Creative Artists Agency, William Morris Endeavor, United Talent Agency, CBS Entertainment, Jerry Bruckheimer Television. These are just a few of the agencies and production companies we’ve heard from since announcing the winners of this year’s Screenwriting Competitions. For Erika Mcpherson, Tricia Smith, and Duke Cullen, the winners of the inaugural Television Writing Competition, and for Greg Sullivan, Ana Maria Montoya, and Robert Dorian, the winners of the 6th annual Feature Film Writing Competition, the opportunity to get their work in front of thousands of A-list executives can only be described as priceless.
Here, Erika Mcpherson, who came in 1st place for her original sitcom pilot, “Every Other Weekend,” discusses her passions, writing her winning script and her goals for the future.
Writers’ Program: So what made you want to be a writer?
Erika Mcpherson: I enjoy creating characters and situations that convey the humorous and irrational behaviors that are important to my experience of life. It’s fulfilling, challenging and fun work.
Wp’: What were you doing before you transitioned into screenwriting at the Writers’ Program?
EM: I work at a film studio in Hollywood. While the work I do is more technical than creative, a studio lot is an interesting and inspiring environment.
Wp’: Briefly describe the path your winning script took, from concept to completion.
EM: The foundation of my script was formed in David Issacs’ “Creating from Character” course. His unique approach to developing characters provided a structure and world in which my story could unfold. In Alan Kirschenbaum’s, “Advanced Sitcom Rewrite” course, I was guided to remove unnecessary bits and to follow the story.
Wp’: As a finalist, you were paired with an instructor who guided you throughout the rewrite practice. What was that like?
EM: I’m happy to have been paired with Phil Kellard. I’d heard many wonderful things about him from fellow students, but hadn’t had the opportunity to write under his tutelage. He encouraged me to raise the stakes in my key story-lines and offered skillful suggestions on how to shape the format of my spec into a proper half hour show. He’s a generous mentor who sat with me through each page of each draft. Writing with Phil gave me an inkling of how fun a writer’s room can be.
Wp’: How important do you think it is to showcase your work through a competition like this, and do you have any advice for students who might be interested in participating in the competition in the future?
EM: Showcasing work through competitions and even public readings has been an invaluable tool for me. Placing in this competition is personally validating and, more importantly, has boosted my professional credibility. My advice for other students: Persistence is the unsung hero of success.
Wp’: What are your creative and/or professional goals for the future after winning this competition?
EM: I’ll work on the craft by writing more spec and pilot scripts. Becoming a television writer has been my aspiration for a long while. I’ll continue that professional pursuit.
Visit us again next week when our 2nd and 3rd place Television Writing Competition winners weigh in with their thoughts and impressions.
For more information about the UCLA Extension Television Writing Competition, click here.
For an overview of the competition process, click here.
Jeff Bonnett is the Program Assistant for Screenwriting (Onsite & Online). Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 206-1542.