Sometime last year I sat in an elementary school principal’s office waiting to conduct an interview for research related to my graduate studies. I looked around noticing details that might help us connect: photos of her children dressed as scarecrows, a wizard’s hat glazed with glitter paint, her calendar of skateboarding piglets, and within minutes I had developed a keen sense of who this character might be. I imagined her framed degrees as a thin skin for the Liz Lemon type underneath. Her inspirational “Dream Big” poster and photo of Hilary Clinton spoke volumes. Wait, maybe she’s more of a Leslie Knope. It was then and there that I knew I couldn’t avoid it anymore…TV had changed my life.
As much as I had thought I would continue working in education, I was already a full time dreamer, a veritable Walter Mitty, and I was wired for TV. Luckily, somewhere along the line I had also, for better or worse, become a writer (as readers here will know!). I have spent the last two years here Vanderbilt University working on spec scripts, auditing film and television classes, and working with fellow students to see my writing come to life on screen. The entire process, from development to post production, has been intoxicating. Until now, my creative pursuits had been mostly a side hustle, a release valve for the pressures that build during a more traditional career. Not anymore.
Breaking Bad, Dexter, The Good Wife, Parks and Recreation, Game of Thrones…these are the kinds of worlds I long to create. These are some of the programs that have driven me to dream, to have unrelenting faith in my abilities, and to harness every drop of courage in my veins. TV isn’t just a way to zone out, TV is a portal through which stories come to life, transporting us to places where we can reflect on who we are, who we want to be, and what it means to be alive. Great TV programs are windows into our souls. If Shakespeare were alive today, I have no doubt that he’d be creating for TV.
So, it is with great reverence for writers like Tina Fey, Louis C.K., Stephen Merchant, Aaron Sorkin, Greg Daniels, Vince Gilligan, and innumerable others that I will be attending the American Film Institute Conservatory in the fall to earn my MFA in Screenwriting. I know this opportunity to hone my television writing will provide me with the skills I need to stand out in a writer’s room, and to develop relationships with future TV producers as I begin my career. I look forward to learning how to develop solid dramatic structures, memorable characters and engaging scenes, and the Direct TV scholarship will help me get there.
This opportunity to turn my TV watching into TV making will help me reach my goal of becoming a showrunner in the future, and will allow me to introduce compelling characters to audiences worldwide. The Direct TV scholarship doesn’t just match the gravitational pull of my aspirations; it will enable me to make great television.