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Lorin Williams is a screenwriter and a script coordinator, and has worked as a producer in successful reality TV Shows like Married at First Sight and The Real Housewives of Potomac.

In this article, part of a Zaftyg’s series, she opens up about career, childhood dreams and what needs to change in the industry. Lorin was also a guest in our podcast, you can listen here.

Read more!

The person behind the name Lorin Williams

My name is Lorin and I hail from the great state of Michigan. I have two wonderful parents who are now semi retired and living in Florida along with one older sister who lives in Chicago. I’ve been living in Los Angeles for just over 12 years, arriving Fourth of July weekend 2008… the Great Recession started in October 2008 so as you can imagine, I was beyond broke. I was too broke to afford the move home like so many of the friends I made when I first touched down in the city. I had to keep swimming or I was going to drown. I went through a ton of survival jobs and even once fell asleep at a red light when driving home in the wee hours of the morning, having just worked an overnight shift. But somehow I made it home safe that day and many other days, kept moving, kept surviving and now I’m living out my childhood dreams.

Image:: Daryl Jim Diaz

Start of her career and journey

My first job in the entertainment industry was as a PA on a show called The Bad Girls Club. I rose through the ranks of unscripted television working on various reality TV shows and game shows but all the while I was trying to find my way into a writer’s room. The thing is, as I started to gain steam in unscripted and garner more credits, the less responsive folks in scripted television were to my attempts at networking or getting read by anyone. So I hunkered down and accepted that I was meant to be a producer in unscripted television and that was all. Then the perfect storm hit, a mixture of a pandemic leaving me unemployed with nothing but time on my hands, paired with WGA writers looking to gain solidarity amongst baby writers to hold the line, add in a social movement where companies and productions were forced to reflect on hiring practices that consistently left them with non diverse workspaces, and suddenly everyone was willing to hear me out and read my work. One of those folks was my EP and current boss, Nicole Dubuc, who put out on Twitter that she wanted to be helpful and would commit to reading underrepresented voices. She read me, liked me, and hired me.

What are you currently working on?

I currently work as a script coordinator for a new entry in the Transformers franchise over at Nickelodeon. It’s my first writer’s room and it’s been an incredibly welcoming space. I have a lot of responsibilities but the best thing by far is that my EPs view the script coordinator position as a true part of the writer’s room so I get to pitch stories and punch up jokes and they’ve even assigned me an episode to write.

What’s your career highlight?

I would say my current job. I mean I landed a dream job through Twitter! Digital networking has really worked out for me.

What are your goals/dreams for the future?

I just want to create. I have so many ideas, I have so many scripts for television and films, I just want to make them all. I’ve never aspired to fame but I want to be successful enough that the process to get green lights for all the stories running around in my head is just a struggle instead of an all out war.

How do you want to help move humanity forward?

I think just by normalizing diverse viewpoints you eliminate the shock and awe factor when someone new enters your life. My go to example of this is growing up and having one of my friends come out as LGBT, I’m not saying I got it 100% right, I may have leaned into the over-enthusiastic-ally trope for a while there but at that point my only guide to having queer friends wasn’t from real life, it was from Dawson’s Creek. And all I knew was that I was going to be the Pacey to his Jack McPhee. What is different from you is normal to another and I think writing for film and television has the unique power to help highlight the universal touch points we all have in common.

Screenwriting…

What originally attracted you to screenwriting?

I think the answer to this is a hybrid. My Uncle Foster was known amongst the family as one who would spoil things on television if he saw it first but then one day I was watching something airing on television for the first time and noticed he was saying key lines of dialogue before the actors would. “See, I could write these,” he groused, which I guess was the first time I started thinking about the writing process. The second thing was finding out that Shonda Rhimes was the showrunner of Grey’s Anatomy. The first time I heard the term ‘showrunner’ was about a black woman running the most popular show on television. I drove over to the local Borders book store (RIP) and bought a book called, “How to be a Showrunner,” then I informed my parents that I no longer wanted to study theater as a major for college. I wanted to go into television and film programs only.

What’s a typical work week like?

I work typically 9-6, Monday through Friday. The day starts with a production meeting with the other coordinators, PAs, the Production Manager, and the Line Producer. We all go around the “room” with updates and then we break for meetings. So many meetings. Fortunately, the script coordinator is a position that is only called upon rarely when the asset and design team or casting or executives are talking so I have the freedom to show up to these meetings with my zoom camera off and my microphone muted. I listen, take notes, and learn a lot in these meetings but my position is mostly being a bridge between the writer’s room and production. I’m a lot more active in the actual writer’s room, which meets frequently when we’re in planning stages and less so when all the staff writers are on episode. I take notes and try to choose my moment to pitch or offer a heightening suggestion while trying to be careful not to derail the discussion. Then I clean up the notes and file them on the drive by date and/ or episode relevance. Wednesdays and Thursdays are mostly eaten up by record sessions with the cast of the show where I have to keep track of the takes and which ones the EPs prefer on an episode script called “circle takes,” and towards the end of the work day, I check in with our EPs to see if anything is going to be distributed to our executives for notes (episode premises/ outlines/ drafts). It’s a lot of moving parts but I’m learning how to juggle.

Zaftyg Podcast: Lorin Williams

What writers have influenced you and why?

My biggest writer influence is Mindy Kaling. When I was first trying to figure out how to break a story, I read this interview with Kaling on her process, she starts with a scene, the one that pops into her head before she even knows what she’s dealing with. She writes down the scene as is and then starts to ask questions like, who are these folks? What are their goals? And what did we learn about them just from this scene? I think my mind works better with this method instead of trying to come up with a pitch and a bible about the world first.

What makes a great story?

I understand why Joss Whedon has fallen out of favor… but Buffy the Vampire Slayer is chock full of foundational truths I hold dear about writing. There’s this one scene in particular where Xander is comforting Dawn, who has yet again been the damsel in distress that Buffy had to save and Xander gently comforts Dawn by saying, “They’ll never know what it’s like to live just outside of the spotlight.” And at the time, the cast was stacked with a vampire who’d regained his soul and used his strength for good, a quirky yet powerful witch, a revenge demon, and Buffy herself, the freaking chosen one. What I look for in projects and what I try to create in my own projects are worlds where the characters who live just outside of the spotlight are recognized in their own right.

Do you have any tips on how to overcome writer’s block?

The thing that works best for me is forcing myself to reread my work. Just the act of rereading wakes up the portion of my brain that is an editor. I’ll go from wondering how I could rephrase something to punch up a bit that will make a joke land better, to thinking about the fall out from that joke landing and usually there’s something new to be written.

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a career in screenwriting?

I feel odd offering any advice about a career that I feel I’m still very much in the beginning stages of but a lesson I have learned the hard way is: be prepared. Write your little heart out while you wait for the powers that be to pay attention to you. I once had a pilot that got me a ton of meetings around town but then they all asked the dreaded question, “What else have you got?” and I had nothing. It took years to build up relationships and my writing portfolio but now when someone asks, “What else have you got?” I’m not gonna pull your leg, it feels good that I can respond to their request with a whole host of options.

Who you are as a writer and how did your career experiences help shape you and make you the kind of writer you are and will be?

I think getting older and having more life experiences has definitely added to my writing in terms of perspective. I now see the grey areas in moments I previously thought were black and white and I now see how more than one side can be right in an argument where before I felt forced to pick a side. I also think my favorite stories to tell are not always super dramatic, the little life being interrupted by a little inconvenience is currently my worldview and though I’m biased, I can’t help but see the entertainment there.

What are the struggles in the industry for a female screenwriter? Is it still a “boy’s club”?

To an extent, yes, it’s still a boys club, but in my experience that has only made the sisterhood tighter. Every major title bump in my career was given to me by a woman. Every time I wanted to learn something new, it was a woman who created that space and gave generously of her time to mentor me. More often than not, the only request they made of me is to pass the knowledge on to the next person who needs help and it’s an agreement I continue to honor. I’ve had folks hit me up with an idea for a documentary but had more questions than answers and I’m like, let’s set up a zoom, my knowledge is your knowledge. I’m not super advanced in my writing career, but if a PA or a production coordinator on my show has questions about the writers room, I’ll sit on Microsoft Teams with them and answer every question that pops into their head as long as they enter into the agreement to pay it forward to the next person with questions.

As a producer…

What was your first job in the film and TV industry?

My first gig was as a PA for The Bad Girls Club. It was supposed to just be for a couple of days and then the offer came up to move to post in a position called “logger” that no longer exists. A logger was to watch the raw footage and keep a log of what happened for every couple of minutes so that the editors wouldn’t have to waste precious time searching for specific moments to cut into the show. Back then, Story Producers mostly made “paper cuts”, which is to say, they read the logs and the field notes to make decisions about what goes in the show. By the time I worked my way up to Story Producer, only one show I’ve ever worked for had me make a paper cut, the rest had us plugging away on AVID.

Where do your best ideas come from?

I think my best ideas start with a kernel of reality from my life and popcorn out into something weird and magical when I start asking myself, what is the best way to tell this story? I have a feature pitch about two friends who are pitted against each other for a promotion at work that started as a way for me to grieve the friendship break up that happened to me at the end of 2019. If that sounds overly dramatic, I thought so as well at the time but eventually realized that friendship break ups can be just as stressful (if not more so) than a romantic break up. To a certain extent, you hold the possibility of a break up in the recesses of your mind with a romantic relationship, less so with platonic friendship. I think it’s these little realizations that happen as life goes on, these little developments, that inform your writing and in turn help you process and make peace with yourself.

You worked as a producer on several TV shows. What are the biggest challenges?

I think the biggest challenge I’ve faced as a producer is the human element of it all. You can plan for everything under the sun but you cannot plan for how talent will react to something either in their personal life or something happening with the show. You cannot plan for the PA to get stuck in traffic with the coffee, you cannot plan for the director to take all the time in the world to set up a shot because they have a specific vision that they cannot seem to communicate. You can have a shot list, a schedule, all the permits in order, and even a plan for the weather but as the saying goes, man makes plans and God laughs. Your biggest challenge is learning how to pivot when your plans are blown up.

In reality TV, when you’re editing coverage of real people, what’s the approach? What are you hoping to get out of the content?

This question is heavily dependent on what type of show you’re producing. I’ve worked on build shows that specifically avoided any type of content that wasn’t about the construction and I’ve worked on shows where it’s been little more than turning on the camera and watching a bunch of folks squabble over dinner. I feel like a lot of the success a reality TV show has is built on the good work that the casting department does because it doesn’t matter if the audience is tuning in to watch construction montages or pretty people arguing, they’re tuning in to watch dynamic personalities entertain us. The biggest crime of all is to be boring.

What is the most rewarding thing about working for a younger audience?

I think the most rewarding thing about writing for a younger audience is planting these little time bomb esque references in their minds that they might not fully understand until later in life. Cartoons aren’t just for children, even when the show’s targeted age bracket is technically children, you have to think about those adults watching and keep them entertained as well. So you have jokes that fly over the younger audience’s heads that somehow make an impact years later. I’ve experienced this in my own life, watching Stu Pickles make chocolate pudding at 4 in the morning and grouse about losing control of his life hits different when you’re a kid and giggling along versus your perspective as an adult, randomly remembering this scene as you try to master the work/life/skin care routine balance.

Image:: Daryl Jim Diaz
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