Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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‘A writing space for all:’ New NU screenwriting club CoPilot strives for inclusivity

Daily file photo by Allie Goulding
Annie May Swift Hall, home to NU’s radio, television and film program. Student organization CoPilot provides students with real-world screenwriting experience.

Each fall, students squeeze between tables at the first Student Organization Fair of the year, listening to pitches from Northwestern’s prestigious clubs with claims of famous alumni and decades of history. 

However, sitting at booths hidden between pre-professional organizations and clubs with double-digit anniversaries, newer student groups can go unnoticed.

This fall, one of those new student organizations was CoPilot — a mock TV writers room beginning their second quarter on campus. Communication sophomore and CoPilot co-captain Jackson Heller said member retention has been a challenge for the club. 

“A lot of these clubs and organizations are mainstays, and they’ve been around for so long,” Heller said. “We’re really like the new kid on the block, and it’s difficult to get people to come, but we believe that we have the structure. All we need to do is find that consistency.”

Each meeting, head writers lead club members in fleshing out two original TV series. They brainstorm characters, outline plots and write pilot episodes. 

This quarter, the club has split into two writers rooms, with one drafting a science fiction mockumentary and the other writing an apocalyptic dramedy. 

“People are coming up with their own TV shows as a team, and it simulates the industry, how entire writers rooms come up with stories for episodes and arcs,” said CoPilot co-captain and Communication junior Efren Ponce.

CoPilot head writer and Communication junior Karice Smith said CoPilot — a barrier-free space for anyone interested in screenwriting — is a platform for exchanging ideas because writers rooms are simply about “making a show that everybody wants to be a part of.”

This environment allows the club to attract radio, television and film students with professional interest in screenwriting, in addition to students of other majors.

“It’s not like you have to be the best at this or you have to know the most about screenwriting,” Smith said. “You just have to come with an idea and the willingness to collaborate, and you’ll have fun.” 

Weinberg sophomore Charlie Sernovitz is currently a head writer for CoPilot. Prior to joining the club, he had no experience in screenwriting, he said. 

Sernovitz said his positive experiences with the organization led him to take RTVF 260: Foundations of Screenwriting.

“Over time, I’ve gotten more into it, and I did find that screenwriting is a good creative outlet,” Sernovitz said. “I’m enjoying it a lot, and it’s a really cool community to be part of, even though I’m not in the major.”

He added the community has gotten closer and he has had to do less “pushing and prodding” to get writers to bond with one another. While irregular attendance has been an issue, Sernovitz said the people who stay in the club get to know each other well.

CoPilot leadership said they remain committed to expanding the club’s inclusive message by planning adjustments to meeting structures and club policies, hoping to appeal to a wider audience. 

Heller said it has been rewarding to be part of the organization despite the difficulties.

“In signing up for an organization, you sign up for something that you want to share with the Northwestern community,” Heller said. “In our case, a writing space for all and a way to engage with a love for television.” 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @hannahe_webster

Email: [email protected] 

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