When alumnus Rebecca Kirsch (BA/ Film and Television ’05) came to campus a few weeks ago to talk with students in Jim Macak’s Seminar in TV Writing class, I was reminded of an
Matthew Weiner (
) wrote about artists who ‘hide their brushstrokes.’
“It’s easy to look at a finished product and be under the illusion that it just came pouring out of someone’s head like that,” says Weiner. “People who are young, or still struggling, can get easily discouraged, because they can’t do it like they thought it was done. An artwork is a finished product, and it should be, but I always swore to myself that I would not hide my brushstrokes.”
Kirsch embodied this ideal of not hiding the brushstrokes, speaking with great candor and humility about her career while at the same time using her experience to encourage the aspiring writers in Professor Macak’s class.
Kirsch got her start as a student in Professor Macak’s class back in 2004 where she wrote a spec script for the television series
. In 2005, her script won the Austin Film Festival Drama Teleplay competition.
“The fact that so many people read my script and decided I should get an award for it was incredibly gratifying and it made me think that perhaps I have a talent worth pursuing,” Kirsch said. “So with Jim’s encouragement, I sent letters out to several industry professionals and got some of my first meetings with people who treated me as a writer. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a very large portfolio at the time, so it didn’t translate directly into work. Still, it bolstered me emotionally to continue pursuing writing as a career.”
Of course, no career is all successes and Kirsch spoke with equal candor about some of her own stumbles and what to look for in a job. “Make sure you’re working for someone who is giving you opportunities to learn about the industry. If you’re not working with someone who is willing to take the time to educate you, that’s not a position you want, even if it’s for a big industry professional. Try to find people who are open to questions, because they’re the ones who are going to help you the most in your career.”
After leaving her first job, Kirsch took a job as a development assistant for Marc Roskin (
) at Electric Entertainment. There, she met John Rogers (
) and Chris Downey (
King of Queens
), the executive producers for the television series
“I was always getting them coffee and we would chat about whatever comics we were reading or what movies we had seen. When they announced that they were looking for a writer’s assistant, I told my boss, ‘I love working for you, but you know I want to be a writer and I would do anything to get this job.’
“My boss talked to them and because they knew me they said, ‘Oh Becky? Yeah, we love her and would love to have her on the show.’ So those earlier conversations really laid the groundwork for me getting the writers’ assistant position.”
Kirsch’s work as a writer’s assistant for
led to her first opportunity as a freelance writer. “I did not expect to be offered a freelance job and I wasn’t going to ask for one because it was a new show and they were already struggling to make it successful. But my bosses came from a generation of television where the writers’ assistant gets rewarded for good work and I think they wanted to pass that forward.”
Kirsch went on to write 6 episodes for
. She wrote episodes for the television series,
Dracula, Mind Games, Dominion,
. All told, Kirsch has written 14 television series episodes in the space of 7 years.
As for advice for aspiring writers, Kirsch says, “Be passionate about whatever you’re working on. Whether it’s an internship or an assistant position or an opportunity to pitch your script, be passionate, because this is a world of artists and we’re all weirdly crazy fanatic about our work. Have enthusiasm for the industry and be open to doing anything, even if it’s just getting coffee, because you never know where it will lead.”