the WCA blog

  • Q&A with Lindsey Shockley of "Black-ish"


    Lindsey Shockley
    , who received an MFA in Production from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts in 2007, currently serves as a writer and Supervising Producer on ABC’s comedy Black-ish. Writing on Black-ish is part of her duties under her overall deal with ABC Studios, a two-year pact to staff on series as well as develop new projects for the studio. The deal stems from Shockley’s stint on ABC Studios’ comedy series Hello Ladies (HBO), Trophy Wife (ABC), and Benched (USA).  She recently sold a genre-bending comedy pilot, entitled The End, to Showtime. Previously, she’s written for FOX’s Ben and Kate and NBC’s Perfect Couples.

    A Day In The Life Of TV Writer/Producer Lindsey Shockley

    What does a typical day in Shockley’s schedule look like? It's filled with writing jokes, pitching jokes, falling in love with jokes, then having to throw out those jokes and come up with new jokes to fall in with love all over again.

    6:00am I try to get an hour of work done before my one-year-old daughter, Lucy, wakes up. This morning, I watch the new cut of my latest episode because it’s still 30 seconds too long.  And in a 22-minute show, 30 seconds is a lot! As I watch the cut, I draft up a list of lines and scenes that I feel could be cut. Then I send my suggestions to the Executive Producers and Showrunners, Kenya Barris and Jonathan Groff, who will use my notes to make final decisions with the editor.  It’s sad to see funny moments go, but if they don’t move the story forward, they’re on the chopping block!

    7:00am Lucy is up!  And she’d really like to start playing right now. Like right now would be great. Did she mention right now would be good?  Anytime. Or right now.

    8:15am Heading out the door, I grab a pile of post-it notes I scribbled on last night. I tend to have a lot of ideas right before I fall asleep so I illegibly write things down in the dark and try to decipher my hieroglyphics the next morning.  Last night’s thoughts are about the pilot I’m doing with Showtime. It’s a comedy about dealing with your difficult family during a zombie apocalypse.  I think I found a better blow for a scene, which is exciting because the “blow” is the last joke that gets you out of a scene, so there’s a lot of pressure on it to be really strong.  No wonder I couldn’t sleep.

    9:00am The first thing I do when I get into the Black-ish office is read the notes on the story we’re working on. Or, if we’re in the middle of a rewrite on a script, I’ll read “the Progress Draft,” which is what we were working on the night before.  These notes and drafts are compiled by our amazing writer’s assistants so we can pick up the conversation each day exactly where we left off.


    Lindsey's Black-ish scripts with notes

    9:45am The Writers’ Room Starts.  I’m typically in the writer’s room 8 to 12 hours a day.  There are 13 other writers on staff and we sit around a large conference table working out every new story idea and rewriting drafts so everything’s as strong as possible before it’s shot.  We use corkboards and note cards to track the big ideas we want to hit during the season and we use white boards to 'break' each episode (meaning figuring out the shape of a story scene by scene). Once the story is ‘broken’ and ready to be outlined, a writer is assigned that episode. When you’re assigned an episode you’re responsible to shepherd that episode through the entire process – you guide it through many rewrites, you supervise production and work along side the director the week it’s being shot, and you give notes once it’s in post.

    Lindsey (second from right) in the Writers' Room

    Today, Kenya leads the discussion on possible areas for the next episode. We are always looking for a fresh observation, a new way to tell a story. On day one of Season One, Kenya said to the writers, “I want this show to be about all the things we’ve maybe thought, or noticed, or talked about in the privacy of our homes or marriages, but have been too afraid to say out loud.  Let’s start a conversation.  Let’s not shy away from what’s real.”  As a result, every single episode has started from something that’s happened in one of our real lives. We have a really diverse staff not only in terms of having equal number of Black and white writers, and male and female writers, but we’re also very diverse in terms of our political and cultural views. We spend a lot of time debating current events, hot-button issues, and personal problems we’re faced with right now. Like, how do you parent in the Internet age?  How do you believe in our justice system when it fails us so frequently? And how did the phrase ‘on fleek’ go from being cool to being lame so quickly?

    Black-ish table read

    12:30 It’s lunchtime. We dive headfirst into our sandwiches while we watch a cut of an episode that’s picture locking tonight. These lunchtime screenings serve as the episode’s first audience experience. We give our notes and then we quickly cast the roles for our upcoming table read because writers have to read the parts of the actors who haven’t been cast yet.

    1:00pm Table read! This is the highlight of our week. It’s both exciting and nerve-wracking. It’s where jokes live or die. Our cast is amazing at table reads -- it’s like watching a full-on stage play.  And this is where we get to hear the words out loud for the first time, and get a feel for what’s working and what’s missing the mark.  The network and studio are there, too, and they give us their notes, which is usually the nerve-wracking part.

    3:00pm The punch up begins -- my favorite part of my job! We’re back in the writer’s room to start the rewrite of the script we just table read. We talk through how to address the studio/ network notes and then we spend a lot of time punching up jokes before it shoots Monday. I love punch up so much because I come from an improv background so my mind is always thinking of ways to heighten the scene's "game" or comedic premise so we're reaching its maximum potential.

    4:30pm I switch gears to take a notes call with ABC Studios and my pod about my pilot. (Pods are production companies with a studio deal to find new projects and guide them through the development process.) Today, I’m getting notes on the Studio 2nd Revised Draft we’re getting ready to send to Showtime, which is what they’ll read to decide if they want to shoot my pilot or not.  Yet another exciting-slash-terrifying moment in my day.

    Sometime between 6:00pm and 9:00pm The writers’ room wraps for the day, the writer’s assistants compile all the notes, and we’ll pick back up where we left off tomorrow.

     9:30pm Since it’s Wednesday night, I come home and get to watch Black-ish with my husband. He’s a drama writer, currently on the Art of More for Crackle, so it’s always fun to see what makes him laugh. Nothing feels better than when he really cracks up.

    9:45am The Next Day. The writer’s room looks at last night’s ratings.  We look at how our numbers are compared to our lead-in and if the fact that Modern Family was a rerun affected us. Then we remind ourselves it’s the Live + 3 number that really counts (Live + 3 is the live viewing plus DVR up to 3 days later and Blackish is sometimes the most DVR’d comedy of the week! So cool!). Then we go online to read the reviews, but we try not to take any negative reviews to heart (try, being the key word here). Mostly, because we don’t have time – we have to dig into breaking the next episode!

    Black-ish was recently nominated for three Emmys -- Best Comedy Series, and Best Actor and Actress in a Comedy for Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross. You can root for Lindsey and the rest of the "Black-ish" team on Sunday, Sept. 18th on ABC.

  • WCA East Upcoming Events

    WCA East has set the dates for our first Salon and our Spring Brunch.
    The Salons will be held every third Saturday, except for April and October, when we will instead host the Spring Brunch and Fall Brunch.
    Our first Salon will be Saturday, March 19th in Brooklyn.
    Our Spring Brunch will be Saturday, April 30th in Manhattan.
    USC Alumni only. E-mail uscwca.east@gmail.com to RSVP.
  • WCA New Year ... Join Us for Coffee! Sunday, Jan. 24!

    Kick off the New Year right! Come and join fellow WCAers for coffee at Bricks and Scones. Share your career/creative New Year's resolutions. Find support, feedback, or just some fun new, cinematic friends for 2016!

    Sunday, January 24, 11 a.m.

    Bricks and Scones

    403 N. Larchmont Ave.

    Los Angeles, CA 90004

  • Q&A with WCA's Ashley York, producer of "Tig"

    Ashley York, who received an MFA from USC's Interactive Media & Games Division in 2006, co-directed and produced Tig, a Netflix Original and an Official Selection of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Ashley is a filmmaker interested in documentaries, feminist media, and emerging modes of storytelling. She has worked on Academy Award® nominated teams and as a producer on projects that have premiered at the Sundance, Berlin, and SXSW film festivals as well as on Oprah Winfrey’s Network, A&E, HBO, and the Sundance Channel. Ashley received her MFA from the USC's School of Cinematic Arts, where she is a part-time lecturer in the Division of Media Arts + Practice.

    When did you know that you wanted to be in the film and television business?
    During my undergraduate studies at the University of Kentucky, I watched Barbara Kopple's Academy-Award winning film Harlan County USA (1976) in a sociology class. That film moved me deeply. It tells the story of a coal miners' strike in southeast Kentucky and portrays its subjects with complexity, dignity, and grace. The film is as journalistic as it is cinematic. It's a personal, political, and emotional film which demonstrates social issue filmmaking at its finest. Seeing that film was an 'aha' moment, as it was the first time I saw the people of eastern Kentucky portrayed in a nuanced and complex way, unlike the many negative and hateful portrayals of rural people I saw on television growing up. That film invigorated my desire to make powerful, impactful, and meaningful documentary films for mass audiences.

    Ashley York at the World Premiere of Tig at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival

    Tell us about the beginning of your career.

    I moved to Los Angeles to pursue an MFA in the USC School of Cinematic Arts. I had just completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Kentucky where I studied journalism with an emphasis on race, class, and sexuality. During my second semester at USC, I started working as an intern at World of Wonder Productions and was offered a full time position six weeks later on a feature length documentary that was being produced by Brian Grazer and HBO. I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to work alongside the directors of the film,  Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato; their producers 

    Mona Card and Thairin Smothers; and Imagine Entertainment's executive producer for the film Kim Roth. From those folks, I learned so very much. I was promoted to associate producer and became so immersed in the production that I took two semesters off from USC to work full time on the project. During that time I deepened my commitment to the production company and produced the first ever Sundance Channel Original series, Transgeneration, which profiled transgender college students at colleges across the country. I learned so much from my experience at World of Wonder and credit them with teaching me the fundamentals of documentary filmmaking.


    How did you get into the documentary world?
    I was on the path for a long time to make documentaries. As an undergraduate I studied journalism and worked as a newspaper reporter and editor, talk show host, and television news editor. I became interested in visual storytelling and telling stories about marginalized and vulnerable people and communities. I became inspired by Appalachian filmmakers Anne Lewis who made Fast Food Women (1991) and Elizabeth Barret who made Coal Mining Women (1982). Their work motivated me to make socially provocative and feminist films and to pursue a career making films where I could build on the long history of non-fiction work that addresses significant social challenges of our time. Documentaries allowed me to continue pursuing my passion of telling stories and USC gave me a space and the resources and support to find my voice as a filmmaker, experiment with form, and explore storytelling as a cinematic art.


    How did "Tig" come about?
    I saw Tig tell her famous Taylor Dayne story as part of a This American Life special that was beamed into movie theaters across the country in May 2012. That was my first time experiencing her storytelling, which was so unique and unlike any comedy performance I had ever experienced. Several months later I remember reading that Tig was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy and shortly thereafter I received a Facebook message from Kristina Goolsby, a producer I met working on the documentary series Intervention. She and I had been talking about collaborating on another project and she asked if I was interested in making a documentary about Tig, who was a friend of hers unbeknownst to me. Without hesitation I said, yes, of course.

    How did you transition from working on shows like "Intervention" to directing a feature doc?
    I have been fortunate to work on a lot of projects over the years and find myself being drawn to stories about marginalized and vulnerable people and communities. I think those stories can take many forms, from documentaries and television series to experimental cinema as well as emerging modes of storytelling that crosses traditional media platforms, such as video games, social networks, and apps. To me, cinema, movies, and media art are grounded in the emotional and ideological and it's about listening to the needs of the story and its subject (or subjects) and letting those voices guide the direction and production of the storytelling. I find that I learn something from every job and every platform and approach each opportunity as one that is unique and one that allows me to refine my practice.

    Tell us a little about your role in co-directing Tig. What did that entail?
    I was invited to join the project by my directing partner Kristina Goolsby, who has known Tig for nearly 20 years. Kristina knew what was happening to Tig and asked if she'd be interested in being the subject of a film. Tig said yes. Kristina then sent me a Facebook message asking if I knew about Tig's story and if I wanted to make a film about her. I said yes. From there it all happened very fast. We had our first production meeting with Tig on a Saturday in early 2013 to talk about making the film. We decided to dive right in and began shooting two days later at a photoshoot she had scheduled with Elle magazine. I reached out to Huy Truong, who I had collaborated with for many years, and invited him to come on board as our director of photography and co-producer. He said yes. From that point forward, we were shooting multiple days a week with Tig as she bounced all around Los Angeles working on various productions and developing new stand-up material. At the same time, we were submitting applications for grants and meeting with financiers. The first year was invigorating and so intense and challenging because we were capturing the story of the film without any money while doing all the work that was required to secure financing. Once we formalized the partnership with Beachside, things got much easier because the resources were there to execute the film the way we envisioned. The film was made in record time for a documentary. It premiered almost two years from the day we had the first meeting with Tig.

    Directing is a fascinating phenomenon really. It means so many things, from showing up to do the work to surrounding yourself with people who share and can execute the vision of the piece to making decisions to knowing how to treat people and trusting your instincts to being mindful of the fact that it's just a movie. I am fortunate to have been invited to work on the film. I learned so much and am grateful for that.

    How did you know you had a good subject/subject matter on your hands?
    From our first conversation with Tig about the possibility of making a documentary, we knew something very special was about to happen. We knew going in that the film would tell the story of a four-month period in 2012 when Tig experienced a catastrophic series of personal events. She was diagnosed with bi-lateral stage II breast cancer. A day after she was informed it was stage II, Tig was inspired to deliver a legendary performance at Largo Theatre in Los Angeles where she stepped out on stage and said, "Good evening, hello, I have cancer.” Not knowing if this would be the last performance of her life, she spent a half-hour talking about her recent diagnosis and the series of personal tragedies that preceded it: pneumonia, followed by a serious intestinal disease, followed by the unexpected death of her mother.
    Once we started filming, we let the story guide us. Tig lives an incredibly rich and varied life, and we were completely enamored by both her professional and personal life. We wanted to spend as much time documenting her journey as possible and had a unique opportunity to be with someone who had just gone through some of the most devastating events that can happen in a person's life and in a short period of time of only four months. Tig opened her life to us and allowed us to document and work alongside her while she navigated a number of difficult, personal, and unpredictable life events. Her openness to the process coupled with all of the unknowns she faced kept us engaged and certain that we had a world class film on our hands.Maeve Kerrigan, Jennifer Arnold (writer), Stephanie Allynne, Tig Notaro (executive producer), Kristina Goolsby (co-director/producer), Ashley York (co-director/producer) at the Outfest opening night gala. Tig was the opening night movie at the festival.


    What are some of the challenges of directing a documentary?
    Making documentaries is as rewarding, invigorating, and inspiring as it is slow, frustrating, and isolating. The biggest challenge may be having the patience it requires to build a career as a filmmaker. Certainly learning how to make it all work financially is a challenge as well as negotiating multiple projects at the same time and learning how to work and overcome the unique challenges that come with each individual project.

    Learning to make films is a process indeed. The process is truly its own art form. It requires patience, persistence, and confidence. My best advice is to surround yourself with a team of capable and kind folks to help you make it happen as gracefully as possible.

    How about financing? This film was financed by Beachside Films, but how about your other projects? How do you go about making a film without a financier on board?

    With Tig, we were in a fortunate position to meet with a number of financiers and producers early on in our development who were as intrigued by Tig’s story as we were and who wanted to partner with us in making the film. We ultimately formalized a deal with Beachside Films, an independent film production company and the West Coast affiliate of Big Beach Films (Little Miss Sunshine, Our Idiot Brother, Safety Not Guaranteed), who came on as financier and producing partner. We were delighted to team up with a talented, capable, smart, and kind group of producers to work alongside to execute our vision. Along the way, we also talked with so many fellow filmmakers who offered their guidance and expertise as we navigated the process of financing our very first feature documentary. We were also fortunate and so grateful to receive a Catapult Film Fund grant early on in our development. This grant provides development funding to documentary filmmakers who have a compelling story to tell, have secured access to their story, and are ready to shoot and edit a piece for production fundraising purposes. This fund was vital to us because it enabled us to develop our reel and treatment to a point where we could talk seriously with financiers.

    I am exploring various ways of fundraising now, ranging from meetings with private financiers to meetings with television broadcasters and financiers, and still very actively pursuing funding from various organizations ranging from the National Endowment for Humanities to ITVS to state-based humanities councils. There are also some funds out there specifically for women filmmakers, including a finishing fund from Women and Film and Chicken and Egg Pictures. Every film is different and requires its own financing plan and strategy. Ultimately you have to keep developing the project, ask for feedback and apply it, and use every deadline as an opportunity to take a step forward with your projects.

    What important lessons have you learned in the business?
    I have been blessed to work with and learn from some of the most talented, skilled, and kind people in the business. Among them are Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering (The Hunting Ground, The Invisible War) who I worked alongside as an associate producer on Outrage. They showed me the meaning of producing with intention, patience, and persistence. I have consulted with Judith Helfand on many projects and am deeply inspired by her unique sensibility. Her film, Blue Vinyl, demonstrated to me that we must keep an open mind and have a light heart when producing our work. Watching a documentary that was as funny as it was political was a powerful moment for me when I was studying documentary filmmaking as a graduate student at USC. Her work taught me that we must remain fluid in our approach. Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey, who hired me as an intern more than a decade ago and who I have produced alongside on a number of projects, including Inside Deep Throat, Becoming Chaz, and the Sundance Channel original series Transgeneration taught me so much about producing, including that “no” is the beginning of “yes” and that it’s our responsibility to tell stories about marginalized and vulnerable people and communities. They also taught me the importance of caring for your crew and creating an environment where people feel cared for.

    How has your USC education played a role in your career?
    The decision to move my life from Kentucky to Los Angeles transformed my life. I am so grateful for the opportunity I was given to pursue an MFA at USC. I had the great fortune to take classes taught by Michael Renov and Amanda Pope where I learned the history, methods, and practices of documentary filmmaking. Renov is professor of critical studies and vice dean for academic affairs and Pope is professor of cinematic arts. Renov taught me to think expansively about the form and curated a class that illustrated the rich and varied world of documentaries. I am so grateful to him for introducing me to the films of Agnès Varda, Frederick Wiseman, and Su Friedrich. Pope's documentary planning class challenged me to dive into developing my very own documentary project. She always signs her emails "onward and upward," which is such a fitting expression for life and documentary filmmaking. I have so much respect and gratitude for Steve Anderson, associate professor of the practice of cinematic arts in Media Arts + Practice Division, who mentored me throughout my MFA studies and served as an adviser on my thesis project. Anderson encouraged radical thinking and experimentation and guided me to use media as a tool for social action and change. He is truly one of the most rad human beings and professors ever.

    Tig Notaro, Stephanie Allynne, Ashley York, Kristina Goolsby at the Canadian Premiere of Tig at the 2015 Hot Docs International Documentary Festival.

    During my last year of graduate studies, I worked as a teaching assistant for the Institute for Multimedia Literacy, which is now the Division of Media Arts + Practice where I am currently a part-time lecturer. The faculty in the department are world class in every respect. Among them are Holly Willis, the chair of Media Arts + Practice; Elizabeth Ramsey, associate chair of Media Arts + Practice; and Vicki Callahan and Virginia Kuhn, associate professors of Media Arts + Practice Division. These women inspire me to think deeply about the theory and practice of making media and to always take a critically conscious approach to making, engaging, and consuming media.

    What career achievement/s have you been most proud of?
    Making Tig is definitely one of my most proud accomplishments. Seeing the film expand from an idea to a bona fide documentary that had full financing and an incredible team of producers behind it that enabled it to premiere at Sundance and be sold to Netflix has been a dream come true. Being invited to open the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival and Outfest were also highlights of life. The programming teams at all of the festivals have been so gracious and welcoming and have made my experience as a first-time director so memorable and wonderful.

    Getting the call from Sundance was a dream come true. It happened one afternoon while I was driving in Los Angeles and I got that call from one of the programmers inviting us to premiere our movie at the festival. He asked if we'd be interested and I was like, yes of course! It turns out, I was one of nine women debuting a feature film at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.


    I am also proud that I've continued to pursue making the documentary So Help You God, a cross-platform documentary about six people from my hometown in eastern Kentucky who are in prison for murder. I have been working on this film for more than ten years and it's been a challenging production for a lot of reasons. I do believe the film is very close and am so grateful to have gained the support of so many amazing partners along the way, including A&E Indie Films, the Pacific Pioneer Fund, The Fledgling Fund, and the Tania Trepanier Award.


    What advice would you give to any aspiring documentary directors out there?
    Be kind. Choose your producing partners wisely.  Know that people can only work the way they know how to work. Say yes. Don't be afraid to say no. Remember that it's a delicate balance of holding on and letting go. Trust your instincts. Be persistent. Be expansive in your thinking. Keep your heart open to the unimaginable. Have confidence in yourself. Know your intention. Make media that matters. Have a good lawyer and an even better therapist.

    What can be done to increase the representation of women in key creative roles -- and as protagonists in documentary and fiction projects?
    Right now is an exciting time in the field of media making and creation. It's truly a renaissance period for documentary storytelling, distribution, and media making in general. As exciting as that is, there is clearly systematic sexism facing women filmmakers and their careers, seen most recently in the ACLU Women’s Rights Project’s investigation of the film industry for its lack of hiring women directors. A damning study concerning gender inequity was revealed as well by Stacy Smith, an associate professor in the Annenberg School for Communication, in her research commissioned by the Sundance Institute and Women in Film.

    We know that it is critical that we take an active role in supporting women filmmakers and their visions. I am deeply moved by Jill Soloway's remarks earlier this year to the outgoing and incoming students of the AFI Convervatory Directing Workshop for Women. She said: "I tell people to shoot from their pussies." I love Jill Soloway for saying this and I don't think it's possible for me to say it better. I think we really have to trust that we are our best selves when we fully embrace who we are, as women, as creators, as human beings. We have to believe that. We have to embrace that, support feminism, encourage feminist thinking in our work and on our sets and among our colleagues, move across boundaries. Be patient. Have confidence in ourselves. And perhaps most importantly, when we see sexism, we have to stop it.
    Ashley York at the World Premiere of Tig at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Ashley was one of nine women debuting a feature film at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.


    What projects are next for you?
    I am developing a mix of fiction, non-fiction, and hybrid projects. In addition to So Help You God, I'm also developing a feature length documentary that examines a cultural history of the iconic American hillbilly image in film, television, and literature. I’m thinking about content that highlights the culture and traditions of Appalachia and Appalachian American people as well as social issue media projects that go beyond traditional screens.  I’m intrigued by the interactive documentary movement as well and exploring the relationship of audience as co-creator and collaborator.

    ***

  • Q&A with WCA's Julie Pifher, EP of "My Giant Life"

    Julie Pifher, B.A. Production '07, is an award-winning filmmaker, specializing in both documentary and scripted content. She’s premiered three short documentaries at the Cannes International Film Festival, one of which won Best in Short Documentary.  She oversees the entire production process, from development and story consulting to logistical production, international distribution to marketing. Her latest project is TLC's hit show "My Giant Life," which premiered July 14 and airs Tuesday nights at 10 p.m.

    A little bit about Julie:

    I’m originally from Milwaukee and I graduated from the USC production track in 2007. Through my own production company, I’ve directed a feature doc, Burning Man & The Meaning of Life, which is streaming on Hulu, iTunes and Amazon. I am an eternal optimist and that has come in handy in an industry that can knock you down sometimes. You just have to get back up and stay positive.  

    When did you know that you wanted to be in the film & television business?

    When I was in high school, I went on a field trip to the local public access station and I was inspired to make my own public access show with a friend. We highlighted some cool events and I learned that life is better with a press pass! We got noticed and the local Fox News station did a segment about us. It was my first taste of success, haha!

    Tell us about the beginning of your career.

    For the first few years after graduation, I produced music videos and did story consulting, which consists of doing coverage, offering story ideas, doing rewrites and edits. After a few repeat clients, I got paid to write original feature scripts. But the economy kind of took a dive and none of those indie scripts were getting made (one I worked on in 2009 just got funded and is finally going into production this fall!). So in 2009, I got an opportunity in TV development and I’ve worked for several production companies since.

    Promotional still from TLC's My Giant Life

    What do you do now?

    I am the Director of Development at Workaholic Productions. I come up with new show ideas, create materials to sell the show (treatments, reels, production plans) and then pitch them to all the networks. When a concept sells, I oversee the overall production.

    How did you become the EP of My Giant Life?

    I created the show idea, found the cast, put together the sales materials and then sold the show. I negotiated Executive Producer credit for all my original ideas that sell. The EP credit was something I had to ask for and negotiate. Ladies, you’ve got to ask for that stuff and hold your ground or else you won’t get it! At previous jobs, I only got Associate Producer credit for my shows and I realized that credits are worth fighting for.

    Describe the show for someone who hasn't seen it yet.

    My Giant Life is a documentary series on TLC that follow the lives of four women who are 6’6” and taller. We follow one girl who is 16 and is already 6’9”! We followed her journey to prom. One woman married a man much shorter than her, one found her estranged father and one was navigating the dating scene as an extremely tall woman.

    Julie on set with Haleigh, one of the women featured on TLC's My Giant Life.

    What is the job of an Executive Producer?

    There are a few categories/descriptions for EPs. I received the credit for creating the show, but I also oversaw production to help ensure that the stories I sold to the network were delivered properly. The showrunner gets EP credit and they deal with the daily nitty gritty of it all. The president of the production company gets EP credit and they oversee the whole shebang. We all work together on many levels, but most importantly to ensure the network and talent is happy at every turn. There are also EPs on the network side.

    What makes a good EP?

    One really important element, especially in documentary TV, is to protect your talent. They are opening up their lives for the cameras and it can be a scary and nerve-wracking thing for them. If they don’t feel safe, they won’t feel open to share and the story will feel stilted. Making sure talent is happy is worth going the extra mile.

    What are some of the challenges of your job?

    It can be frustrating when a good concept doesn’t sell or doesn’t go to series. Last year I sold/produced four pilots that didn’t get picked up, so no one will ever see all that hard work.

    What important lessons have you learned in the business?

    The art of negotiation is something that should be taught more in school! You can’t take things personally. And the more passion you have about a project, the easier it is to stick with it for the long haul.

    How has your USC education played a role in your career?

    In the first few years, I got most of my jobs through people I met in school. It’s really great to have those connections and work with people you like. What I liked about the production track was how varied the classes were. I learned how to write a script and tell a good story, I learned how to budget and how to work with actors. I use all of that in my job every day.

    Julie wrote, directed and produced the 2012 documentary Burning Man and the Meaning of Life

    What career achievement/s have you been most proud of?

    I’m probably most proud of the experiences I’ve had rather than any one project. I’ve been to France over a dozen times, for both the Cannes Film Festival and the MIP TV market. I’ve even walked the red carpet at Cannes! I lived in India for two months writing a Bollywood “cross-over” script.

    What advice would you give to any aspiring reality/documentary producers and directors out there?

    Find new worlds and perspectives that no one has seen (or hasn’t seen in a while haha) and get access that no one else has.

    What can be done to increase the representation of women in key creative roles -- and as protagonists in reality and fiction projects?

    Groups like WCA are so vital because it gives us a platform to help each other out. I love that I can reach out to a smart group of women to get advice and support. When we support each other, we gain power. Women have to be confident to know their worth and speak up for themselves.

    What projects are next for you?

    I have a bunch of new TV shows in development (I’m usually pitching out about 20 projects at any given time) but I have a personal project on the side that I’m really excited about – I’m writing a science fiction fantasy novel! I’ve been really enjoying the new challenge of writing the book and learning all the jargon/rules of the publishing world.

    Find more on Julie and her work here:

    Website: www.jpifproductions.com

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/jpifproductions

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BurningManAndTheMeaningOfLife

  • Join the WCA Board!

    WCAers -- we're now accepting applications for WCA Alumni Board members for 2015-16. Help continue the great WCA tradition!


    TO APPLY: Please send a resume and a short cover letter to:
    uscwcaalum@gmail.com on how you are qualified for the position you seek.
    Terms are for one full year, starting in mid-August 2015.

    
2015-16 WCA BOARD POSITIONS:

    ALUMNI CO-CHAIRS (2)

    EVENTS CO-CHAIRS (2)

    SOCIAL MEDIA/PUBLICITY CHAIRS (2)

    WEB EDITOR (1)

    FINANCE CHAIR (1)

    Application deadline is Friday, August 14.

    Check the listserv for more information!

  • Q&A with WCA's Louiza Vick, WPA Agent

    ABOUT LOUIZA: Louiza Vick, from St. Petersburg, Russia, earned her bachelor's degree from USC's School of Cinematic Arts. She started her career working in commercial production for companies such as Anonymous Content, The Directors Bureau, and Caviar while serving as a development consultant at Sony Television International for the Russian programming division. In November 2008, she joined Paradigm’s Production Department and got her start learning the ropes of below-the-line representation. In April 2010, Worldwide Production Agency brought her onboard as an agent serving its roster in motion pictures. Moving swiftly, she expanded WPA’s client roster to include editors. In 2014, she was named as one of Variety’s Hollywood New Leaders.

    Louiza at Sundance. (Photo courtesy Louiza Vick)

    Q: What do you do now?

    LV: I am a feature below-the-line agent at Worldwide Production Agency in LA.

    Q: How did you get the job at WPA (Worldwide Production Agency)?

    LV: After graduating from USC Film School, I did commercial production for about a year and then decided to try the agency route. I landed in the production department at Paradigm Talent Agency where I met Richard Caleel, one of the partners of Worldwide Production Agency, as well as several of the colleagues I work with now. Richard split off from Paradigm in January 2010 and started his own agency (at the time called The Caleel Agency). A couple months later, he asked me to join him at his new venture as a feature agent. That was in April of 2010, and in October of that year we merged with Steve Jacob and launched Worldwide Production Agency.

    Q: What does an agent do?

     LV: At its core, my job is finding clients opportunities and managing their careers. The day-to-day job of an agent is comprised of following up with regular contacts, reading scripts, talking to clients about opportunities we’re pursuing for them, and negotiating and papering deals.

    Q: What makes a good agent?

    LV: The makeup of a good agent can be described in a few words: persistent, caring, resilient, and punctual. I consider myself more of a manager than an agent. I think that in order to advance someone’s career, you have to know and care for them, professionally and personally.

    Frank Balkin, WPA partner, WPA DP Dana Gonzales, and Louiza Vick at the 2014 Emmys (Photo courtesy Louiza Vick)

    Q: What are some of the challenges of your job?

    LV: The biggest challenge and one I embrace whole-heartedly is convincing people to see our clients as multi-disciplined. Often times, people put talent in boxes. You’re the commercial DP or you’re the TV designer. I believe that if someone has perfected and has proven their craft in lighting or design, their strength in lets say commercials shouldn’t hold them back from obtaining a feature opportunity because the main skill set is same and the rest comes with experience. Someone has to give them their first shot or how else would they gain experience in a medium they haven’t worked in? I wish more people would take chances. While this is a challenge, it is one I enjoy because when you succeed in breaking those boundaries and getting the client their shot at a new medium, it is very rewarding.

    Q: Are there any particular advantages or disadvantages to being a woman in your line of work?

    LV: Being a woman in entertainment industry, no matter what you do, comes with its own set of challenges as its a male-dominated industry like many others. Sometimes you get taken for granted because you’re a woman but at the same time, you can use that to your advantage.

    Q: What important lessons have you learned on the job?

    LV: You must always be patient and resilient.  

    Q: How has your USC education played a role in your career?

    LV: The most fulfilling and exciting aspect of my job is finding a script that a client loves. The only way I can find the great script is by reading as many scripts as I can get my hands on. I love talking to clients about story and characters. I am a cinephile at heart and my love for storytelling came from taking many critical studies classes at USC Film School.

    Q: What has prepared you best for your career?

    LV: The best preparation is by learning by example. I am very fortunate to have great mentors at WPA who have helped me become who I am today.



    Louiza represents WPA DP Matthew J. Lloyd, CSC, shown here on set of DAREDEVIL with director Phil Abraham (Photo courtesy Louiza Vick)

    Q: What career achievement/s have you been most proud of?

    LV: What I find most rewarding is seeing a client’s career flourish knowing that you had a hand in making that happen.

    Q: What advice would you give to women starting out in the film/television industry?

    LV: The best advice I can give is someone is to never give up. In this industry, it is very difficult to succeed but you can’t give up despite the obstacles. The only person who is stopping you from doing your best is yourself. Work hard, be resilient, and appreciate what you have, the rest will come.

    Q: What advice would you give to any aspiring agents out there?

    LV: Find your own voice and trust your gut. Recognize that what you do is a calling and devote your time and energy to that calling.

    In 2014, Variety named Louiza one of Hollywood's New Leaders. Shown fourth from right. (Photo courtesy Variety.)

    Q: What about people aspiring to GET an agent? Any advice?

    LV: First and foremost, as an artist you should focus on your craft. Perfect it and find what separates you from the rest. When you do that, often times, the agent will seek you out and find you first. If you haven’t been noticed, I would suggest asking a producer or director friend to put in a word for you. Referrals are generally the best way to go.

    Q: Besides being an agent, do you have any other projects?

    LV: In fact I do. I shoot fashion and beauty editorials in my spare time. I’ve always loved photography. There is something about capturing emotion or conveying mood in just one photo that fascinates me. It’s a great creative outlet.

    In addition to being an agent, Louiza is a successful fashion and beauty photographer. (Photo by Louiza Vick)

    Q: What's next for you?

    LV: I love what I do and only time will tell.

    ***

  • WCA writer-director Liz Manashil to Screen Anti-Rom Com Feature "Bread and Butter"

    Award-winning feminist flick shows at USC on June 22
     
    Chrissie and Liz
    BREAD AND BUTTER, an indie feature written, directed, produced and crewed by some amazing female SC alums (and a few quality men thrown in there), will be screening June 22 in SCA 112 at 7pm. A Q&A with Cast and Crew to follow moderated by fantastic SC Alum and Kick Ass Female Joanna Cherensky. 
     
    It's a private screening for SC current students, alums, staff and faculty - however, guests are allowed. The film has distribution and will be released late summer.
    ABOUT BREAD AND BUTTER

    After buying a used book that has personal scribblings throughout its margins, Amelia, a 30 year old virgin, becomes smitten with Leonard “the annotator”. At the same time, another man, Daniel, starts to court her. Confronted for the first time with the gauntlet that is dating, Amelia emerges from this anti-romantic comedy with the knowledge that finding herself is more important than finding a boyfriend.

    Bread and Butter had its world premiere at Woodstock Film Festival and is still traveling on the festival circuit. It has won several awards including Best Feature at Big Apple Film Festival, Best Romantic Comedy at Worldfest Houston and Best Comedy at SENE. It was picked as one of "three to see" at Cleveland International Film Festival by the festival's artistic director and was chosen to be a VIP screening at Phoenix Film Festival. A full listing of festival screenings can be found at the film's website (breadandbuttermovie.com).

    The film stars Christine Weatherup (Squaresville, Grey's Anatomy, Mad Men), Bobby Moynihan (SNL), Micah Hauptman (Parker, Everest), Eric Lange (The Bridge, Weeds, Once Upon A Time), Lauren Lapkus (Orange Is The New Black), Sean Wright (Just Seen It), Dawn Didawick (Hart of Dixie) and 3 Time Tony nominee Harry Groener (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

    To RSVP: Please visit http://cinema.usc.edu/events/event.cfm?id=15046

  • Event: WCA May Drinks!

    WCA May Drinks!

    Meet and mingle with your fellow cinematic women! Join the USC Women of Cinematic Arts for our May Drinks event. We look forward to seeing you there.

    Zinque
    8684 Melrose Avenue 
    West Hollywood, CA 90048


    Tuesday, May 12, 2015 from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM (PDT)
     
  • Welcome Kelly Williams, WCA's New Events Co-Chair!

    Please extend a warm welcome to Kelly Williams, WCA Alumni's new Events Co-Chair. Kelly will join forces with the incomparable Nicolette Daskalakis to keep bringing our members great networking and social events. Kelly, who received a double B.A. from SCA and Annenberg, was part of the prestigious NBC Page Program and currently works in the Program Planning & Scheduling Department at NBC. See more on Kelly here. And stay tuned for some exciting upcoming WCA events!