Screenwriter Jordan Hall took a break from the PSP’s Scripted Series Lab 2021 to answer a few questions for us. She includes some sage advice for future applicants.
How has your time breaking story with Will affected your understanding of writing for TV?
It’s been really eye-opening to watch Will’s process. I love that he’s very transparent about what he wants and what he doesn’t. Even before the Lab began, he laid out his expectations for us clearly. He set priorities that were designed to keep the room healthy and fun, and to make sure that everyone felt safe and supported–which made for a terrific environment both online and in the room. It was a really important lesson that one of the first responsibilities of a showrunner is to create the environment for the room, and Will’s really committed to that environment being healthy and human.
He also does his own version of the Chris Carter cue-card plotting method, which I had never attempted before. It allows for much more flexibility than I was expecting. I’m kinda obsessed with structure as a writer, so it was fascinating to watch a compelling story emerge out of an extremely fluid process. That isn’t to say that we didn’t hit a point where we had to make some decisions about an end-point so that we’d have something to plot towards, but it was really exciting to discover how long we could just let the story flow. I feel like I’ve tucked away any number of new tools for television writing just from being a part of that.
How do you feel about virtual rooms now that you’ve been in both a virtual and an in person version of the story room?
I wrote almost all of Carmilla remotely–I was in Vancouver, the production team was in Toronto, our story editor was in the States–so for me the PSP Zoom Room was a big step up from sketchy Google Hangouts and weird time differences. And there are clear advantages to being able to collaborate across distance. As somebody who would really like to both write TV and stay based in Vancouver if possible, the rise of virtual rooms will hopefully expand work horizons for me, and for other writers in this city. That said, I’m still so glad we had three weeks in person. In a room you can feed off each other’s presence and energy in a way that takes more effort online. We had so much fun and broke so much story in those three weeks. And now that we’re back to remote work, it’s easier because we have the foundations that Will laid in the room.
Is there any favourite moment from your first half of the program that stands out so far?
I really did love being in the room. We were only in for three weeks, and socially distanced because of Covid, but I think that made it even more precious in a way. The effort of getting everyone there: You folks with all the safety protocols. Will having to quarantine two weeks on either end to make it happen. My partner and I have been pretty much locked down since last March(!)–our kid is in daycare, so with a few exceptions in the summer, we just don’t see other people in the real world anymore. So the presence of other writers was invigorating. And the whole crew is so supportive and smart and funny. Best three weeks of 2020 so far.
Do you have any advice for future applicants as they prepare their applications or prep for an interview?
Figure out what you have to offer that no one else does. More often than not, that has to do with why you’re writing in the first place: That vision of the world that only you can see. If you can show them that part of yourself in your writing, and in an interview– I’m not going to lie and say that it will get you every job– but it will probably get you the right ones.