TV writer excited for Emerson LA

By Erin Connolly ’15 and Dan O’Brien
February 06, 2014

Television writing consultant and part-time faculty member Debra Epstein already sees the benefits of her students living and working at the new Emerson College Los Angeles, which opened last month.

“The new building is fabulous,” said Epstein, who has taught classes for Emerson’s Los Angeles Program since 2000. “It’s in the heart of Hollywood, where many of my students tell me they walk to their internships.

Epstein

Debra Epstein, a faculty member at Emerson College Los Angeles, who teaches courses on television writing. (Courtesy Photo)

“The rehearsal and social areas naturally lend themselves to greater integration of students from different areas of concentration,” she continued, “like writing, producing, music, and marketing, which will form the basis of their Emerson network for years to come.”

Epstein, who teaches classes on TV pilot writing and writing for one-hour TV shows, has worked for ABC, CBS, and Fox, and is the owner and president of Sneaker Films, a production company.

What is your favorite part about teaching?

Epstein: “The Emerson students! They are talented, clever, ambitious, and hardworking! Ironically, teaching actually made me become a better writer as it exposed me to so many styles and genres beyond the areas I am normally attracted to professionally.”

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Epstein: “My best advice to young writers is to write. [Also,] to research—and not just to research by watching other TV shows, but by reading and experiencing source material, and to become familiar with fields related to the areas of writing you’re interested in. Also, I love when Emersonians bring in characters and incidents from their lives that are real because it gives their writing an organic and authentic feel and it’s not derivative. I’m also into encouraging students to take new approaches to established genres—such as blending sci-fi with a coming-of-age drama or a historic romantic comedy with a modern twist. Hollywood is mining everywhere now for fresh voices, and it’s my hope they find these voices and the many people needed to support them from our program.” 

What’s your favorite aspect of the new Emerson College Los Angeles?

Epstein: “We have state-of-the-art equipment that enables me to simultaneously show a TV program and to break it down scene-by-scene on the computer screen to enable students to readily see an episode’s writing structure, which is one of the hardest concepts to grasp as a young writer. I can also pull programs from our library to bring up examples that come up in group discussion. The café downstairs lends itself to more informal discussions between students, teachers, and colleagues that often result in new creative collaborations or solutions.”

What new opportunities for students excite you the most?

Epstein: “I’m absolutely fascinated by all the changes modern technology has brought to content delivery for episodic TV. I am hoping to create a class for Emerson that will mirror the Netflix model of series delivery... In addition to teaching classes, I work as a writing consultant to producers, studios, and other writers and my specialty is fixing story structure. My production company, Sneaker Films, also options properties that I want to set up in Hollywood. I love to introduce the emerging talent I’ve helped train to my personal network in hopes of creating mentorships and professional relationships among writers whose sensibilities would complement each other.” 

LEARN MORE: The Future Has Your Name On It! campaign for Emerson College Los Angeles.

READ MORE: Previous articles on Emerson College Los Angeles.

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