Producer and alumnus Josh Shader shares tips with aspiring Northwestern writers

May 04, 2010

Radio/television/film alumnus Josh Shader (C99) returned to campus April 20 to share with School of Communication students his experiences as a producer and writer in Hollywood.

Shader's production credits include American Wedding, My Best Friend's Girl starring Kate Hudson and Dane Cook, and the soon-to- be-released Mardi Gras.

Shader hosted a question and answer session with SoC undergraduates and later led a class with second-year students in the MFA program for writing for the screen and stage in the radio/television/film department.

Finding his first job out of college through another Northwestern graduate, Shader said, "You don't need to know the big and powerful people. It's your contemporaries who will help you along."  Shader worked his way through assistant positions, before securing a writing position and eventually becoming a junior executive. He urged the students to collaborate with people they like to be around, as the writing process can be draining and difficult.

Shader stressed that a writer's "voice" is key. "I don't care if someone knows how to structure a script," he said. "That can be taught." Getting and maintaining tone throughout a script is essential, Shader said.

In addition to sharing stories from his own career and offering writing career advice, Shader listened to a few student project pitches and offered feedback on how to improve those pitches.

"I found Josh Shader's visit to be very helpful and insightful," said MFA student Stephanie Kornick. "It was also refreshing to meet such a down-to-earth producer who truly values the writer-producer relationship. Josh's advice and industry experience was not only useful, but also very inspiring.  From his discussion, I learned more about the art of pitching and the process and politics involved in taking a script to the big screen."

Radio/television/film assistant professor Rebecca Gilman called Shader's visit invaluable. "There's no substitute for having someone with his level of success give feedback and advice to the students," Gilman said. "I'm always amazed and delighted by how generous and helpful our alumni can be."

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