Good morning Stage 32 Creative Crew! We're back for the first Monday Motivation post of 2021 - and it's a good one. One thing I constantly emphasize to the community is that the Stage 32 team never stops pushing and working on our members' behalf. We are constantly looking for new opportunities for our members and ways in which we can kick down the doors of the industry and achieve professional success. And in that spirit, when a screenwriter wins one of our contests, the support doesn't stop. Unlike many other screenwriting contests, we don't leave our winners hanging once the confetti settles to the floor. We keep working for our winners.
Case in point, Jenny Rauch was the winner of our 5th Annual Comedy Writing Contest with her original pilot, "LOVE, CHELSEA." Once Jenny won, she and I went to work together directly to develop this pilot into a series that would really attract attention. Then, I went to work setting her up on meetings with all of the contest judges, including an Associate Producer on "WORKIN' MOMS", the Head of Film and Television at Panay Films (WEDDING CRASHERS, CHiPS, VAN WILDER), and actor Jonathan Kite (TWO BROKE GIRLS, DAD STOP EMBARRASSING ME). Those meetings resulted in some great connections for Jenny who is based in Chicago.
But our support didn't stop there. Two literary representatives reached out to me recently and said they were looking for strong female voices to add to their roster. I immediately thought of Jenny. So I sent each of those reps "LOVE, CHELSEA" and the series pitch deck that Jenny and I developed. And wouldn't you know it - both reps requested to meet with Jenny for potential representation! One of those meetings is scheduled for tomorrow.
That is the power of the team at Stage32. No other team works harder for their members. And we'll keep working to ensure everyone who has a real passion for creating will have opportunities in the industry.
Take it away, Jenny!
The night before the winner of the 5th Annual Comedy Writing Contest was announced, I turned to my husband and said: “Do you think I’ll win?” He took a deep breath, looked at me with all the love in the world and said: “No.” Boy, did he feel like a jerk when I got the email.
Like a lot of writers, it was a bit of a circuitous path for me to get here. I think it was 7th grade that I started to write my first novel. It was about a plucky thirteen-year-old girl who was pretty, but didn’t know it, and ended up dating the most popular boy in school. It was a real page turner. Looking back it makes perfect sense. But it took me until age 25 to say the words out loud: I want to be a writer. And I want to write comedy.
We had just moved back to Chicago from DC, so I signed up for Improv Level A at The Second City and was in and out of the building every week for the next 3 years. I took basic Improv classes, an acting class, went through the Conservatory where we wrote and performed a Second City style revue, and then took a few screenwriting classes. I could gush at length about my time there (I know because I did and then deleted most of it because it was... long) so I will just say that it taught me three important lessons: 1) I do not have the talent to be a professional improviser, 2) I love creating comedy with a room full of hilarious humans, and 3) I really want to write TV.
So I started. The first thing I wrote was a spec episode of "DOCTOR WHO" (starring me as the new American companion, obviously). Then an episode of "NEW GIRL" which I was sure was going to win the Big Break Contest (“It’s like I can hear them all saying your dialogue!”- said My Mom). An original pilot about two sisters who move in together after one’s husband dies. A web series about two HR reps that my friend Donald and I filmed on a borrowed flip video in my offices. In my screenwriting classes I wrote an original pilot about a softball team based on my time living in DC (I still love that one and am about to do another re-write). Then I worked with my screenwriting teacher on another pilot script, the first draft of what would become "LOVE, CHELSEA."
This is where Stage 32 really comes in. I originally joined in 2012, when I was in DC and someone I was doing community theater with recommended I join because it was a good place to find acting opportunities. I was on and off the site the next few years, but didn’t really do much with it. But by 2016 it was bursting with script writing services. I entered Chelsea in a few contests on Stage 32 and a few other places, but never made it past the Semi-Finals. I hosted it on the Blacklist for a while. I had a baby in there somewhere. I did a written pitch on Stage 32, submitted it for coverage. Got a script request and even a meeting request, but the meeting never happened. I wrote a Romantic Comedy that made it to the quarterfinals in the 2019 Stage 32 Romantic Comedy Contest. I had another baby. Then I decided to give Chelsea another once over. There were maybe 2 pages that resembled anything in my original draft. But after a few years of solid notes, I finally felt like it was in a really strong place.
I entered it in the 5th Annual Comedy Writing Contest on the very last day submissions were being accepted. I remember this very clearly because my 2 1⁄2 year old was napping, so I was giving my PDF a final read-through while my 6-month old played in the next room. When I was about to hit submit, the 6-month old crawled over and I saw that she had blown out her diaper and dragged a literal trail of shit across two rooms worth of floors and furniture.
Luckily, I cleaned up the liquid hot magma off the kid and the hundred surfaces she coated with it and I submitted the script, even though I felt like maybe the universe was trying to tell me to give up already. Watching "LOVE, CHELSEA" reach the Quarterfinals, the Semi-Finals, the Finals, and then actually win was unbelievably surreal. And what’s happened since then has been even more surreal.
Jenny Rauch won the 5th Annual Comedy Writing Contest with "Love, Chelsea"
I suddenly had people with real industry knowledge and connections in my corner. Not only did Jason Mirch help prep me for all the meetings they were setting up for me, but he helped me create an entire pitch deck (and helped me realize that I actually want to get this show made, not just use it as a writing sample). I’ve had meetings with producers and managers who have all been so kind. A few of them requested more material from me immediately and I’ve been back and forth with them about other projects I’m working on.
Most of these meetings were a few months ago, but the support from Stage 32 didn’t stop there. Jason and the entire Script Services team have continued to be my champions, and I have more meetings scheduled in the coming weeks. And I am closer to becoming a working writer than I ever have been before.
The imposter syndrome creeps in a lot. I occasionally think “I’m just a stay-at-home mom in the Chicago suburbs, what business did I have winning this contest?” But then I remember all the work that I’ve been doing over the years to make myself a better writer. The naptime hustle. The 30-minutes I could sneak here and there to punch up a scene or streamline a section of dialogue. The not giving up.
So, fellow writers, my advice to you is this: Keep writing. Keep editing. Keep pitching. Keep learning. And take advantage of all the opportunities on Stage 32. Join the Writers’ Room. Get feedback from your fellow writers. It will all make you better. And whatever shit (literal or metaphorical) there is in your life, don’t let it stop you.
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