Coverfly endorsed writer Jonterri Gadson signed with a literary manager at Sugar23 after working with the Coverfly team who provided career consulting and introduced her to managers.
We caught up with Jonterri to talk about her creative journey, from falling in love with screenwriting to breaking in.
How It All Began
I grew up writing poetry and stories, but it wasn't until I saw Malcolm in the Middle on TV that I realized I wanted to get into screenwriting. I loved how the family was unlike any I'd seen, I loved the way it was shot and how edgy it was. I was in Idaho at the time and I saw an ad in the back of a screenwriting magazine that said you could order scripts from Hollywood for $99.
So, I saved up my money and ordered a Malcolm in the Middle script because I'd heard to get a job as a TV writer, you had to write a sample of an existing show. Weeks later a box came in the mail with printed out copies of Malcolm in the Middle episodes. I was so intimidated after reading actual scripts that I put the box in my closet and became a poet.
When I heard about the Nickelodeon Fellowship, I followed Kiyong Kim's blog. He'd done the Nickelodeon Fellowship and NBC Writers on the Verge and he was offering online spec writing classes. I was living in Ohio doing a creative writing fellowship at University of Dayton at the time. I took the class and chose to do a Parks and Rec spec. That class taught me how to break down scripts, characters, dialogue and everything so well that I was able to use that knowledge to teach myself how to write TV pilots with the same knowledge.
I was so intimidated after reading actual scripts that I put the box in my closet and became a poet.
My biggest obstacle felt like not knowing how to get out to LA and how it's possible for people to live in LA -- and how screenwriters survive between jobs -- and how you get your first job and any subsequent ones. I guess my biggest obstacle was an inability to even grasp how a screenwriting career was even possible for me. That's why I try really hard to demystify it by sharing my experiences with others.
When my scripts, packets, and web series started winning me entry into things like the NBC Late Night Writers Workshop, New York Television Festival, the New York Stage & Film Filmmakers Lab, IFP Project Forum, Kevin Hart's LOL Film Fellowship and TBS/Refinery29 Riot Comedy Writers Lab, I was able to meet execs, reps and writers who were really open about what it's really like to work in entertainment, so I could finally wrap my mind around it. I told myself all I really had to do was keep writing because that's what will make everything possible for me.
I listed them all, not to brag, but because I want to give those programs the credit they deserve.
Coverfly helped me in some unexpected ways. Friends in a writers group I was in while in NYC were on Coverfly and gaining recognition for their scripts so I signed up and started having the same experience. Coverfly made it easy to find contests and fellowships to enter. Once my script was on the Red List I was contacted for potential opportunities. Then a friend connected me with Coverfly Writers exec Geoffroy who really worked hard to help me find a new rep when I needed one.
Don't stand in your own way by rejecting or looking down on opportunities that come your way because other people see something in you that you don't yet recognize in yourself.
What Comes Next?
I'm really excited for shows I've written on and am currently writing on to air. Making It Season 3 comes out in June and then Ultimate Slip 'N Slide, which I'm currently writing on, comes out in August and then 12 Dates of Christmas, which I'm a comedy consulting producer on, comes out at the end of the year. I'm shopping a feature which I'm having a table read for in the next few weeks. And I just got with an amazing manager--Anna Weinsten at Sugar23--who's working hard to help get me staffed on a half hour comedy.
My half hour comedy pilot that has had the most success on Coverfly has an amazing producer attached and I'm revising it before we take it out again. My co-writer/mentor Zach Helm and I just got commenced to write the final draft of the Korean action/comedy adaptation we wrote for CJ Entertainment/ Hartbeat Productions/ Brillstein.
And directing!! I've taken a bunch of directing courses. I'm directing another short I wrote soon and I just directed a narrative podcast episode about an idealized birthing process (written by Jacquelyn Joyce Revere).
Advice For Aspiring Writers
Follow your "yes." Meaning, you might think you have an exact idea of what kind of writer you are and what you're capable of, but you might actually be limiting yourself. Don't stand in your own way by rejecting or looking down on opportunities that come your way because other people see something in you that you don't yet recognize in yourself.
Mike Schur's shows have consistently made my heart ache like, "I NEED TO WRITE FOR THIS SHOW" and a part of me dies when they go off the air before I get a chance. That's why it meant so much to work with Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman on Making It. I was dying to write for Parks and Rec!