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Screenwriter Stacy McKee’s Emerson Experience

We recently caught up with writer and producer Stacy McKee, MFA ’99 for our series we are calling “The Emerson Experience.” Here is what this graduate of the College’s Writing, Literature and Publishing department had to say about her time at Emerson and beyond.

Q.  What are you currently working on?

I am currently a writer and co-executive producer for the ABC medical drama Grey’s Anatomy. I’ve been staffed on the show as a writer for the past seven years.

Q.  Could you describe one person, experience, or series of events at Emerson that shifted the course of your career and that illustrates one of Emerson’s core attributes of creativity, collaboration, risk taking, and excellence?

Yes, yes, and yes.

Series of Events: When I was looking at graduate schools, I was looking for one thing. I wanted to find a writing program where I could take classes in all different genres. Playwriting? Sign me up. Children’s lit? Yes, please. Screenwriting? Done. I figured, I only really had two more years of the whole student experience left; I might as well soak up as much knowledge as possible while I still could. So, I was ecstatic when I found Emerson, where that kind of experience was not only available, but encouraged. I’d found my place. I always say, I entered Emerson as a poet and I left as a screenwriter.

Experience: I knew that Emerson offered semesters at its Los Angeles campus. I’d never even been to California before, but I decided to sign up. What was the worst that could happen? If I hated L.A., I could always leave. Big deal. So I came out to Los Angeles for my final semester…and I guess it paid off. I never left.

Person: Because I was finishing my thesis in L.A., not Boston, I was connected with a local alumnus who was willing to read my (very, very bad) thesis. To this day, I am thankful to him for two very big things. One: He was kind enough to approve my thesis, despite just how very, very embarrassingly bad it was. Two: He gave me a piece of advice that, at the time, I didn’t even understand. He suggested I go get myself “staffed on a TV show.” Now, in retrospect, it’s entirely possible he meant that as an insult—but in truth, it was some of the best advice I could have received. I did (eventually) get myself staffed, on a very successful TV show. And I LOVE writing for TV. Love, love, love, love it.

Q.  Is there an example of how a classmate aided you with your career?

Part of the Los Angeles program included an internship; mine was at a small production company. The company’s VP, as it turned out, was an Emerson alumna. When graduation was looming and it was time for me to start looking for a paying job, she was generous enough to make calls and send recommendations on my behalf. It made a world of difference. I never would have gotten calls back, let alone interviews for those jobs, without her help. So, I guess you could say Emerson is directly responsible for my very first paycheck in Hollywood.

Q.  Are you professionally connected to other Emersonians?

The answer is yes; I’m connected to Emersonians all over the place, probably more than I even realize!

Q.  What’s the single most important piece of advice you’d like to give to Emerson students?

Here’s what you do. Educate yourself on exactly what all Emerson has to offer. Because there’s a lot. There was a lot when I was a student, and I know there’s even more now—but you can’t take advantage of the Emersonian goodness if you don’t know it exists. Then, once you’ve read all about the amazing classes and far-away campuses and dream internships, get started on them. Right now. This instant. Seriously, stop reading this and go sign up for something outrageous and creative and AWESOME right now while you’re all excited about it. I mean it. You are lucky enough to have a resource like Emerson. Don’t be a loser and waste it! USE IT!

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