During the Winter 2023 iteration of Phil Kellard’s Screenwriting Conservatory, Em Burditt embarked on a transformative nine-month journey that evolved storytelling into an art form. Juggling her role as an education director at a non-profit, Em discovered her passion for animation and embarked on a creative odyssey, giving life to the noir animation pilot, “Birds of Paradise.” In this imaginative realm, private detectives assume avian forms, each carrying a tale of guilt, regret, and redemption.
A noir animation tale about a ostrich private detective surviving in a bird’s world while not being able to fly, her main character is “the BoJack Horseman of birds, weighed down by his past and needing to escape his guilt and regret,” Em shared during a recent interview.
Em’s narrative prowess caught the discerning eye of Phil Kellard, a seasoned executive producer-writer-director, during the TV Conservatory, formerly known as the TV Writing Intensive. A WGA/DGA member with credits on major networks, Kellard’s career spans ABC, CBS, NBC, Hulu, The Disney Channel, Showtime, FBC, and Syfy Channel. His accolades include an Emmy Award for instructional programming and the UCLA Extension Outstanding Instructor Award in Screenwriting.
Under Kellard’s guidance, Em flourished in the TV Writing Conservatory, a rigorous nine-month course set to return in Winter of 2024. This transformative experience pushed Em to produce a solid draft of both a spec script for an existing series and an original pilot. The curriculum delved into refining story ideas, creating outlines, complex characterizations, market understanding, and navigating the industry. Often overlooked, professional development became a key component, covering topics such as forming business relationships, pitch decks and bibles, and handling both rejection and success.
Em reflected on her experience in Kellard’s Masterclass noting that the insights from both her classmates and the long list of guest speakers were “really, really helpful.”
She underscored the practical nature of the assignments: “Phil kept assignments down to very practical reading and writing” focusing exclusively on each student’s evolving script. “The class was a big commitment, but everything we had to do [made sense.]” Em noted.
One of the highlights, according to Em, was the unique opportunity to engage with industry professionals, with a section of the course being dedicated to a different industry professional coming in every night. “One night was for agents, one night was we had professional writers, it was a run of six nights” talking to professionals, Em noted.
Having completed the TV Writing Conservatory, Em now sets her sights on “Writing the Animated Pilot” with Jonathan Callan. This commitment speaks to the lasting impact of Kellard’s Masterclass, propelling her to delve deeper into the world of animation.
As Em readies her script for submission written in the Conservatory for the Austin Film Festival, she anticipates a new venture, a fresh TV pilot, and an exciting chapter in her writing journey. The transformative power of Phil Kellard’s guidance echoes as Em, and others like her, step into the industry, armed not just with knowledge but with a honed craft ready to soar to new heights.
Kellard’s class, which starts January 22nd, has a rigorous application process but recently extended their application deadline to January 3rd, 2024. To apply to be part of the course, visit: Television Writing Conservatory Course – UCLA Extension