The Spiritual Side of Screenwriting: A Conversation with Jenna Laurenzo

The Spiritual Side of Screenwriting: A Conversation with Jenna Laurenzo

Jake:  I’m here today with Jenna Laurenzo. Jenna is a wonderful actor, a wonderful writer, a wonderful filmmaker. She is the writer, director and star of Lez Bomb, and she is also a student of ours.

It is very exciting to get to talk to you. We always talk about actors creating their own material and the value of that, and you’re one of those actors who has really seen the payoff of creating a role for yourself in a film.

So, I’d like for you to talk a little bit about what that experience was like and how that all worked for you. How did you start writing?

Jenna: Yeah, oh-my-gosh! You know what’s funny? Do you remember when I first started studying with you, like forever ago? It was before you had the studio.

Jake: In my little art studio in Williamsburg.

Jenna: Yeah, and I wanted to do a web series then. When I went to school I studied writing and directing, that was my focus. 

And I did some acting, and the acting teacher at Carnegie Mellon really encouraged me to do a deep dive into acting after I graduated, exclusively, just for a period of time. 

And then, after that year of conservatory is when I found you. And I started writing these like short web series things and you know we don’t have a lot of money. You can’t find a lot of performers.

So I found as many performers as I could and I was one of them because I also knew I didn’t have to pay myself, you know? 

So I just wanted to write and I wanted to create content. And sometimes it is just easier to do it all, because when you’re scrambling to find the finances, the less people you have to worry about, the better.

Jake: You also wrote roles that were great for yourself.

Jenna: When I listened to the way you approach writing– even in the TV Series Writing class I am taking with you now– when I listen to the way you approach writing, there seems to be that spiritual way in. I see this as spiritual, but I look at it like, “What are the themes that I am grappling with or lessons I have yet to learn?” 

And then I get really curious about those, and explore them through the writing. And then also in acting, you get to embody those things in a way that can move through the body. And I think that is a great way to learn lessons.

Jake: I love that you are talking about writing as a spiritual practice, and I think acting is a spiritual practice too. A lot of people think about acting as performance or something you do for others, and that is obviously a part of it. But it is also really just a deep dive into your own subconscious, just like writing is.

Jenna: In many ways I think that’s true of writing and acting and directing, because you have to put yourself out there and your voice out there. And in many ways it is an invitation of practicing letting go and self-acceptance and self-compassion.

And so I have found that while the younger version of me felt that like it was like in direct opposition with the spiritual path, I have found that it is in perfect alignment, because there is nothing that challenges my ego more.

Jake: Yes, yes. We talk about it in class all the time, right? That desire to be a good writer, that ego-desire, that we all have, or to be a good actor or to nail that scene, right? And the process of actually letting go of that and remembering, “All I have to do is be truthful in this moment and say something that is truthful and write something that is truthful.”

Jenna: Yeah, it is interesting, and you might like this, like recently I have been singing and playing my guitar and I have some musician friends and when I am like, “Oh my God, this is freaking scary,” they talk about channeling the vulnerability.

And ultimately what is interesting, and it aligns with all of these things, is it is really about sort of singing in tune with your own voice, instead of trying to be another voice.

Jake: I always love to think about Bob Dylan. He is an artist that I admire a lot. But one of the reasons I admire him is, you know, no one was saying to Bob, “Hey man, with that voice, you have to be a singer.”

Jenna: Yeah.

Jake: And he just became obsessed with Woody Guthrie and he wanted to be Woody Guthrie, and he tried to play like Woody Guthrie. And then once he figured out how to play like Woody Guthrie, he figured out how to sing like Bob Dylan. And following those crazy instincts I mean that is where art is really born, you know, art is not a rational process. And success– you know I would love to talk to you a little bit more about your success– but success is not a rational process too. It is a crazy process where things that you would never think lead to something that you would never think they could lead to, you know?

Jenna: Right, sure.

Jake: So that journey starts with harnessing that thing in you. Asking yourself, “What is that thing that I care about so much that like I am willing to do it if I am terrible at it, I am willing to do it if I suck at it, I am willing to do it if the learning curve takes me 10 years or a lifetime, because I just need to do it?”

That is how I feel about teaching. I am obsessive about it. I need to do it. And I always feel like if you’re doing something that fits that kind of passion for you, you’re in a wonderful position, because if you spend every day of your life doing something you love that much, even if you don’t have success or success takes a long time, you get to live a very valuable life.

But I also think it gives you the best chance for success, because it is that kind of passion that is required to break through the noise of everybody else who is trying to achieve the same goal.

Jenna: Exactly, exactly. You have to have that passion to fuel the engine it requires to get a project going and then complete it. You need a lot of energy.

Jake: It is always going to be a little bit harder than you thought.

Jenna: I always tell young filmmakers or people who are ask, “how do I get my movie made?” I always tell them, just assume no one else cares.

You’re the only one who cares. And just assume that as much as you care about this, everyone that is going to be working on your project has their version of this, so they don’t have the same amount of energy that you can put into this.

Jake: And at the same time, I don’t know if you’ve found this, but I’ve always found that when you have that kind of energy, weird synergies happen where angels just appear. I don’t even believe in angels. But I know they show up.

Jenna: I believe in angels! I talk about this all the time. I believe in angels, and I also believe in angels on this earth. But with Lez Bomb in particular, there are people who I refer to as angels that appeared in my life, that helped me through certain things I had no understanding of. They just miraculously showed up when I needed them.

Jake: I remember, I was directing one of my first plays that I produced myself. Producing your own stuff is so crazy and so overwhelming, and this play was set in Japan, in ancient Japan, and I had like six dollars for costumes. I didn’t even know how I was going to pull this off.

And we’re in the theatre one day and this girl walks in and she asks, “What are you doing?” And we’re like, “Oh, you know, we’re rehearsing a play,” and she responds, “Do you need costumes, because I can sew?” 

And, this random woman appeared and just sewed our kimonos.

Jenna: Love that.

Jake: East West Players in Los Angeles helped us out. There were a lot of angels that got involved in that project and helped us. But it is kind of amazing when you realize the force of your own passion…because I think so few people actually walk their true path. 

So many of us have a calling that we are afraid to follow, and when you actually start taking those steps onto your true path, I think it is incredibly attractive for people. People want to be involved with people who are authentic and who are living authentically.

Jenna: Sometimes it is terrifying, but the alternative is more terrifying. We sort of have to get through those initial steps. They’re always scary, those moments in life. But if you can move past the fear, there is always something greater on the other side.

Jake: So, you produced a movie, your first feature, with how many Academy Award winning stars?

Jenna: Well Cloris [Leachman], Bruce [Dern} had just been nominated. You know, he is interesting because he is so terrifying in many ways, you know.

He is intimidating because he is Bruce Dern, and Cloris is intimidating too. But Bruce is just razor sharp with his intuition, and he’ll tell you exactly what’s going on with everyone, and it is really interesting because he doesn’t hold back when he wants to share.

Jake: Do you have a terrifying Bruce Dern story to share with us?

Jenna: I have so many wonderful– like oh-my-gosh, the first day on he showed up on set, his holding was my childhood bedroom. We shot it in my family home because these are the locations I had access to. 

So, I immediately regretted that, because I am looking around and everyone is like, “Oh-my-God, this set decoration is amazing in here,” but like my childhood bedroom was like… “preserved.”

So I am saying, the most embarrassing decor that everyone thought was added for the movie was actually just… there. And Bruce was was making fun of me left and right about this room.

And then he comes onto set and we’re about to shoot, we’re ready to shoot the scene with him and Cloris– the thing about it is, we shot the movie in 15 days so there wasn’t a lot of time to improvise, we shot what was on the page for the most part.

Now, Bruce got a little leeway because he is Bruce, and he sometimes just… he fires off what he calls “Dernzies.” And on the first day, he warned me. He gave me a high compliment for my script and I should have seen that I was about to get.

So he was like, “I know why you cast me,” and I was like, “Uh, huh?” And he was like, “Grandpa doesn’t have a lot of lines, we’re going to give him some.” And I was like, “Oh crap!” 

But he does, he gives you so much. You know, sometimes you just have to have a little faith, allow a little room. There were moments when he and Cloris, they kind of got at it, improvising and I was like, “Are we fighting or are we improvising?”

But the two of them, you see them work and you’re like, “Oh.” 

You understand immediately why they are legends, because they have such flexibility and freedom in their choices, without fearing that they are the right choices. They commit and they go for it.

Jake: I love that, because it is so true about writing too, When we get obsessed with trying to make the right choices, trying to do it right, trying to do it well, we forget that we’re in the business of play!  

We’re supposed to be playing. We’re supposed to be exploring. We’re supposed to be learning, rather than controlling. And when you watch two gifted actors play, you see the lightning.

And then, there is that very challenging directorial job we have to do with ourselves as writers? 

In a way, it is easier on set, when you’ve got an actor and you’ve got a director, and the director can just say, “Hey, Bruce, keep that. Now let’s do it again, like this.” You have an outside person who is watching. In screenwriting it can be more challenging because the inside person who is watching is also you.

Jenna: Yeah, in a lot of ways on set with that film it was the same scenario, because I was in a lot of those scenes. So, similar to the writing process, you sort of have to trust. My friend always makes fun of me for saying this–“Do I feel it in my body or do I not?”

But that’s the only way I can describe it, it’s like, does it ring true here? And I can only trust that.

Jake: That’s actually what they call Kinesthetic Learning. There are four main modalities that people learn. Actually as a screenwriter you can think about those as the four modalities you want to hit in your script. Because that means, regardless of the learning style of the person who is reading it, they’re going to experience it. 

And so Kinesthetic means that you primarily learn by feeling. And that’s why you feel it in your body, when it is right.

Whereas if you’re speaking to a Visual Learner and you say, “Well, you’ll feel it when it is right,” and they’re going to look at you like, “What are you talking about?” Because for someone who primarily learns visually, they’ll know when they see it. 

Jenna: That is 100% when my wife and I get to arguments! I told her she had to read poetry like she was listening with her heart and she was like, “Why are you answering me with one riddle after another?”

Jake: When you get a response like that, you can actually check what her modality is. It is so much easier when you know. People who are primarily visual will say, “Oh I see that… that’s clear.”

And it becomes so much easier to communicate. You want to go visual when you talk to them, even in a pitch.

To a Kinesthetic, you might ask, “How does that feel to you? Does that resonate?”

Whereas to a Visual you’d say, “How do you see that?” 

Or to an Auditory Learner, someone who primarily learns by hearing, you’d ask, “What does that sound like to you?” 

And the same modalities are so valuable when you’re writing. 

Many years ago my accountant took my Write Your Screenplay class– it turns out she is a lovely writer– but she is an Auditory. And we were doing this– I teach an exercise about how to hypnotize a reader with your formatting– and we were working on action and she absolutely could not see it! She just couldn’t see, so we tried going in through feeling and she couldn’t feel. 

And then finally I said, “Well, what do you hear?” Because she was just seeing blank. And she said, “I hear a ceiling fan,” and then I was asked, “What does it look like?” And she immediately saw, “there is dust on it.” And then, suddenly, she was able to step into the whole room. But she had to go through that auditory way of learning.

Recognizing who you are as an artist means recongizing we all have all of these modalities.

The fourth one is called Digital Learning. And Digital Learning is logical learning, which is funny, because everybody in the world thinks they are a Digital because our entire education system is built on Digital Learning, you know, “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue…” Cause-effect.

We think that we’re digital learners, but in my entire career teaching I’ve only taught one digital learner.

Jenna: Yeah, I’m not that.

Jake: Yeah there are so few and it is one of the reasons that voices get obscured. So much of the teaching is this very conscious mind, analytical; this leads to that approach.

And if you happen to be a digital learner, if you’re like the one in a thousand people who primarily learn that way, you’re going to read one of these analytical books and that analysis is going to lead you into your heart and into your vision and into your hearing.

But if you’re a normal human being, if you learn like most of us, we learn through our emotions, we learn through what we see, we learn through what we feel, we learn through… what we hear. (Laughing) You can tell auditory is my weakest, I’m like, “What is that last one?”

And so in an early draft of a script I might just start with, “What do I feel?” or “What do I see?” And then as I start to flush it out, I might ask, “Well, what does it sound like? Have I thought about the sound?” For me, that’s often last because it is where I am weak.

Jenna: Yeah. I think I feel, hear, see and then digital is last.

Jake: And digital is last for probably 99% of people in the world.

Jenna: Interesting.

Jake: Yeah. There is some really interesting theory on this, economists used to believe that people thought logically, negotiators used to think that negotiation was a rational procedure, you know, all this, education was all very digital, right?

But if you read like the more recent behavioral economists, people like Dan Ariely, for example who has a book called “Predictably Irrational” which will blow your mind, you realize that even the business world is starting to realize that we are not put together from a rational place. We are put together from an emotional place. We are spiritual creatures.

Jenna: Right, of course, nobody is logical.

Jake: Yes, and your audience is not logical either. And the things that are so logical and make so much sense in the script are often not the things that move people.

Jenna: I’m always interested in what lands with people and why. What moments. And some of the stuff that most landed was on the page and some of the stuff was discovered on set.

Jake: Yeah, I would love for you to talk about that process of discovery. One of the things, when you have a strong script, a lot of people think our job as screenwriters is to control everything. But the opposite is true, what a great script does is actually gives people the freedom to do their best art.

I really liked what you were saying about like, “Hey, we had to shoot the script, but within the script the actors found the opportunity to do what they needed to do and find things.”

A lot of writers make the mistake of thinking, “I’ll just let the actor figure that out, I’ll just let the director figure that out.”

And when you do that, you’re not giving the actors or the director the opportunity to do the best work, because now they have to do your job.

Jenna: Right.

Jake: What you really want, especially when you’re working with great people, you want them to come in and go, “Oh the story is here, the structure is here, the humor is here, the journey is here, the theme is here, oh everything is here, now I get to go in and I get to deepen it and explore it and add layers to it and complicate it and amplify it,” and all that kind of wonderful stuff. 

And so, I would love for you just to kind of walk us through the process. How did you go from writing fun web series ideas for yourself to producing a major feature with major talent in it? What did that journey look like? And what did the development of that script look like?

Jenna: Well, so I wasn’t going to direct it and I wasn’t going to star in it because people had told me that would be impossible. And I spent six years trying to attach both a director and a star, and I kept writing and writing and rewriting. And the first draft for that script was dramatic, because I wasn’t comfortable with my sexuality, you know.

Jake: I remember.

Jenna: Yeah, you know. And then six years later you have a distance between the emotions and with that distance, you can see it then through a comedic lens.

And then finally the script got into the hands of Rob Moran through a casting director friend of mine. And then suddenly everybody started telling I was going to have to direct it and star in it myself if this thing was ever going to get made! And this is after everyone told me that that would never happen!

But I was listening to the same people, as if these statements were diamonds of truth. And then I realized they were telling me the exact opposite of what they had told me with the same amount of conviction. I said, “okay, no one knows anything.”

And I decided, okay, if I am going to star and direct it, I want to make this film now. 

And I decided to do a short film as a proof of concept to show what that would look like. That short film is called Girl Night Stand. And I released it online and it went viral. 

And what that did was allowed me to show investors that there was an audience who had an appetite for this kind of content. 

Jake: So, how do you go viral? How did that happen? Because I’m sure people are so curious.

Jenna: Yeah, I am curious too! 

There was some strategy involved, but then you sort of have to surrender. 

The traditional route is to go to festivals and I just didn’t think that was going to do anything for what I needed, because unless the short wins at Sundance, which has a particular vibe and tone in itself, and I just didn’t think that this was it. I wasn’t doing that. And you can’t prove to film investors who was in the theatre at a festival

I didn’t think it would be helpful for this project. So I reached out to a friend of mine who writes for an LGBTQ publications– she wasn’t a friend at the time, but now she is a good friend of mine. At the time, I was a fan of her writing; she is a critic and she writes about representation in the media and I loved her voice.

I said to her, “hey, I made this thing, would you want to do a premier on your site?”

So, I put it on Vimeo and then she wrote about it. 

It was released on that site. And then on Vimeo, it sort of capped out at 500,000 views, but people kept ripping it off of Vimeo and putting on YouTube. So then the YouTube people told me I had to put it on YouTube so that I could deal with copyright claims.

So I put it on YouTube, and now it is at  well over eleven million views, and it even got ripped off of YouTube and uploaded to a site in China, and it went viral in China… this whole thing.

It was so interesting, but it was widely helpful to see the analytics.

And also, as a filmmaker, it gave me a much more grounded perspective about reviews or criticisms, because I could see when people wrote about it, what actually drove traffic.

And sometimes we hold onto these things because somebody says something terrible. But then, like you look at the numbers and you’re like, “No one else saw that,” and so it gives you some perspective… so you don’t hold on to that stuff as long.

Jake: I love what you’re saying about feedback and criticism. We get so much advice, and it is always conflicting, and it is often out of date. It was great advice three years ago. It was great advice 15 years ago.

And we get so many different kinds of conflicting feedback. This person says it is great, you win this festival, you don’t get to the second round in that festival. 

We have so many confusing pieces of feedback, and I think it is about coming back to what we talked about and that spiritual process of trusting yourself. 

It is not about working in a vacuum, it is also about seeking mentorship, it is about learning from people, it is about building your network of people that you trust but it is about really being careful who you take feedback from and making sure that it is somebody that you really trust.

And if people are primarily giving you advice, don’t trust them. If people are primarily asking you questions that help you figure out the answers, well, those are your mentors, those are your people that you want to connect to.

Jenna: Yeah, the people who force you to ask the right questions, because the thing is, when we start to get feedback, you talked about feeling it, but also when your emotions are affected, it muddies what you are feeling with what that feedback is.

So, I do think it is really important to surround yourself with people whose work you trust, whose voice you trust, because then even when your emotions are making your own sort of reference point a little blurry, you get what you need from those people because you already know what you value from them.

Jake: Yeah that makes a lot of sense. So, back to your story.

Jenna: So, then once it went viral like then the script landed into Rob Moran’s hands he was like, “We’re going to make this movie in four months,” I was like, “Oh my God! What? Wow, wow, wow.”

And then I knew that the script was in a good place but I knew it wasn’t perfect and then I came running to you and I said, “Oh my God, I’m directing and starring this movie in four months! I need to make sure that every single bit is hitting, because there isn’t going to be a lot of time to think on set.”

Jake: As a person who plays the roles of writer, director and star, what is the difference in the way that you look at a piece when you are a writer versus the way you look at it when you are putting on your director hat versus the way you think about it when you are putting on your star hat?

Jenna: Right, well, I guess you know you’ve been a teacher of mine for a long time and so as an actor person you know another mentor is John Dapolito.

Jake: I have so much respect for him, if you are an actor and you are not aware of John Dapolito, he is somebody that you want to be aware of, for sure.

Jenna: Yeah and I think knowing the theme is so important in all three: “What am I exploring in this piece; what’s the overall vision, what’s the feel, what’s the tone, what am I asking?”

And then, how are all the characters within that piece asking the same question?

And so as a director, I look at all of that and then I try to make sure everyone is on the same engine, and then as an actor I am looking at it as well. Really for me I know the theme generally that I’m always itching to explore is unrequited love or pining.

What is interesting with Lez Bomb is you know I started asking questions like, “What am I pining for?” And ultimately, it is my own self-acceptance. 

So, really just sort of poking at that and following those questions.

Jake: Yes, and I remember you know when we were working the script, you know we were talking about you this as a coming out story. 

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, the main character has just fallen in love and she is going home for Thanksgiving and she needs to tell her family. And they have no idea that she is in love with a woman; they think that she is about to marry her roommate, who is a man. 

And one of the things we found as we were working the script, and it was very organic and I think it is often this way with theme– theme is not something you put on the script, theme is something you learn by looking deeply at the script.

And as we looked really deeply at that draft that you had been working on, what we found was that it wasn’t just the main character who was coming out, that all the characters were trying to come out in some way and all of their coming out was interrupting each other’s ability to come out. 

And these people who just were having trouble, who all loved each other, but were having trouble being truthful with each other.

Jenna: Yeah and where does that come from? Where does that… you know, we hear talking about how important it is to live authentically, but where are those barriers to living your organic truth?

And then an inability to come out with that truth or speak your truth and then how does all that collide in a family dynamic? 

Jake: Yes. And what is interesting is, you still have all those dramatic intentions underneath that you started with in the script. And that drama is no different than the comedy you ended up with. It is just a different tone later on top of the drama. But what is going on in the film is something that is close to your heart, that you are wrestling with, that you are trying to make sense of.

And I think that that’s always an inspiring thing, especially if you’re reaching into a genre that you are not comfortable with or that you haven’t worked in before, is just realize like you write something you think is a drama and then you find out the producer wants to do as a comedy, or people are laughing and you are not exactly sure why, as happened to me many times. 

Recognizing that as a writer you have so much control over tone that you can transform anything but that you want. Those dramatic underpinnings– you want what you call the question, the question underneath, to be there so that you have that kind of glue to tie the piece together.

Jenna: Yeah and I think what you were saying earlier is really important about making those choices on the page and the script so that the actors and the director can make this choice and not assuming that the actors and the directors are just going to figure it out. 

Because when you said…and I think you mentioned this in class the other day and I thought that was a really great way of putting it, there is actually a lot of freedom when those borders are put into place, because without those borders it is too easy for too many imaginations to go off in blurry tangents.

Jake: Yeah, you see this so often in devised pieces, you see this often unless the person is a really, really experienced director and really experienced cast that has worked together a lot, you see these beautiful moments that don’t connect to each other. 

And I see it a lot with independent filmmakers and I want to throw my body in-between them and what’s going to happen! You can’t do that unless you really have money and really have a troop. 

And you see these really beautiful movies, where if the writer would have just spent another two weeks, another six months, really finding a version of what happens, they would have ended up with a movie that held together so much more strongly or a show that held together so much more strongly.

And you can even see this with great actors who come into an undeveloped script, and they are trying to make it better, even in Hollywood movies, but you see they can take it off the rails if you don’t have that framework to play inside of.

So, giving yourself a framework, even if the framework is just like, “Well I’m asking a question” Or, “What am I pining for, what is everybody pining for?” Or, “Hey, I have this idea and I want the story to kind of go like this.”

It almost doesn’t matter what creates the border, but the border is actually our way into creativity because it focuses your mind.

Jenna: Yeah and then once you know what the feel of that is from a directing standpoint, like looking through the lens of, “Who doesn’t feel like that? Are we in the same world?”

Jake: Absolutely. Asking yourself, “am I actually living up to my own vision for the piece? Or do I need a rewrite? Or do I need to ask the actor to try something else? 

So, we’re kind of getting to the end here, so I guess my last question would be, for an actor who is looking to create a role for themselves, for someone who is starting their first script or for someone looking to produce their first film or to make the move from producing or directing a short to a feature, if you had one piece of advice to think about, what would that piece of advice be?

Jenna: I would say that look at whatever makes you most uncomfortable and then that’s usually where you’ll find the piece that you are supposed to write or the character you are supposed to play.

Jake: I love that. I love that. What a beautiful place to end. So, yes, look for the things that make you uncomfortable.

Jenna: I would say the line in Lez Bomb; I won’t give it away but the line in Lez Bomb that made me the most uncomfortable on the page is the line that got the cast attached.

Jake: Give it away; they’re going to watch it anyway, what’s the line?

Jenna: “I don’t want to be gay.” That was the most controversial line; it still gives people opinions to this day especially when taken out of context. That was the one I was uncomfortable to write, that was the one I was uncomfortable to say on screen and the one that I was uncomfortable to keep in the movie. And that was the most important line in terms of getting the film up and running and in conversations and it ended up having an impact.

Jake: Yeah, it’s powerful, it’s powerful. I always say to my beginning students, if I asked you to give me your best writing and just to cut out your worst, you would actually give me your worst and you’d cut out your best.

Because, especially newer writers, but truly all writers, tend to feel good about the things that reflect what we’ve seen in other movies or things that reflect the feelings we’re supposed to have, rather than the ones that we’re actually trying to make sense of– the ones that are acceptable in our society as opposed to the ones that make us doubt ourselves and how we fit in.

But it is actually that voice, those questions that “unacceptable” part of you that is going to allow your script to transcend and to get noticed and to stand out from everybody else’s, because that’s one of the places your voice comes from.

And what we’re doing on the page is wrestling with feelings, and what happens to your character is, by you having the courage to put that line in, she actually was able to move past that line, right? 

Jenna: Yes, also, on the other side it is so much brighter and taken out of context it sounds rather…it doesn’t sound positive. But once past that, and as a person, me too, as soon as I was comfortable with my sexuality, life was so much better, I love my sexuality now.

Jake: Yes. So, well, thank you Jenna.

Jenna: Thank you.

Jake: For being a part of this. Go watch Lez Bomb– that’s for all of our audience; go watch it. And, thank you for sharing your time and your experience with us.

Jenna: Of course. Thanks for having me and being my mentor and teacher.

Jake: It’s truly, truly a gift to get to work with you. 

– Transcript edited for length and clarity


If you want to learn more about how to build with theme in television, I am very excited to be offering a brand new class called Write Your TV Series

Over four weeks, we are going to look at all different kinds of series in all different kinds of genres. We are going to look at traditional sitcoms, we are going to look at crazy stuff like BoJack Horseman and Arrested Development, we are going to look at Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad and Succession and everything in between. 

We are going to look at all different kinds of TV shows and break them down, to look at the structure, to look at the engine and to ultimately figure how to put that all together into a pilot and a bible for your own series.

If you’ve been struggling to get your writing going again during this crisis, I would like to make you aware of a couple of things we have going on for our students. 

The first is, we have a free quarantinis happy hour of writing lessons and exercises and community; it is every Thursday night 7 PM EST, 4 PM Pacific and it is hosted by me. It is a fabulous community and you can come for free. If you can afford to make a donation, we will match your donations and apply them to our scholarship fund.

The second is that for every full priced class that is sold during this period, we are giving away two 50% scholarships that allow people who’ve been affected by the crisis to come at 50% off. 

So if you’ve been affected by the crisis you can check on our   and we’ll let you know if we have scholarships available, you can self-identify and you’ll get a scholarship instantaneously if you need to take a class. 

If you are able to afford a class you can know that your money is going not only to help you pursue your passions but also to help other people pursue theirs. You can find more information about both of these on my website. 

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