As an addendum to Comic Con New York, and an escape from the madness of the festivities at the Jacob Javits Center, returning discussion Inside the Writer’s Room on Saturday offered an off-site and inside look at the media business. For every superhero parading his – or her – stuff, after all, there is probably also a wannabe actor, writer and producer in search of that proverbial break.
“Our goal is to create an arena where anyone can learn the basics of this business; the nuts and bolts of sorts,” said host Mark Altman. “We populate these sessions with people in the business discussing their journeys.”
Featured in three parts, with a focus on the writers, producers, directors, showrunners, actors and executives, Inside the Writer’s Room is a “TV 101” and an off-shoot of Inside the Actor’s Studio of sorts. Attendees run the gamut of beginning their careers to attempting to write that screenplay, create that show, or doing whatever it is they are contemplating creatively at any age.
Inside the Actor’s Studio, hosted by James Lipton and a periodic staple on Bravo since 1994, began as a televised seminar for students of the Actors Studio Drama School, ultimately morphing into a forum for “A” list actors, entertainers and behind-the-scenes forces (Paul Newman, Billy Joel and Steven Spielberg, to name a few) to discuss their craft. Inside the Writer’s Room owes its roots to Comic Con in San Diego.
“We’ve been doing these panels for many years in San Diego Comic Con, and we always end up turning away so many people,” Altman said. “So we decided to bring it here a few years ago.”
Featured guests included Craig Engler (Co-Creator, Z Nation), John Kim (“Ezekiel Jones,” The Librarians), Brad Kolinski (visual effects supervisor/producer, The Walking Dead), Michael Nathanson (Sam Stein inThe Punisher), and Thomas P. Vitale (former president of programming and development for Syfy Channel and Chiller and now an independent producer).
“My first job was in craft services at a low-budget independent feature,” remembered Engler. “That led into other opportunities, often with no pay, and I wound up working my way up to the production side for a TV pilot where I pitched an idea for an episode.”
“The importance of having a mentor without being a nuisance and having someone that can open doors for you goes without saying,” he added. “You have to be resilient and you can never forget what your objective is.”
Brad Kolinski, who started his career as a journalist (and offered, unfortunately, no sneak peak of the upcoming season of The Walking Dead), recalled working at a network and having a revelation while looking at the scripts coming in for all the proposed movies and series. “I could write something better than that,” he said. “Some scripts were good, but more were really bad, so why not make an attempt to break in?”
Kolinski’s comical recipe for success: “Work at a TV network for 12 years like I did, volunteer for films, write your own horrible film, sell it to a cable network, write your own pretty good film, sell it again and never give up.”
“While no journey is the same journey, the bottom line for anyone looking to make the leap is to find some direction where you can ultimately pursue it,” added Engler. “What may not be easy can pay off in the long run. And never forget that each day is a new day.”