by Jennifer Starkey
From blogs to television shows, Jessica Butler (Media Communications ’04) is making an impact in Hollywood and using her talents to entertain and educate. She recently received one of five Webster University Alumni Awards. The awards are given to graduates who have made an impact at Webster, their careers and the world.
Butler has certainly made an impact in Hollywood. For years, Hollywood University, the website she created, has served as a forum for aspiring screenwriters offering advice on breaking in, making connections and relocation to Los Angeles.
“I found myself typing up and emailing the same advice over and over. It was clear that aspiring writers had questions that weren’t being answered by their professors,” said Butler.
Butler certainly has the experience to give new grads advice. After moving to Los Angeles in 2005, she landed a PA position on According to Jim. Later she was hired as assistant to the executive producers of USA Network’s, In Plain Sight and was promoted to staff writer the second season. She serves as co-creator and Supervising Producer on Nick Mom’s, Instant Mom, starring Tia Mowry. She also works as a staff writer on The Last Ship on TNT.
“I always tell people that as a TV writer, you’re also a producer,” said Butler. “It’s different on film, but in TV, each writer oversees the production of his or her episode, so every single writer is also a producer, even if it’s not part of their title.”
“The job of a staff writer, supervising producer or co-executive producer is the same — you write the show,” says Butler. “Day to day, we sit around a conference table and break each episode. We come up with the general story structure as a group, then one or two writers go off and write the outline and script.”
Butler said that her writing workshop courses at Webster were helpful.
“They taught me how to take and give notes gracefully,” she said “I also took a lot of law classes. As a writer, it’s important to educate yourself on topics other than writing, otherwise you end up writing about writing and there’s nothing more boring than that.”
Instant Mom airs on Nick at Nite on Sunday evenings.
The Last Ship will air on TNT in the Summer of 2014.