Television Writing and Producing MFA/Graduate School Pros and Cons

I’ve been thinking a lot about my grad school program, since I graduated last month. Over the course of the two-year MFA, I had many doubts about whether the program was going to help me launch a career in the entertainment industry. It was a lot of debt to take on, and I honestly never felt it made me a better writer, although I guess just putting in the hours at the keyboard does that. However, over the last few months, a lot has happened that laid some of my fears to rest.

First, I started earning money as a writer. Not a lot of money, but I’m finding steady work and it’s helping me quite a bit. I’m applying for jobs through online avenues. I only apply for jobs I know I’m qualified for and that I’ll enjoy doing, so I get a lot of the ones I submit proposals for. Because I choose carefully, I’m able to complete my jobs quickly and well, and a get a high rating so I can get more jobs. I knew I’d have to work for lower wages in the beginning, but it’s already gotten better. You can find some articles on “Best of Netflix” written by me at the website https://www.techjunkie.com/best-crime-dramas-netflix/. After a lifetime of being a writer, it’s nice to finally get paid in money!

Another thing that’s changed my outlook is that I spent the spring working as an intern for a PBS Documentarian on a piece that I’m proud to get involved with. I won’t give the details yet, but it’s a topic that has the potential to shed light on some serious injustice to women, which is a cause I’m behind 100%.

The fourth occurrence that has caused me to reconsider the value of my MFA was that my portfolio is in much better shape as a whole. I have a new pilot in the works, a new spec script for The Americans, and last summer, I completed a web series documentary pilot which is the first thing I’ve ever actually shot and edited.

I plan to revise it at some point and perhaps continue the series. I want to change up the music, make it less frenetic and more thoughtful in pace, and maybe even add some original artwork. I’ve already blogged about my (kick-ass, IMHO) video essay, Triumphs in Queer TV.

My husband, Bobby, worked as an extra. That’s him on the right

The fifth and possibly most important occurrence was the film production I took part in earlier this month. My class wrote a pilot script together, and we cut it down to a sizzle reel of 19 pages, for which we hired a real director, Don Wells. The head of the media arts department, Larry Banks, is a DP, and evidently, he’s quite the artiste. Together, we cast SAG actors and hired PAs and pros to round out the crew. Everyone in my class was assigned a role on the production in keeping with their individual talents. I was Script/Continuity Supervisor, so I got to sit next to the director and see the footage as it was recorded and it was thrilling. We worked very long hours and shot it in five days. Everyone said they felt sorry for me because Scripty was such a difficult job and no one wanted it. I loved it! I found it suited my talents and I had a lot of help from the director and my writing teacher. I admit it was a lot of work, but I was good at it and I thoroughly loved being at the director’s elbow through the entire shoot. I’m happy to know there’s another on-set position I can do well.

To sum up, I suppose I’ve decided my MFA has been time well spent. My

Yours truly at work as Scripty

expanding portfolio, my growing experience level and my on-set experience has been very valuable to me. Hopefully, I’ll have some actual industry work (TV Staff Writer would be nice) by the time my student loans come due. To maximize my opportunities, I moved to Los Angeles right after graduation. Now for the litmus test!

I’d love to hear what you’re up to. Keep Writing!

Here’s what I’ve been up to . . . what are you watching?

I guess I really do love TV
I guess I really do love TV

Masters of Sex

Ray Donovan

True Blood

Vicious

Covert Affairs

The 100 (in reruns!)

Suits

Graceland

Rush

Satisfaction – I gave up on this one

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.

Last Tango in Halifax – I like it but its too heavy for me right now

Series on Netflix and Amazon:

The Killing

House of Cards

Queer as Folk (I could watch this a hundred times – to me, it’s the most romantic and emotionally satisfying show ever to grace the airways)

My So-Called Life

For Research Paper:

Crime dramas from the 1950s through the present: Partial list (on my DVR right now)

Starsky and Hutch

The Blacklist

The Lone Ranger

Mod Squad

CSI: NY

Hawaii Five-O

Knight Rider

Murder in the First

Monk

Walker, Texas Ranger

Matlock

Dragnet

Summer TV

Not that long ago, great summer TV was an oxymoron. Luckily, those days are gone. Here are some shows I recommend catching up on:

Newsroom by Aaron Sorkin – HBO

Wow, what an exciting show! I think it might even be better than the West Wing. I just watched the first two episodes back to back and it’s truly riveting. Jeff Daniels is magnetic, and Emily Mortimer is simultaneously endearing, pathetic and and impressive.  Allison Pill and Dev Patel are both charming and believable in their youthful eagerness, ambition and intelligence. The dialogue crackles, the pace is fast and the plot twists are surprising and suspenseful.

Falling Skies – TNT

Once I caught the first episode of Season 2, I had to go back and see the entirety of Season 1. It’s a science fiction show about Aliens who invade the earth, kill the adults and kidnap the children. Noah Wylie plays a father of 3 boys whose wife was killed in the first wave of attacks. Now they are members of an organized militia staging a resistance against the aliens.  There is a lot of violence and action, yet it still manages to be character-driven. It’s a well-written, engaging escape. I highly recommend it.

So You Think You Can Dance – FOX

This is the summer’s guilty pleasure, for me. I find it so interesting to get that peek into the passion and hard work that goes into a career in dancing. Sure it’s beautiful, but it’s also inspiring, dangerous, and heartbreaking. There are certainly a lot more injuries than you’ll ever see on American Idol! I can’t resist seeing these very young people putting all they have into their dream.

Breaking Pointe – CW

This is a reality show on the CW that just finished its first season. It’s an inside look at Ballet West, located in Salt Lake City, Utah. The dancing is breathtaking, the characters are engaging, and the drama, well, it is the CW. I imagine you can find it in reruns for the rest of the summer, along with its airing partner “The Vampire Diaries.” Hard bodies all around.

Worth mentioning:

True Blood – HBO

It took me a long time to get this show. Sure it’s funny, but I had a hard time identifying with the characters. Is it me, or are they unnaturally stupid? However… it is great to see Chris Meloni back in a villain role. If you’re like me, you loved him as Chris Keller in Oz. After a decade of playing Detective Stabler on SVU, he’s back on HBO.

And a plug for HBO GO – its replaced Netflix as my favorite streaming video ever. Way to go, HBO.