Teen Girls' Scripts Are Getting The Star Treatment In Hollywood
A 14-year-old girl takes her first shot at writing a script. The next thing she knows, she's watching an A-list actor standing on a stage, giving voice to her words.
Sound like something out of a Hollywood fantasy? Well you won't see it on movie screens, but it's no fantasy. It really did happen. At a theater. In Hollywood. With a famous performer: Seth Rogen.
The 14-year-old girl's name is Victoria, and she's a participant in WriteGirl, a free program for aspiring writers ages 13 to 18 (and because they're teenagers, WriteGirl asked that we use first names only to protect their privacy).
The organization pairs hundreds of teen girls with women writers, who volunteer to share their expertise during one-on-one mentoring sessions and monthly workshops.
There are currently more than 300 mentors, including actor and New York Times bestseller Lauren Graham who recently hosted the Hollywood theater event.
Graham said that the spirit of WriteGirl is about "being creative, being playful, having fun, finding your voice... I wish I'd had that at a younger age."
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Victoria attended a WriteGirl workshop last month that focused on character and dialogue writing. That's where she met her mentor, Isabelle Carasso.
Carasso said after discussing the initial idea, Victoria turned to her favorite notebook and started writing. ONE HOUR LATER, Carasso said Victoria had a script.
And Victoria didn't know this would happen until the event, but actors Seth Rogen and Wendi McLendon-Covey from the ABC sitcom "The Goldbergs" brought it to life.
"I heard the title, and I heard the names Alex and Diane, which are the characters in the story, and I freaked out and turned to [my mom] and I was like, 'Oh my God, mom. This is Seth Rogen and Wendi!'" Victoria said.
In the scene, Alex (Rogen) and Diane (McLendon-Covey) are getting ready for a party, but Alex is struggling to leave their apartment.
One of the young writers featured in my story is 14-year-old (!!!) and first time @WriteGirlLA participant Victoria. Here's a scene she wrote, performed by @SethRogen and @wendimclendonco.— Carla Javier (@carlamjavier) April 15, 2019
(Footage courtesy of @TheAcademy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) pic.twitter.com/oxlK1rCsk6
"Instead of the typical girl nervous about her body and her clothing, she thought it would be interesting for a man to [deal with body dysmorphia]," Victoria's mentor Carasso explained. "I thought that was so brilliant and just years ahead of her time."
A panel of women screenwriters also gave feedback after the performances. Lauren Miller Rogen applauded Victoria's depiction of emotion.
"The bravery that a writer can have in putting some of those really raw emotions in a scene can be so rewarding to the people who are enjoying your material," Miller Rogen said.
Victoria said she was floored by the feedback.
"Oh my goodness," she exclaimed. "If you're telling me that this is good, maybe I can actually make something out of this."
That's the point, said WriteGirl founder and executive director Keren Taylor.
Despite efforts to improve representation in Hollywood, women writers made up just 15% of all writers in the top 100 films of last year, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.
Taylor said that's one of the reasons why WriteGirl does this work, and why the organization works with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to host the read-through at its Linwood Dunn Theater, with its hallways lined with photos from the history of filmmaking, guarded by giant Oscar statuettes.
"These girls have a lot of potential if you work with them when they're young, before they get that idea that it's not attainable, or they get doors closed on them," Taylor explained.
Some of the 14 scenes performed by the actors at the April 6 event were funny - like a man, played by Rogen, who takes cues from his cereal to make big life decisions.Others were serious, like a monologue from the point of view of a memorial wall, performed by Wayne Brady.
You can watch some of the scenes - all written by young women, with help from their mentors below.
That scene was written by 17-year-old Rachel.
Josann McGibbon (Runaway Bride, Desperate Housewives):
I thought it was fabulous. I think everyone did. Not only was it crazily timely, but we had at the workshop done both monologues and scenes, and Rachel incorporated both and really used them brilliantly. One thing that's so hard to do that you did is really take us on such a journey, from the initial reactions to the letters, to where both of them got to. And that's so hard and sophisticated, and you really did it beautifully.
That monologue was written by 18-year-old Sam.
The premise was it was a dragonslayer that was fed up about her boss not paying her enough, so she plots to kill him and go on vacation, forever ... It was really interesting. It was a lot better than I ever could have ever pictured it ... My goal with writing is to always make the audience laugh, so I was happy to achieve that.
In her script, @WriteGirlLA participant Zoe, 16, writes, "My original body has blonde hair, glasses, and a wheelchair - and it's this last thing I switched bodies to talk to you about. This is a monologue. I am this monologue."@KeikoAgena interpreted her words for the stage. pic.twitter.com/LxArtHDu8V— Carla Javier (@carlamjavier) April 15, 2019
That monologue was written by 16-year-old Zoe.
Liz Kruger ("Salvation," "Extant," "Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce"):
Zoe definitely knows her power. Her power is her words, and all of us - if she could only know how much she just moved all of us in this room. It's pretty amazing. And that's what the power of writing is.
This story is also a radio story. You can listen to it over on KPCC.org.