To highlight WeScreenplay’s TV Pilot Screenwriting Lab, showrunner Monica Macer lit up Cocktails & Conversations this past week with a blast of incredible information. With a wide range of experience as a screenwriter, executive producer, and showrunner, Macer has written for some of the most acclaimed television series over the last 15 years, including Lost and Queen Sugar. Currently, she is proud to serve as showrunner and executive producer for MacGyver (CBS).
Macer’s experience in television has spanned broadcast, cable, and streaming with writing and producing credits ranging from Prison Break (FOX) to Teen Wolf (MTV), Nashville (ABC) to Deception (NBC), and The Breaks (VH1).
Watch the entire chat in the video below and listen for these 5 key insights to help you level up your career!
Do the Best Job in the Job You Are In
When Macer was up for staffing for FOX shows, the Executive Producers from 24 called Damon Lindelof and David Fury who she had worked with previously, and they told the Execs to hire her. Macer commented that she doesn’t think that they said that because of her writing alone.
“It was because I worked for two seasons for them, you know, doing the most mundane work. Sometimes like, running to one of the writer’s apartments… to look for a book… picking up dry cleaning to, you know, doing the actual research for like, what if a dirty bomb is detonated 20,000 feet over Los Angeles, calling UCLA pretending to be a research student.
So, I think it’s about: be faithful in the small things, do those things with diligence and with excellence, and that opened the door to them reading my script. It wasn’t, you know, they were just like, going to read my script. It’s, ‘Do the best job you can in the job that you’re currently in’ so that you can then get the next job. That is the foundation.”
Personality and Authenticity Are Key
Macer spoke numerous times about the importance of being someone that is easy to be around. She also made it clear that being authentic to who you are and not putting on any kind of airs, or changing your personality, is imperative.
“…for me as a showrunner, I’m looking for someone that is, you know, authentic and who is prepared, who comes to the meeting with ideas. But it’s more about your demeanor and your personality. if I can see myself being in a room with you for eight hours, eating lunch with you, bumping into in the coffee room. So that’s why I would say, don’t try to be anything but who you are, and then let that shine through.”
Monica is on the jury of the TV Pilot Screenwriting Lab. Enter now!
Know Your Strengths and Your Work Style
Macer started off using a fantastic baseball team analogy to describe how important it is to have different types of writers and thinkers working on a show.
“I don’t want seven homerun hitters sitting at the table and no one who can catch a pitch or be an outfielder or shortstop.”
The Pitch Machine and the Muller
“You need all the voices at the table…I am like, are you a muller? Or are you a pitch machine? And people are like what’s a muller and I’m like…someone who listens and their brain is chewing on the idea…they’re usually the quiet person scribbling in their notebook… they’re thinking the long arc of what is going on in the room.
You need a pitch machine. The pitch machine is someone who is constantly pitching ideas, every five minutes, a new idea…and they usually have no ego, they’re like, ‘fine, you don’t like that idea? What if you make it a blue horse?’”
The Draft Writer
“You need a really strong draft writer. Ideally, everyone can turn in a first draft that’s really strong, but you need that person.”
“You also need that point-counterpoint person, the person who will be like, ‘Okay, okay, okay. Yeah, I know, we’ve been charging down the road this way. But what if we totally turn the idea on its head?’ And you’re like, ‘What? No.’ It freaks the whole room out. But usually something comes from that. I call them the Count. The point-counterpoint or the devil’s advocate.”
Macer stated that she’ll have all of those diverse points of view and communication styles in a writer’s room to help make the room the strongest it can be.
Network A LOT
When building your career and working on your craft, it’s crucial that you are networking as much as possible. Macer spoke numerous times about how important this is and how your knowledge and connections are an asset. In fact, they can help your agent or manager create more opportunities for you.
“I wouldn’t just depend on my agents and my manager…I networked a lot. My manager, when she would find new clients she was like, ‘My clients need to network as much as you do,’ because I would call her with leads. It’s like, ‘Hey, I just went to this panel. And I think this show is staffing’, and then she would find out.”
And I would also share information with my agents. If I went to panels or if I had friends that were staffing on shows, and they knew they weren’t going to get the job, I would just share information.”
Lean into Your Unique Experience and Don’t Give Up
At the end of the day, it’s about doing the work with passion and perseverance.
“Be tenacious and be bold. Know your voice as a writer and don’t stray from that. Don’t try to put yourself in a box when you’re not a square, you’re a circle.
Be who you are supposed to be. Your voice is what’s needed on TV as authentic and unfiltered as it is. We need that. We need diverse voices in this business. So, whatever your unique experience is, it’s valuable. Mine that. Write what you know and don’t give up.”
Helenna Santos is an actor, writer, and producer with Mighty Pharaoh Films. She is the author of the poetry book “A Long Dark Summer” (2021) and was the founder/editor-in-chief of the entertainment website Ms. In The Biz for its seven year run (2013 – 2020). Her work as a contributing writer has been featured in MovieMaker Magazine, Film Inquiry, Backstage Magazine, Women and Hollywood, WeScreenplay, and BUST Magazine. As an actor she has appeared in many network and streaming TV shows as well as independent and studio feature films. She also works as a voice actor narrating audio books, animated characters, and commercial campaigns. Helenna is a mix of Filipino/Russian/German heritage and a US and Canadian dual citizen. She resides in Vancouver, BC Canada with her husband and their Bernedoodle pup. Connect with her on Instagram and Twitter!