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 Eve Weston
Eve Weston believes in storytelling as a force for positive change. She is writer/director of the first immersive 360/VR sitcom, which was recently one of six finalists for the Auggie Award at the 10th annual Augmented World Expo. The show features actors from Marvel’s Legion, FX’s The Bridge and YouTube’s Emmy-nominated Epic Rap Battles of History. Weston’s VR art has shown at galleries in LA, Miami and NYC and at Disney Concert Hall as a prelude to LA Phil’s Yoko Ono Tribute Concert. She is adjunct professor of VR filmmaking at Emerson College LA. Her speaking engagements as a VR storytelling expert include the National Conference of Science Writers’ in Washington, DC, Samsung’s Harman University, Stanford’s Brown Institute of Media Innovation, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences of Emmy’s fame, and Silicon Valley’s Augmented World Expo.
Weston is writer of the Austin Film Festival-lauded feature Miss Princeton and honed her comedic abilities writing jokes on Will & Grace and Better Off Ted. She’s since written television episodes for ABC’s Better With You, Disney XD’s Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja, and Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place, where she also wrote and choreographed the song “Funky Hat Dance,” which became a YouTube sensation with more than a million views and girls internationally uploading videos of themselves and their best friend doing the dance. Weston developed a musical web series for AwesomenessTV and wrote the multi-cam pilot The Fast Track for ABC Family.
Weston is also an award-winning journalist, having written about VR for Ms. Magazine and The New York Post. She currently has three articles on VR slated to be published by peer-reviewed books and journals in 2019. She is a team player, working well with others whether it’s in the pool playing water polo or on stage doing improv. She earned her MFA in screenwriting from USC and her BA in classics cum laude from Princeton. Weston is also a Goldman Sachs alumna, honored to have had both a deal written up in The Wall Street Journal and a joke praised in The New York Times.
Eve, tell us how you got into creating VR content.
At my college Reunion a couple of years ago, a classmate was deciding whether to accept an assignment heading up a VR engineering group. While explaining this quandary, he explained virtual reality to me. It sounded like an amazing platform for storytelling. I was instantly inspired and eager to learn more.
What do you like about that style of storytelling? What are the challenges of creating VR?
One of my favorite challenges of immersive storytelling is also one of the things I like best about it: you get to put the viewer IN the story.
Tell us more about your VR sitcom. What’s it about? Where can we see it? What inspired you to make it?
Sure! Imagine if instead of just watching the TV show Friends or The Office, you could be in it, sitting on a couch in Central Perk or at a desk next to Jim. Well, that’s the experience of The BizNest. It is the world’s first 360/VR immersive sitcom, and it is set in a co-working space where YOU, the viewer, are a member, surrounded by freelancers and entrepreneurs who are working, socializing, flirting, antagonizing, and navigating the modern work-life balancing act. You can see the show inside a VR headset — for the latest details on which apps and platforms are screening it, sign up at JoinTheBizNest.Com. And if you want a sneak peek, head over to www.exelauno.co where you can view a trailer for the series. Also, if you’re curious to learn more about the process of making it, a case study on the series will be published in the forthcoming book Global Immersive Media, edited by Jacki Morie, PhD and Kate McCallum. As for what inspired me to make it… well, after seeing how cool and powerful VR was, I was inspired to make something that I would want to watch in this immersive medium. At that time, there wasn’t much narrative. And, in the TV and film world, narrative comedy was my specialty. Once I had the idea for the show, it was a natural progression.
You are also a director and a performer. Can you talk about what it’s like to be a multi-hyphenate? What are the challenges and joys that come with wearing multiple hats in this industry?
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed expanding my skill set. Every new role I take on gives me perspective on the others and ultimately makes me better; directing and acting make me a stronger writer and vice versa. Wearing many hats at once can be challenging. But it also presents opportunities. One of my favorite scenes as a director in The BizNest came about as a result of using my writing and directing abilities to solve a producing problem. The office we were originally supposed to film a scene in suddenly became unavailable. Instead of working to solve it purely as a producer, by rescheduling or renegotiating, I wondered if we might be able to direct the scene differently and use a space we would still have access to. It required a little rewriting but presented great comedic opportunities. As it turns out, the original office again became available at the last minute, but I opted not to use it. The scene was stronger and funnier in its new form.
Let’s talk about your TV writing experience. Do you have a favorite TV episode that you wrote and why? How about a least favorite. You don’t need to name the show or the episode, but others might benefit from hearing about your experience.
I’m proud of my contributions to Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place. In addition to writing a magical-yet-relatable episode that was inspired by my own experience with my siblings, I wrote and choreographed something called the “Funky Hat Dance” that first appeared in an episode and then went viral on YouTube. Girls internationally uploaded videos of themselves and their best friends doing the dance. Still, today I’ll meet fans of the show who perform the dance for me. It’s really gratifying to know that I successfully tapped into something true to the teenage experience and contributed something to the everyday lives and friendships of millions of girls worldwide.
What have you learned about yourself or your craft from becoming a professor? Any fun or inspiring anecdotes about life in the classroom?
Sometimes when you have to explain something to others, you learn something yourself. In preparing a lesson for my class, I realized there was a lack of vocabulary to discuss point of view in the immersive medium of virtual reality. What started as me coining some words for my lecture ultimately grew into a proposed taxonomy for the industry, which then was the topic of a talk I gave at the Augmented World Expo in Silicon Valley this past spring and will also be the lecture I give at Stanford University later this month.
What keeps you going when you’re feeling uninspired to write? Do you have any tricks to get the creative juices flowing?
If I get stuck, it’s usually because I’m not writing the right thing. Maybe that means it’s not the right project for me at that time, maybe that means it’s not the right approach. I used to double down and force myself to power through. Now, I back off. I go for a walk or a swim and let myself think generally about what my objective is. Taking a break to do something unrelated can also be helpful and allow me to return to the problem with a fresh perspective.
What are you working on now?
Right now, there are a couple of movie projects I’m working on, a book project, and some new 360VR collaborations I’m excited about.
Where can we support you? Buy your stuff, see your films and shows?
Aww, thank you for your support! Signing up for the mailing list at JoinTheBizNest.Com or Exelauno.Co is the best way to hear about upcoming opportunities to show support. If you’re more interested in traditional media, follow me on Twitter or Instagram. Some fans of my work have encouraged me to consider Patreon; if you’re reading this and would be interested in being a patron, send me a note via email or social media and let me know so I can keep you in the loop.