Rebecca Kirsch, B.A. Screenwriting ‘05

Current Occupation: Television writer for NBC’s “Dracula”

What is a typical day like for you at your job?

As part of a television Writers’ Room, my colleagues and I develop the storylines and thematic arcs for each episode of a show and the series as a whole.  We craft emotional paths for our characters to travel, and work together to discover the most cinematic ways to portray those journeys.  We “break” individual episodes as a group, from FADE IN to FADE OUT, and then one writer (or a team of writers) creates an outline, and then a script.

No two Writers’ Rooms are the same.  The showrunners that I’ve worked with have put together amazing teams of clever, dedicated writers, and have made it a point to promote a supportive creative environment where we are all working toward the same single goal; to make the show the very best that it can be. Working side by side with higher-level writers than myself can be a fascinating education (and you’ll hear some pretty great war stories, too).  A Writers’ Room is a unique creative atmosphere; when the room’s working at its finest, you can feel it in the air.  It’s pure magic.

Now that you’ve graduated, what have you taken from the classroom and applied to your career?

What I appreciated about Dodge College was that, no matter your particular emphasis within the film school, you were required to take introductory classes in many different areas of the industry. As a Screenwriting major, for instance, I also took classes in editing, directing, and cinematography. Though I didn’t always see a future career for myself in each of these specific fields, I recognized the importance of experiencing these worlds firsthand, especially in a medium as collaborative as film and television. Now, in a professional setting, I have a different appreciation for the artists I work with in each of those intricate departments, and feel that I am better versed in their unique languages than I would have been without my Dodge College education. 

Reflecting on your years at Dodge College, what one thing you would do again, and what one thing would change?

One thing I would change is I would have taken the “Art of the Documentary” production class.  At the time, I was too afraid – of what, I’m not sure. Probably the heavy responsibility that one undertakes when portraying an important, emotionally weighted topic like “Born into Brothels” did, for instance.  Then again, other documentaries are beautiful, hopeful stories like “Mad Hot Ballroom” and the UK’s “Up Series.” Some of the most powerful and moving films I’ve ever seen have been risky documentaries that push the envelope; these are the films that have the ability to truly change the world.  I wish I had tried my hand at one in a safe and nurturing environment like film school, so that I might have had a solid ground to stand on before undertaking one in a professional setting, which I hope to do someday.

One thing I would do again is crew on student films!  There’s nothing more exhilarating than being in the trenches with your classmates and getting your hands dirty on a production. And it’s important to have an opportunity to make mistakes in order to find clever ways to get through them. In production, you make plans that rarely go exactly as predicted for one reason or another, and it’s important to be able to think on your feet and adapt quickly to make something work.

What advice would you give to current students?

The film and television industry is notoriously cutthroat. Because of that reputation, I think that some students enter the industry with the notion that it’s necessary to view every colleague as a competitive threat, and to be prepared to act like one of the Career characters in “The Hunger Games” in order to move ahead.

Through the thick and thin of long hours crewing on student films and midnight screenwriting marathons, my Dodge College classmates and I grew very close. Without their support and encouragement during film school and especially after, there’s no way I’d have survived emotionally through the first difficult years of unpaid internships and grueling assistant positions. We’ve been there post-college to support one another with writers’ groups, after-hours script notes, and job leads. I just don’t know what I would do without them. Someday when I’m able to make decisions about who to hire on my own projects, these are the first people that I plan on calling.

My advice?  Stick together. Film and television, by their very nature, are collaborative media. We’re all in this together, and we’ll get further if we help each other along the way. Otherwise, I think it would be a rather lonely journey.