Giving Voice to the Words
A Writer Access Project honoree describes presenting a scene from his original, unproduced pilot to an audience of agents, managers, executives, and casting directors.  

Written by Thomas Wong

(May 9, 2013) 

Photo: Michael Jones
WGAW Writer Access Project drama category honoree Thomas Wong  

On April 30, 2013, the WGAW Diversity Department, SAG-AFTRA National Ethnic Employment Opportunities Committee, SAG-AFTRA EEO & Diversity Department, and CSA Diversity Committee presented an evening of staged readings of scenes from the 2013 WGAW Writer Access Project honorees’ original, unproduced TV pilots. Thomas Wong, a drama category honoree describes the experience of presenting his scene to an audience of agents, managers, executives, and casting directors.  

I’m not a fan of public speaking. Small groups? Sure. A room of 20 or fewer? I guess. A dark auditorium of 200 or so, and me under blinding stage lights? Um...pass. My palms get sweaty. My heart begins to race. And I sometimes lose my voice. Oh, I have no choice? Fabulous. When I was selected to be one of this year’s Writer Access Project honorees, I was thrilled. I had no idea I would have to face this personal terror head-on.

The event was billed snappily enough: Ten writers. Ten short scenes. Ten completely unique voices. As I sat through the final run-through, I was amazed by the variety, range, and deep talent of everything I was watching. These scenes are so good. Then the dread set in. Everyone is going to hate mine. And I had to give a speech. Thank goodness I wore a t-shirt under my fancy, form-fitting tailored number. Pit stains would just be the icing on the cake.

I ran through my prepared words at least a million and four times before the show, desperately trying to get off book. The show’s starting already? Great. Where’s the wine? That’s only for the reception. The hysterical laughter began to bubble up. At least I could try to memorize it during the actual show. The lights dimmed. I clenched my crib sheet in my clammy fist. But I didn’t look at it once.

Even though I had already seen the show in rehearsals, I couldn’t take my eyes off the stage. It was magic. Each scene was so lovingly crafted, I was compelled to watch and admire. Carried by the moment, I didn’t realize I was shaking until I had taken the stage. Despite a trembling hand jostling my scripted notes into worthlessness, I somehow kept a steady tone and smile throughout my speech. I didn’t lose my voice. Probably because this was the moment for me – and all of the honorees – to show our enthusiastic audience filled with prominent members of the industry the voices we so carefully cultivate on the page. If I could write it, I could speak it. So I did. With more than a few off-color jokes. And I couldn’t have been happier with the result.

It was a truly wonderful evening, one of those rare moments where everything comes together and you feel the love. My heart is still racing. In the best way possible.