Bridget Visser is a talented and multifaceted LA-based writer, and the Filmmatic TV Pilot Awards Season 7 Overall Winner for her amazing half hour sitcom project "The Coven". Some Q&A with this gifted scribe below.
1) How long have you been writing?
All my life in one medium or another. But I’ve been writing screenplays since I was in undergrad.
2) What screenwriting training have you received?
I have a BFA in Dramatic Writing (a mix of screenwriting, playwriting & TV writing) from the Conservatory of Theater Arts & Film at SUNY Purchase College. And I have a MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film & Television. In between Purchase and UCLA I studied and performed improv and sketch at multiple comedy venues/schools in Chicago, including iO, Second City and The Annoyance.
3) How many hours a week do you write? Do you have a day job as well, and how does it influence your writing?
Not as many hours as I want! Since I do have a day job, my ideal writing schedule is 20-30 minutes to an hour a day on weekdays, and a minimum of 2 hours a day on weekends. But obviously, life doesn’t always allow for that. Regardless, I try to do at least a little bit of writing every day, even if it’s just jotting down ideas in my notebook. One good thing about having a day job is that it gives you structure and a schedule – which can be helpful in creating consistent writing habits.
4) What writing habits work for you? Do you write in short or long shifts, at scheduled times?
I like to write in long shifts at scheduled times and I try to block out “writing time” into my weekly schedule. I also really love doing “writing dates” with my writer friends, where we get together at a coffee shop or one of our apartments or even on Zoom and work on our respective projects for a few hours. It’s a great way to keep each other accountable.
5) What genres do you lean towards? Are most of your works TV projects? Comedy?
A lot of my scripts are TV projects, but I am a big cinephile, so I’ve written a few features too. I do tend to lean toward comedy, but I’m also very much a nerd about women’s history, so I have written a few historical drama projects as well. Honestly, I love a lot of genres and I have a lot of random interests, so “staying in one lane” has never been my inclination. Overall though, the through line of my work, whether its comedy, drama, or what have you, is feisty female main characters whose stories subvert expectations.
6) We really loved "The Coven", how would you describe the project to our readers?
The Coven is a sitcom pilot about an uptight conservative Catholic recent college grad who, for financial reasons, moves in with a coven of real, practicing witches.
7) How did you come up with unique premise behind "The Coven"?
When I moved from Chicago to LA, I left behind a wonderful, eclectic group of mostly female (plus a few gay men & non-binary) friends - some of which even practiced a bit of witchcraft. For whatever reason, a lot of the friends I made at first in LA were straight
men and I really missed the energy of that Chicago group. At the same time, I’ve found the recent rise in hate crimes in the US to be extremely disturbing. So, my weird little pilot is my attempt at capturing the love and energy of that group of friends, and at finding a fun way to show how absurd and stupid intolerance is. Plus, I was raised Catholic and went to an all-girl Catholic high school, so I had plenty of material to draw upon there.
8) What are you working on now? What do you plan on writing in the near future?
Right now, I am working on a feature script called The Punk, which is about a bespectacled, metal-mouthed, mousey-haired, painfully shy friendless dweeb, who, inspired by the Riot Grrrls, sets out to recruit the misfit girls in her little high school into a punk band, find her voice via punk-rock-scream-singing and maybe even start her own feminist revolution. Next, I’m torn between two different ideas. First idea: “Sweetheart Killer” a dramedy pilot about a depressed goth girl who thinks she’s found a way out of her mundane existence when she figures out that the nerd sitting next to her in math class is a real vampire, but her plans for a dark eternal life are complicated when she learns he is too shy to talk to girls, let alone turn them into undead creatures of the night. The other idea is: “Girls Who Wear Glasses” a feature screenplay about a group of librarians who stumble into a “The Hangover” style misadventure when they accidentally drop acid at a Library Sciences convention.
9) Where would you like to be writing-wise and career-wise in 4 years?
In four years, I’d love to be working on a TV show as a story editor or a staff writer. Or at the very least repped, regularly pitching my ideas and actively throwing my hat in the ring during staffing season. I’ve been a nonunion freelance screenwriter for a few years already, so I’d love to have a chance to play in the “big leagues” as it were.
10) What show(s) if any would you love to write for and why?
Abbot Elementary: I LOVE a good workplace sitcom (Parks & Rec, Cheers & The Mary Tyler Moore Show are some of my favorites) and Abbott Elementary just nails it. It’s clearly written by people who share my somewhat obsessive love for that genre.
What We Do in the Shadows: Shows/films/book that mix the mundane and macabre really appeal to me, and What We Do in the Shadows does a masterful job of that. Plus, the characters are so well defined and hilarious, I just think it would be a ton of fun to write in their voices.
The Great: I love stories about historical female figures, and The Great has done such a great job of making a black-comedy satire out of Catherine the Great’s story. It’d be a dream to work on something that smart and wickedly funny.
11) Any solid advice for those about to write their first pilot?
Give yourself permission to write a crappy/bad first draft. I teach screenwriting too, and often first-time writers get so hung up on making their first draft “perfect” that they never finish that first draft at all. A painter doesn’t paint fine details first, they start with rough sketches that they then build upon and refine. Push through your self-loathing and just get that first draft done. I promise your second, third, fourth, etc. drafts will be much better.
Congratulations once again to Bridget Visser, our Season 7 Filmmatic TV Pilot Awards Overall Winner. All contact and script requests for Bridget will be forwarded to her attention.