This Member Spotlight interview was conducted by Dina Klein. Dina is our intern at WIFVNE and is a senior studying Visual Media Art at Emerson College. She is originally from Chicago and has had a passion for Film and Television since a young age. She is also an aspiring writer and screenwriter.
Worcester, Massachusetts native Caitlin McCarthy (www.caitlinmccarthy.com) received her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Emerson College. An award-winning screenwriter at international film festivals and labs, Caitlin has written feature screenplays including WONDER DRUG and RESISTANCE. Caitlin is writing/creating the TV series “Free Skate,” named “One To Watch” on WeForShe’s WriteHer List; and partnering on writing/creating the TV series “Pass/Fail” with Jim Forbes (a multiple Emmy, ALMA, AP and Golden Mic award-winning writer, producer, correspondent, and narrator). In addition to screenwriting, Caitlin serves as an English teacher at an urban public high school. Prior to education, she worked in public relations, where she fostered relationships with the press and crafted messages for companies that were delivered worldwide.
Caitlin is represented by Barry Krost of Barry Krost Management (BKM).
How did you get started?
As an MFA student at Emerson College, I envisioned myself becoming a novelist. But a serendipitous meeting with Diane Ayoche, a teacher at Brockton High School, changed the course of my life. We met when I was transitioning out of a career in public relations and participating in a teacher training program. While chatting between classes, I mentioned that I had just finished writing a novel. Diane said, “Oh! I should introduce you to my cousin.” Her cousin turned out to be Oscar-nominated director Matia Karrell! Matia read my unpublished novel and asked if I could turn it into a screenplay. I said yes, even though I had never written one before. I bought Final Draft software and The Screenwriter’s Bible by David Trottier, and then wrote several drafts under Matia’s tutelage. So, thanks to the interest and generosity of two women, I’m now a screenwriter.
Who is one person in the industry you would want to work with?
Ava DuVernay. Is there anything she can’t do? She’s a film director, producer, screenwriter, film marketer, and film distributor. She also champions other artists and speaks tirelessly on the need for inclusion in the entertainment industry. Everyone knows who you mean when you say “Ava.” She is a rock star and role model. I’d love to work with and learn from her.
What is your favorite movie of all time or favorite screenplay?
THE GODFATHER. I love the multiple layers of this film. It’s not just a mafia movie. It’s a story about family, what brings us together and what drives us apart. It also explores the theme of the American Dream turning into the American nightmare. This is a theme that I find myself exploring again and again in my feature and TV scripts. THE GODFATHER is endlessly quotable, and even interjects humor into scenes (“Leave the gun, take the cannoli” is priceless). I would love to write a screenplay that people continue to quote years later.
What can you tell us about your screenplay WONDER DRUG?
WONDER DRUG is a scientific drama that focuses on the DES (diethylstilbestrol) drug disaster. I was inspired to write the script because I am a DES Daughter. My goal was to educate and enlighten audiences about the DES tragedy while also entertaining them. (No one wants a lecture!)
WONDER DRUG was promoted as “Featured Script” on The Black List website in 2018; honored on the 2017 Bitch List; selected as a Semifinalist in the 2017 Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting (one of only 151 entries to advance from the Quarterfinal Round, with 7,102 scripts entered); named winner of the Grand Jury Award for Best Feature Screenplay at the 2018 Richmond International Film & Music Festival; chosen as an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation script for the Hamptons Screenwriters Lab; and provided a live staged reading of select scenes at the Hamptons International Film Festival, sponsored by the Sloan Foundation. I’m hopeful that this screenplay will be produced in the near future.
What has your experience as a woman in the industry been like?
I can’t, and won’t, lie. It’s been a serious challenge at times. But here’s the thing: I’ve always been a writer. That will continue whether my work is produced or not. After one of those “dark nights of the soul,” I made a decision: If I didn’t like the way things were in the entertainment industry, then I’d have to “be the change,” even if that meant risking being labeled a troublemaker.
I participated in the inaugural Women’s Media Summit held in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Together, we brainstormed ways for all women (not just white ones) to get ahead and support each other in the industry. I’ve also banded with likeminded women and men online: in The Black List’s “Go into The Story” writing group; and the Film Brigade’s Writer Accountability (WRAC) initiative. We share information, cheer each other on, and provide words of support during tough times.
Through it all, I keep writing – not just feature screenplays and TV pilots, but essays that have been published in anthologies. I’ve gone out on book tours and connected with audiences in real life and online. I’ve turned myself into a working writer – maybe not in the paid sense, but in terms of working towards a more inclusive future. My words are part of a larger chorus of women and men who are changing the Hollywood narrative. I couldn’t be in better company.
Do you have a mentor?
I’ve been blessed with several mentors. Matia Karrell was my first one. And at various screenwriting labs, I’ve worked under amazing talents such as: Tom Gilroy (THE COLD LANDS); Joshua Marston (MARIA FULL OF GRACE); P.K. Simonds (“Party of Five”); Joy Lusco Kecken (“The Wire”); and Michael Lucker (“Vampire in Brooklyn”).
A truly special mentor is producer Stephen Nemeth, who formed and heads up Rhino Films. He has championed my screenwriting since the 2013 Squaw Valley Screenwriters Conference, but that’s not where we first met. I recently discovered that we had crossed paths decades earlier, at Game 2 of the 1984 NBA Playoffs between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. I was an eighth grader and beyond excited to find Timothy Hutton and (who I presumed to be) Andy Gibb sitting several seats down from me at the old Boston Garden. Before the game started, I approached them for an autograph. Tim kindly signed my program while his friend shared with a smile that he wasn’t Andy Gibb. Flash forward to 2018. Timothy Hutton’s name came up during a conversation with Stephen. I told my Celtics story and soon learned that I had mistaken Stephen for Andy Gibb all those years ago. I was blown away! I clearly remember Stephen treating me with respect back then, which he continues to do now. The industry needs more feminist gentlemen like him.
Were you told or did you learn a piece of wisdom or advice you now tell others in the beginning of their career?
I like to share the advice that I received from Beth Colt, a former Hollywood manager/producer who now owns the Woods Hole Inn with her husband P.K. Simonds. Beth said, “Just keep doing it. Write another spec, submit again. Rinse, repeat. Each one gets better, the cumulative matters. Don’t give up! All the struggle will pay off in the end. Good writing is fueled by life experience.”
Where would you like to go in your work?
I’d love to be a produced feature film and TV writer. And someday, I want to start a production company and develop not just my own work, but other voices. Inclusiveness is important to me. As Ava DuVernay has said, “If your dream only includes you, it’s too small.”
Why are you a member of WIFVNE?
I can’t imagine being a screenwriter in New England and not belonging to it. WIFVNE truly lives up to its mission of supporting the accomplishments of women in film, video, and new media industries. Whenever I get an email from WIFVNE, I pause to read it, as if a friend is sharing cool news or a fun invitation with me. It’s very easy to feel isolated as a woman in the entertainment industry, especially when you don’t live in Los Angeles or New York City. WIFVNE makes me feel less alone.
1. Photo by Anthony Rugnetta
2. Caitlin with actor/director/writer Tom Gilroy and actor Steve Guttenberg at the 15th Annual Hamptons International Film Festival. WONDER DRUG was selected as an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation script for the Hamptons Screenwriters Lab and chosen for a live staged reading of select scenes at the 15th Annual Hamptons International Film Festival, sponsored by the Sloan Foundation. Reading was directed by Tom Gilroy and starred Steve Guttenberg.
3. The Black List created a special poster to promote WONDER DRUG as a “Featured Script” on its website in 2018. Poster credit: Benjamin Finkel.
4. Timothy Hutton autograph from the 1984 NBA World Championship Playoffs.