Watch the TV SPEC Screenplay of NEW GIRL:
NARRATOR – Val Cole
JESS – Erynn Brook
SCHMIDT – Rob Salerno
NICK/BANKS – John Marcucci
CECE – Leah Doz
WINSTON – Peter Bent
COACH – Mark Sparks
STUDENT 1 – Graciela Alexandra Martinez
STUDENT 2 – Jillian Cameron
Get to know winning writer Melissa K. Willis:
1. What is the TV spec script of the NEW GIRL TV show about?
A: Jess is in charge of her school’s career day, which she hates, and she’s afraid she’s going to get fired if she screws it up. She’s under a lot of pressure to get it right; and after Nick and Winston’s old friend from Chicago, Banks, shows up, everyone sort of reevaluates what they’ve done with their lives so far. His presence presents a whole different set of challenges for Schmidt because Banks is super human AND the anti-Schmidt.
2. Why does this script fit into the context of the show?
A: I think the characters are all, in some ways, still trying to figure out what they want and what makes them happy, maybe with the exception of Jess (or at least to a lesser extent.) It also plays on and makes them face some of their greatest insecurities (e.g. Jess getting fired/failing as a teacher, Nick never accomplishing anything, Winston not having a real career, Schmidt being a perpetual outcast, etc.) And Banks’ mere presence disrupts the loft’s precious ecosystem, much like Jess did just after she arrived.
3. How long have you been writing stories?
A: I’ve been writing in general for most of my life. I’ve been writing poems since I was 8 and wrote my first song at 9. I think the actual stories started around middle school (the early 90s), but I went through long periods where I didn’t write anything for long periods of time (and it sucked.) It took a lot of time, thinking, and not writing for me to realize how much I love it, that it is really my life force, and it’s what I’m meant to do.
4. What movie have you seen the most in your life?
A: Oh geez, I don’t know! That’s a hard one! I have this weird quirk that I got from my mom where I’ll watch the same movie over and over and over again until I get tired of it for a while. It’s probably The Wizard of Oz, Working Girl, Mean Girls, Love Actually, Trading Places, or Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
5. What artists would you love to work with?
A: So many! Seth Macfarlane, the Farrelly Brothers, Sarah Silverman, Peter Berg, Tina Fey, Bryan Fuller, Rob Thomas, Rob Reiner, Mindy Kaling, Ricky Gervais, the Duplass Brothers, Simon Pegg, Chris Rock, Kevin Hart, Sasha Baron Cohen, Julia Louis-Dreyfus…I’m sure I’m forgetting some.
6. How many stories/screenplays have you written?
A: I have no idea how many stories I’ve written. Some of them have been lost forever to bad hard/external drives back in the day. I’ve probably written thousands of poems and songs. This is my very first actual script, but I’m halfway through the first draft of a pilot at this very moment and I have at least one other in the pipeline from a class I took. I also have several ideas for feature-length screenplays, two musicals, and one documentary (whew!)
7. Ideally, where would you like to be in 5 years?
A: I’d like to be on staff writing for an existing show, for sure, and to have sold a few screenplays. I’d also like to have established a significant body of work and learned from at least a few of the people listed above. Eventually, I’d love to direct as well, once I’ve gotten my feet wet.
8. Describe your process; do you have a set routine, method for writing?
A: I don’t know that I’ve found my perfect routine or method yet, but I carry my notebook and phone everywhere and I take down everything – pictures, conversation pieces, ideas, etc. And basically I just find every moment I can to work on things. If I don’t go running on my lunch break, I go to the private conference room at work or Dupont Circle of I sit outside of restaurants and just observe and work. Sometimes I write on the bus on my way home. But I do like to really analyze before I get into it – what do my characters want, fear, believe, love, hate, etc, and explore their relationships with each other before I really start writing. Sometimes I’ll write little test scenes just to get a feel for them. Other times I just like to see where they take me. I like to do thought-mapping bubbles for each, charts about their wants and fears and how to torture them, beat sheets, put the beats on index cards so I can move them around, do a prose outline, and then go!
9. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
A: DC sports (a futile and miserable existence), animal welfare, comedy, my cats,
the environment, music, yoga and meditation
10. What influenced you to enter the WILDsound Festival?
A: My friend, Emily Cirillo, entered and won a couple of months ago. We met in Improv class and were the only aspiring TV/film writers there. We were fast friends, discussing our specs and future plans. I’d been stuck for an incredibly long time on this very script and was inspired to finish after I saw that she won and decided it was time to finish and submit mine.
11. Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?
A: Just keep going. Push through it. I’ve had a really difficult last several years and have felt really blocked creatively. The only way to get through it is to silence your inner critic, look within yourself, and just do it. One thing I learned from someone who has helped me more than anyone else – Michael Rogan from Scriptbully.com – is to write fun scenes for yourself starring yourself (or whatever comes to mind – maybe you’ll want to see the Kardashians vs. the Hiltons.) Mine usually involve interactions with celebrities or fantasies or something, but it can be anything you want. You never know what will come out of those and you’re still writing every day. Eventually something will click.