Superstar screenwriter. Matcha maniac. Intern turned international TV writer. Cat lover. Origin originator. Warwick alumna. These are just some of the phrases that describe English graduate and one of the world’s youngest showrunners, Mika Watkins.
In 2008, Mika swapped her hometown in South Wales for the Midlands when she began her BA in English Literature at Warwick. Fast forward three years, and she graduated with a first-class degree, and the resolve to become a screenwriter.
Her first job in television was at an entertainment company that produced Fresh Meat and Peep Show, where on her last day Mika left a script on the desk of the Head of Comedy that later became her first paid piece of screenwriting. She went from a new graduate with no experience in film and TV, to showrunning – that’s everything from casting to costumes – her own YouTube original sci-fi series, Origin. Mika has gone on to work with Netflix, Sky, the BBC and Amazon, and seen first-hand what it takes to break into the industry as someone starting out with no prior connections. In February, she came home to campus - the place she wrote her very first script - to share her experience and insight with current students.
You can watch the event, hosted by Head of Department Professor Emma Mason, here: Behind the scenes: An evening with a Hollywood screenwriter.
Mika’s top tips:
Firstly, and it sounds incredibly obvious, but if you want to be a writer, you need to write. As much as you can. At the beginning it’s more about quantity than quality. I think I had RSI from all the typing at one point!
I remember writing tons of scripts, sending them to companies, and hearing nothing back. What makes it to the screen comes down to taste and opinion, which are both subjective. It’s important to remember this when you’re pitching ideas and to develop a thick skin.
3There are four routes into the industry: screenwriting, directing, production and development. These all come with a different lifestyle, and they all teach you something different. Screenwriting can be very solitary, whereas production and directing give you the chance to work with people and collaborate. It comes down to personal preference and personality.
Development is the most consistent of the four routes. You can work 9 to 5, all year round. You’ll be sitting at a desk for hours a day reading scripts. Script editing is one of the most useful skills you can develop.
I don’t think you can be highly creative for more than four hours a day, so set dedicated time aside for focused writing.
6You find jobs by word of mouth, so one of the best things you can do is get your name out there and spend time fostering relationships. Send emails, meet people for coffee, ask a friend in the industry to recommend you. Every time a new show comes around, new talent is going to be needed and you want to be at the front of someone’s memory.
Find shows and films that you like and go to the credits to see who’s made them. You can write a spec script (a screenplay you write yourself that hasn’t been commissioned) and use this to approach agents and production companies.
Think ‘what do you like, and what would you watch?’ Everything you do in life you can write about!