From left: Laura Kenar ’10, Chrissy Maroon ’13, Timothy Taylor ’14, Matthew Newman ’15, and Ripley Barnes ’15. Photo/Benjamin Crosby ’19
By Benjamin Crosby ’19
Emerson College alumni on the verge of breaking into the writers’ room spoke about their support staff roles, career dos and don’ts, and navigating the industry during a panel on April 6 at Emerson College Los Angeles that nearly 100 students and alumni attended.
“Passion is a big thing,” said Laura Kenar ’10, a staff writer on This Is Us who moderated the panel. “It surprised me how many people weren’t passionate about the job.”
Kenar explained how important it is for aspiring writers to not just be passionate about wanting to write, but also to be passionate about the TV show you are interviewing for or want to work on, even during networking. Doing research and having background knowledge is vital, Kenar said.
Panelists on the Breaking into the Writers’ Room panel included Ripley Barnes ’15, showrunner’s assistant on LA’s Finest; Chrissy Maroon ’13, script coordinator on Riverdale; Matthew Newman ’15, writer’s PA on Kidding; and Timothy Taylor ’14, script coordinator/writer’s assistant on The Hot Zone.
One of the biggest themes of the panel was that of connections and networking. All of the panelists said they got to where they are because of an Emerson connection or a mutual friend who helped them land the job.
Taylor described his journey from receptionist to writer’s PA because of a connection he had with the showrunner over their love of the Boston Red Sox. In response to Taylor’s story, Newman jokingly told his own tale about how he landed his job.
“[It was] a lot of hard work and perseverance,” he joked, after sharing a story about how his girlfriend worked on the show Genius. Once a writer’s PA position opened up, Taylor’s girlfriend immediately went up her boss and said, “‘You should hire my boyfriend,’ so then I showed up on Monday.”
Maroon told the audience that she got all her jobs through Emerson alumni, and one in particular after “posting a picture of Cher on Instagram and an Emerson showrunner messaged me and asked if I was looking a job.”
For students and recent alumni in the audience, Kenar suggested becoming familiar with fellow alumni.
“Figure out how to write emails that are very humble,” said Kenar, who landed her first job after reaching out to an alumnus and grabbing coffee. “Also show your passion for creativity.”
The panel was part of the new Career Pathways in Entertainment series launched this semester, which offers programs that provide practical and detailed information and advice about what it’s like to start out in entry-level positions. As part of the series, Emerson LA continued offering the Hollywood Assistant Training Workshop, a successful program created and led by Amanda Maltz ’11, manager of learning & organization development at Warner Bros. That was followed by the newly added Production Assistant Training Workshop led by Tina Densmore Bell ’08, which broke down the dos and don’ts of an on-set PA, production lingo, and how to navigate working as a freelancer.
“Career preparedness is at the core of the Emerson LA program and it’s the focus of my role, so being able to host programs that focus on the most common career paths that our recent grads embark on just makes sense,” said Laura Daroca, associate director of student and alumni transitional services at Emerson LA. “It was wonderful to see so many Emersonians turn out for these programs and say how helpful they’ve been to prepare them for their next steps.”
Before opening up the panel to questions from the audience, faculty member Jim Macak, who helped arrange the event, asked the panel about whether there was anything aspiring writers should be doing to prepare for an interview and pitching themselves as writers.
“Have something written,” said Barnes. “When starting out, just keep writing because as you work your way up, you might not have time to do so. Plus, it’s good to have something now and keep working at it as you go up.”
Kenar offered this up as the best piece of advice she ever received: “You not only have to be kickass at whatever job you’re doing, you have to show that you’re capable of doing whatever that next job is that you want. You have to show that you can take that next step before [the people you work for] are willing to give out that next step.”
Taylor briefly spoke about the ups and downs of trying to make it as a creative and offered insight into how to navigate the industry in a healthy way.
“Really put those blinders on, and realize that there are no two paths that are the same out here,” said Taylor. “Do not compare yourself to a single other person because all you’re doing is putting yourself down and not helping yourself grow.”