Youth Spotlight: "Jumbo Shrimp" by Rosibel Villalobos

Rosibel Villalobos,18, and her poignant script for the short film Jumbo Shrimp came to us through Ghetto Film School, an award-winning nonprofit that identifies and educates young talent from local communities and provide them with the access, opportunity, and resources to pursue creative careers.  Ghetto Film School specifically equips students for top universities and careers in the creative industries through two tracks: an introductory education program for high school students and early-career support for alumni and young professionals. 

We were struck by Rosibel's talent and original voice, and not at all surprised to learn that she has been writing her entire life. She has made the transition from short stories to novels to scripts. And this fall, she will continue her journey as a screenwriter and will be attending UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television.

Below is our interview with Rosibel about Jumbo Shrimp and her writing process.

What is this script about? Jumbo Shrimp is the story of Liam, a young boy who pushes himself to grow up too fast in order to help his single mother.

What inspired you to write this story? When I wrote Jumbo Shrimp, I had just gotten back from New York, where I spent two weeks last summer taking a film course. I was thinking a lot about being personal in my work and what that meant for me. I thought a lot about the guilt I felt growing up and the kids that I knew, and so Jumbo Shrimp and its protagonist, Liam, became a vessel for me to express that guilt in a way I never would be able to aloud.

What parts of writing this story did you find particularly challenging and why? When I realized how much I related to what Liam was going through in my script, I suddenly felt like I wanted to stop writing. It was difficult to be so vulnerable and open in my work and to then share that with others. I felt like I was showing everyone an old scar, one that I had hidden for so long, and it was frightening, but also so fulfilling.

What scene or moment are you most proud of in this script? The scene that I’m most proud of is one towards the beginning, where Elara is dropping Liam off at school. Very few words are exchanged by the two, and it’s such an everyday task, dropping your child off at school, but I think that for me it captured who the characters were at their very core. The way Liam takes note of what’s happening around him reflects the shame and guilt he carries with him everywhere, and Elara being late to a job interview, but walking her son to school, is such a small thing that also shows how much she loves him. I think it’s really the little things that count.

When and why did you become interested in writing? Words have always been something that I’ve loved. I’ve always been a writer, it’s a part of me. In elementary school, I’d spend recess writing stories for my friends. In middle school, I’d spend my summers up until 6 a.m. trying to write a novel. My progression into film and screenwriting felt natural.

What makes your voice unique? My experiences make my voice unique. The way I was raised, where I was raised, who I grew up around, the opinions and tastes that I’ve shaped myself—they make me who I am. And the person that I am always seems to sneak her way into the work that I’m producing, even if it isn’t always so obvious.


Youth Spotlight: "Glamor" by Nadjee

Through our Volunteer and Mentorship Program, we pair WGAW members with likeminded organizations that provide writing, filmmaking and literacy services to youth and underserved communities. In our collaborations, it goes without saying that we meet incredible young creatives every day. Nadjee is one of them. We met Nadjee, 23, during a visit with Digital Dove, a filmmaking and youth empowerment program at Covenant House California. During that session, writer Diana Mendez (Rizzoli & Isles, Rosewood) inspired the students to think about the role of conflict in storytelling and using personal experiences to inform their stories. Nadjee opened up about his personal experiences and overcoming the obstacles that led him to the inspiration for his script.

We invited Nadjee to tell us more.

More information about Digital Dove and how to get involved can be found on their Facebook page.

What is the script about?  The screenplay “Glamor” is about two teens coming of age and coming to terms with their feelings in the final week of high school. The lead protagonist and his best friend are LGBTQ with very different personalities, but great chemistry. Running in parallel to their journey of self is a mystical force called glamor, the personal magic of soul and character. As the boys come to terms with who they are, they also come to terms with a spiritual power. 

What inspired you to write this story?  Writing became like therapy to me as the floodgates of my own feelings were coming unhinged during high school, and I needed a creative outlet. I’m very introspective, accommodating spiritual ideas and psychology into my work by creative means. Though it all stays grounded and easily relatable. 

What challenged you most when writing the story?  The most challenging part was finding a direct and simple approach to selling the main points of plot and character development without breaking the SHORT FILM mold. I learned to keep it simple, don’t beat around the bush, and grab peoples’ attention. 

What moment are you most proud of in the script?  The scene I’m most proud of is probably the bedroom scene for its intimacy and vulnerability. Since I didn’t want to add sexual content, this scene cuts right to the point and shows the characters as open and honest. It felt natural to me as I read the action scenes and dialogue aloud. 

When and why did you start writing?  I began writing with a purpose back in 2012 when I started on my first novel, which this screenplay is based on. I started writing to let loose some of the racing energy I had. Many frustrations plagued my mind when I started, and it was sort of like venting. Later, I saw it as a way to redeem my thoughts from the selfish, racy and confused mess they were to something people would be patient with, interested in and try to understand.  

What makes your voice unique?  

My voice is willing to go places I feel many people overlook or ignore. I consider myself a heartful writer with vulnerable, and courageous content. 

Debriefing: Ryan Kemp

As a participant and volunteer in the WGF’s Veterans Writing Project, I discovered that my fellow mentees are a wealth of knowledge. Their experiences and opinions helped (and continue to help) me grow exponentially as a writer. I feel strongly that these vets’ experiences need to be heard and shared with each other at the very least, if not also for posterity. Ideally, I'd like to help found an alumni association to solidify a post-program connection between the vets and the WGF. These interviews, which will be an ongoing blog series called Debriefing, are a good start towards that goal. I first met writer Ryan Kemp a couple of years ago during my yearlong mentorship at the Writers Guild Foundation’s Veterans Writing Project. I was also working as a volunteer for the program, and Ryan was a part of the incoming new track.

I’d like to say I taught him everything he knows, but the truth is, he was miles ahead of me (and most of my fellow mentees) before he even entered the program. Not surprisingly, he’s been up to a lot since then. I interviewed him about being a fellow veteran, writer, and alumnus of the WGF VWP.

Joshua Katz: Let’s start with a little bit about you. Where are you from? And what was your path to becoming a veteran?

Ryan Kemp: It’s a fun story. When I was in high school in Rochester, New York, I wasn’t the best student. My older brother joined the Marines. The recruiter came to pick him up, and as he was leaving, he pointed at me and said, “I’ll be back for him next year.” I [doubted him] because I was the furthest thing from it. Lo and behold, I didn’t really have a lot of ideas [for what to do after graduation]. Financially, college wasn’t an [option]; nobody in my family went to college. I wanted to go, but I also thought I needed structure. I went to the recruiter when I was 17 and my parents had to sign a waiver so I could enlist in 1996. I joined the Reserves, and two weeks after I turned 18, I went to Parris Island. I wish I joined active duty, but I also wouldn’t trade [the experience] I had in college.

J: What was the Reserve experience like?

R: I did about a year of training. It was a lot of fun. I grew up with firearms; my dad had them so [I was around] them at a young age. So, we got to learn how to repair guns.

After finishing Reserve training, I started at Oswego State University, New York. I started my degree in Graphic Design, but I ended up in Communications. Two weeks over the summer I would do combined arms exercises in Fort Knox. We got to work with a lot of different components of the Marine Corps. It was neat to work with so many people from all over the country. It was tough to balance the weekend drills with college; it wasn’t like the commercials. The commercial was like, “This weekend I programmed helicopters, built a bridge, and on Monday, class was a breeze.” That wasn’t my experience.

J: How did being a vet translate into the [path] of becoming a writer?

R: When I came back from Oswego, I started doing stand-up because I just found everything funny—my experiences, boot camp. I was cleaning carpets, waiting tables at Olive Garden, and doing stand-up, so I decided to go for it. I went to grad school at Syracuse, got a masters degree, and moved out to L.A.

I was part of those Marines where if you said, “We have to go dig this ditch,” I would be like, “yeah, let’s go f**king dig this ditch!” A lot of times in L.A. people would say, “okay, we’ve got to build this thing,” and then they would have meetings and talk about it for a while. By the time they were done [talking about it], I’d already be done.

J: That has been my experience [in L.A.] as well. People are amazed that you want to work hard, and when you’re done, you ask, “What’s next?”

R: Yeah, in the Marines, you learn that if someone tells you to do something, you do it. If they have to tell you twice, you f**ked up. Boot camp taught me the mantra I still live by: “It doesn’t matter if you want do it or if you can do it, you just have to do it.” But it wasn’t just that my work ethic was different. I think it takes a certain type of person to join the military. You don’t see a lot of higher-income people in the military.

J: Us being two military gun guys—that’s a special thing. Everybody has their job, and if they do it, the machine works.

R: That’s another thing. We’re all on the same team.

J: How does that translate to the writers’ room?

R: There’s just so much conflict, discussions and meetings on meetings. I’m like, just do it. In the military, if you don’t make the right decision and follow orders, everybody [could] die. It’s great training. I’m working on Rosanne right now, which is great. The writers in this room are great, really smart. They’re down-to-earth and really nice people.

J: Do you agree with the statement: “There’s nothing better than working on a project when you look around the room and you know that everybody in it deserves to be where they are.”

R: Yes, it’s so awesome. I’m grateful [to have] that. The pilot I most recently wrote is the one I started in the WGF program, and it’s about three Marines who split a one-bedroom apartment after they get back from Afghanistan. It’s based on a real situation when I had two of my buddies who were sleeping on my couch for about four months. It was absolutely not sustainable, but it was so much fun. It was therapeutic bonding.

J: I wonder if you can talk a little bit about the WGF Veterans Writing Project. How did you get into it? Had you done any writing stuff before?

R: I came out to L.A., and I did things like The Comedy Store main stage, IO, UCLA extension programs, UCB. I worked on Scrubs for about five years, as a location assistant for about two seasons, a writer’s PA for two seasons, and a writer’s assistant for a season.

J: How did you get into that?

R: Syracuse. I had a buddy who graduated before me working on Scrubs and that’s why I chose the program, because it was good for working out here. I got to work with some really great people. I had the opportunity to shadow [showrunner] Bill Lawrence. He’s a great guy. I ended up on Undateable, which was the same Bill Lawrence camp that I worked with on Scrubs.

As a script coordinator, you get to sit in on director’s notes, executive’s notes, network and studio, casting sessions. You learn so much from the production side, and studio side, and office side. It’s incredible. It’s like a Ph.D. in running a TV show. While I was at Undateable, I found out about the WGF Veterans Writing Project. I asked Bill if he would write a letter of recommendation for me, and he did. The program was so important for the same reasons I said before. It takes a certain type of person to join the military. It’s not about the stuff that happened, it’s about the camaraderie. All these men and women are your family; you rely on everyone. It’s something bigger and better than self-preservation.

J: Yes, [Hollywood] is a very… cynical town.

R: Cynical is a good word for it. I don’t want to offend anyone... but, in the Program, we’re all in this together, and we’re all trying to get into [the industry]. You’re not alone. We’re veterans, and we’re just as capable of doing the job and telling stories as anybody else.

I finished my pilot in the program, and Bill let me write an episode of Undateable. The first thing he said to the writers in the room was: “I’ve known Ryan longer than any of you, and he’s a Marine.” That got me a manager. I sent him the pilot I wrote in the WGF Program, and I got a lot of great reviews. I’m still rewriting it. I couldn’t have gotten where I am now with [the story] without [the WGF Program].

J: What’s next for Ryan Kemp?

R: My web series: Thirtynothing. It’s about regular people trying to be adults. We have six episodes up. It’s [being done by] a bunch of people who have all been working in the industry for the last 10-12 years. We all just want to make our own content. These are people who have edited and produced hundreds of television episodes. I’ve written one, but I’ve script coordinated, like, 200 episodes of TV at this point.

J: What advice would you give to veterans who are trying to get into writing or entertainment?

R: Do your best every day. If anything gets in your way, turn your experiences, good or bad, and make them great and unique.


Joshua Keller Katz is a writer, Navy veteran and actor. He is also an alumnus of the WGF Veterans Writing Project and volunteer for the program. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and IMDb.

BOB'S BURGERS writers Lizzie & Wendy Molyneux at GENRE SMASH!

Earlier this year, the amazing sister/sister duo of Lizzie and Wendy Molyneux joined us for GENRE SMASH! in the NerdMelt Showroom. As it turned out, their parents joined us as well, which is precisely as adorable as it sounds. They were right in the front row, and now we wish all our guests would bring their parents with them. Here's the recording of the event in its entirety.

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The song in this week's podcast is "Marbles" by Russ Chambliss and can be found here.