Spring Showcase Writer #7: Ari Berkowitz

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Ariana (Ari) Berkowitz sent us a short script called “Potty Mouth” that was so strange and smart that we had to take it. We tried to describe it to friends—no, there’s this hot girl like in teen sex comedies, but she’s actually a toilet—and found ourselves devolving into diatribes about the movies Mannequin and Splash. But seriously: why are dudes always falling for inanimate objects and fish? Are there literally NO HUMAN WOMEN they’d find attractive? Anyway, we had to find the right director for her piece, which was going to be difficult, as she needed to intimately understand the push and pull of a very physical screwball comedy. But it turned out that Kat Vondy was the special match—they even worked at the same place and had never met! We’re so excited to unveil this piece from Ari, who told us she most recently wrote an episode of television where a girl fell out of a chair for the USA show Benched.

1. What are the top 3 movies/plays/shows that have inspired you?

Die Hard 

Die Hard with a Vengeance

While You were Sleeping 

2. Did you go to film/theater school? What led you to being a writer or director?

I didn’t go to film school, but I did play a round of MASH that told me I’d be a TV writer. I’m real into fulfilling destinies.

3. Why do you personally want to collaborate with other women through One Axe?

Women’s voices are so underrepresented in our cultural creations and I’m so excited to be part of a group where women are helping women to be heard. The more we represent our own experiences — the more honest and supportive our culture will be.

4. “Where are you going, where have you been?”

The Bar.

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Spring Showcase Writer #6: Melanie Kirschbaum

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When we first heard from Melanie Kirschbaum, we immediately thought, “Goonies never say die.” We have no idea why, but we did. Maybe it’s because Melanie seems like a make-it-work kind of woman. Either way, she presented to us a short called “Smart,” co-written with Alexandra Decas. It was our favorite kind of genre, a timeless pairing of two seemingly opposite women who somehow puzzle-piece into one another and drive each other insane. Kirschbaum works in TV, got her start with Jeff and Jackie Filgo, and now works for Vali Chandrasekaran, for which we are thankful, because we can easily see how her style has developed from some of our favorite comedies. Here are some words of wisdom and some appropriately awesome background infos from Melanie herself.

1. What are 3 top movies/plays/shows that have inspired you?

My top three shows are Will & Grace, Golden Girls, and Broad City. I fall asleep to Golden Girls every night; Blanche Devereaux haunts my dreams. I love comedies with heart that showcase the bonds of friendship, because there’s nothing better (or funnier) than watching characters who love each other give each other shit and have adventures. Speaking of friendship, I can’t even think of broaching the topic of inspiration without mentioning my favorite movie of all time, Beaches. It’s about two best gal pals (one is Bette Midler, a national treasure) and it is beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that I like to infuse a little Beaches into everything I do. Spoiler alert: no one in SMART succumbs to a heart condition.

2. Did you go to film/theater school? What led to you being a writer or director?

I did not go to film/theater school. Where I did go was the University of Pittsburgh, the result of the most serendipitous rejection of my life thus far (there have been many). The University of Maryland said no, Pitt said yes, and off I went to Western PA. I was an English major because I liked to write short stories, though I had no idea how that would translate to adult life. Then one day during my junior year, an LA based manager/producer visited Pitt to give a talk about the industry, he was from Pittsburgh, and little idiot Melanie sitting in the audience raised her hand and asked, “What’s an internship?” It was not a proud moment. But it did lead to him saying, “Come work for me for the summer and find out,” and so I did. One year later, my mom and I embarked on a road tip to deposit me in LA (at one point during our journey I caught her speaking into the lens cap of the video camera thinking it was a microphone), and then several years after that, I got a job working for 2 TV writers, which put me on my way.

All that being said, what ultimately made me a writer is my family. They are hilarious, supportive, and I’m so, so lucky to be in the presence of such strength, wit, and comedic material. Especially my mother, who has the best sense of humor out of everyone.

3. Why do you personally want to collaborate with other women through One Axe?

Since meeting Alexandra Decas and seeing what we’ve created just the two of us, the thought of collaborating with a whole gang of ladies is just so exciting. The relationships women have with one another are just so much better, so much richer and more powerful than the ones men have. Which is a real shame for them, but whatever, they have enough.

4. “Where are you going, where have you been?”

I have been on the bottom. I’d like to be on the top. At the very least on television.

Spring Showcase Writer #5: Alexandra Decas

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Alexandra Decas

Alexandra, along with her writing partner Melanie Kirschbaum, had submitted “Smart” to us with the best log line: “Triggered by a conversation about our national treasure, Elizabeth Smart, two best friends nitpick each other’s life decisions, but ultimately realize that neither has it quite together.” It’s a testament to an expert summation of a script, because we already liked it before we read it.

Alex is a graduate of Boston University’s College of Communication, so she started out working for KNBC’s leading investigative journalist, a production company, a cable network, and, of course, celebrity couple. She then moved over to Eagleheart on Adult Swim and finally to black-ish on ABC.  Originally, “Smart” was a web series she and her partner starred in, but now we get to have it .  She currently works as a writers’ assistant on ABC’s comedy Black-ish. “Smart” was originally a web series she and Melanie starred in together, but we’re very excited to preview the brand-new live production, directed by the expert Tamar Halpern.

1. What are the top 3 movies/plays/shows that have inspired you?

I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but it wasn’t until I saw an episode of the show Six Feet Under in high school that I had any idea how amazing television could be, and I knew right then that THAT was what I wanted to do.  I literally caught the episode about two weeks before I had to choose my colleges to apply to, and I told my parents the next day “Don’t worry guys.  I have it all figured out.  I’m going to be a TV major.”  In case you were wondering, it was Season 3 Episode 6 (“Making Love Work”), and to this day it’s the Cold Open death that haunts me the most.

In the last five years, the show Happy Endings inspired me in that I want to write for a show like that — it’s a smart, single camera, hilarious show.

And in my personal life, I’ve mostly been inspired my My Best Friend’s Wedding.  It’s a friendly reminder to go for what you want early in life, because your bad behavior will not be rewarded favorably later.

2. Did you go to film/theater school? What led you to being a writer or director?

I may have answered some of this question earlier, but I did follow through with my insane proclamation to my parents.  I went to Boston University and majored in film and television.  I took as many television screenwriting classes as possible and upon graduation moved to Los Angeles to do a Post Grad “Writer In Hollywood” program that BU offered.

3. Why do you personally want to collaborate with other women through One Axe?

I love female driven projects.  I’ve never had more fun since I partnered up with Melanie Kirschbaum.  I’ve had nothing but good experiences since I’ve started working in this industry, but there is no denying the feeling that men run this town and sexism exists.  I like the idea of networking with and meeting as many talented and successful women as possible.  Besides, men are garbage! (Kidding…)

4. “Where are you going, where have you been?”

I’ve been working towards where I’m going, and this is a stop along the way!  Makes sense, right?

Casting: 2 female co-leads for a COMEDY

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We are now casting for 2 female co-leads for a COMEDY in our One Axe Spring Industry Showcase.

Auditions will take place on Saturday, FEBRUARY 28, 11am–1pm. Location: West LA. (Plenty of street parking.)

Please send an email to oneaxeplays@gmail.com, including your headshot in jpg, your preferred time slot, the role you’re auditioning for, and full contact information. We will send you the full script, the location address, and the sides you should prepare.

Our Spring Showcase takes place on the evening of March 28, so please do not audition if you cannot commit to that date. Rehearsals are flexible and will be determined by the director. As always, this will not be a time-consuming affair, but you will be working with professional female directors and writers to develop what is hopefully an ongoing relationship.

If this role doesn’t speak to you, we will have exponential casting opportunities in the future for our other showcases, but we would greatly appreciate if you would circulate to any interested parties who would be a good fit.

SMART

Written by Melanie Kirschbaum & Alexandra Decas

Directed by Tamar Halpern

Logline: Triggered by a conversation about our national treasure, Elizabeth Smart, two best friends nitpick each other’s life decisions, but ultimately realize that neither has it quite together.

Character Breakdowns:

Alexandra and Melanie are best friends and roommates, both in their 20s, and have been through a lot together, yet haven’t learned all that much from their experiences.

Alexandra – Slightly more together, slightly, which gives her a douchey air of judgmental superiority. Alex is gluten-free, not due to a gluten intolerance, but because she thinks it makes her interesting. Spoiler alert: it does not.

Melanie – Not particularly informed and therefore misuses Elizabeth Smart’s heroic life to justify her poor choices. Melanie’s claim to fame is continuing to exist after eating a yogurt that was left in the fridge for six years. Quote: “It was delicious.”

Spring Showcase Writer #2: Anastasia Kousakis

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Anastasia’s script for “The Day After the Day After You Were Born” sneaked up on us. For the first few pages, we read it as a solid scene between two disparate people, but we were soon mistaken. With a nuanced approach that hints at an almost science-fiction construction and a focus on two humans thrust together in a tense moment, the story was elevated to a gorgeous reflection on personhood, motherhood, and the future. And did we mention humor? We’re very excited about this piece, which will star Katie Wharton, Nick Rapp, and Rasheda Den’e, directed by the talented Leah Anova.

1. What are the top 3 movies/plays that have inspired you? 

Nowadays I’m more inspired by TV. But, full disclosure, I’ve seen SwingersOffice Space, and Clueless more times than I can count. Shout-outs to Scenes from a Marriage, a handful of Cassavetes filmsand Stephen Belber’s play Tape. I have mixed feelings about watching it now, but it’s hard not to acknowledge the impact of Manhattan, which I’ve also seen countless times.

2. Did you go to film school? What led you to being a writer?

I never went to film school; but I grew up in Los Angeles and Vancouver, and started working in TV in high school. I didn’t start writing seriously until I got to college and took my first fiction workshop. Short stories were my focus for most of college and my early adulthood. I’ve written all kinds of stuff since then, but spend most of my time writing for TV these days–or writing anything but TV when I’m avoiding a new pilot like I’m doing right this very moment.

3. Why do you personally want to collaborate with other women through One Axe?

At work—and, I suspect, other places—people like me are often referred to as “female writers.” The more we do stuff like this, the closer we are to everyone dropping that “female” part.

4. “Where are you going, where have you been?”

Wherever there’s ice cream.