By Tair Shachar, Contributing Writer
All of NYU Fusion Film Festival’s events relay and support Fusion’s message of gender equality and celebration of women in the industry, and the recent “Take My Wife” Master Class in Comedy Development was no exception. The event was comfortably intimate, with microphones passed between the speakers, and felt like an ongoing conversation between “Take My Wife” series co-creators and stars Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher, head writer and Co-Executive Producer Shauna McGarry, moderators Fusion Faculty Advisor Susan Sandler and Fusion Co-Director Piera Van de Wiel and Associate Director Rachel Lambert, and the audience. The event included a Q&A that preceded the screening of two episodes of “Take My Wife,” Seeso’s new original series, followed by a Master Class with Shauna, who is an alumna of the Fusion Film Festival and NYU Tisch.
The entire afternoon had an underlying theme of the power in creating your own work and writing content for yourself. For women, it’s often a challenge to find characters written by others that speak true to them. As Butcher and Esposito both pointed out, this is especially difficult for queer women and other minorities. “Take My Wife” follows Esposito and Butcher’s relationship, inspired by their real life love and marriage, but it is also about being comics in a mostly male dominated industry and struggling to fully commit your life to your passion even if it isn’t financially stable.
“Characters should not be treated as topics” Esposito said during the talk, “but rather as fully formed, complex characters.”
Butcher spoke about the importance of keeping one’s self open to change while writing and creating. Butcher, who comes from a printmaking background, compared the printmaking process to that of writing comedy.
“Printmaking is about expressing yourself. You come up with an idea, try it out, and recreate it as many times as you can, perfecting it. Printmaking is like telling jokes.”
This openness to change and constant re-creation speaks not only to telling jokes but also to the process of creating “Take My Wife,” which included a great deal of collaboration and rewriting wherein the comics found a balance between their real lives and the TV versions of themselves.
The Q&A culminated with Esposito endorsing Fusion by telling the audience to hire women and continue to attend Fusion events.
After the screening, McGarry held a master class where she shared her career experiences since graduating from Tisch. She talked about saying “yes” to jobs when she was younger that didn’t necessarily reflect the type of work she wanted to make, but that she is still nonetheless grateful for. She told the audience that “you learn when you get to quit.” McGarry was inspired to pursue comedy writing, which she realized was the perfect platform for creating the characters and writing the conversations she felt were important and represented her voice.
“You have a lot more power if you are [creating content] yourself,” McGarry said. It is not simple to get to this point of creative control, but Shauna demonstrates that by being open to job opportunities and making connections as you work your way up in the industry, you too can get from here to there.
Email Tair Shachar at firstname.lastname@example.org.