Los Angeles, June 24 – As many writers know, the writing process itself can sometimes feel like a lonely, isolating task. Oftentimes this process happens in the early morning hours before a day-job, or in the middle of the night for writers who prefer to put their thoughts on paper (or computer screen) in the quiet hours when other members of their household are asleep, or others may write in shorter spontaneous sessions here and there throughout the day as time allows. However, this feeling of loneliness was replaced with support and comradery on Tuesday, June 22 when a group of RespectAbility’s Summer Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities newest cohort gathered virtually over Zoom to talk about all things writing and directing with Ashley Eakin and Andrew Reid, two writers and directors who are both currently working in the industry, and are also alumni of RespectAbility’s 2020 Summer Lab.
Regarding her own writing process, and how to juggle multiple projects at once, Eakin recommends setting strict deadlines for yourself, putting them into your calendar, and then trying your best to meet them. “You have to be very organized when you’re pursing a ton of different projects. That’s what I’m doing right now. I have like six things…that are all spread all over, that have something happening or something’s about to happen, and that’s what I do to maintain hope.” Eakin continued, “When something falls apart, I have this other thing that I’m working on. But I make myself stick to these deadlines, because otherwise if I say, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll get to that,’ I’ll never do it, because I’m a procrastinator. But it’s possible if you create some type of routine for yourself.”
Reid echoes this sentiment, and also recommends creating a system that you can use as your own development slate, as well as incorporating a way to track each update and deadline as you continue to work through your projects, applications, and ideas; especially as you continue to add new ones along the way. “You have so much going on. You probably all have full-time jobs, on top of which you’re writing, on top of which you’re trying to direct. No one can tackle all of this on at the same time. It’s just a part of the process.”
Many members in the group bonded over their shared experiences, frustrations, and concerns about the industry’s emphasis on the importance of applying to the seemingly always increasing number of contests, incubators, and pipeline programs that exist as a way to break in and establish yourself in the industry. Both Eakin and Reid have firsthand experience with these types of programs – Eakin has participated in AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women as well as Paul Feig’s Powderkeg: Fuse incubator program for female directors, while Reid has participated in Film Independent’s Project Involve fellowship, and both writer/directors have had their films and scripts place in a number of festivals and competitions – and both filmmakers offered the same overall piece of advice on this subject: It’s frustrating but an important part of the process, and everyone goes through it.
Regarding the application process, Reid said, “Rejection is a part of the game. Don’t get discouraged if you only get one acceptance out of how ever many places you apply, it’s just how it is…Try not to take it personally, because everyone has to go through this in this industry as a creative…and continue to push through.”
Eakin agreed with this and also offered, “Applying to any type of program is always the way. As frustrating as it can be.” Eakin went on to share experiences of the various programs she’s participated in – both good and not so good – and credited her career’s jumpstart to the people she’s met within these various programs who have helped her find mentors and well as other peers and collaborators to go through the process with together.
Several members of the cohort offered their own experiences and resources to the group that have proved helpful to them, including Women of Color Unite (WOCU), a social action organization focusing on fair access, fair treatment and fair pay for women of color in all aspects of the entertainment and media industries, and their mentorship program #StartWith8Hollywood.
Reid further emphasized the importance of not taking rejection personally, and instead seeing it as all part of the process. “I do strongly believe if you keep applying, if you keep chiseling, if you continue to work on your creative, that someone or some program will eventually notice your work, and you will have the opportunity to participate.”
So, while the writing process itself may still remain a solo-activity for many, the main takeaway from this conversation led by Eakin and Reid was to remember that we are all going through it together.
RespectAbility’s third annual Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities brings authentic and diverse portrayals of people with disabilities to the screen by creating a pipeline of diverse professionals with disabilities behind the camera. Participants include people with physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health and other disabilities ranging in age from people in their 20’s through their 50’s. Lab alumni from 2019 and 2020 currently work for a variety of studio partners including Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures and The Walt Disney Company, as well as in writers’ rooms for Netflix’s Mech Cadet, CW’s 4400 and Showtime’s Dexter, among others. Others have had films featured at festivals such as SXSW and participated in additional career track programs including with Film Independent and Sundance Institute.