Left to right: Students Alonso Castillo, Natasha Hall, and Amy Roy, with Maria Jacquemetton, Anne Beatts, and Michael Baser
Last week, the VFS Writing for Film & Television program had the pleasure of hosting two true TV luminaries: Anne Beatts, who wrote for Saturday Night Live during its heady early days, and Maria Jacquemetton, writer and co-executive producer of AMC's Mad Men.
Both Emmy-winning women are members of our Writing Advisory Board, andwere on hand for a few days to visit the program and spend some quality time with students.
Four of those students had the chance to get to know them over lunch. This is student Natasha Hall's take on that one-of-a-kind experience.
Guest Post by Natasha Hall
Student, Writing for Film & Television
When Head of Writing Michael Baser pulled me aside to tell me that I was going to have lunch with executive producer Maria Jacquemetton of Mad Men and comedy writer Anne Beatts of SNL, my first reaction was "What you talking 'bout, Willis?" But once he assured me that it wasn't some cruel prank, I was honoured to share that experience with three of my peers: Amy Roy, Alonso Castillo, and Bobby Henwood.
Leading up to the lunch, both Anne and Maria held a panel where they shared their experiences and stressed the importance of thinking outside of the box. Consider your unique qualities. Of the many trying to become a Writer's Assistant, how many tap dance, speak various languages, or even play basketball? It's those unique skills that will distinguish you, especially if you tailor your job searches. So, if basketball is something you know well, try to get onto a sports show, make those contacts, and then maneuver yourself to where you actually intended. Bottom line, Anne and Maria stressed that all experience is valid.
Then, before I knew it, Sunday's panel became Monday's lunch and I was thrilled to sit down with these two prolific writers. As the conversation went on, both spoke about how they had years of "down time," when their careers may have been at a standstill and yet both continued to write through the hiatus. This also meant that they remained in contact with their writing friends, providing and giving feedback on various projects. So, when Matthew Weiner got the green light for Mad Men, Maria and her husband, Andre Jacquemetton, were some of the very first people Matthew decided to contact.
One area of curiosity posed to Anne and Maria - What are the positives of having a writing partner? One, you have someone to bounce the "stupid" ideas off of, and two, the best ideas are usually a synthesis. For Mad Men, Maria and her husband tend to break up the episode by A, B, and C storylines. One person will go off and work on just the A story and the other will go off and work on the B and C storylines. However, Anne and her writing partner write everything together. They sit in a room and hash out all the details until done.
After the lunch, both women held in-class information sessions and conducted one-on-one talks. I happened to be in Anne's sketch class, and there we wrote commercial parodies. We also spoke about Anne's experience with censorship while on SNLand how that censorship has changed and morphed over the years. Her sentiment - comedy shouldn't be censored because subjects that remain taboo also remain empowered.
The entire week, simply put, was an eye-opening conversation that made many of our goals seem just a bit more tangible. Thanks to Anne, Maria, and VFS for hosting such an incredible week. It was a great opportunity to gain insight into the business from two women who are making strides!
Check out some photos from Anne and Maria's visit on the VFS Flickr profile.