Meet NOVA’S Own Kelly Cochran-Yzquierdo, Award-Winning Screenwriter and LGBT Advocate

September 30, 2022

As October is the start of LGBT History Month, here are some thoughts from NOVA’s own advocate, Kelly Cochran-Yzquierdo, an associate professor of English and screenwriting. Cochran-Yzquierdo’s works capture the inspiration of her real-life experiences. One such story is set in the backdrop of the Oklahoma City Bombing. 

Meet NOVA’S Own Kelly Cochran-Yzquierdo, Award-Winning Screenwriter and LGBT Advocate

Cochran-Yzquierdo has been with NOVA Woodbridge since 2007. She is a graduate of Emerson College’s MFA in Writing for Film and Television. As a finalist for the SCHEV Outstanding Faculty Award in 2018, she is not content to just teach screenwriting; she leads by example. Cochran-Yzquierdo embraces her role as writer and instructor by opening an array of possibilities for creating compelling narratives missing in Hollywood.

After the sudden passing of her mentor, Bob Bausch, Cochran-Yzquierdo realized how short life really is and decided to pursue her passion for screenwriting. After two years of dedication and hard work, her passion has produced many award-winning works. The latest, her feature script, Love Loss, being named as a Second Rounder at the 2022 Austin Film Festival. Love Loss follows a grieving widow and her mother-in-law as they deal with the tragic loss of a loved one who died by suicide.

Please tell me a little bit about yourself?
I live in Alexandria with my wife of twenty-one years. We always joke that it equals 210 lesbian years. She has been my support and sounding board through everything. Without her, I would not be where I am today. It just proves that with support and validation, anything is possible.

As a lesbian coming of age in the 80s and 90s, I have always been part of the “other.” Once I realized that my life experiences and opinions mattered, I gained a voice. A voice once silenced by ideology, discrimination and hate has become a weapon against a lifetime of inequality. My stories, both lived and imagined, are the narratives that no other can fully capture or duplicate. 

Film exposes the plight of desperate lives, astounding victories and heroic journeys, which create the foundation for untold narratives. A narrative should not be held hostage by the mere cover of a book. It should leap from the screen—both big and small—and should teach the audience about the human experience.

Currently, I have three projects that have garnered national attention. My stories use real life experiences as inspiration. Prior to my life in academia, I was the manager at a lesbian bar, which provided the material for “Club Drama.” It won Best TV Pilot in the 2022 New York Script Awards and Second-Round honors at the 2021 Austin Film Festival.

Set in the Bible Belt of America after the start of the AIDS epidemic, “Club Drama” follows a washed-up country music star, as she struggles to keep her lesbian bar afloat. With the help of a cadre of colorful characters, they fight against injustice and hate. The pilot sets the stage for rising conflict between the Christian Right and the LGBTQ community in the months leading up to the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing. The season finale shows how an entire city can put differences aside and come together as one community after a horrific terrorist attack.

One of my works in progress, a TV Pilot for a limited series called “Remember This,” takes my writing in a completely different direction. It was inspired by my mom who had Alzheimer’s and the plight she suffered. This Sci-Fi thriller focuses on an Alzheimer’s patient who can no longer communicate. Her cutting-edge research into neuro cinematic projection may be the only way she can help her daughter uncover the secrets of her research and protect it from government seizure and nefarious use.

Tell us a story about a wonderful experience you have had working at NOVA?
One night in my Film and Literature class, we were discussing gender. The conversation turned to transgender and bathroom use, which was and continues to be a hot topic. A student who identified as a white male conservative opposed allowing a “man” in the women’s restroom. I asked if he had ever met a trans person. His response was, “no.” I explained that when we met someone in person, it can change the way we view a particular situation. To my surprise, a student that identified as a transgender stood and explained their experience with body dysmorphia. The courage of this student brought most of the class to tears, myself included. This student stated that they would be willing to answer any questions anyone had. I broke for break, and when I returned to the classroom, the white male student and the trans student were in deep civil conversation. This was an experience that a professor hopes to experience in the classroom. This is a true testament to the power of education and the willingness of brave individuals to contribute to a larger conversation and affect positive change.

Tell us how working with students has been impactful for you?
Everything I do as an instructor, mentor, colleague and advisor begins with seeing myself in my students. The community college student population embodies the very meaning of diversity, inclusiveness, respect, hard work and integrity, which are the driving forces in my teaching philosophy.

I believe in equipping my students for life. I strive to foster an environment of community and support. Every day in the classroom, I make what they say and think relevant. I help them to understand that their own personal stories are just as meaningful as the material we cover in class.

I hope to learn a lot from putting my creative work out there and then bring that experience back to my students. Even if I write for a television series, I will continue to teach.

Tell us how working with other staff members has been impactful to you?
I am privileged to work side by side with compassionate and dedicated faculty and staff. The English department at the Woodbridge campus have become my chosen family. The humanity and kindness of each professor provides the perfect learning environment for our students. I am honored to consider myself a part of such a wonderful group of people.

Please let us know some faculty members that you enjoy working with
Bob Bausch challenged me to be my best self. He believed in me and my abilities long before I believed in myself. I am not sure I would be at this moment in my life had it not been for him and his love for me. One day, he wrote a note and put it on my desk. It said, “W.Y.W.T.T.E. (Write your way to the end).” Those words inspire me every day. Bob and his wife, Denny, are the very fabric woven throughout the Woodbridge English department. Denny helped me understand the importance of relationship building when I took over as assistant dean, a position she held for decades.

Dr. Julie Quinn has been a guiding light and a compass of true north when it comes to the English discipline. She continues to push me to stay current and relevant in the classroom.

As far as Cinema faculty, Dr. Bryan Brown and Chris Stallings have been instrumental in my development as a screenwriting professor. The three of us started our full-time journey at NOVA together. The idea of an AFA was born out of student demand. Dr. Brown was instrumental in pushing the degree program through the VCCS. Not only are we close colleagues but also the best of friends. They have helped me develop a deeper understanding of the film industry and the dedication to craft, which has contributed to my drive to create unique and socially conscious works.

Topics: featured article