Pictured above: HUMANITAS President Ali LeRoi (Everybody Hates Chris), The Kieser Award Recipient Marta Kauffman (Friends), Gloria Allred, and HUMANITAS Executive Director Cathleen Young.
HUMANITAS has empowered writers for more than 40 years. They’re a non-profit organization with several prestigious screenwriting competitions. On Coverfly, we feature HUMANITAS New Voices, The Carol Mendelsohn College Drama Fellowship and The David and Lynn Angell College Comedy Fellowship. We recently had the opportunity to ask Executive Director Cathleen Young a few questions about HUMANITAS. See her answers below.
Coverfly: Can you tell us a little bit about HUMANITAS New Voices?
Cathleen Young: At HUMANITAS the writer is the star. While film and television are collaborative mediums, the heart and mind of the writer is always the driving creative force. That’s why we honor the vision and voices of gifted film and television writers and help launch the next generation of writers.
CF: Why is your contest valuable to writers?
CY: Do you want to get into “the room?” As in “the writer’s room?” It’s the most valuable piece of creative real estate in Hollywood. And getting that door open is not easy. HUMANITAS helps opens that door by pairing talented writers with working showrunners. That’s like jumping to the head of the class. We have a very unique program that no one else offers in this town. And it comes with a $7,500 grant to buy you some time to focus on your craft.
CF: Do you think entering contests is a good path for aspiring writers?
CY: I believe every aspiring writer should enter as many contests and competitions as they can. It gets their name out there — and it forces you to sit down and write! Winning a contest or competition is a powerful way to attract the attention of agents, showrunners and executives. Winning can be game-changing for the careers of focused, ambitious writers.
CF: Who are some HUMANITAS NEW VOICES alumni?
CY: SJ Hodges – Showrunner for Awesomeness TV’s Guidance, Mentored by Jason Katims
Martin Zimmerman – Executive Producer/Showrunner on Netflix’s Spanish language series, Puerta 7, Producer on Netflix’s Ozark, Mentored by Alan Ball
Luisa Leschin – Co-Executive Producer on Amazon’s Just Add Magic, Co-Executive Producer on CBS’ Everybody Hates Chris, Mentored by Ali LeRoi
Will Pascoe – Supervising Producer on Hulu’s Shut Eye, Mentored by Hart Hanson
Greta Heinemann – Producer on CBS’ NCIS: New Orleans, Mentored by Pam Veasey
Damir & Dario Konjicija – Executive Story Editors on CBS’ Young Sheldon – Mentored by Carter Covington
CF: What’s one unique piece of advice you’d give to writers who enter your contest?
CY: I always tell up-and-coming writers to NEVER, EVER forget the 4 most important words when writing. Well, technically it’s 5 words. Here they are: “I’ll fix it later.” Meaning, keep writing. Don’t get stuck endlessly rewriting the first act or the first chapter. Tell a story that is true and authentic to you and KEEP AT IT until you get it right.
CF: What can writers do to be best prepared for capitalizing on a winning the competition?
CY: A giant red flag for me in judging a potential candidate is when they haven’t written very many scripts. Writers need to write. A real writer WANTS to write. Writers need to write a bunch of BAD scripts so they can learn to write GOOD scripts. If a writer doesn’t have multiple scripts in his or her portfolio, it’s hard for me to take them seriously. Another “skill” that is critical to success is being able to hear a good note. The superpower skill needed for success is the ability to make a good note your own… and to take a bad note and make it a good note that addresses some weakness in your script.