What is this page, Nida?
Hello! Okay! This page is a work in progress. I want to say it’s a page, but really, I have like a book of information I’d love to build out over time here with links to essays on different topics and stuff. Any who, if you’re reading this “page,” maybe you were surfing my menu, or maybe you heard me speak at an event or in your class, or maybe you came to me like, “blah blah blah,” and I was all, “I’d love to share some resources with you!” Here are those resources! Those resources lie therein! HENCEFORTH!
Books / Reading
You can read a list of my favorite books on writing & creativity here. I still swear by these books. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield was instrumental to me in re-beginning my writing journey. He helped me label “resistance” and understand why I procrastinated. I was then able to work on tackling that and, well, write. And what helped me write, i.e. get words onto the page? Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. And the other books on my list really helped me with embracing and appreciating creativity.
For how to write a spec or pilot, I recommend The Hero Succeeds by Kam Miller. There’s a whole list of books that the writing programs recommend (here and here). I haven’t read them, but I’ve heard great things about various ones, like Save the Cat. I first took a spec writing class in New York and I totally failed. I could not for the life of me understand the teacher, and I could swear that the homework portal wasn’t working properly for me because I couldn’t find any reference materials and I was way too scared and imposter syndromy so I just came to class every week like ??? and came out with nothing, no pages, nada. BUT, then I came to LA and took Spec & Pilot writing classes with Ed Lee, and wow, it’s like, the doorway to logic and knowhow opened up and the angels sang and I wrote my first spec and pilot. Ed taught from The Hero Succeeds, and I’ve since used it as a reference/reminder of the process when I’m building/constructing a new pilot/feature. P.S. Kam Miller’s website has a bunch of resources, too.
Google scripts! Of your favorite shows! Like, “The Office scripts pdf” or “Parks & Rec scripts pdf” or whatever floats your boat! Read them! I love reading how my favorite shows communicate things on script. And when I’m studying for something in particular, like a pilot I’m writing, I look up scripts for shows that have similar vibes to mine and study how they get across certain ideas on script.
… Watch things! I love that “watching” things counts as reading, when it comes to studying film & television! My absolute, absolute, absolute favorite nerdy thing of all times to do is to watch shows and do minute-by-minute breakdowns (mostly based on the method detailed in The Hero Succeeds). It’s so fun reverse-engineering episodes and seeing how a show successfully got across their idea in 22 or 45 or 120 minutes. I’ve also come up with my own nerdy breakdown methods over the years, which I hope to share someday.
Research! I love to do these deep dives into different writers or creators or actors or whomever’s and pickup on the little things they mention, like, what pen a certain illustrator uses or idk, like, little things like that! I read memoirs of my favorite creators, like Mindy Kaling and Amy Poehler. Whenever I watch a movie I love, I go read the Wikipedia page and discover all sorts of fun information in the Production sections and the Reception sections. There’s so many tidbits from the directors and writers and lots of information to learn about how well or poorly it was received and why. I love going down IMDB rabbitholes of different people and seeing the progression of their career / projects they worked on.
Networking / Professional Events
What even is networking
A friend of mine who is a brilliant “networker” helped me realize something. Networking is like connect-the-dots. You meet all these different dots, and you never know when you’ll “connect” to create something. So it’s not about going into a room and being like, what can I get from this person. It’s like, let me expand my universe of faces, places & spaces. That being said, I would say that in my own path, broad, lets-go-to-all-the-events networking has been overemphasized. I think people just kind of put a lot of hope in the, “That person might open the door for you!” basket. I found that when I focused on my “craft,” on doing things and getting things done, networking and relationship-building became richer.
I love this catchphrase of actress/comedian/all-around-talent Amanda Seales: “I’m not for everyone.” I love that and when I’m at networking events, I remind myself, “Not everyone is for me,” (this is more so a balm for when people inevitably look past my seemingly unimportant self for the most famous person in the room, excuse me while I go cry). I’m here to learn, grow, say hello, and maybe meet those one or two people who are for me!
Here are some professional events I recommend:
Women’s Weekend Film Challenge hosts several online events every month. This is gold. I mean, gold gold. They tap into the most exciting women-identifying professionals in Hollywood and somehow we get to sit here and listen to experts talk about their craft for a whole hour. These are the professional conversations I wish I could have heard when I was starting out, and I am so, so glad to be able to access them now.
Sundance Collab does these deep dive features and convos with so many types of industry professionals, including directors and writers. I’ve enjoyed so many of their videos.
Studiobinder has the best newsletter (scroll down for newsletter signup) sharing video breakdowns of so many different film topics. I love watching their videos. They are really male-director obsessed but whatever. The content is rich!
#Startwith8 Hollywood by WOC Unite is a new mentorship program that helps create connections between WOC and industry professionals. I believe they open up registration once or twice a year.
MasterClass has some cool stuff I’m sure. I enjoyed the Shonda class, but I mean, there’s no way I wouldn’t enjoy hearing Shonda Rhimes talk for 500 years, I would sign up for that wherever that is possible.
Follow social media channels and attend online and in-person events at:
CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment)
MPAC Hollywood Bureau
And I recently came across this YouTube Series, Critical Role Between the Sheets
Classes for Acting / Improv
ImprovCity in Orange County
Lookup local & legit improv classes wherever you are and take an Improv 101 class!
Celtx is awesome. Totally love free screenwriting software. I only bought Final Draft when I got my first paid screenwriting job and they asked, “Do you have Final Draft?” and I said, “Yes, I certainly of course have Final Draft!” then downloaded it as soon as I got home. Lying is the best.