The old adage “write what you know” applies to the students of The Writers’ Room, a group honing their craft as future screenwriters and television stars. Although the group is not yet professional, the students create a sitcom about a fictional college writers room.
The group of nearly a dozen students met most Mondays of the year in this collaborative writing club, a subset of the student-run club, The Industry.
The group was led this year by EMST major Sherry Liang, who served as coordinator and motivator.
“It’s hybrid learning,” says Liang. “Learn to write and actually write.”
The students spent every Monday doing table readings and workshops where they came up with ideas for the eclectic collection of characters…the hopeless romantic, the new guy, a teacher’s pet, the Eeyore (the one who is still dropped)…and reenact the episode that had been written since the previous meeting.
The group then discussed the pros and cons of what was written, giving constructive feedback on tone, voice, style and sense of character. Suggestions are then given on topics such as writing more concisely, thinking about the ultimate angle from which to view the story, or providing a stronger sense of the scene.
“Writing a single episode is very different from a short, stand-alone script,” says Olivia Colburn, a second-year student at EMST who has just completed her first screenwriting course. “We need to connect the episode to previous episodes, have a cohesive story within itself, and plant seeds for future episodes.”
Each week, a lead writer is assigned to write the episode and work with other club members to develop characters. All members then bring ideas and suggestions to the meetings.
Derek Walker, a fourth-year EMST student, enjoys the collaborative nature and also the fact that he can come up with ideas and have fun.
“It’s finally a place where I can get out of my head and relax,” Walker said. “It’s a creative rejuvenation, and I’m inspired to work more on my external projects.”
Another advantage, especially for students like freshman Whit Pope, is that they can gain a lot of experience before taking their basic EMST courses.
“It was daunting at first since I’m only a freshman and had little or no screenwriting experience, but I think the creative content mixed with the welcoming atmosphere of the club m really made it come back every week and made it a highlight of my semester,” Pope mentioned. “I was also grateful for the advice of many older members who never stopped giving me such great advice before taking a real EMST course.”
While most advice focuses on character development and writing for the stage, technical inputs are also provided such as the best software to use when writing.
Ultimately, The Writers’ Room’s mission is to provide a comfortable and supportive environment where students can flex their creative muscles. It’s one of the reasons the group chose to write about a writer’s room this year.
“Anyone could contribute because everyone was in a college writer’s room and their niche experience would add color to the narrative,” Walker concludes. “Overall, I learned to give people a way to make the group project feel like their own, bringing out the best in everyone.”
The writers’ room students have written nearly 10 episodes this season and plan to turn the script into an actual production for a web series next year.
Date: May 11, 2022
Author: Sarah Freeman, email@example.com