In case you missed the full-page ad in the Emmy Issue of The Hollywood Reporter, the Writers’ Program has announced the top three winners of the 2012 Television Spec Writing Competition. They are: Denise Harkavy (1st place for Awkward: “Motherhood”), Sam Kendrick (2nd place for The Big Bang Theory: “Hypernova Deliberation”), and Matt Peabody (3rd place for Curb Your Enthusiasm: “Larry the Donor”). Not only were these three writers publicized in the trades, but each received a cash prize of $1,000, $500 and $250 (respectively) and they were showcased in a letter that was mailed more than a thousand entertainment industry executives. Production companies, agents, and managers have already requested to read the winning scripts, and student Denise Harkavy is the first of the group to acquire representation. This amount of exposure always opens doors for our winners, so check back here in December for a full follow-up with them. In the meantime, read on to hear what they had to say!
Wp’: So, what made you want to be a writer in the first place?
DH: Writing is the medium through which I can best express my observations about life, relationships and its daily dysfunction. Being a latchkey kid who watched TV all day and grew up in a German-Iranian family has also proven to be a great resource and inspiration for my stories.
SK: I’ve always written down things I found funny, even before I had any idea what to do with them. But writing or telling jokes in a vacuum has never interested me as much as humor that comes from character, situation and story. The goal of writing a perfect story is something I love. Trying to figure out how story works and how to write a great one is a task that uses more of my brain than anything else I’ve done. It takes analytical thinking as well as emotional sensitivity and, of course, creativity. It may sound corny, but story and how we relate to it really is at the heart of what makes us human. Time spent wrestling with story, although often frustrating and humbling, I believe is time well spent.
MP: I enjoy making people laugh and my favorite medium has always been the television sitcom. Plus I think I reached a point in my life where I could no longer stomach having to do any actual real work at present or any time into the unforeseeable future. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a writer.
Wp’: How has the Writers’ Program shaped or advanced you as a writer?
DH: The program does a great job nurturing their writers and preparing them for the job market. Getting to bounce ideas off of trained professionals is invaluable when you’re honing your craft. The insights of my instructor, Phil Kellard, helped me a great deal with improving my specs and pilots.
SK: Barry Vigon‘s [Writing the Half Hour Comedy Script] class was great because he really turned the classroom into a writers’ room. It helped me as a writer bridge the gap between all the stuff I scribble down that I think is great and getting other people to think it’s great. Alan Kirschenbaum’s class [Advanced Sitcom Rewrite] was very different. It was less about discussion. He tells you exactly what works in your script and what doesn’t. That kind of feedback from a guy who has worked in TV so long and knows story so well is invaluable. At one point in writing my Big Bang Theory script, I was thinking of bringing up questions of faith and belief in science when the characters are faced with evidence that the world will end. Alan said that half-hour TV doesn’t deal so well with shades of grey. He’s right, and my script was funnier and more interesting for it. I’ll save the shades of grey for the extremely risqué novel I’m writing.
MP: Learning the craft from real industry professionals has been invaluable. The Wp’ has also been a great way to connect with other people who share the same aspirations. Writing can be such a lonely and futile process so having peers with whom I can commiserate helps me get through the hard times and stay focused on my goals.
Wp’: What are your creative and/or professional goals for the future after winning this competition?
DH: That’s an easy one. Keep writing and getting better. Working with like-minded people and collectively creating great experiences for others to enjoy. In short, becoming the person and writer I always dreamed of being.
SK: To get on a writing staff and to create TV shows. And in the meantime get up each morning and write.
MP: I will continue on my quest to explore what makes something funny and hopefully my byproduct will be scripts that make people laugh. It would also be really cool one day to get paid to do this and watch my ideas get made into actual TV shows.
Jeff Bonnett is the Program Assistant for Screenwriting (Onsite & Online). Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 206-1542.