#ProfilesOfTenacity: Katy Warren

Why did you choose Grady College and the MFA program?

Up until COVID-19, I was on the advertising career track, but I often regretted not committing to the Entertainment and Media Studies major in undergrad. Film and television have always been what I’m most passionate about. Ten different people sent me the article about how UGA was starting an MFA program in film, television and digital media in December 2019. I decided to throw my application in and didn’t think much about it as I started pursuing advertising jobs before graduation.

March came along, and I think we all know what happened after that. I actually received my admittance letter the day that UGA announced that it would be closing for two weeks. Even though that day was incredibly scary and hectic looking at the future, I felt strangely calm. I knew that I needed to trust my gut and, as cheesy as it sounds, follow my dreams and do the program. After all, life is too short to not wake up every day to something you truly care about.

It’s been such a wonderful experience thus far–from the professors, the hands-on experiences and my incredibly talented classmates–and I’m so happy I chose to do it. I feel so lucky to have called The University of Georgia my home for four and a half years now.

Last show or favorite show you’ve binge-watched?

I just finished “Breaking Bad” and can confidently say it’s easily one of the best television series ever made. The story structure, character arcs and writing is phenomenal. I’m now watching “Better Call Saul,” which is a prequel to the series. I’ve binge-watched some other amazing television series this year: “Succession,” “The Queen’s Gambit,” “West Wing,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Watchmen.” They’re all very different, but I can’t recommend them enough!

What does the word “tenacity” mean to you?

Merriam Webster describes “tenacity” as … just kidding! To me, tenacity isn’t just about being determined. It’s more than that. It’s about being fearless in pursuing what sets you apart from the rest or what makes you special. I can’t believe I’m about to say this … but as one of my favorite films, “Ratatouille,” once said, “Anyone can cook, but only the fearless can be great.”

Favorite UGA memory?

I was fortunate enough to attend the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity as a study abroad trip in June 2018. It was so wonderful to be surrounded by so many passionate, inspiring creatives. Getting to hear lectures on yachts in the French Riviera was also a nice touch.

Fun story: We were all assigned papers and were encouraged to reach out to attendees to interview them. I ran into Akon (casual, right), and he was more than happy to answer a few questions about my topic. It’s not every day you get to hang out on stage with Conan O’Brien, but that’s a story for another time.

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about telling people’s stories. At the end of the day, our stories are integral to what makes us human. They’re what bring people together. Everyone has a unique story that deserves to be told, and I want to spend my life making sure that they’re heard by taking noteworthy, artistic visions from page to screen. I hope to inspire and ignite emotions in others, as other artists have done for me.

Favorite quote?

Don’t worry, I won’t quoteRatatouille” for this one. “The world will break your heart ten ways to Sunday, that’s guaranteed. And I can’t begin to explain that – or the craziness inside myself and everybody else, but guess what? Sunday is my favorite day again” -Matthew Quick, “The Silver Linings Playbook”

What is your most memorable experience in the MFA program?

Our cohort took a trip to Trilith Studios, where we’ll be living and taking classes next year. We got to see some incredibly high-tech, film equipment and editing bays. 

It was so surreal seeing the sound stages and knowing that we’ll be living right across the street from them in just a few months! Then came the grand finale: going to Truett’s Luau and having “The King’s Feast.” I recommend the tropical chicken nuggets and frosted pineapple drink if you ever get the chance to go. That day was also special to me because I felt as if I was truly starting to get to know the other members of my cohort. 

Warren (left) is a current MFA student and a UGA alumna (BA ‘20). She hopes to continue exploring both directing and screenwriting in her program and find her next steps within the industry. (Photo: Grady College)
Favorite or unique hobby?

Is podcasting a hobby? Well, it is for me. I started a movie and television podcast with my good friend and fellow Bulldog alumnus, Lee Collier (BBA ‘20), this summer. If you enjoy listening to two people screaming their unsolicited film takes, you should give Six Beers Under a listen!

What is a noteworthy piece of advice you’ve received from an instructor, mentor or family member?

I’ve learned so much from my phenomenal screenwriting professor, Neil Landau, this semester. One lesson that has really stuck with me is that, “Vulnerability is a strength. It shows empathy. Vulnerability brings us closer.” Before, I always thought of vulnerability as a flaw. Now, I believe that learning to gracefully accept and own one’s vulnerability is one of the bravest things that we can do.

Favorite Athens restaurant?

In a perfect world, I would start my day at Mama’s Boy with an iced coffee, banana bread for the table–it’s a game changer–and a chicken biscuit. After years of searching, this is a top-three biscuit for me! For lunch, it’s time to head to Cali n’ Titos for the Lumpkin Lunch Special: the chicken Cubano milanesa with extra pink sauce. The grand finale for dinner is … drumroll please … Trappeze Pub! I’m incredibly loyal to their turkey and swiss sandwich with fries and raspberry ketchup. At this point, I definitely didn’t leave room for dessert, but a Cook Out milkshake would suffice if needed.

Editor’s Note: Some of the above answers have been edited for length and/or clarity. 

The #ProfilesOfTenacity series is a set of student features highlighting the strength, determination and leadership of students in Grady College. Stay tuned to see how #ProfilesofTenacity evolve in the future.

Inaugural class of MFA students graduate from Grady College

The final chapter was written August 5 as the inaugural class of MFA students at Grady College was recognized in convocation ceremonies.

The fourteen graduating students completed two years of the new narrative media writing program in a low-residency format. Five students graduated from the screenwriting track and nine students graduated from the narrative non-fiction writing track.

“It’s amazing to see the fruits of our effort that began in 2009 in an idea that Valerie Boyd presented me,” said Jeff Springston, associate dean of graduate studies and research. “Nate Kohn quickly added to that idea, and though the road of establishing the degree was not always easy, the results have been spectacular.”

There was a lot of love and affection shown for the program’s directors and mentors. The directors included Valerie Boyd, who led the narrative non-fiction program, and Nate Kohn, who directed the screenwriting track.

“Valerie, when you look out at all of us, I hope you know that your legacy is and will always be strong,” said graduate student Rosalind Bentley at the convocation.

Pete Stone, who graduated from the screenwriting program, expressed appreciation on behalf of the students in his track.  “This is our passion,” Stone said. “This is what wakes us up and gets us through everything else we do. This is why we are here and to find that is just great. I am so happy to find a program that allows that, and I really do thank Dr. Kohn for allowing that to happen.”

MFA graduates from the narrative non-fiction program show appreciation to their families for their support.

Stone and Bentley also praised the vital role of the mentors, the community bond formed among the students and the networking that was created from the special speakers who were invited to speak during the program.

The convocation program included insights from keynote speakers Thomas French, who is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and Jeffrey Stepakoff, a screenwriter and executive director of the Georgia Film Academy.

French encouraged the students to accept the humbling task of chronicling stories. Stepakoff spoke of the burgeoning film and television market in Georgia and his desire to foster writer’s groups in the state that would in turn keep graduates from the MFA program in the state of Georgia.

Benjamin Bolger, another graduate of the screenwriting track added, “Georgia and Atlanta are exciting places for people who want to be in the entertainment and movie business. I can’t think of a better program that is situated to accelerate people’s careers in a very focused direction.”

A clear majority of the students and instructors commented about how the program delivered more than they expected.

“These are stories the world needs to hear,” commented Kohn as he recognized the graduates. “They have exceeded my expectations in every way.”

MFA graduate Benjamin Bolger (right) is congratulated by his mentor, Ramin Serry.

Boyd spoke of the “great enthusiasm, great respect and great love” she had for each of her graduates who filled her with “enormous pride and unbridled joy.”

For narrative non-fiction graduate Andre Gallant, the biggest reward of the MFA program was an in-depth study of the field he loves. “I hoped,

and I think everybody hopes, that the program helps them establish a writing life, a writing practice. It’s kind of hard in our busy lives to treat writing not just as a job but as an art form, as a craft, something we work at and improve. This gives us the first steps to do that.”

Bolger, who has a doctorate from Harvard University and studied at the University of Oxford in Cambridge, concluded that the MFA program compares with other programs he has experienced. “I can honestly say that the University of Georgia, and this program in particular, was really a world-class experience that rivals some of the best competitors that exist. I’m delighted that I was able to participate in this great program.”

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