Posts Tagged ‘writing’
Boy howdy are you in for a delicious episode with the one and only RUSS ARMSTRONG. A writer for Uncommon Sense (MTV), performer galore (Master of None, Montreal Just for Laughs, 30 Rock), and improviser who has played on many a Magnet ensemble, Russ has plenty to discuss with host Louis Kornfeld regarding television, union workers, life balance, and confidence. Find out how Louis is feeling (creatively) and if Evan is real or just a made up character. All of this and more in Episode #70!
This episode begins with Russ and Louis talking about the podcast itself and how Louis must strive to stay ahead of his students that listen to it. Once past all of that nonsense, Louis asks Russ about his current gig writiing for the MTV show Uncommon Sense hosted by Charlamagne Tha God. What is the schedule like for such a show and how has Russ’s life changed since he began writing for television on the regular? Discussing work/life balance is something any corporate drone is probably familiar with, but getting to hear a comedian’s take on the matter provides a perspective most might not hear.
Further exploring what it feels like to write for a TV show, Louis wonders if the vibe of a writers room can ever mimic that of an improv team or even, improv theater. Somewhere along the line, Louis insults all union workers, as he is wont to do. Russ counters, asking, “Is there any place that’s really like an improv theater?” We’re paraphrasing with those quotation marks.
Russ answers questions about being funny on days when you’re not feeling funny and how you push yourself through those times. He also provides insight on writing for other voices, hosts, shows, and audiences. Plus, he discovers that Louis’ life is very much like a Dove soap ad. What does that mean? You’ll have to listen. Later, Louis launches insightful inquiries regarding Russ’ comedic sensibilities and sense of a linear life. Though he may not have known where he was going as a kid, Russ finds more use for goals and planning theseadays.
Then the improv chatter heats up! Russ shares a lesson he’s learned and proclaims that while improv starts with a mentality of “Your ideas are great!” it can often translate to something too cozy and too safe for growth. Ultimately, Russ says, you have to like your own ideas. Louis wants to know, when the pressure is on, how does Russ avoid letting fear and insecurity block him from that goal? Russ asks, “Is fake confidence different from real confidence?” Plus, Russ invents a character named Evan who doesn’t exist, asks Louis how he’s feeling creatively, and tells us what he says to people who tell him to cheer up! You can’t stop this episode and it doesn’t matter!!!
Our very own Lauren Ashley Smith stops in to talk about Speech & Debate, loving television, and engaging with her dog brain. A writer for Bravo’s “Fashion Queens” and VH1’s “Best Week Ever,” Lauren also performs at Magnet with Megawatt team TITAN and The Friday Night Sh*w. Host Louis Kornfeld kicks off their interview by discussing how she came to be involved in comedy.
Originally from St. Louis, Lauren first became interested in comedy during her days doing Speech & Debate in high school. She once found herself thrown into a “humorous interpretation” tournament and did quite well, which gave her the idea that maybe she wanted to pursue more laughs. Louis, too, did Speech & Debate in high school, which is where he finally talked to girls, so it sounds like both of them have lots of warm feelings regarding their time in S&D. Lauren’s story is particularly heartwarming because her father was her coach and director, which gave them a lot of one-on-one time together. Louis wonders what traits Lauren garnered from each of her parents, and while her dad taught her how to talk forever about a subject, she says that her mom gave her a sense of humor.
After high school, Lauren did short-form improv at Dickinson College and then moved to NYC, where she became involved with Story Pirates. Though she was very shy when she got into SP, Lauren figured out that a lot of other Pirates were Magnet improvisers, which is what led her to study there and eventually, become a Magnet performer herself. Lauren describes that time in her life as a transition from that of a wallflower to the confident, outspoken person she is today.
Switching gears, Louis wants to talk about pop culture, since that is at the foundation of Lauren’s livelihood. In addition to her work with Fashion Queens and Best Week Ever, Lauren also writes for humor site Reductress and other talking head and reality recap shows. She got her start producing for VH1’s “Best Week Ever” and talks about the production process for that show and how she got that job in the first place. From the production side, she began pitching a lot and eventually got to submit as a writer, for which she was then hired. Writing actually became harder once she had the title, she says. When asked if she prefers working alone, or having other people to bounce ideas off of, Lauren says that she likes working in a group and using improv concepts in the writers room to collaborate on ideas. Louis shares his last writers room experience and both profess that it’s very important to have a producer that trusts the writers’ ideas.
So, how did Lauren become an authority on pop culture and reality TV? Her secret is out: Watch a ton of TV and be on Twitter all the time! She proves her prowess by quickly naming all of the Real Housewives locations. Though she always has favorite shows, Lauren says that she often becomes a fan of new shows by doing research for work. Lauren talks about her parents battling over whether or not she and her sisters could watch The Real World and Louis admits his TV addiction to world. Even though a lot of TV is crap, Louis thinks that you can still grow up okay despite watching it all. How does Lauren feel being a part of the negative stereotype that reality TV is rotting people’s minds? She says despite the fact that many reality TV stars may serve as poor examples to younger people, there are still enough incredible moments to help her keep the faith and that there are many other factors at play for how an audience might internalize what they see on TV.
In a moment of great humility, Louis asks Lauren to explain Twitter to him. She does so very gently, and also tells us that she finds out about all major news events on Twitter and loves to play #hashtaggames. They talk about what constitutes something as newsworthy and how there’s a difference between dumbing things down and making sure that shows are accessible and relatable. To that end, she wishes she were a sillier person. Louis relates, saying that he wants to start closing the gap between his “show brain” and his”shower brain,” which Lauren says is the same as her “dog brain.” There are a lot of brains at play in this episode!
Finally, learn about who Lauren idolizes, the price we pay for being so angry all the time, and how Lauren’s family feels about her comedy.
Tune in to hear all of that, plus Lauren and Louis say “magnet” twice without intending to reference the Theater!
- All That
- armando diaz
- Best Week Ever
- Black Twitter
- Buffy The Vampire Slayer
- Dickinson College
- Fashion Queens
- Friday Night Sh*w
- Friday Night Show
- hashtag games
- James Eason
- Lauren Ashley Smith
- Louis Kornfeld
- magnet theater
- magnet theater podcast
- magnet training center
- new york
- new york city
- reality TV
- Speech & Debate
- speech and debate
- St Louis
- story pirates
- The Real World
STEPH GARCIA – ON MOVING TO LA, WRITING COMEDY & BEING AN ASSISTANT ON A TV SHOW!
Comedy in New York:
Steph studied improv at the Magnet Theater through level 5, completed the sketch program, and performed on sketch teams: Alchemy, Colorado Dad and Dispacho.
She also performed on an indie improv team Gilda and on the sketch duo Firecracker, that made the web series White People Problems.
Performs weekly at the Nerdist with her improv team Pilgrim. Hosts an Entertainment Industry panel for women at the Nerdist School with fellow teammate Lindsey Barrow. Co-hosts a monthly all female mix-em-up improv show called Girl on Lady Action with Maura Ruth. She also recently wrote a web series and pilot, with Dave Warth over Skype and they are in post production of their first episode.
All while working as a writer’s PA on Selfie and now ABC’s The Catch.
How long have you been in LA?
It will be two years in October.
How does the improv scene there compare to NY?
There is just as much opportunity in LA, I just feel like it’s more spread out, and, for me, it’s a little more difficult to do. I remember jumping theater to theater in New York and here it’s different because you have a car and you have to drive and park. But there are a lot of indie theaters.
Do people tend to be members of a few different theaters or do they stick to one?
No there’s a lot of crossover here. It’s the same as in New York.
Are you primarily a writer, improviser or a sketcher?
Right now I am primarily a writer. I do perform weekly, but I’m not auditioning. I’m working on writing for TV. I got a manager out here and so I’m working on having some samples that are more TV. They have all my sketches and they have been using them to pitch, and I’m working right now with Nerdist to get the video production side up. And I’m actually hoping to get live sketch up at the Nerdist as well. I just love sketch so much, but in terms of having something to make a living off of, I want to write TV so you need to have good samples.
How hard is it now to pitch to sketch shows that are currently on the air? Do you have to know people on them?
Yeah, and that seems to be the case in general. You can still get hired off your samples and stuff, but it always helps to know somebody. I’ve gotten my last two jobs because of recommendations from people.
How did you know people in LA?
My cousin is a set designer and he worked with somebody who was working on Raising Hope at the time, and she invited me to set, which was freaking amazing, and I met the production coordinator on that. That production coordinator happened to get hired on the pilot of Selfie and gave me a chance. So for two weeks I was working on the pilot and I spoke to everybody and said ‘I want to write!’ and so when the time came around for the show, the showrunner’s assistant who was working on the pilot asked if I wanted to interview for the writer’s PA gig. And from that, the director of that pilot also directed The Catch pilot, so her assistant forwarded my resume on.
I’ll come back to your jobs, but first tell us about your writing process.
I like deadlines, so if it’s something like a writer’s program or festival deadline, that’s what feeds me. So it depends. I’ll sit on an idea for a year, and I won’t do anything with it until I see – ‘oh, someone will actually look at this.’ And I’ll sit and I’ll write it in two weeks. I don’t know why I do that, and it’s not good and no one should do that.
Do you ever set your own deadlines or does it have to be external?
I have on occasion, but it’s usually – ‘this festival deadline is this week, so my deadline is a week and a half before.’ It’s not a way to live. Don’t do it that way.
[Just now – Steph gets a pizza delivered. AND she doesn’t eat it until the end of the interview. Obviously displaying some extraordinary mental toughness required to gain writing chops in LA.]
How did you get a manager?
I have a friend of mine who I knew in New York who is an actress. She started her own production company and produced two shorts that went to some festivals, and so when I came out here, she said ‘give me sketches’. And I said ‘here you go.’ We shot some stuff, and then someone I met through her was a manager, and at the time I guess, not that I wasn’t looking – I love acting, but I came out here because I knew there was more opportunities for writing than in New York. And then when I did the CBS Diversity showcase I ran into her again, and they were opening a literary division at their management company. She said just come and meet with us and see if you like the team, so I met the team and they’re now repping me.
What did you have to send them?
I sent them so much stuff. I think I sent them an original pilot and a Bob’s Burgers spec. Then they were like ‘great, send us more stuff’, so I sent them a bunch of sketches and I sent another pilot and some shorts that I’ve written.
What I’ve heard the trend is now is to have an original pilot and if someone likes that, then they want that spec to see if you can write in somebody else’s voice.
How long does it take you to write an original pilot?
It depends. The last pilot I wrote took me two and a half weeks. But technically if you add all the time I’d been sitting on it and thinking of the story, at that point I had all the beats in my head before I sat down and started writing.
Do you show people your work? Do you have a writer’s group?
I have a writers group and then I have some other people that I bother. You can’t be precious with your writing. And that’s another thing that being on a sketch team at the Magnet definitely helped me out with, you just can not be precious with your writing.
When I’m really working on something I’ll sit down for 2 – 3 hours at a time and knock out what I can.
You mentioned Russ Armstrong was a memorable sketch director. Was there anything you learned from him that you think about today?
Russ has a really good work ethic and my favorite thing I learned from him was about keeping everything succinct and short and your jokes being real clear and not having any of that junk around it, because it just muddles the joke.
What do you mean by work ethic?
He was fantastic at giving notes and really tried to get us to memorize our sketches and then run them and run them, always e-mailing and being supportive but also saying ‘we have to get our stuff up’ and ‘does everybody have their things.’ He was always present at the meetings. Always ready to give feedback and ready to keep it moving and make sure we got as much as we could from every meeting. There wasn’t a lot of messing around, which can happen when you have a group of writers together.
You currently work as a writer’s PA. How is a writer’s PA different from a writer’s Assistant?
A writer’s assistant and a script co-ordinator, depending on the show, overlap some. A writer’s assistant generally takes notes in the room, and then because you’re (hopefully) writing down everything everybody is saying, at the end of the day you have to organize it, and so depending on the show a lot of the time the script coordinator and the assistant, they’ll kind of swap off that duty. And once the scripts come out, you’re also responsible for proofing the script and making sure that everyone gets the newest version of the script and that you’re not messing that up, and you’re also making sure there’s no typos. And then on my last job they were also dealing with intellectual property stuff. So if you want a song in there you have to deal with that too. As a writer’s PA – lunch is my biggest duty. I mean, it’s like food. It’s really a lot of food. Lunch, the kitchen, coffee. You also handle the paper and office supplies. Once scripts get going then you’re responsible for distributing the scripts. On Selfie though, because it was such a social media based show, I got to help write some things like fake yelp reviews. I also got a tweet on the show with my twitter handle, that I wrote – so that was really cool – those little things where I got to pepper in creativity.
Does everyone assume that as a writer’s PA or Assistant, you want to be a writer?
The assumption is there, and depending on the staff, both my staffs have been amazing, they’ll ask you what do you write? what’s your genre? Who do you like, what shows do you like?
Do you find writing pilots hard?
Oh yeah. Well you know what’s difficult is that balance between introducing all your characters, but also having a compelling story, because you don’t just want an episode of ‘here’s all the people you will be seeing for the rest of the season.’ There needs to be a contained story within it.
Do you get to see how much influence the showrunner has in a writer’s room and on breaking story? And does that relate to how our sketch directors are at the Magnet?
Yeah – it’s an interesting process because everything does go through them, but both showrunners that I’ve seen are very open – I mean it’s so much of a collaboration of the room, and basically what happens is you break a story, and then it’s one person’s episode so they really get to write it and then they bring it back and then you all edit it together. But then there’s this other person not in the room, that’s the studio, and that’s where the showrunner comes in. They have to go and say – ‘here’s the story we have.’ And then they get notes like ‘Oh we don’t like this, we do like this, can this be like this,’ and then the showrunner has to bring that back to the room.
Please eat pizza if you are hungry.
That’s one fun perk about being a writer, there is so much food, so you eat all day long.
How many hours do you pull a day?
The hours really depend on the show. Both shows that I’ve worked for have been pretty great with their hours. But there are others that the writers will work on until, like, midnight.
What would be your dream tv show to write on at the moment.
I have two. Last Man On Earth, and Veep.
You’re a dart champion?
Oh yeah! I was. We used to play darts in NY. I was in a league, it was every Monday night and I did that for about seven years. And I really miss it. I love this business and I love writing, but to have something that’s completely outside with a bunch of people that don’t give a shit, it’s really nice.
Last Question. What things did you wish you’d known before you moved to LA?
Unless you come out here already with rep or already with some big credits under your name, no one will really appreciate what you did in New York. And it’s a really hard thing to accept. Especially when you first get out here. Someone I know was on Broadway who came out – and it just didn’t translate. It’s something that you have to accept. And there are a lot of people here from New York, so you’re not totally starting at zero, but it’s definitely like taking two steps backwards. So that was the biggest thing for me. And you kind of accept it and you don’t have a chip on your shoulder and just keeping on working, people will recognize it, and eventually people who work with you will be like – ‘oh you’ve done all these things?’
And the other thing is parking sucks. Always give yourself 15-20 minutes just for parking wherever you’re going.
Thanks Steph! We wish you luck! You may now eat the pizza.
Interview conducted by Ally Kornfeld for Magnet Theater.
The Magnet Theater is excited to announce that we are now accepting applications for the 2015 Fall Season of SKETCH TEAMS, which will run from September 18th through December 13th!
Please read the following application instructions and sketch team participant expectations very carefully – we’ve made some very big changes to the program. Got questions? Come to the Fall 2015 Sketch Team info sessions Wednesday, June 17th, & June 24th at 6pm in room A at the Magnet Training Center!
GENERAL SKETCH SHOW EXPECTATIONS
- Each team will create one 20-25 minute sketch show every three weeks.
- All shows will take place Sunday nights at 7:30pm.
- All sketch team shows must contain new, original material written specifically for Magnet Sketch Night that has never been previously performed.
- Each show will contain the best material created for the team as selected by the director – there is no guarantee that every writer will get a sketch in each show or that every actor will be featured in each show. Funny wins. Them’s the breaks.
- All sketches will be performed by the team’s ensemble cast of sketch actors. If a particular sketch requires it, the team may use outside casting (writers, other actors) at the director’s discretion.
GENERAL SKETCH TEAM EXPECTATIONS
- Sketch team members are expected to attend all required meetings and arrive fully prepared. Sketch is time intensive – make sure you can commit 100% and make sketch a priority before applying.
- Sketch team members must be available 1:30-4:30pm on the day of their show for a mandatory tech rehearsal at the theater.
- Sketch team members may not schedule conflicting appointments (work, rehearsals, shows, etc) during scheduled techs, shows, rehearsals, or meetings.
- Sketch teams must rehearse with a Magnet approved director. Each individual sketch team member is responsible for paying their director a flat rate of $12/week; team due collection is left to the discretion of the director and team (as it would be for an improv team or practice group).
- Sketch team members are expected to promote their shows at the theater.
For the Fall 2015 Sketch Season, you must apply as a writer, performer, or a writer/performer. Expectations, prerequisites, and application instructions for each role are below!
**All applications must be received by 5pm on Wednesday, JULY 15th!
- Writers must attend one 3 hour writing meeting per week, all performance rehearsals of their sketches, and all tech rehearsals.
- Writers must constantly generate new material and are required to bring in a minimum of one new sketch per week, even during show week.
- Writers are expected to be respectful and gracious collaborators in writing room. Writers should give and receive feedback to and from their teammates in an open and constructive manner.
- Writers will be required to rewrite material and meet deadlines as requested by their director.
- Completion of (or current enrollment in) Magnet Sketch Writing Level 2 or previous participation on a Magnet Sketch team.
WRITER APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS:
Send the following materials to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line,
“FALL 2015 MAGNET SKETCH TEAM APPLICATION// WRITER // <YOUR NAME>”.
- A cover letter detailing relevant sketch experience inside and outside the Magnet community.
- A single PDF of a sketch writing sample. Your sample should contain at least two sketches and may not exceed 10 pages.
- Performers must be available for a regularly scheduled 2-3 hour performance rehearsal the week leading up to the show (ex: Sketch Team Fart Police has a performance rehearsal every Tuesday before a show, 7-10pm).
- Performers must be available for techs, table reads, and any additional rehearsals as required by the director.
- Performers must learn all show material in a timely manner.
- Performers may collaborate with writers outside of rehearsals to help create characters and sketches, but performers should not be writing material on their own for shows.
- Performers must perform sketches as they are written – ad libbing is good in a pinch, but be prepared and don’t put yourself in positions where you must resort to improvisation. Be polished and professional in all shows.
- Completion of or current enrollment in Level 6 team performance workshop, participation in a past or current Megawatt team, or previous participation in a Magnet Sketch Team.
PERFORMER APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS
Send the following materials to email@example.com with the subject line,
“ FALL 2015 MAGNET SKETCH TEAM APPLICATION// PERFORMER // <YOUR NAME>”
- A cover letter detailing relevant performance experience inside and outside the Magnet community.
- A headshot
- A PDF of your acting resume
- A link to a 3-5 minute sample of your work as a performer. This can be a reel, a recording of a stage sketch, a video sketch, a monologue directed at a webcam, anything you feel showcases you as a comedic performer. Youtube or Vimeo preferred. The link can be public, private, or unlisted – just be sure to send passwords if necessary and the link itself may be no longer than 5 minutes.
You will be informed on Wednesday, July 22nd, if you have been selected to audition in person. In-person auditions will be held on Saturday, August 1st and Sunday, August 2nd at the Magnet Training Center. Unfortunately, if you are not available for these times you cannot be considered as a performer for the 2015 Sketch Season.
For the in-person audition, you will perform two contrasting sketches that will be assigned to you and another applicant several days prior to the audition. You must be completely off-book and you may rehearse before hand with your scene partner, at your discretion. You will also be asked to cold read sketches in the room.
WRITER/ PERFORMER EXPECTATIONS
- Writer/performers must meet all writer expectations AND performer expectations.
- Writer/performers are expected to write for other performers as well as for themselves. There is no guarantee that a writer/performer will perform in all of their own work.
- Writer/performers must meet all writer AND performer prerequisites or previous participation on a Magnet Sketch team.
WRITER/PERFORMER APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS
Send the following materials to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line,
“FALL 2015 MAGNET SKETCH TEAM APPLICATION// WRITER/PERFORMER // <YOUR NAME>”
- All materials detailed in writer application instructions.
- All materials detailed in performer application instructions.
- Also, please indicate if you are willing to be considered as a writer or actor ONLY if you are not selected for a writer/performer position.
You will be informed on Wednesday, July 22nd, if you have been selected to audition in person. See performer application instructions above for more info about the audition.
Failure to follow application instructions will keep you from being considered for sketch team. Double check your application!
**All applications must be received by 5pm on Wednesday, JULY 15th!
New teams will be announced mid August!
Working on solo characters? Developing a new sketch?
The Magnet Theater is proud to present a new show coming in March, powered by new ideas—The Generator!
Every Sunday at 6pm, Magnet students, writers and performers try out brand-new sketches and solo characters in 5 and 15-minute slots. The Generator will also help writers develop a larger show one piece at a time. It’s never-before-seen comedy for your eyeballs.
See you at the premiere on Sunday, March 1st at 6pm.
Questions? Email email@example.com.
**Update** — Sketch Club now meets Sundays 3-5pm.
Sketch Club is a drop-in sketch writing workshop devoted to qualified sketch students and performers who are interested in developing and performing their own material. The drop-in will meet on Saturdays 3-6pm beginning February 7th. Members of Sketch Club will workshop original sketches every week at a table read run by Armando Diaz. Participants will be encouraged to try out their sketches at the soon-to-premiere “Generator” show on Sundays at 6pm. Interested in participating? Email SketchClub@magnettheater.com for more information!
Lee Overtree, Artist Director of Story Pirates and writer/director of FOUND The Musical, sits down with our own Louis Kornfeld for a discussion on effective education, how children are amazing writers, and his experience in adapting unconventional source material for the stage. Story Pirates is a nationally respected education and media organization founded in 2003 to celebrate the words and ideas of young people and Lee has been there from the very beginning. He and Louis discuss improv in the classroom and on the stage and Lee asserts that desire drives learning. He also shares how the Story Pirates get kids to have fun with expository writing and talks about the Story Pirates Podcast. True to his Story Pirates roots, Lee grants Louis “permission to get weird” in this episode and it concludes with a lively talk about FOUND The Musical, a new show based on Found Magazine, and how sometimes the best direction to take a project is the most obvious.
Enjoy Episode #26 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.
Sketch writer, actor, and improviser Jesse Acini sits down with host Louis Kornfeld to talk about getting his start in comedy, the growth of the Magnet community, and having more fun along the way. An active participant in the NYC improv and sketch scene since the early 2000s, Jesse talks about The Second City in NYC, discusses studying with Gary Austin, and otherwise litters this episode with tidbits about the olden days. Not to mention, he provides some solid advice for aspiring sketch writers! Jesse and Louis have known each other for eight years and this is the longest conversation they’ve ever had — you don’t want to miss it!
Enjoy Episode #25 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.
Elana Fishbein was in the first ever show at Magnet. And she was really good. 10 years later she’s an improviser, actor, writer, and teacher. She has Master’s Degree in Educational Theater from NYU, leads our Youth Program, and co-created two professional development workshop series for teachers: “Beyond Winging It: Improv in the Classroom” and “Play.” She can be seen with Story Pirates on stage and heard with The Truth Podcast your headphones. All in all, you’ve got a super funny improviser with interesting things to say about it. Listen to this great episode where Louis Kornfeld goes deep into the idea of forcing yourself to be vulnerable, improv accountability, shared ownership, and Canada. Enjoy!
Lane Kwederis is a sketch performer at Magnet (she and I are the two women on the sketch house team, Party.) Lane also performs with her indie improv team, Power Nap, and her PIT musical team, [Title of Team] (That’s the actual title of the team, not a placeholder for this article). She’s got skills. And she’s a wonderful person.
And I got to ask her some brilliant questions. I’m such a good interviewer. Check it out: