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Diana Wright: “Be Prepared and be lucky”

Finish your scripts! Ideas always seem good when you are first starting and about 75% in, you will want to burn the project to the ground. Push through the pain and awful thoughts and finish that script. If you do, you’ll find that the script isn’t as terrible as you thought or, if it is […]

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Finish your scripts! Ideas always seem good when you are first starting and about 75% in, you will want to burn the project to the ground. Push through the pain and awful thoughts and finish that script. If you do, you’ll find that the script isn’t as terrible as you thought or, if it is terrible, at least it has an ending. Then it’s on to the next draft.

As a part of my interview series with popular culture stars, I had the pleasure of interviewing Diana Wright. Diana is an LA-based comedy writer and director. She has sold shows to Amazon Studios, won the Stage 32 Comedy Writing Grand Prize and the New York Television Festival pilot competition among others. Her original series #HASHTAGGING was featured in festivals around the United States. She currently writes for The Simpsons: Tapped Out, Voyage Media, and Best Fiends. Find out more at her website: www.dianawright.net


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was always a quiet kid and did well in school but something never felt right, like I would be bored in life forever — that is until I discovered improv comedy and started coming out of my shell my junior year of high school. In college, I interned at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and discovered how smart everyone who worked there was, especially the writers and realized I desperately wanted to become one. Still, to this day, when I write a joke that I like, I get so giddy and happy that I know I made the right career choice.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

After years of working freelance, I finally needed a regular paycheck and took a job at a TV network creating their behind the scenes content for their shows based in LA. That year, I also won the NYTVF pilot competition and had meetings booked for two days in New York — those two days were unfortunately right before a big promo shoot. I ended up faking sick to fly to New York for two days and when the meetings ended, I headed straight to the airport to head back to LA and got on an earlier flight. I found out in the air that JFK had shut down immediately after our flight left because of a computer error — if I had stayed in New York any longer, I wouldn’t have been able to make the promo shoot and would have possibly lost my job. I was so glad I decided to head home early but I was also pretty glad that I called out sick and snuck off to New York as well.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I remember my boss read a spec I had written and told me it was so bad that he wasn’t going to give me notes on it. It was pretty devastating but I didn’t stop writing. I got better and a year later invited him to a table read of a movie I had written. He liked it enough to offer me a writing job, which helped launch my career. It was that moment that I learned that writing is a muscle and you have to keep writing to make and keep it strong. So many “writers” don’t actually write and they don’t realize they are losing any talent they might have had by simply not putting it to use.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I wrote a pilot, Roswell, Adjacent, about an alien and a real estate agent that has won me a lot of awards and I’m trying to get that made. I love the pilot and believe it would be a great TV show (as do my reps) but the hardest thing to get in Los Angeles is an enthusiastic yes.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

I’ve been lucky enough to work with some talented and famous performers, none of whom have had egos. Mark Hamill voiced a project of mine along with animation voice legend, Maurice Lamarche, it was pretty incredible to have those two people voicing the jokes that I wrote.

My not very exciting but favorite pairing is that I’ve worked with two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — one man who was in the live action suit and one who voiced one of the characters in the animated TV show. They were both awesome and now I want to work with all the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle actors from every iteration of the show.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Don’t compare your daily struggle with someone else’s bio. I can make myself have a very impressive bio but that leaves out the many rejections, the nights of doubts, and the sacrifices I’ve made along the way. The day to day struggle is the hardest part of this job because it’s the one part never talked about or celebrated.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’m a huge environmentalist — so if I could start a movement, it would be a plastic water bottle ban. Whenever I see one, and you see a lot in Hollywood especially on sets, my heart breaks. There are so many easy alternatives — bringing your own water bottle or just using a reusable glass — I wish people would stop buying them.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

It’s a marathon not a sprint. Sometimes you’ll see a story of someone tripping off the bus in LA and landing themselves a movie deal but rarely does that happen. Prepare to stick it out for the long haul. I had a boss who was convinced that Hollywood put out a few of these stories a year to trick people into thinking this is easy — in truth, it’s very much not.

Success will be hard to quantify. For a long time, I didn’t know whether I was successful or not because Hollywood can be filled with big successes followed by long bouts of nothing. Eventually, I realized that there was no outside committee that was going to tell me I had made it and once I started thinking of myself as a success, other people did too.

A bad rep is worse than no rep. People think once you find an agent, you’re career is golden. But an agent that isn’t working for you can actually hurt your career. And even with a great agent, you can’t just sit back and wait for the phone to ring — you have to keep finding opportunities yourself.

Finish your scripts! Ideas always seem good when you are first starting and about 75% in, you will want to burn the project to the ground. Push through the pain and awful thoughts and finish that script. If you do, you’ll find that the script isn’t as terrible as you thought or, if it is terrible, at least it has an ending. Then it’s on to the next draft.

Take care of yourself throughout the process. Some people burn out because they think they can just hold out for their big break. You should absolutely believe in yourself that you’re going to get that big break but don’t forget to deal with your life shit. It’s so much easier to be creative if you have health insurance or an emergency fund in place for when things dry up. Oh and if you don’t have dental insurance and need major dental work, drive down to Mexico — it’s the same quality work but much cheaper.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Be Prepared and be lucky” — the great Nell Scovell told me that as she was graciously agreeing to meet me in the midst of about of undiagnosed depression. I was rather unremarkable in that meeting and she was very unimpressed with me but that quote has stuck with me for over 10 years.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My old boss, J. Stewart Burns, was the one who gave me that second chance to prove myself and my writing and I will always appreciate that. My husband, Nikolai von Keller, who is also a writer and is often my first test audience for my crazy ideas always helps me make my scripts stronger. And Emily Best, founder of Seed and Spark and a women’s entertainment list in Hollywood, taught me that women need to support other women and disenfranchised groups and advocate for themselves in Hollywood if we want our stories told.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

I would love to meet Steve Martin. He was and is a huge comedic influence of mine but it wasn’t until reading his book ‘Born Standing Up’ did I realize that we shared a mentor as well — Wally Boag. Wally Boag was Walt Disney’s favorite Disneyland performer and that’s where Steve Martin met him. I met him much later in life through my church and he showed me that adults could be fun and he inspired me to take up tap dancing (which I did for 10 years). I’d really love to talk to Steve Martin about Wally Boag so if anyone knows someone who knows someone, hit me up.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Twitter.com/ThatsWright

Instagram.com/ThatsWright24

Instagram.com/MillennialEmilyPost (my parody account)

www.dianawright.net

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!

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