Wellesley in Entertainment, an alumni group based in Los Angeles, announced the results of its annual screenwriting competition for current students in February of this year. Ayla Kurdak ’23 came in first place for her script “Daisy in the Undergrowth,” and Corvin Kevlihan ’23 received an honorable mention for his script “Drive Me Mad.” As part of the awards package, Kurdak will attend Zoom meetings with industry professionals, such as film and television writers, producers and executives. The competition is judged by a group of Wellesley alums working in entertainment and is in its seventh year.
Lynn Sternberger ’07, screenwriter and co-founder of Wellesley in Entertainment, said that the purpose of the screenwriting competition is to forge connections between current students interested in screenwriting and alums in the entertainment industry.
“Having the [submission] deadline would inspire and encourage students to have a tangible goal to work toward their writing projects. … People who do submit receive some sort of feedback, and it’s meant to be encouraging and constructive. … The goal is to … make introductions and start to help them build a community around themselves of not just Wellesley alums, but other professionals in the industry,” Sternberger said.
Katie Barsotti ’15, an LA-based writer, said that Wellesley in Entertainment was founded partially to fill a gap in screenwriting education at Wellesley College, although the group supports alums working in all roles within the entertainment industry. While the group is focused on alums because it is easier to connect with people based in LA, current students are welcome to join the Facebook group to make connections with alums, who are always excited to mentor current students.
“Anyone can teach themselves how to write. … We were seeing people coming out of Wellesley without the practical knowledge to do well in the industry, and we felt like going to a women’s college, and Wellesley in particular, makes you uniquely positioned to help change the industry for the better,” said Barsotti. “And so we were like, let’s give our alums a fighting chance in the industry instead of floating around in the ether and not connecting with one another.”
Kurdak said that she wrote her winning script, which was the first script she’s ever written, while taking the course Writing for Television in the fall of 2022. She was inspired by her love for kids shows such as “Over the Garden Wall,” which she believes are less cynical than television intended for adult audiences.
“It’s the pilot episode of a kid’s cartoon about a girl who gets her first period. And then she and her best friend … end up wandering in these fantastical woods and getting lost there and meeting a bunch of strange bugs,” Kurdak said.
Kevlihan said that he started working on his script in Feb. 2022, inspired by his friend’s interest in Formula One racing. The script he submitted is a romantic comedy about queer racecar drivers, but Kevlihan has been exploring his interest in screenwriting outside the competition since he first arrived at Wellesley, inspired by his experience in a class he took in the fall of 2019, The Art of Screenwriting. In the theatre department, he receives hands-on experience through writing and directing.
“My imagery has always been super visual,” said Kevlihan. “Other people have described my short stories as kind of cinematic. Working with visual images to tell the story is such an interesting challenge with screenwriting.”
While Kurdak is a computer science major, she said she is planning to spend next year focusing on her writing to see if she is interested in pursuing a career in the entertainment industry.
Kevlihan said that he plans to relocate to LA post-graduation to pursue a career in screenwriting.
“I love writing collaboratively, and TV writing is like a whole writers room full of people working together,” said Kevlihan. “It would be awesome. That’s, like, the dream. I’d love to see some of my scripts made into movies too.”
When asked about what advice they would give to aspiring screenwriters currently attending Wellesley, Barsotti and Sternberger gave similar advice: to constantly work on improving your writing through practice. Sternberger urged aspiring writers to “seek community and feedback” and to “build a life full of people that you want in it professionally and personally.”
“It’s about giving and receiving creatively. … You will benefit immensely from the input of others. … You don’t have to come to Hollywood right away,” said Sternberger. “You can live life, and you can go do a lot of other things, and you will become a more rich contributor to any writing space you end up in for having done those things. The only thing you have to keep doing is writing on the side.”