, Johnson found a job back in California as a creative executive for the Syfy Channel Entertainment Associates Program, handling script selection, branding and marketing.

“Becoming a development executive is coveted, but I didn’t know that at the time. Coming directly out of graduate school, I didn’t have the pressure on my shoulders like people in Los Angeles did,” Johnson explained. “After a long and slow learning curve, I was living my dream.”

Being behind the scenes was a great fit for the young development executive, but an on-stage opportunity soon presented itself: Step Afrika!, an international South African dance company, was holding auditions and she decided to take the leap into the spotlight. “Once I started dancing, I knew I couldn’t go back to a desk,” Johnson fondly remembered.

For the next eight years, Johnson participated in two dance companies and multiple Broadway national tours, even performing in Aggieland twice.

 

In her work and free time, Johnson promotes opportunities for underrepresented people to network and unlock their own creative potential.

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