Have you checked out the Writers Guild of America, West Youtube channel lately? I stumbled upon a great panel called “Bring The Funny: Celebrating Asian Women Writers”. Although I’m all about shouting out Brown Women filmmakers, I can’t say that I’m too familiar with today’s female scribes working on the small screen (aside from Shonda Rhimes and Mindy Kaling). So I grabbed a pen and took a few notes that I wanted to share. I think most of the advice from these successful women could apply to both aspiring TV and film professionals.
Many of the women talked about getting their start as a writer’s assistant. Cherry Chevapravatdumrong (Family Guy) made a good point at the very beginning of the panel: “a smart move and an awesome job for anyone who can get it because you get to learn how a room works before you actually get in there yourself.” Walk before you run and tank the network, right? Just kidding.
May Chan (Bucket and Skinner’s Epic Adventures) got her big break through the Nickelodeon Writing Program. It wasn’t an overnight process, though. She bluntly said “I was rejected for years.” Pro tip: She applied for the Nickelodeon fellowship in its early years. Never be afraid to be the guinea pig. It might make a great story to share on your WGA panel.
Vera Santamaria (Up All Night) brought up the phrase “idea stamina”, which I’d never thought of before. She spoke of the fact that showrunners are already exhausted and it wouldn’t do a newbie any good to be running on empty either (“I need people who are going to give me energy”). If no one can break that script or act or scene, YOU have to be the one who just keeps going. That’s simply how a writers room work.
When it comes to networking, Jenny Lee (Shake It Up) has a golden rule that I think I’m going to try. She introduces herself to at least 3 people and then she allows herself to leave the event. Sounds easy enough?
You can watch the entire panel below.
My favorite moments:
Advice for newbies:
Jenny Lee (Shake It Up): “You can change your whole fate with that one sample that’s really great.”
Vera Santamaria (Up All Night): “Maintain your own voice, whatever that takes.”
May Chan (Bucket and Skinner’s Epic Adventures): “I think the smartest thing I did was go off the beaten track [i.e. writing fellowships].”
Having both an agent and manager:
Erica Oyama Marino (Burning Love): “I find my agent is very tenacious about getting all the opportunities and then the manager helps me look long-term to see what’s the most valuable use of your time. It’s a nice balance, I think.”
Initial meetings with showrunners:
Cherry Chevapravatdumrong (Family Guy): These kinds of meetings are usually more like they just want to get to know you and know whether they would get along with you and want to hang out with you for 12 hours. Act like a normal person. Be yourself. Don’t be weird.”
Vera: “The thing I know I did right was that I was really excited. It’s contagious.”
Being a women/woman of color in comedy:
Vera: [When it comes to offensive comments] “Always have the better joke.”
Jenny: “Folks just assume “Oh, she’s the diversity hire.” Sometimes it is a stigma that works against you.”