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MFA Showcase A Success

This past Friday, Northwestern’s MFA Writing for the Screen + Stage department held it’s annual showcase, featuring the work of the year’s graduating MFAs. Each of the 12 members of the cohort were allotted 10 minutes for a table read done by professional actors and directors from around the Chicago area. The talent was undeniable, the show a pleasure to behold, and the entire evening a delight. In addition to watching the highly entertaining and thought provoking work of these amazingly talented burgeoning writers, the night featured some guest stars including…

Julia Louis Dreyfus. (That’s right, it’s Elaine!)

Brad Hall. JLD’s husband and producer on such shows as SNL, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Frasier.

(By the way, both Julia Louis Dreyfus and her husband Brad Hall are alumni of Northwestern. Feels so good to wear purple sometimes.)

We were also graced with the presence of…

Amanda Watkins, the Director of Development at the Araca Group in NYC.

And last but certainly not least…

Kia Corthron, playwright, and Academy Award Winning TV writer for The Wire.

I’m truly counting my blessings right now as I look back on what unfolded but a few days ago. For the first time, all the hard work my cohort and I have been putting into building our portfolios really felt like it paid off. Not only did these notable people watch a play by little old us, but they actually seemed to enjoy it! I must, at this point, give many thanks to David Kersnar from Lookingglass Theater for directing my scene, as well as to Leah Karpel, JJ Phillips, Stone Pinckney, and Mandy Walsh for their spot-on acting in my atypical little story.

In case you are interested, here is the link to my Showcase submission. It is the hook scene from my play Lucky Penny –> Press Here.  If you are interested in reading the full script, please contact me by email at hollywould.ink@gmail.com.


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Northwestern MFA Showcase

Tonight I have the honor of hearing my work read along side that of my 11 distinguished colleagues in the Northwestern MFA in Writing for the Screen + Stage Showcase. We are the graduating class of 2012…

Writer’s Bios

(in alphabetical order)

Chris Bowen

Chris Bowen graduated from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Studies and Creative Writing. While there, he received the UNCW Blank Slate Productions Best Cinematography and Achievement in Filmmaking awards.  He was also producer/writer/director of The Roaming Reporters, a bimonthly public access show for Student Body Television, and SIDES, a live, weekly sitcom for the stage.  Chris has received numerous honors for his short films including Best Comedy for Off the Wall and Best Film for Mime Unit at the One Take Film Festival, both of which he wrote and directed.  This past summer, he was a development intern at Lionsgate in Los Angeles.

David Crawford

Prior to entering the Writing for Screen + Stage program at Northwestern, David Crawford served as an academic advisor, where he worked with underrepresented student groups He is a recipient of the Regina Taylor: State(s) of America production grant for Cy.cle, a film he wrote, directed and co-produced. David also interned at Syfy in the unscripted department.

Neal Dandade

Neal Dandade has lived in Chicago since 2006. He has trained and performed at the Annoyance, Second City, and iO theaters. He was also a member of Stir Friday Night, Chicago’s Premier Asian American comedy group. He is currently an understudy for the Second City National Touring Company and an MFA candidate in the Writing for Screen and Stage program at Northwestern University. In Summer 2011, Neal was a writing intern at The Daily Show and the Colbert Report as part of Comedy Central’s Summer School Internship.

Erin Hays

Erin Hays holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater studies and psychology from Yale University and is a 2012 MFA Candidate from Northwestern University’s Writing for the Screen + Stage program. In 2011, her short play, CRUDE, was produced as a part of the Regina Taylor Project at Northwestern, and in 2012, her play, LOST AND FOUND, was a semifinalist at the O’Neill Playwrights Conference. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America.

Allyssa Hynes

Jersey girl Allyssa is the founder of the HynesSight Players, which performs adapted Shakespearean comedies for children. Since Allyssa jumped right into grad school after getting a BA in Psychology and Theatre Studies at Montclair State University, she is frightened of entering the so called “real world.” Allyssa is an aspiring TV writer.

Ethan Kass

Ethan Kass is a Chicago-based playwright and graduate of Northwestern’s MFA Writing for the Screen & Stage program. His play Square Peg, Round Hole was a 2012 semi-finalist at the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, and his most current work, Fat., will be workshopped at American Theater Company this summer.

Jenni Lamb

Jenni Lamb is an MFA candidate at Northwestern University in Writing for the Screen and Stage. Jenni came to this program after being an actor and improviser in Chicago for over 10 years. In 2006, her play Memento Polonia was “Highly Recommended” by the Chicago Reader. She has had readings of 10-minute plays at Chicago Dramatists, and was a semi-finalist for the 2012 O’Neill Playwrights Conference.

Holly O’Brien

Holly O’Brien holds a Bachelor’s in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College, and is currently an MFA candidate in the MFA Writing for the Screen & Stage program at Northwestern University. This past summer, Holly interned at Chicago Filmmakers where she curated the short film program for Reeling: The 30th Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival. Holly plans to release a self-published anthology of her screenplays in January of 2013. To learn more about Holly O’Brien, and read samples of her work please visit hollywouldink.com.

 Dan Ochwat

Dan Ochwat worked as an editor and reporter for 10 years before enrolling in the Writing for Screen & Stage program. “Adrift” is his first stab at a monologue play. He is happily married, despite what
you might think after the play. Dan concentrates on feature-film writing, namely small American stories that range from cyberbullying to cuddling. Dan placed as a quarterfinalist for the Nicholl Fellowship. He has written and directed short films, and appeared in festivals you’ve never heard of. Upon graduation, he plans on forcing his 1-year-old son into modeling.

Milta Ortiz

Milta Ortiz is a playwright with an MFA from Northwestern’s Writing for the Screen and Stage program. Milta’s play, Fleeing Blue won the 2012 Wichita State University Playwriting award and will be produced in their upcoming season. Her play, Last of the Lilac Roses is a 2012 finalist at Repertorio Español’s Nuestra’s Voces play contest. She was a member of American Theater Company’s 2012 Chicago Chronicle playwriting team. She received grants from City of Oakland Cultural Arts and Zellerbach Family Foundation to write and perform original work and co-founded HyPE theater troupe and Las Manas Tres Spoken Word troupe.

Jessy Lauren Smith

Jessy Lauren Smith is a playwright and screenwriter whose work has been produced in Chicago, Boston, and Colorado. She has been a semi-finalist for the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference and The Juilliard School’s Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program, and a finalist for the Heideman Award. Jessy’s other full-length plays include Famished, a dark comedy about hunger strikers, and Robostracized, a children’s musical about a robot who wants to be an ostrich.

Jen Spyra

Jen Spyra is a playwright and screenwriter with a BA in English from Barnard College of Columbia University and an MFA in Writing for the Screen and Stage from Northwestern. Her humor writing has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Daily News, McSweeney’s, and elsewhere. She was a semifinalist in the 2012 Eugene O’Neill National Playwright’s conference for her play Guts, and her comedy pilot Titans was nominated for a 2012 Humanitas Prize. Her original musical comedy Ripper was produced at The Annoyance Theater this past fall and was Reader Recommended and a Timeout Critic’s Pick. She spent the past summer as a Script intern on Conan and returned to work on an offsite Conan production in New York, and will be working on Conan’s upcoming shows in Chicago this June.

 


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So You Do Want to Be on the Black List: Cornering the Market

I was pondering the whole to be or not to be on the Black List issue, when I had an epiphany. A plan really. One that I think anyone who is seriously interested in being a writer and wants to make a name for herself can do. It’s a simple idea really. Be a triple threat.

Like this cat this is doing yoga, giving itself a bath, and flashing us a look at his goods all at the same time.

Here’s the plan. First, write a YA novel, then get it published, then write the screenplay while you wait for the book to rise to the top of the best sellers list, and finally sell the rights to your book and your screenplay.  This plan is even better if you write a series of YA book, because Hollywood loves a good franchise. Of course all of this will feel so neat and tidy while your in the process, but give yourself, say, 5 years for this plan to come fully into fruition, maybe 10, and you’re outlook will be much brighter.  If you are so inclined to go down this path, as I am, I suggest you sit down tonight and jot down some ideas. As you do, try to keep in mind that you will be translating your own story from one medium into another. Think about what elements of your idea are cinematic and which parts will be better served by the novel. If you do take on this project, make sure you have a true and firm grasp on the major themes, character arcs, and the essential plot points of your story.  If you are lucky enough to get your book published and establish a fan base, those fans are going to hold you to your word. It’s just a fact. Audiences always compare the book and the movie. So fucking pre-empt them. Take responsibility for it. And be happy that you did. If nothing else, you’ll have two strong pieces for your portfolio and will have exercised writing muscles like you wouldn’t believe.

I mean how cool would it have been if Suzanne Collins had written the screenplay for The Hunger Games?

Now at this point your head is probably reeling with swirling thoughts and exploding synapses ‘cause you’re like, “Shhhhh-ugar, how did I not think of this before!” And all these ideas are swarming forward calling out to you, “Write me! Write me!” But before your itchy hands reach for that pen let’s address the fact that I said this plan requires one to be a triple threat, and thus far we’ve only addressed two of the three routs of attack. The last one is simply to really really think about how you want to brand your writing style, your story, and you as a motha’ fuckin’ writing machine.

No, not that kind of writing machine.

Branding yourself and your work is perhaps one of the most important factors to consider when taking on a project of such size. It won’t work if it’s sloppy and all over the place and you don’t really know what you’re doing or why. So, that said, take a moment and think to yourself, “What kind of writer do I want to be? What are the characters that I want to be associated with? What do I want to say to the world above all else?” If you can answer those questions you’ll be off to a bangin’ start. But if you’re itching to write right now, then do it, and worry about this component later. You can always talk about it with Random House.

Anyway, that’s what I’m gonna do to corner the market. And also have a lot of fun along the way.

Happy writing!


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Who knew people like babies?

If you like babies, this post is for you. I was thinking today how Hollywood loves babies and families.

And Disney loves dead moms.

Uh…what? Moving on. Kids are a great market. They’re fun to write for, and they enjoy pretty much everything that you do. And don’t worry. Crying is natural.

Seriously? Cute.

Who wouldn’t want to write for that? And it gets better. Writing for babies and small children is fun and easy because they like simple things with interesting visuals. Screenwriting at its basic fundamentals.

I watched this YouTube video “Who’s Your Favorite?” and thought, what a lovely example of a short film. I know that’s not what it was meant to be, probably, but it actually has a nice arc, a fun premise that is explored, complicated, and resolved (though not really to Daddy’s liking), and it left me with that satisfied feeling I get when I watch something that has a beginning, middle, and end. I love that this is set up as an interrogation (just from the one BUM! from the opening of every Law & Order episode ever made), and it’s of a baby about which one of her parents is the favorite. So simple it’s genius.