Director, writer gives TV insights

Andy Wolk says entertainment business takes willingness to stand up for oneself

The Daily Pennsylvanian
December 7, 2005

Caption text

Penn alumnus Andy Wolk speaks during the Screenwriting and Directing Symposium at the Kelly Writers House. Wolk gave advice and insight stemming from his many years of working in the television industry.

Photo by Chris Poliquin/The Daily Pennsylvanian

Andy Wolk had the perfect part for actor Rob Lowe, but Wolk's bosses at CBS were reluctant to shell out $750,000 to the actor for just 12 days' work.

But Wolk persisted and snagged the actor, using skills of persuasion that would carry him far in his work as a professional screenwriter and director.

Wolk, a Penn graduate, passed on tips for success in the television world to a tightly packed 40-person audience at Kelly Writers House Monday night.

Wolk didn't just recount his experiences working in the film industry, however; he also interacted with the audience and showed clips from the cutting-room floor.

Attendees received excerpts from some of Wolk's scripts and set up the scenes themselves before he showed them the product on a small TV set. Later, he showed three audition tapes and asked the audience to decide who was best for the part.

After he graduated as an English major in 1970, Wolk was awarded a Thouron Scholarship that took him to the University of London. Instead of attending classes, he decided to find work in London theaters.

Wolk returned to the United States and received his master's in fine arts from Carnegie Mellon University.

Since then he has written and directed critically praised television movies and shows, including episodes of The Sopranos and Without a Trace.

Wolk offered advice to any aspiring directors in the audience.

"If you aren't able to stand up for yourself and deal with interference, you will be stepped on and spit out," he said.

He added that despite the "drek" cluttering today's film industry, talent really is the deciding factor for success.

"Anybody who can write a good script can succeed," he said. "Television and film is like a big, hungry, feeding mouth looking for material."

College senior Rachel Berk, who did some impromptu acting during the session, said Wolk offered valuable insight for those interested in a career in film or television.

College freshman Artie Vierkant appreciated Wolk's discussion of actual film production, which he said is a rarity at Penn.

"There's nothing else here that fosters that," he said. "Just from the fact that so many people showed up -- it shows you that there are people here who want a practical approach to film, and Penn is not providing that for us."

The discussion marked Wolk's third visit to the annual Screenwriting and Directing Symposium at Penn. The symposium will continue until tonight.