Dorothy Fortenberry – Writer: The 100 and The Handmaids Tale
What advice do you have for college students who are looking to pursue the television industry?
Live a big life. Do weird stuff. Yes, of course, all the other things like watch TV and meet people and network (graciously! don’t send a script to someone who hasn’t offered to read it first) but also make the craziest choices you can reasonably handle. If you can afford it or can get someone else to pay for it, travel. Take jobs based on whether or not they’ll make good stories. After college, I got a grant to live abroad for a year and then worked with a drama troupe composed entirely of senior citizens. I had to buy discount beans, but I learned a ton. And, from a purely practical level, once you’re in the writers’ room, you need to draw on something — and not just other television shows. The more you’ve done in your life, the more you have to say that’s uniquely yours.
Something you wish someone had told you about the industry?
You can work for a year on a project with people who are really excited about you and do a ton of work and have fancy meetings at the Chateau Marmont and go to a lot of lunches and still not get paid.
What is your writing process like?
Tell myself to stop looking at Twitter. Look at Twitter. Turn on Freedom so that it blocks Twitter on my computer. Look at Twitter on my phone. Turn on Freedom so that it blocks the entire internet. Write.
Do you approach writing television differently than you do when writing plays? Which do you find to be more difficult?
They are totally different and difficult in different ways. One of my favorite things about television is the fact that it’s collaborative, so I have a lot more help in all parts of the process. If I get stuck on a TV script, I can ask a lot of smart people for help. With a play, I’m on my own. On the other hand, when I write a play, every single word is mine and can only be re-written by me. And then a lot of it is practice — the easiest one is usually the one that I’ve been doing most recently. But I also miss whichever one I haven’t worked on in a while.
How has your time been so far working on The 100?
It was great, but I’m not on The 100 anymore. I worked on it for the first three seasons, and then I moved to The Handmaid’s Tale for Hulu. The 100 was my first TV staffing job, and I learned so much. I was really lucky to work with the people that I did. So many writers went out of their way to help me figure out how things worked. Like, I had never been on a set before or seen a call sheet or anything.
What is your favorite thing that you’ve written / story you’ve worked on that has made it into an episode?
I loved working on the Octavia/Bellamy flashback in Season 1. We had only seen Bellamy as a bad guy up to that point, and it was a cool opportunity to show how he had grown up and what had made him that way. And for Octavia, it was a chance to see a more innocent side of her in the flashback, while pushing her and Bellamy apart in the present.
What shows made you fall in love with television? What shows are you currently loving?
Absolutely Fabulous. Friday Night Lights. Bunheads. The Wire. Northern Exposure. Murphy Brown.
The Americans. UnReal. Atlanta. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. BoJack Horseman. Insecure. Catastrophe.