Alex Smith is a member of Cohort II
I always wanted to be a writer. I knew from an early age that imagination and creativity were special to me. If I wasn’t lost in a book, I was off wandering around a world that only existed in my head. I couldn’t even play with Legos without creating a whole narrative and background for the little lego people. Yeah, I was weird, but whatever, that was me.
And it stuck with me. I kept reading and writing and by the time I finished my first semester at the University of Vermont I had declared myself an English major. I rounded out my education by studying Sociology and Film Studies. Despite being a film minor, I just loved watching movies and critically engaging with the stories being told. I still hadn’t given much thought to actually writing for the screen. Instead I kept working on short stories and was always plotting out that next Great American Novel I knew I was destined to write.
At the beginning of my senior year, I realized I would have to stop asking myself “What am I going to do Friday night?” and start asking “What am I going to do with my life?” Whoa! But before the existential panic could set in, I found myself surrounded by good beer and better friends and, well, one thing led to another and we started a sketch comedy show.
It would’ve been easy to just write some scripts and pass them along to people that actually could act or had more experience with cameras or knew Final Cut but I’m glad we didn’t do that. Instead we became The Debonaires, three eccentric billionaires with a twisted sense of humor. We wrote, filmed, acted in, edited, and promoted the sketch series for the student run UVMtv. It aired on all televisions on campus and even found some moderate success on the web. It was a huge thrill to be involved with every aspect of the production process and bring my scripts to life.
That Spring, with graduation looming, I still didn’t really have a plan. I figured I’d grab my keyboard and my notebooks and just start heading West. Then, Norman Steinberg came to UVM to talk to film students about the TVWS. I first saw Blazing Saddles when I was a freshman in highschool and there really isn’t another movie like it. It changed everything. As a 21 year old kid in 2011, Blazing Saddles and Mel Brooks just existed on another level. Yeah I wanted to head West but I really had no idea what would be out there. Hollywood, too, was just an idea to me. And yet, here was someone that helped write a classic movie and the message he had for us was “You can do it too.” All of a sudden, I realized that the television and film industries are very real. Actors and actresses you can barely imagine meeting in real life are waiting to read the words that you write. I applied to the TVWS and it has been an adventure.
I’ve learned so much being here in Brooklyn, working at television networks and production companies alike, and spending time with a great group of talented writers. Now, just maybe, I’m ready to start the journey out West.