Last week, the Writers’ Program interviewed 1st Place Television Competition Winner Erika Mcpherson. Here, our 2nd place winner Tricia Smith, (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The Gang Gets Kidnapped”), and our 3rd place winner Duke Cullen, (“Dexter: The Dark is Rising”), discuss their experience in the Writers’ Program, their thoughts about the competition, and their future goals.

Writers’ Program: So what made each of you want to be a writer?

Tricia Smith: I’ve always loved telling stories, and the best way to do that is through writing.

Duke Cullen: I don’t think I had a choice. I’ve written stories and situations that went along with artwork I’ve created since I was a kid. It’s a great way to unleash those ideas from my brain that don’t fit into regular conversations.

Wp’: Briefly describe the path your winning script took, from concept to completion.

TS: I came up with the concept for my script in the first television writing course I took. It wasn’t my favorite idea that I came up with at the time, but the more I thought about it the more I liked the concept. My script took several turns on its way to completion, thanks to the classes I was taking and a writing group with fellow students.

DC: In the first level class “Beginning Writing the One Hour Spec Drama,” I developed outlines for episodes of Glee and Dexter. I wrote the Glee episode by the time I took the second level class. I wrote my Dexter script based on a love for that great show and the desire to write an episode I wanted to see.

Wp’: As a finalist, you were paired with an instructor who guided you throughout the rewrite practice. What was that like?

TS: Alan Kirschenbaum knows so much about making a script better. I took a class with him before and I was so happy to get paired with him. He really helped me bring my script to another level.

DC: Matt Witten has a great way of helping improve story by guiding you to figure it out yourself, and not rewrite or rework it. Every time he gave the note: “CBB” (could be better), I came up with an alternate line or descriptive that was infinitely better. Matt Witten helped bring my writing level to new heights without altering or interfering with what I was working with.

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?

TS: There doesn’t seem to be many contests out there for TV writers so I’m thrilled that it was added to the competition this year. This competition gave me the opportunity to work one on one with an amazing writer to improve my script.

DC: The screenwriting competition allows upcoming writers the simple task of having their work read, which can be difficult at best when you’re starting out. It also breaks the initial fear a writer has about putting their work to the mercy of judging public opinion. You have to put yourself and your work out there. Honest and constructive feedback is a great way to become a better writer.

Wp’: What are your creative and/or professional goals for the future after winning this competition?

TS: My professional goal is simple: I want to be a working writer.

DC: While continuing to work in the practical make-up and creature effects film world, I’m hoping to land an entry level writer or writers’ assistant position on a television show, while continuing work on the features and animation properties I’ve been developing. Future possibilities are many, and the prospects are exciting. I am ready, bring it!

Up next week, the winners of this year’s Feature Film Writing Competition!

For more information about the UCLA Extension Television Writing Competition, click here.

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

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