A conversation with Brittany Worthington on writing, fellowships, and bizarre bank experiences.
So many of us are working hard to get on that career ladder. We all know the path: Writer's PA, Showrunner's Assistant, Writer's Assistant, Script Coordinator... We hope to write a great script, get a manager, obtain plentiful Fellowship opportunities, and, eventually, get staffed!
Brittany Worthington, a writer from Grand Rapids, Michigan, has not only gotten on the ladder; she's climbed several rungs high. With her feature, THE GOLDEN STATE, and her pilots, NORTHPORT NANNIES and THE QUICKENING, Brittany has written her way into several Fellowships, Labs, and awards. She's worked on CRUEL SUMMER, POWER BOOK III, and POWER BOOK IV, and she was a panelist at the Austin Film Festival.
During her short time in Austin, Brittany sat down with me to talk all things writing, career, and her (crazy) personal stories... She's led a wild life, and our 30 minutes together left me feeling giggly and recharged. From her anecdotes below, I hope you see that everyone's career journey is unique... and that's okay!
I also hope, unlike Brittany, your journey doesn't involve a bank or a gun! Keep scrolling for more, and check out Brittany's work on Coverfly!
Becoming a Writer:
PR: Tell me a little about your upbringing and what made you want to be a writer!
BW: So, I'm originally from Western Michigan, Grand Rapids… I was raised by a single mom who was obsessed with movies and celebrities and TV. We would go to Blockbuster every single night and rent a movie… Because I never knew who my biological dad was, she used to tell me my biological dad was Tom Cruise…Storytelling was always kind of an escape for me, both writing stories and then watching them.
I ended up moving in with my grandparents, and my grandma and I would share movies and TV shows. I would be like, “Grandma, do you want to watch The Office or Lost?” And she's like, “Sure, do you want to watch You Can't Take It With You?” Like, a movie from the 30s.
I was an English major [in college] and then felt very lost after college because… being in Michigan, I had never seen anyone pursue [writing] as a career.
Crazy Day Job Story:
PR: How long was the “lost” time before you decided to go to grad school?
BW: It was three years. So, I worked at a bank and I was a bank teller and got robbed at gunpoint…
PR: Whoa! Wait, talk about that!
BW: It was a very small credit union branch. I was the only teller working. There were only three of us working in the bank: it was my manager, our loan officer and me. This man entered and asked if he could talk to someone about opening or getting a loan. [I] showed him to our loan officer's office… Two seconds later, the loan officer comes like sprinting out into our manager's office. I'm like, this is weird. And then the guy comes out and I'm like, oh, he's holding a gun, he's holding a gun. And it was just like the most surreal experience where I feel like my body just shut down, and I was watching it happen. And, this is weird bank information, but we didn't have drawers, okay? We have machines where you would put the money in, and then it would just spit it out and it was supposed to be more secure… But when you're getting robbed, and you don't have money to give them, and you're like, “Let me just press these buttons,” and he didn't want us to press any buttons because he thought it was an alarm! So he took us to the vault, and we had to open the box and give him all the money and then he locked us in a broom closet.
We were probably in there for like 10 minutes... I think we were just all silent and very scared and then came out. Yeah, there was just a lot of holding each other and shaking… After that, that I was like, “I really don't want to be a bank teller...” I didn't want to be a bank teller really when I took this job and now I really don't want to be one. So, I have to like, start figuring out what I actually want to do. During that time, I've been writing on the weekends and trying to write scripts.
Going to Grad School:
PR: Can you talk about why you decided to go to grad school [at University of Texas] and how that may have helped you cultivate your voice?
BW: So, being from Michigan, I had no "Hollywood contacts" or whatever. And I didn't know anyone in LA, and I talked to one of my professors in undergrad about grad school and she said, This might not launch your career, but it's going to give you uninterrupted time where you get to write… and it'll also introduce you to other writers and form a community that way." And that proved to totally be the case. I honestly don't think I would have the beginnings of the career I have if I didn't go to grad school.
PR: Within the grad school program, how many scripts did you end up writing?
BW: We would write one script a semester. It’s a two-year program, so we wrote five scripts. And one of the best classes I took was a rewriting class where we literally rewrote an entire script that we had written the previous semester. It was great… and kind of like the first script I got attention for, I wrote in grad school.
Climbing the Ladder:
PR: Can you talk about the jobs that you got post-grad school and how you jumped on the ladder in the first place?
BW: So, I moved out to LA with most of my cohort, there were six of us I lived with… It was like FRIENDS, there were three guys and three girls and they're still my best friends to this day. So, it was great to live with other writers who kind of understood what we were all going through. I nannied when I first got out there, which was really fun… But I, with my abortionist script, [THE QUICKENING], I got into the Blacklist: Women in Film Lab, and that was an incredible experience. I met incredible women through that, and they would bring in guest speakers, and these women are still some of my closest friends. One went on to be a showrunner’s
assistant on the Stars’ franchise, POWER, which has like a million spinoffs. She heard that one of the other spinoffs needed a Writer's PA, and I had kind of been looking for like an in into a support staff [position]. So, she passed my resume along. The showrunner was originally from Chicago, so we bonded over [that].
PR: Were you ever in the room on POWER BOOK III or IV? What was the job like there?
BW: We were in the room for three days, and then COVID happened. So, I thought I was going to be out of a job because I was the Writer’s PA and their main job is to get lunch, you know, and so I was like, “There's no one to get lunch for, I'm definitely getting fired.” They kept me on, which was great, and I ended up running the virtual board. So as our Writer's Assistant would take notes, I would put what we were talking about on Google Slides and then help rearrange that.
So, it was really great because I got to be very involved. My showrunner encouraged pitches from everyone. When the time came for them to hire a script coordinator, my showrunner actually asked if I wanted to move from Writer’s PA to Script Coordinator, which allowed me to stay on the show through production, and I didn't even know what a Script Coordinator was when I agreed to do that…
A Script Coordinator is the keeper of the script. As outlines and drafts come out, they're usually sent to the script coordinator first for formatting, proofing… really tracking consistency across episodes and bringing things to a showrunner's attention. If it's Episode Two, we said Jill hates peanut butter, but now she's eating a peanut butter sandwich in Episode Five, it doesn't track, you know?
It’s really great because you get to read every single draft of the script, and it can be very tedious because you are proofing and looking for those errors, but, once again, my showrunner was super collaborative… he would ask for my like opinion on scripts, which was great.
PR: What does work look like now, post-strike? Are you still looking for jobs? What is your day-to-day right now?
BW: So I say I went from a striking writer to an unemployed writer. but right before the strike, I had just written my latest pilot, NORTHPORT NANNIES, and I had submitted it to a lot of contests. I was lucky enough to win a couple of them and gain some traction. So towards the end of the strike, I actually signed with new reps! It’s been great to feel like I'm not developing in a vacuum. So, I'm working on kind of putting a series document and two-pager together for that script to hopefully take out and then working on a feature with my managers while also still looking for assistant jobs.
And it's the thing is it’s really all word of mouth. I've had someone be like, “I heard someone's looking for this, send me your resume!” So, it's just like really staying connected with people and hoping that they think of you when a job comes up.
PR: I've noticed that you've written in a variety of different genres. I was wondering what attracts you to a project and what makes you like latch on to an idea versus just letting it fly away?
BW: I think character really gets me, and the theme. I feel like there's a couple of themes that work [their] way into my work. Usually, it's motherhood or unconventional families or fucked up mother-daughter relationships based on my own experience. But also, I think women kind of finding their power in unexpected places. I'm a very introverted person, and I feel shy a lot of the time, so the idea of a woman finding a way to kick ass in an unexpected way really appeals to me because there's a lot of… living vicariously through my characters. So, if I can find a character that kind of taps into any of those themes. That's what draws me to an idea.
PR: Last question… You recently won the Screencraft Screenwriting Fellowship. How did that differ from the Blacklist Lab, and what has come of that?
BW: So, the Blacklist Lab was bringing in writers to talk to us. The Screencraft Fellowship is: there are three winners and we get sent on a week of meetings. So, it's reps if you're seeking reps, but also generals with production companies, development execs, producers… Since I won during the strike, they didn't want to set up those meetings because it would be super limited to non-struck companies. So I actually have that coming up the week of December 11th. I'm excited, and it feels like a good way to kind of close out the year.
What a year it's been for Brittany. Thank you so much for your time, and I can't wait to see all you do!