Former student Nathan Glovinsky has been busy since taking classes last year, using lessons from our Writing Screenplay Coverage course to help advance as a professional reader. Nathan sat down with us to talk a bit about being a reader, and his experiences as a writer and Writers’ Program student.
Can you tell us a bit about your current project(s)?
In addition to working as an assistant in United Talent Agency’s Television Literary department, I’ve been reading for the Sundance Institute’s Episodic Lab Tracks since early March. This year, Sundance is hosting two lab programs for emerging writers to sharpen their pilot projects and advance their professional writing careers; while the “Pilot to Series” track centers around revising an original pilot and refining an accompanying professional pitch, the “Idea to Pilot” track focuses on taking a writer’s existing concept (from early stages of development) all the way through to a polished draft. As a reader, I help read and evaluate submitted material in consideration for either track and flag pilots to Sundance executives that show strong potential for lab participation.
What are some things you “look” for while reading and evaluating material?
I’m very keen on stripping material to its fundamental premise and then assessing the originality in relation to existing content. I think it’s okay for material to have some similarities, but there should nonetheless be a clear differentiating element that gives the comparison (also known as the “nutshell”) a slant or thought-provoking edge. For example, The Haunting of Bly Manor is canonically similar to classic “ghost stories” but differs in its treatment of queer characters; while comparable television shows and movies often mistreat or demonize them, The Haunting of Bly Manor affords a degree of justice to its queer characters that hadn’t been seen before within the contemporary horror-drama genre. When I read material, I thereby try to identify what specific story elements or through-lines set it apart from others and then consider if they’re compelling enough to buttress the fictional conceit as a whole.
What was your path from being a student in the Writers’ Program to working these jobs?
During Barney Lichtenstein’s “Writing Screenplay Coverage” course, he mentioned once that the Sundance Institute hires freelance readers to help screen for their slate of writing labs and incubator programs. After completing the course, I polished up my completed coverage assignments and later used them to apply for the Episodic Labs opportunity. Barney used to say that one of the benefits of taking his course was finishing it with several professional samples, and he was definitely right!
Are there any specific lessons, words of wisdom, and/or instructors from the Writers’ Program that have helped you professionally?
Barney Lichtenstein is a terrific and thoughtful instructor who really helped me hone my coverage skills; he sets up his “Writing Screenplay Coverage” course in a way that teaches students to have confidence sharing their point-of-view, which is ultimately the crux of screenplay and teleplay coverage. Although most of the time you can tell in your gut whether material is good or bad, being able to use analytical skills and professional vocabulary to back up your opinion is what gives it credence. Barney taught me how to best structure my thoughts in a clear and persuasive manner, and to this day I still use a “Topic Sentence Guide” resource that he provided to help organize written thoughts.
What advice would you give to someone who “just wants to write” but also wants to be involved in the industry?
I’m still pretty new to the industry, but my advice is to remember that the two don’t have to be mutually-exclusive. This is to say that you can work at an agency, studio, or production company while workshopping a creative project if you’re willing to invest on both fronts. Whether this means setting aside a certain amount of time every evening or weekend to simply sit down and write, creating and committing to a schedule that puts yourself in a position to succeed is key.
Thanks to Nathan for taking the time to chat with us. Look for more feature interviews on students and alumni coming soon!