Friday, February 5, 2016

The Play's The Thing: Interview with WGA Award Nominated Writer of Weight: Daryn Strauss - Includes List of WGA 2016 Nominees

There's an old saying, "The play's the thing." It can't be more true, even in our modern world where anyone with a video camera can produce a video with amazing visual effects.

However, you can have a great bunch of actors,  a great director, great effects and if the words just aren't there, it won't work.

Writing is the seed of a production. Sometime the writer has the concept his or herself, builds a script around it and then shops it around. Other times there's a story in the works, and it's the screenwriter's job to tell the story with pages of dialogue.

Daryn Strauss, creator and writer of the series pilot Weight starring Emmy winner Martha Byrne, was nominated for a 2015 Writer's Guild Award for Weight (for Original Short Form New Media). This is her second nomination, having been nominated in the past for Downsized, a webseries about ordinary people getting, well, "downsized".  Daryn wrote, produced and starred in this. With a dancing background, Daryn is also at ease in front of the camera, looking I may add, a bit like a younger Helen Hunt.
For a complete list of Nominees for WGA Awards 2016 click here:

Director Frederick King Keller and Dayrn Strauss on the set of

Weight was directed by veteran Hollywood director Frederick King Keller (Blue Bloods, CSI, etc.). Also starring in Weight is Alison Smith (Kate and Allie, West Wing) and Bradley White (Mad about You).

Emmy Winner Martha Byrne and Daryn Strauss at NYC Weight premiere
Daryn created and wrote  both of these shows from concept to completion. Weight is the story of a woman who loses weight on a fictional weight loss show (You know the drill) and then struggles to keep it off once she goes back to her true reality, a house full of kids, a husband, and a refrigerator full of ice cream and cupcakes.

I had the pleasure of talking to Daryn about how she was inspired to write Weight, and what she's got so say to others who may have the desire to start their own show:

What gave you the idea for Weight?

I always wanted to do something about people's crazy dysfunctional reactions after someone loses weight. I tried to think of a way for a character to go away, lose a lot of weight, and come back unrecognizable so the reactions are extreme. And then I thought, she goes on a reality weight loss show! 

How did you meet Martha?

I met her a few years back at a Writers Guild East event, and we hit it off right away. I had written this script, and I thought she'd be a wonderful Claire. It's so rare to find an actress that can swing so easily between something hilarious and something heartbreaking. She just gets my writing.  

What shows did you work on previous to WeightDownsized was your own. Tell me about how that show came to be.

I was working as a paralegal at a financial company during the economic crisis and people were acting totally nuts, so I turned it into a dramedy about NY-ers who were all dealing with financial desperation in some way. The fact that Downsized gained such a critical response was totally insane. 

What kind of research did you do before you put the pen to the paper?

I will sometimes do some googling and watch YouTube videos, mostly to help find the voices of the characters and make them all sound like people.

The Cast of Weight with Daryn Strauss
Weight was filmed in LA with Hollywood veteran Frederick King Keller. What was it like working with him? What did you learn from him? Was there any spin/direction that he put on the show that was something you had not thought of?

I adore him! He's awesome and so supportive, and I've learned so much from him! It's really cool when you work with someone at his level, who brings over 200 hours of network television experience to the project and has directed amazingly complicated sequences on shows like "24" and "Blue Bloods", but still just wants the best for you and your career and the project. We just work really well together and trust each other. He's a great director and has become a great friend.

Were you excited about the cast? You've got a lot of veteran performers on the show. 

Yes, they are incredible! I was super excited going in and then lost my mind when we were shooting because they were so good. When actors make what's on the page richer, it's literally the best feeling as a writer.

Tell me about what's going to happen on Weight. Do you have the show mapped out? What kind of surprises will we see? Will there be new characters?

I wrote a show bible that maps out a few seasons. There are a lot of great characters that people haven't seen yet because the online pilot we shot was only 11 minutes, so it pretty much only told the A story, Claire's story. In the series, you meet the ensemble of crazy around her. 

Do you believe it's better to map out a direction for writing or do you think a show should evolve per the reaction of its viewers, which these days with social media is so much easier to gauge than say, 20 years ago. 

It really depends on the show, the audience, and the platform. 

I heard you are working on a new project. Can you tell me about that?

It's a high school dramedy that incorporates social media. That's all I can say! 

What would be your advice to someone who wants to write a webseries or show? Are there certain classes to take, or is life the best lesson?

Decide what your end goal is before starting a project. That's very important in defining the choices you make.

For more on Daryn visit:

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