On Nov. 6, television writer and Rollins alumna Janis Hirsch came to campus and held two events. The first was very small discussion only for students, and the second was a speech and question and answer for the public.
The first event she held was a small talk in Galloway Room for students, called “Just Desserts with Janis Hirsch.” About twenty female students sat in a circle, and Hirsch discussed writing, television, and gender roles in Hollywood. She shared stories about her career, including some of how she handled harassment and gender discrimination. She also talked about advocating for people with disabilities in Hollywood. Hirsch also spoke of her time at Rollins and her involvement with the theater department. She also mentioned how excited she was the Rollins has become more diverse since when she was here.
The second event was held in the evening at Bush Auditorium and was called “Boob Tube: How to be a Woman Writer for Television Without Really Crying.” In this speech Hirsch talked a lot about her path to becoming a television writer. After starting her career in publicity, she handed her first spec script to a group of producers at a party. One of those producers called her a few months later, and she got a six-week gig writing for television. After that, she moved to Los Angeles to start her career as a television writer.
Hirsch also discussed other aspects of the industry, and shared some stories about working in Hollywood. For example, she used to drive a young Sarah Jessica Parker to set every morning while they worked on the same show. She also explained how she thought that outdated industry models sometimes influence the quality of the television we see today. In regard to reality television, writers are often called “editors,” and they either create a story line before the show even starts, or they edit lots of material together to make a storyline that might not have been present in real life.
Hirsch has worked on shows like The Nanny, Will and Grace, My Wife and Kids, and Frasier. She has also worked on the scripts of movies such as 8 Simple Rules. Hirsch’s advice to aspiring writers is to try everything, including volunteering for projects or taking small projects to gain networking and experience. She also compared writing to a “muscle,” meaning that it can get stronger if you exercise it each day.