Happy Monday Stage 32 Creative Family! I hope those of you in the States who celebrated the July 4th holiday had an amazing long weekend! And for our friends abroad, I hope you enjoyed you regular sized weekend just as much! It's Monday and I am excited to bring you another success story from one of Stage 32's original members. I am a big fan of Sarah J. Eagen for a number of reasons, but I am most impressed by her entrepreneurial spirit and ability to pivot in her career. That takes talent and commitment.
Sarah was recently named a finalist in our 4th Annual Television Writing Contest and as she explains, that contest led to a meeting with one of our favorite executives. As you will see, she reiterates something I keep shouting from the rooftops: "Do the work!" Take it away, Sarah!
I remember joining Stage 32 years ago, shortly after it was launched I believe. I hadn’t yet moved to Los Angeles, and I certainly hadn’t begun writing, but it immediately became a welcoming community of creatives from all over the world.
I started as an actor. I performed in plays my entire life, went to college for theatre including a semester at the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin, Ireland, and then moved to Seattle to pursue a career on the stage. But when I began auditioning for TV and film work, it became clear that I needed to live in Los Angeles.
It didn’t take long before I became very curious about screenwriting. An acquaintance introduced me to the Scriptnotes podcast from John August (Big Fish, Aladdin) and Craig Mazin (“Chernobyl”), and I was hooked. Writing seemed like incredible alchemy, and I needed to try it.
I made a challenge to myself to write and produced a short film in a few months, which felt like a great way to dip my toes in. Later, I played around with a web series that I wrote, starred in, and edited. I learned a ton and had a lot of fun with it, but television was really calling me. So I sat down to write my first pilot script. I had no idea if I could, but the few friends I sent it to were incredibly encouraging and I was bolstered to keep going.
At the end of 2017, that first pilot received an 8 on The Blacklist. I was gobsmacked. I joined writers groups (eventually landing with the incredible Deadline Junkies!), read every TV script I could get my hands on, attended panels at Comic Con, WGA, and digital panels on Stage 32, began interviewing showrunners, wrote yearly TV specs and applied to the network writing programs, and continued my way through the Scriptnotes catalogue, adding Javier Grillo-Marxuach (“Lost”, “The 100”) and Jose Molina’s (“Sleepy Hollow”, “Firefly”) Children of Tendu podcast and the WGA’s 3rd & Fairfax podcast to my rotation. (What can I say, I love research!)
And I rewrote. And heard my scripts read aloud. And rewrote.
Sarah rewrote, revised and reworked her script.
I wrote a second pilot, this time a half hour comedy. But I continued polishing that first script. Then I wrote a third pilot. I’m currently in the middle of a fourth.
A friend who had read my first pilot recommended me to showrunner Matt Fowler, who was creating a scifi audio drama anthology with Voxx Studios. We hit it off, I pitched ideas (I have a neuroscience and genetics background), and I ended up writing 4 different episodes in season one of The Veil at the end of 2018/beginning of 2019.
Director Jenn Page (selected by Take The Lead as one of the "50 Women who Can Change The World in Media & Entertainment.") approached me about collaborating on a short film challenge. In four weeks, we wrote, produced, and I acted in Soledad, which ended in a screening on the Disney lot. It was an exciting challenge.
And somewhere in all of those projects and rewrites, I began submitting to contests. Have I mentioned that I do a lot of research? I found multiple accounts of people who had been finalists with Stage 32 writing contests who sang the program’s praises, stating that the organization really works hard to get their finalist’s read by their network of executives and it led to meetings. So even though it was a newer contest, I decided it was worth it.
That first pilot, my one hour entitled The Big Sleep, placed as a top ten finalist in the Stage 32 TV Writing Contest in April, 2019. In May, it was selected as a Semifinalist for the prestigious Humanitas New Voices program. It has been rewritten as my knowledge and understanding of structure and story has expanded, but the bones of my very first script are still there. And one of my half hour comedies placed as a Quarterfinalist in the Stage 32 Comedy Contest.
Later this month, Stage 32 will be sending information about my script in their TV lookbook to hundreds of their contacts, and I really look forward to seeing what comes of that -- but I have already seen results from entering this contest. One of the judges, executive Agustine Calderon reached out and met with me after liking my pilot and writing voice. Our meeting went very well and we’ll be keeping in touch - he’s currently reading some of my other works.
And my July is already packed -- I was hired to write an indie feature for the women of Triple Jay productions. Tired of just talking about gender parity and diversity in Hollywood, Triple Jay (Joanna Bowzer and Caity Ware) is producing a slate of films this year with the underlying goal of hiring 200 women and people of color. I’m very excited to be writing one of their scripts!
I’m still pursuing acting -- and I had a BLAST performing in one of the final episodes of The Big Bang Theory! -- but I’m thrilled to have added writing to my career. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s to keep doing the work. You never know who you’ll meet and connect with or which project will take off and give you heat. Which script you’ll read that will help something click or which interview you’ll hear that will inspire your next step. Things tend to snowball, so it’s good to have several polished scripts before they do. I’m not yet staffed on TV show (which is my goal), but it sure feels like things are moving in the right direction - and I’m grateful to Stage 32 for their role in that.
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