TV writer offers an insider's view


POSTED: Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fortunately for aspiring writers in Hawaii, “;Mad Men”; writer and producer Maria Jacquemetton loves Oahu and looks for any excuse to return, this time for a two-day seminar with UH-Manoa's Pacific New Media, focusing on how to craft a script and break into television writing.

She and her husband and writing partner, Andre Jacquemetton, bonded with the islands when they worked for a couple of seasons on “;Baywatch Hawaii.”; Since then, they've come back at least once a year with their children.

“;We love it,”; Maria said in a phone conversation from her home in Los Angeles. “;We'd love to bring a show there.”;

Every pitch season, they present series ideas that take place in Hawaii in hope of moving back to Oahu permanently.

Maria's career has included work with major studios, including Paramount, Universal and Sony, as well as independent films. It all began when she received a two-year ABC/Walt Disney Co. Writing Fellowship in the feature film division, which allowed her to learn from mentors and executives at Hollywood Pictures.

“;Billboard Dad,”; the feature film she wrote during the fellowship, was the first one produced from the fellowship, and starred Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. It aired on ABC Family Channel.





        With Maria Jacquemetton — Get Started and Go!:

» When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday


» Where: Krauss 012 (Yukiyoshi Room) at UH Manoa


» Cost: $200


» Information and registration: 956-8400 or visit www.outreach.hawaii.edu/pnm


Maria and Andre, who officially became writing partners in 1998, also have worked on “;Star Trek,”; “;Relic Hunter”; and “;Highlander.”; They've been involved with the Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning show “;Mad Men”; since its inception. In Hawaii, she plans to share some of the challenges that can stretch their days to 15 hours.

The two-day Pacific New Media workshop is designed for writers of all levels. It will provide an overview of the process of television writing, and what it takes to sell a series and keep it going. Students will spend the bulk of the seminar writing their own one-hour or half-hour drama. Therefore, it's important that participants arrive with an idea they want to develop.


“;Students will come out with a clear direction and focus on where to take this,”; she said.

Though she will discuss various ways to break into the marketplace, it is premature for a novice to contact an agent until a script is completed, but she will go over the steps writers should take when they have material to present.

The benefit of her current job is that it allows her to wear several hats, giving her a broader perspective of the business. “;All of the writers on 'Mad Men' get to produce the episodes we write, which is a great opportunity,”; she said.

After collaborating on plot points with the writing team, the individual writer then constructs the script. But as a producer, she also attends all the pre-production meetings, casting calls, hair and makeup sessions and set design discussions. Every detail gets discussed. For instance, if there's a scene in a restaurant, the writer will help decide what kind of food is on the table, and how many extras are present in the background. And when the camera rolls, the writer is on the set to ensure the episode is proceeding in the way he or she intended.

While the show is enjoying a brief hiatus, Maria is using the break to visit Hawaii and give back to the community.

“;Helping someone who has that burning desire to write is tremendously inspiring,”; she said, adding that the environment for writing in and pitching in her seminars is friendly and safe. “;It's kind of selfish, because I do enjoy it so much. It's incredibly invigorating.”;