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Last month, the Writers’ Program interviewed the top 3 winners of each category of the UCLA Extension Screenwriting competitions in Feature Film Writing, Television Spec Writing, and Television Pilot Writing. A full page ad featuring all nine scribes can also be found on shelves now, in this week’s issue of Variety (the Contenders: Writers Preview). Be sure to grab a copy and read on to learn about our winners’ past instructors and future goals!

Part 1 of the interview can be found here.

All nine winning writers and their script loglines can be found here.

  1. Writers’ Program: Was there a particular course or instructor that influenced you as a writer?

Feature Film Winners

Johan Ingler: The course I took with Andrew Knauer was the first one he taught as an instructor, so we were all in the same boat of figuring out the strange concept of learning storytelling. It was organic and inspiring, built around one of his first words of advice that writing is very intuitive.

Kevin Mcgue: Erik Bork teaches a course called “Finding the ‘Story’ in True Stories,” which was obviously very useful for my project. The first thing that I learned was that research is only the starting point. After that comes the hard work of finding the structure lurking within the facts.

Charmaine Colina: Philip Eisner. His teaching style, knowledge, and creativity helped me get out the story that I knew I wanted to tell and find my voice as a writer. Diane Drake helped me see aspects of my story and characters that could be further explored and brought to life.

Television Spec Winners

Chris Shaffer: Prior to Joe Fisch’s course in building the story and outline for the half hour comedy spec, my outlines had been minimal at best. His course helped with my writing of this project and my writing going forward, by showing how much stronger drafts can be with a more thorough outline. For this project specifically, he also identified enormous comedic opportunities at the outset. If his advice had gone unheeded, my spec would have been as comically void as a thirty-minute block of C-SPAN.

Alex Cooper: I think the biggest influences were my classmates in Kevin Kelton’s comedy spec script class. We created a really tight group and gave constant and reliable feedback which created a safe environment to throw out ideas without worrying about it being a “bad idea.” It was a great support system in working on my first script.

Megan Metzger: Richard Manning was an amazing teacher who has really influenced my writing. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know where [I] or my writing would be!

Television Pilot Winners

Eugene Navakas: Phil Kellard’s “Finishing the Original One-Hour Drama or Half-Hour Comedy Pilot” was filled with smart, funny writers who wouldn’t hesitate to speak up when a joke or dramatic sequence wasn’t working, and Phil himself was a terrific facilitator of that conversation. In TV, so much depends on character, and both Phil and Joe Fisch, my mentor for the [final] stage of this competition, continually encouraged me to think in productive ways about character development and point of view.

David Dancyger: Phil Kellard’s classes are wonderful. He runs his classes like a writer’s room, always getting the most out of his students and inspiring great ideas.

Javona Williams: Richard Manning helped me a lot with believing that I can be a writer. He would say those that failed are the ones who quit trying. All I needed was the determination and perseverance. 

  1. Wp: What are some of your next goals or ambitions after winning this competition?


JI: I’m going to complete the projects I’m currently working on, charged by the positive feedback from Frankie & Chair and the great experience of this competition.

KM: I am about to take some fiction writing classes with the aim of writing a mystery novel, also set in the golden age of Hollywood.

CC: Write movies that make people laugh – intentionally. To see my screenplay become a movie would be a dream come true. Writing for television is a goal for the near future.

TV Specs

CS: To one day create my own series. This has been an ambition of mine since I created and produced a web-series while serving in the U.S. Air Force. However, if Hollywood and the military have anything in common, it is the value they both place on starting from the bottom and working your way up. The best way to begin would be to work anywhere near, but to hopefully join, the writing staff of a half-hour series I love.

AC: I am currently working on a pilot and screenplay while taking the respective courses through the Writers’ Program. I want to write. Bottom-line.
MM: My goal is to always become a better writer than I was the day before.

TV Pilots

EN: One of the best things about the UCLA Extension TV Pilot Writing Competition is that it provides a great opportunity for emerging writers to get their work in front of new faces. I’m looking forward to sharing Expectations and the rest of my TV portfolio more broadly, and I’m equally excited to continue the hard work and collaboration that was such a crucial part of my experience at UCLA Extension in a working writer’s room. To that end, I’m also actively seeking representation.

DD: I’m hoping to have my scripts made. I’d love to see my work entertain audiences!

JW: My immediate goals are to get a manager or agent and then get staffed on a show. Taking over the world comes later.

Thanks everyone and congratulations again!

In addition to the ad in Variety, the WP staff will be sending the winners’ contact and project information to over a thousand entertainment industry executives (producers, agents, and managers) early next month. Each finalist will also be given a chance to partake in a special entertainment business preparation session this December with a producer to learn how to best sell themselves and their work. Be sure to stay tuned as we chronicle their future successes!

If you’re an entertainment industry professional interested in reaching any of the above winners, please contact the Writers’ Program at writers@uclaextension.edu or (310) 825-9415.

Jeff Bonnett is the Program Assistant for Screenwriting (Onsite & Online). Contact him at jbonnett@uclaextension.edu or (310) 206-1542.


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