In their second year of study, students in New York Film Academy’s MFA Screenwriting program choose to write either a feature film or a television pilot for their thesis project. While every student hopes to launch their career with a great writing sample, recent graduate Angela Ruhinda (Jan 2011 Screenwriting) took it one step further. Last week, Angela’s thesis pilot, Iman & Andy, sold to ABC with Whoopi Goldberg and Ben Silverman attached as producers.
The sitcom is about an interracial couple who are forced to team up on a relationship advice vlog, with their whole office and millions of viewers following their relationship.
NYFA Associate Screenwriting Chair, Adam Moore caught up with Angela, who is back home in her native Tanzania at the moment, to ask her about the experience.
Where did the idea for ‘Iman & Andy’ come from?
Iman & Andy was an idea I came up with during my second and final year at NYFA. I chose the TV option for my thesis because I’ve always wanted to create my own sitcom. I love romantic comedies but it’s not very often that you see a really good one on television anymore. I wanted a really fun couple that people could relate to. I was a big fan of the show ‘Dharma & Greg’ and love the Yin and Yang dynamic of their relationship. I wanted to update the concept by making them inter-racial and involving social media. The main statement I want to make is that dating in the social media age is awkward, crazy and stressful no matter what color you are.
How did the script get from your thesis workshop to Electus?
I entered the Storyboard TV screenwriting contest in October 2012 and became a finalist by January 2013. I lost the competition by just a few votes but Amanda Krentzman, one of the judges on the panel who happens to work at Electus Productions, loved my script so much she contacted me after the contest was over and expressed interest in selling it to a major network.
Did the script change from your thesis draft to the one that eventually sold?
I sat down with Electus…and I just talked to them about season arcs and characters. They already understood the concept. Pitch workshop [part of Business of Screenwriting 3, a second-year screenwriting course taught by Adam Moore] did help me with my nerves in the room. I was able to speak clearly about my ideas and charm the crap out of them. Electus gave me a few notes on characters and one or two scenes before we decided to send out the script to networks. Thankfully, I only did two re-writes and ABC liked the concept and script enough to buy it as soon as they read it.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to current students?
Don’t knock screenwriting competitions! They can change your life and kickstart your career!
How excited are you right now?
They haven’t created a word yet that describes how I’m feeling!
Well, there is a word for how we at NYFA are feeling – PROUD. Speaking about their former student, Thesis Advisor Jerry Shandy and Thesis Instructor Eric Nelson had this to say:
We’re proud of Angela because she worked really hard on this pilot in Thesis Workshop class. With her workshop mates’ support, she continued to develop her idea, writing and rewriting until it was singing. That’s what we strive to do in screenwriting workshop classes here at NYFA: take a good idea and refine it until it’s a piece of material the writer is proud to take out into the world.