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…And Then This Happened

December 29, 2021

I had thought that the performance of one of my plays by the US Army in Germany would likely be the most exciting thing that would happen to me as a writer this year (even considering the two Zoom readings of another play.) It turned out to not even be the most exciting thing to happen in the month of September.

Over the summer, I watched a free webinar from Ela Thier, who aside from having an impressive career as a filmmaker (sixteen IMDb credits as a writer, director, producer, actor and editor) also runs an online film school. I am always looking for individuals who can help me get my scripts over any humps they may face and into the hands of producers. I thought Ela would be someone worth listening to–online classes and webinars are a dime a dozen, but only a few are taught by individuals with success in the industry. After viewing the webinar, I signed up for her pitching and screenwriting classes, and enjoyed her approach to teaching and crafting scripts.

In September, she announced that she would begin a new venture through the film school–a mentorship program. Although I was slightly intimidated by the price, I thought perhaps this, more than online classes, might be what I really need to take the next step in my career. I sent Ela my writing sample and scheduled a Zoom meet. If nothing else, it was certainly worth exploring.

The Zoom meet was not quite what I expected. Ela told me that she was very impressed with my writing sample, and asked me questions that I assumed were solely to ascertain my writing practice: “Can you work quickly?” “Are you good at research?” “How do you do collaborating with others?” It wasn’t until later I realized what was really happening: this was a job interview.

Ela let me know that while she would love to have me in the mentorship program, she has something else in mind: she wants to develop one of her features (Tomorrow Ever After) into a television series. It would be a science fiction dramedy on the climate emergency. She thought I might be the person to help her create and write the series.

Um…what…?

As caught off guard as I was, it didn’t stop me from realizing what a remarkable opportunity this was. I agreed to audition through some writing assignments, and also to take some time and see if this was a collaboration with which we were each comfortable. Since then, we have exchanged scenes and ideas, while I have shared the notes from extensive research on time travel and the climate emergency. One recent weekend, we worked together on Zoom to revise the series’ pitch deck and bible. I think it is safe to say it is working.

I was telling my close friend and filmmaker Brant Smith how odd this is that I am working on a sci-fi series, since none of my screenplays and stage plays have anything to do with this genre. Brant reminded me that I have been a sci-fi fan since I was a kid; I wrote and submitted a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode when I was in college; and I have taught the paradoxes of time travel in my philosophy class for the last two decades. He summed it up:

“You have been preparing for this job your whole life!”

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