Writer’s Corner is a place to get to know outstanding writers, talk about the craft of writing, career advice, share horror stories and find out more about compelling films, television shows, plays, etc. There’s so much great content out there being made by female creators, we should all be keeping an eye on these women.
Today we are featuring Sabrina Almeida
As a little girl in Rio de Janeiro, Sabrina never imagined where her love of math and science would take her. She went to MIT, pursued aerospace engineering, and designed command sequences for NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Sabrina then switched focus, earning an MFA in Cinema-Television from USC while teaching for their Department of Physics & Astronomy. After graduating, she ran a small production company that catered to corporate clients. Sabrina now writes character-driven dramas. She has staffed on Seal Team and on an Untitled Disney+ Drama. In 2019 Sabrina was picked by the WGA as a Writer Access Project Honoree.
Sabrina, it gives me great pleasure to profile another Brazilian writer like myself. Tell us about how you went from living in Rio as a child to attending MIT and working from NASA? What was that journey like? What obstacles got in the way and how did you overcome them? Do you think your childhood in Brazil influences the stories you tell today?
My father’s job brought the family to the United States. When we got here, I didn’t know any English, so I went from reading books in Portuguese to reading picture cards that said “The cat sat.” I was bored out of my mind. However, with math, I didn’t have to take a step backwards in my studies. Naturally, l gravitated towards it, and then by extension science. Years later I ended up at MIT and worked at JPL on the Cassini spacecraft. I think my childhood makes me open to melodrama. In Brazil, soap operas dominate the primetime airwaves. I don’t see melodrama as a lesser form of drama. Whether I choose to write something in a grounded manner or make it a melodrama really depends on the nature of the story I’m trying to tell. My action pieces are grounded. That being said, Hong Kong cinema beautifully mixes action with melodrama, so it can be done.
What lead to you switch careers to film and TV? And why did you decide writing was the best path for you?
I went to film school because of a bad break up. I needed a pick-me-up. Hurray for bad break ups! When I applied to USC, I didn’t choose writing. I was actually in the production track. But I quickly found myself taking a bunch of writing classes. In hindsight, I should have realized from a young age that writing was my path. In high school I dove into creative writing projects with everything I had. Once, when I was supposed to write a four-page scene, I wrote a full-length play. I should have known…
Does your background in aerospace engineering inspire you to tell a certain type of story? Do you feel like any of those skills have served you when writing?
Perhaps because of my science/engineering background, I love to play with structure, reordering scenes, cutting scenes, etc. to make everything come together like a beautiful game of Tetris. I also am the type of person who tracks details. I am aware of logic holes within stories. Logic holes are fine if you’re consciously choosing to leave them in for character reasons or for other story reasons. But it really should be a conscious choice rather than an oversight.
Girls are often not encouraged to pursue careers that require math and science knowledge. What do you have to say to any young girls who would like to follow your footsteps and chose careers in science?
Pursue what excites you, not what you think you’re good at. If math and science fascinate you, don’t worry about how much you know or don’t know. Anything that you’re passionate about you can succeed at, even if it comes in ways you don’t expect.
Congratulations on being picked by the WGA as a Writer Access Project Honoree. Can you tell me about the script that was chosen? What’s it about? What inspired you to write it? Will we be able to see produced soon?
The chosen script is called “Die Spinne.” It’s set in 1950 Spain. An Israeli intelligence officer and an American heiress take over the identity of a presumed-dead high-level Nazi officer and his wife in order to infiltrate “Die Spinne” (The Spider), a secret underground organization which helped thousands of Nazis flee Germany after the war. I was inspired to write it after reading tons of declassified FBI and CIA files while working as an Associate Producer on a reality show called Hunting Hitler.
You’ve been a TV staff writer twice now, how did you get staffed the first time? What were the challenges of being on staff for the first time?
For years I applied to all the network tv writing programs. My fourth year applying I was accepted into the CBS Writers Mentoring Program. Through that program I was introduced to reps and secured representation. My reps sent my material out for staffing season. The end of May was quickly approaching and I had not gotten one meeting. I figured I wasn’t getting staffed. My back-up plan involved once again applying to network programs, which meant writing a new spec episode of an existing show – a requirement that programs had at that time. (Beginning writers can learn so much from specing shows they love. Over the years I’ve speced: The Simpsons, The Mindy Project, Mom, The Good Wife, The Americans, and UnReal.) Just as I was polishing a spec episode of UnReal, I learned I had a meeting for Seal Team the very next day. I stayed up half the night preparing. I ended up landing the job and getting to work with a bunch of great people.
Speaking of challenges, what would you say has been your biggest career challenge so far? How did you overcome it?
I would say my biggest career challenge is trusting myself and my voice. I overcome moments of doubt through meditation. It helps me let go of my insecurities and enjoy the process. Meditation is something I do almost daily, even if it’s just a quick one that lasts a few minutes.
What are you working on now?
Yesterday I just wrapped on an Untitled one-hour drama, which I can’t yet talk about. I always keep myself open to both development and staffing. It’s really about working on stories that I’m passionate about, however they come into my life.
Where can we support you?
What a great question. Look me up on IMDB and watch anything written by me. I love those residual checks!
What’s your website and social media handles?
On twitter I’m @sabrinaDalmeida. I don’t currently have a website. Gasp! Bad, Sabrina!