Writers Breaking In: From Assistant to Episode
Time & Location
About the Event
Join us for a panel of Tisch alumni TV writers discussing the assistant track as a path to breaking in. Our panelists have worked as assistants to Literary Agents, Showrunners, Writers' Rooms, and Studio Execs. Now they're sharing the lessons they have learned along the way and how they have leveraged their experience as assistants to improve their craft and careers.
Panel: Justin Bonilla, Kyle Cords, Danielle DiPaolo, Kimba Henderson, and Kristina Woo.
Moderator: Jo Rochelle
Justin Bonilla (Panelist) Born in Brooklyn, raised in Queens and educated in Manhattan, Justin is an unapologetic creature of New York City. He received a B.F.A. in Film & TV at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, where he also minored in Gender & Sexuality Studies. After NYU, his thesis short film Con Quién Andas made its world premiere at the 2014 Miami Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival. In 2017, his short film Rabbit Hole: Stupid Ass Witch premiered at the Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival. Justin’s TV pilot NO ONE LIVES HERE was recently presented at the 2019 Tisch OTHER Showcase, for which he was mentored by Glen Mazzara (The Shield, The Walking Dead.) A traitor to the city that shaped him, Justin now resides in Los Angeles where he began his TV career as an assistant to TV writer and playwright Annie Weisman (Desperate Housewives, About A Boy, The Path) for her overall deal at Universal TV. After a couple of years in development, she promoted him to Writers’ Assistant on her first show FOX’s Almost Family, executive produced by Jason Katims (Friday Night Lights, Parenthood.) Justin recently completed his second stint as a Writers’ Assistant on Annie Weisman’s newest series PHYSICAL for Apple TV+. He has since been given the incredible opportunity to write an episode for the series, his first official TV writing credit.
Kyle Cords (Panelist) is an LA-based writer and producer who attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and won their Hour-Long Writer of the Year Award. Since being in LA, Kyle has assisted creators like Damon Lindelof and Sam Esmail. In 2019, Kyle's feature script, Dream, was featured on The Hit List. He is currently writing and producing a soon to be announced podcast series. Kyle is also the founder of The Orphanage Collective, a reimagining of management by creatives, for creatives.
Danielle DiPaolo (Panelist) is a TV writer from Toronto, Canada. Alum of McGill University and NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Danielle did her post-post graduate work at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. Her work has been performed at the New York Comedy Festival, SketchFest NYC, and several dive bars that would fail a fire inspection. Danielle has received head pats and tummy scratches from various writing competitions including the Sundance Episodics Labs, Final Draft Big Break, and Austin Film Festival. Her half-hour gymnastics drama pilot DOUBLE BACK was featured in Tisch OTHER: a showcase of underheard voices in partnership with NYU Tisch School of the Arts Alumni Association. Danielle wrote, produced, and co-directed her original 22 minute comedy pilot, EVOLVED, which premiered at New York International Shorts Fest. Before breaking into TV, Danielle worked at a music festival so disorganized it made Fyre Fest look like a Russian ballet. Danielle applied for a green card under President Obama. She received a green card under Trump. After that, she’s pretty sure she can tackle anything. Danielle currently lives in Los Angeles where she works as a showrunner’s assistant at Netflix. She spends her days cracking wise in the writers’ room and fetching overpriced mineral water.
Kimba Henderson (Panelist) was born in Detroit, but the cold weather led to constant crying, forcing a move to San Diego. Called to be a writer at age eight, Kimba put on bizarre plays in her home before landing in the Dramatic Writing Department at NYU. After her junior year, she won an Academy of Television Arts and Sciences fellowship, and upon graduation, moved to Los Angeles. Early in Kimba’s career she served as an assistant to literary agents and studio executives. Her play, Women on the Verge, won “Best Script” at the 2014 United Solo Project in New York and “Best One-Person Show,” at the 2018 NAACP Theatre Awards. Kimba has also written extensively for television. Among other shows, Origins and Corrupt Crimes are streaming on Netflix, and It Takes A Killer broadcasts on The Oxygen Network. In 2018, Kimba ventured into audio adventure narratives by writing Series One of The Adventum. The project was well received, and subsequently she was hired to pen Series II, III and the upcoming season IV.
Kimba’s TV pilot, The Haight, a crime drama set in 1968 Haight-Ashbury was one of six projects chosen for the 2019 Tisch OTHER: a showcase of underheard voices in partnership with NYU Tisch School of the Arts Alumni Association. Most recently, her screenplay, Another River was optioned, and in 2020, she was hired to write the erotic-thriller, Flaccid.
Kristina Woo (Panelist) is a Chinese-American television writer originally from Montgomery Township, NJ. She is a Staff Writer on SIMPLY HALSTON, a new Netflix limited series executive produced by Ryan Murphy and starring Ewan McGregor. Prior to being staffed, she was the Showrunner’s Assistant, then Writers Assistant on THE AFFAIR (Showtime), where she co-wrote an episode with showrunner Sarah Treem in the show’s last season. She was also the Script Coordinator on Season 1 of SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS (Facebook Watch). Kristina was a participant in Pearl Animation Studio’s 2019 Artist in Residence program, where she developed and pitched feature animation projects in Shanghai, China. Her original pilot BAD ASIAN progressed to the third round of consideration of the 2018 Sundance Episodic Lab and was featured in Tisch Other 2019, a showcase of diverse TV writers from the NYU alumni community in Los Angeles. Before transitioning to television, Kristina worked in independent film in New York, where she worked at Martin Scorsese’s Sikelia Productions, IFP (Independent Filmmaker Project), and Cinetic Media. In her childhood, when her mother refused to take her to see “Clueless” in theaters, Kristina went to her elementary school library and checked out the novelization to read in secret. She is a rebel.
Jo Rochelle (Moderator) is a screenwriter and filmmaker based in Joshua Tree, California. Both of her parents were born and raised in Jamaica before they moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Jo attended New York University's Tisch School of the Arts where she was a Drama major, studying at the Lee Strasberg Institute and Stonestreet Studios. During her senior year, she discovered her passion for writing and directing stories and hasn't stopped. She's an alum of Teach for America Mississippi. She is the creator and director of several web series, a short film about a mermaid called Sirens, and is currently in post-production of her debut feature-length film, Jasmine Star.