Taylor Potter (AB ’21) wins Vincent Wasilewski Award from Broadcast Education Association

Learning how to write in a variety of styles has long been a priority for Taylor Potter (AB ’21). She knows it is her path to her dream career.

Potter graduated this year with undergraduate degrees in Entertainment and Media Studies from Grady College and Film Studies from Franklin College. She also completed the interdisciplinary writing certificate and is in Grady College’s Narrative Media Writing MFA graduate program.

The countless hours of writing and editing is the preparation needed for Potter to accomplish the dream of becoming a showrunner for her own television show at NBC.

She is also using her writing skills to pursue scholarships that can help allay the costs of graduate school.

Potter recently won the Vincent Wasilewski Award, which is a $4,000 scholarship, from the Broadcast Education Association (BEA).

“Like every other student, I want to graduate without student loan debt, so I’ve been working really hard to earn the money to pay for grad school either through traditional means like my internship with Focus Features or through scholarships like this one,” Potter said. “Winning a scholarship of this stature makes a remarkable difference in my educational career and allows me to focus more on my work than on my bills.”

The Wasilewski Award required applicants to display superior academic performance and outstanding work in electronic media.

Potter learned of the award when submitting to BEA’s Festival of Media Arts Competition earlier in 2021. Potter and her writing partner Ana Gonzalez won first place in that competition for best television pilot script.

“I’m really proud of Taylor, and it’s cool to see her hard work validated,” said Matthew Evans, EMST assistant professor. “Screenwriting isn’t a sprint—it’s a marathon. And Taylor gets that. She just wants to get better and better. She tackles difficult subject matter, and writes about complex female characters, too—which we need more of. I’m excited to see what Taylor writes at our Low-Residency MFA, and I look forward to following her career in Hollywood.”

Potter credits active involvement in student filmmaking for building her portfolio and network to boost her standing for potential national accolades. She has three pieces of advice for any aspiring filmmakers at UGA looking to carve a similar path.

  • “Make something. It can be a script, a book, a short film. It doesn’t matter. Make it and put all you have into it. You’ll become a better writer/director/producer/etc. and you might even garner some recognition from it later.”
  • “Get to know your professors and vice versa. I cannot tell you how many times I have asked for a letter of recommendation from the same six professors. You don’t have to be buddy-buddy with all of them, but it’s in your best interest to befriend a few and always have them in your corner.”
  • “Lastly, APPLY! Apply to that film festival, that screenplay competition, that scholarship. You can’t get a yes if you tell yourself no.”

Learn more about Potter and her path to filmmaking and graduate school with these previous features from Grady College: #ProfilesOfTenacity (2020) & Grady Intern Diaries (2019).

Four students earn top awards at 2021 BEA Festival of Media Arts

Editor’s Note: Taylor Potter and Ana González are BEA Best of Festival winners. Their television pilot script won out of all first place winners in the student category. They will split the $1,000 prize.

Students in Grady College’s Department of Entertainment and Media Studies  won big at the Broadcast Education Association’s creative competition, Festival of Media Arts. 

Fourth-year students Taylor Potter and Ana González took home first place for original television series pilot script. Second-year student Hyde Healy received an award of excellence in the same category, and fourth-year student Tévon Knight received an award of excellence for a short video.

The BEA is the premiere international academic media organization driving insights, excellence in media production and career advancement for educators and students. The competition receives over 1,500 submissions representing students and faculty from schools around the world.

Potter and González developed their television pilot, “Buyer’s Remorse,” in Professor Matthew Evans’ writing for television course, which was launched last semester. The show depicts the perils of a realtor who, desperate to make a mid-career comeback, resorts to dealing drugs to save her family from foreclosure but becomes the catalyst for her family’s destruction. 

The course’s emphasis on peer collaboration allowed Potter and González to refine their work, and it taught them important lessons on story, character and conflict.

‘“Buyer’s Remorse” seeks to discover the lengths to which a mother and wife would go to save and protect her family at the expense of herself and her career,” they said.

The moment the “Buyer’s Remorse” team learned of their award.
Healy’s pilot script for the show “Command Sandwich” showcases his passion and skill for writing. Healy wrote the pilot before taking classes in the EMST program. His sister Isabella, who studied cinematic arts at the University of Southern California, played an active role in providing feedback for the script’s first draft, Healy said.

“I used my dysfunctional workplace experience in food service as the basis for this pilot. I love comedy, and my dream job is to write comedy professionally, so I thought I’d used the time granted while the world was shut down to write this pilot,” Healy said.

He credits involvement in clubs like The Industry and Sharkwing Sketch Comedy for exposing him to student work and inspiring him to write the pilot. 

Knight also received an award of excellence for his one minute campaign video of Brianna Hayes, a candidate for UGA Student Government Association president in 2020. 

“In the span of about 72 hours, I directed, shot, and edited the project together,” Knight said. “I think this award was a true confidence boost. BEA is not easy to compete in because colleges across the nation send in high-quality pieces.”

One key element Knight took away from his Grady classes is the necessity to devote all of himself to the project in order for it to feel authentic and be effective. The shooting styles and compositions used in the video were techniques he learned in Professor Garland McLaurin’s cinematography class, Knight said.

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Taylor Potter

What does the word “tenacity” mean to you?

You know, I always describe myself as determined, persistent and driven, but I think I’ll start using tenacious more often. I think someone with tenacity is someone who isn’t afraid to fail, so long as they learn how to do better next time; it’s someone who knows exactly what they want and does everything they can to earn it or make it happen; it’s someone who works just as hard for someone else as they would for themself.

Who is your professional hero?

Mindy Kaling is my professional hero. The daughter of immigrants, she started about as far removed from entertainment as you can get. Through hard work and fierce tenacity, she’s become a fantastic writer, actress, and showrunner. Her story really speaks to me because I’m the granddaughter of an immigrant and grew up with zero connections to entertainment. I hope to achieve Mindy’s accomplishment of becoming a successful showrunner!

What is an example of a time you used your studies and skills in a real-world experience (such as an internship or leadership role)?

I’ve used my studies and skills in every single one of my internships! My EMST and film studies roots were integral to my internship with the Peabody Media Center. One particular example is how crucial my teachings in editing were. When COVID-19 necessitated the switch to online classes in the spring, I had to edit an entire video project on my own. It was incredibly challenging, but I learned a lot from that project and am proud of what I created!

What is the last show you binge-watched?

Grace and Frankie! I started less than a week ago, and I’m already almost done with season four.

Potter serves as a marketing and publicity intern with A24, an independent film and television company. (Photo: submitted)
What are you planning to do after graduating?

My goal is to be a television writer and producer and eventually work my way up to be a showrunner. As our current global situation has proven, planning for the immediate future is a bit of a wash. I’m reframing my focus to pursue any development and production-oriented jobs in the entertainment industry that would provide an excellent opportunity to learn transferable skills. I’m always working towards improving myself and my skills as I go after my dream job, even if I have to take a few back roads to get there.

Favorite or unique hobby?

Archery! I may or may not have gotten interested in this after reading the Hunger Games.

What has been the hardest part about adjusting to COVID-19 in your life as a student and future professional?

COVID-19 changed everything! I was set to graduate last summer—a year early—after spending seven weeks studying abroad both at the Cannes Film Festival and in Dublin, Ireland learning about travel writing. While rearranging my life’s plans was a tough pill to swallow at first, I honestly think it’s going to work out for the better. Now, I’ll graduate with two degrees instead of one. By staying in school, I’m still eligible for internships, which allows me to continue gaining relevant industry experience such as my current internship with A24!

Morning person or night owl?

Night owl! Something about the night is way more conducive to my creative work than the mornings.

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

I think this advice was given to me by both Dr. Anne Gilbert and Professor James Biddle: “Taylor, you can’t do all the things.” Anyone who knows me knows that I love to learn and that I love knowing how to do things myself. That’s all fine and dandy, but the thing is, it’s a lot harder to become really good at one thing—say screenwriting—if you’re also trying to do a bunch of other things like producing, cinematography and editing. That’s not to say we can’t do more than one thing in life, but rather that it’s important to specify one’s passion so that you’re better able to focus on it and become really good at it. After all, you need to be really good at what you do in order to make it in entertainment.

What is your proudest moment in the last year?

I completed two remote summer internships and earned an A in my online Classical Mythology class all while nannying my newborn nephew in Ohio this summer.

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

The #ProfilesOfTenacity series–formerly the #GradyGrit–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.