Making It As A Screenwriter | LeLe Park

By Sarah Chaisson-Warner

LeLe Park is nothing short of extraordinary. LeLe, who was a finalist in the Shore Scripts 2019 TV pilot contest, entered the world of screenwriting in 2018 with big ideas and a complicated schedule. The mother of two young children, LeLe, who now lives in Chicago, spent most of her nights writing after her children went to bed, often into the early hours of the morning, to create her first TV series The Bliss Killer.

Since placing in our competition, LeLe’s scripts have gone on to place in numerous other competitions and she has recently been invited to join Warner Bros. Discovery’s 150 program.

From Diaries to Features

LeLe has always loved writing and felt an affinity towards the entertainment industry from a young age. Her first memory of writing was as a child in a lock-and-key diary, finding in it her first real opportunity to build creative worlds. “I would write in a diary when I was a kid,” she said. “Even though you’re writing down your experiences and your feelings, so much of what you perceive as a child is fictional.” She was also an award-winning poet in high school, recognized by various competitions and her school’s honors program. “Poetry and early journal writing was an accelerator to writing dialogue and emotion – it showed for me that writing could be an actual path.”

But she didn’t think about making the leap to becoming a professional screenwriter until 2018. “I wanted to try my hand in an industry that I had been tethered to since I was so small, it felt like a journey and I wanted to be a part of it, rather than just watch it,” she said.

“Not being from this country, the television wasn’t just entertainment, it was a piece of education. I would often turn to tv and film when I needed to feel seen or heard or relate…but at the time, I was coming from a marriage that wasn’t so wonderful, and at that moment, when I needed it, television let me down – I felt unseen and unheard.”

What she saw on television no longer mirrored her life or her wants and needs – she didn’t see women with the ability or opportunity to feel deep rage.

“Someone had to kidnap our daughter, or our fiancé had to leave us at the altar. We couldn’t just be in our feelings and be upset. It had to be something wild, or extraordinary. But with men it is very different. I wasn’t feeling seen, so I wrote The Bliss Killer.”

LeLe describes the series as real-life male violence from the news, repurposed into the hands of a female-led story. “I reclaimed real-life male violence.”

After writing The Bliss Killer, LeLe met with several people in the industry, mostly men, who read it, and the response and feedback were relatively unanimous – great script, but the character needed to be male.

Women, they reasoned, need to be likable. “That came up three or four times in a row,” she said. “I was not prepared to hear that. I thought because of where we were in life, my script would be considered exciting and relished, but it wasn’t.” While LeLe wholly believes in the collaborative nature surrounding movie-making, and the need to work with solid feedback, she wasn’t willing to change her protagonist.

“It defeated the purpose and the intent of it. We’ve seen it a million times, we’ve seen men be angry and be in control of their own destiny. We haven’t seen that in the hands of a woman, so I wasn’t about to change that. Changing the gender because she wasn’t likable enough made me dig in harder.”

The Shore Scripts Experience

After these disappointing meetings, a friend suggested that she try the competition circuit as a strategy for getting the attention of producers and agents.

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Before entering her script, LeLe did a lot of research and found Shore Scripts’ annual TV pilot competition. The competition – which includes cash prizes, the opportunity for mentorship from industry professionals, and guaranteed meetings – has a proven track record of helping emerging writers achieve their goals of becoming full-time working TV writers in the US & abroad.

“It wasn’t just a matter of getting the laurel – the fact that Shore Scripts interviewed me, and promoted me…When you’re in a sea of new writers that are all coming up together, if there are a handful getting promoted, it helps us stand out more in that haystack.”

What’s Next

Since placing as a finalist in the Shore Scripts TV pilot competition, LeLe has signed with Verve Talent Agency and she has leveraged Shore Scripts’ reputation for identifying and promoting emerging talent – something she knew was critical to working up from the competition circuit. “Taking advantage of the competitive space helps a writer stand out if it is a reputable competition,” she said. “I think what made it more interesting was there were people like Justine [Owens] and others behind the scenes who were reaching out to talent, and getting the work out there, and not just collecting a fee. They actively support and promote writers, and I thought that was really important.”

LeLe now also has representation at Brillstein Entertainment Partners. “I have quite the army of voices championing me and helping me navigate new opportunities and projects!” she said. “It is such an honor to be repped by Verve and Brillstein. It’s quite literally the dream team.  Sometimes I make mistakes and they teach me.  They show me how to be better — they’re kind, protective, and authentic. In an industry like this to have a team of such care… I’m humbled.”

She has also finished two more feature films (yes, while still parenting two children, working a full-time day job, and volunteering as an advocate for refugee children!) Visceral Fatherland is a fictional retelling of how she came to America, told through the eyes of the person who helped to get her here, and also has done well in competitions.

Her other feature film, Nunca, which tells the story of two sisters, who are hitwomen, and who go on one last mission to help a wealthy family kill sexual offenders, has just been taken up by 3Pas Studios, which was co-founded by Ben Odell and Eugenio Derbez. For LeLe, Nunca marks a new adventure in her writing career: “I had never done the action genre before, and I wanted to try it out. I wanted to come up with characters who were the 5.0 version of what we’ve seen before and tell a story we haven’t heard before.”

LeLe has also joined Warner the Bros. Discovery 150 program, working with Jim Vendiola, on a pilot called Argus. Vendiola is co-writing it with LeLe and will direct the pilot. “We’re doing the deck, creating the pilot, and we’re going to shoot the proof of concept,” said LeLe. “It’s exciting that Warner Bros. Discovery has a program like this, targeting diverse people and voices and giving us the opportunity to be funded for our work. They give grants so we can make our material happen.”

Patience, Competitions, and Networking

LeLe went from an unknown writer to an award-winning and working screenwriter in a matter of just four short years. So, what advice does she have for new and emerging writers? The short version: patience, competition, and networking.

First, focus on the content, she says. “That’s number one. The content you have – is it original? Does it stand out from the herd? That really is the difference.”

Competitions can be helpful in leveraging writers and helping them stand out. “If a person is looking to be repped, and they aren’t in the industry or living in Hollywood, one of the useful tools you have is taking advantage of the competition scene. If you place well you could get noticed.”

But she reminds us that you have to capitalize on rejection – if you’re finding that your script isn’t placing, she suggests having other readers review it to help in the editing and development process. 

Patience and networking are also critical. She encourages writers to have the right disposition when entering the film and television industry. Be the kind of person people want to work with, and be patient when seeking out an agent.

“There are only so many talent agents, but so many people want to be writers! There are so many writers who are fantastic who deserve to be repped, but life hasn’t handed them the opportunity to meet with a rep passionate about them and their work — yet, or, they haven’t come armed with the right sample at the right time — So much is timing meets opportunity, as annoying as that is.  Still though, if you go into it thinking that you’re the best and brilliant and can’t collaborate, that’s not really the attitude anyone is looking for. You have to respect everyone doing their job, let the team around you have a voice, and the process must be collaborative.”

Learn More

To learn more about LeLe, visit her Coverfly profile here.

After 15 years of working in state and national politics, Sarah Chaisson-Warner is moving into the entertainment industry. As the former Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Athena Magazine for Girls, Sarah is now focusing her passion for creative arts through screenwriting. Many of her feature-length scripts focus on the often unseen experiences of gay women throughout American History, and she is also currently writing a sci-fi and a family Christmas script. Her script, Serafina Stavinovna, was placed in “The Next 100” in the 2021 Nicholl Fellowship Competition.

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