Industry Pro: TV Writer and Transmedia Producer Nina Bargiel
Today’s Inside Scoop subject, Nina Bargiel, is truly on the cutting edge of entertainment, embodying fictional characters across platforms, creating the social media trappings of a real life for them. It’s a writing assignment she relishes and we here at YII believe that if you want to know what the future of storytelling holds, following Nina and watching what she does is the way to find out.
Current position (or recently completed projects): Past: Writer on “Lizzie McGuire” and “The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy.” Transmedia Producer on “Valemont.” Current: Transmedia Producer on “Savage County.”
College & degree: BS, Film & TV Production, Boston University
Internship: I was an intern at H-Gun Labs, which was a music video production company in Chicago in the early 90s.
First job in the entertainment industry: Working in the mailroom as part of the Agent Trainee Program at UTA.
Big break: I met the woman (who became my friend and mentor and ultimately gave me my first writing job) through her mother, who ran the volunteer program at the animal shelter I volunteered at.
Eureka moment (when you realized you did or did not want to do something or that you should do something differently, etc.): I thought that I wanted to be an agent. Working at an agency and being called a “stupid c*nt” within my first hour on the job disavowed me of that. I wasn’t stupid.
Career path: I started out thinking I would be an agent when I moved to Los Angeles after college, because, well, an agent was a JOB. It was run like a business! You got a paycheck! Once I got into an Agents’ Training program, I realized within days that this wasn’t what I wanted to do. My friend and mentor got me an informational interview with a woman who used to be her agent but had moved into TV Development, and I impressed her enough on my interview that she asked me to be her assistant.
What I learned reading pilots is that I was pretty sure I could do that. The only issue was that, I NEEDED TO DO THAT. During the same time my brother was becoming disillusioned with his career in finance in New York. We decided to sell ourselves as a writing team and create specs. Of course, it was slow-going, and there were some personal issues with my boss that made it impossible for me to continue working for her. I quit and ended up at an internet service provider (ISP) in 1997, when the Internet was just getting its sea legs for a lot of people. I became interested in blogging (which I don’t think was even a word) and telling stories on the Internet.
A year or so later, my friend and mentor offered me a job as her assistant, and promised that once she got a show on the air, I’d be writing on it. I left the ISP and went back to entertainment, but I continued telling stories on the internet. Finally, in 2000, my friend/boss was offered the opportunity to run a new show on the Disney Channel called “Lizzie McGuire” and she gave me a staff writer position. I worked as a TV writer until 2005-2006 when things slowed way down, and then the strike hit.
In 2008, an Executive Producer I had worked with asked me if I still told stories on the Internet. He had co-founded a company that was making web series. I ended up taking my years of telling stories online and turned it into a job, a job that is now known as a “Transmedia Producer.” I created the online world for an MTV series called “Valemont” which spanned an ARG (alternate reality game) at ValemontU.com, three blogs, nine Twitter accounts, Facebook and Verizon SMS messaging and ended up winning a Streamy for best online experience. Right now the projects I’m working on only have me creating and running the online experience, which means my job is part writing, part producing, part tech support and part performance art. It can be a 24-hour a day job, as the internet never sleeps.
Describe a typical work day in your current position: Generally I wake up and check my email. (What time this is depends on whether or not anything is launching that day, and what time zone the online experience is in. When I was on “Valemont,” the back story was that it was an East Coast school, so I worked a lot on EST even though I live in PST.) I put out any fires, write new content, check to see audience reaction/interaction and adjust accordingly. (While the online worlds – metaverses, 360-experiences, transmedia – and their storylines are always outlined by me, I always leave enough room for the audience participants to chime in.) Then I check Twitter (which I have open during the day) to play characters (I was nine different people for “Valemont,” and two different people for “Woke Up Dead.” My next project will have me being six or seven characters on Twitter at the same time.) In between all of this, I’m pitching new projects and writing spec scripts. When I’m on a show, I am never more than five feet from my computer.
Best job (or day) in the entertainment industry: Any day I’m being paid to create is a good day. Even on a bad day. Seriously. I get paid to make stuff up, and when I’ve been up for a thousand hours or I’ve gotten another round of notes, I remind myself of that.
Worst job (or day) in the entertainment industry: I’ve had my share of terrible jobs, but that first hour at UTA took the cake. I have tremendous respect for agents, managers and the like.
Best thing about your current job: Can I have more than one? While I’d happily return to TV, transmedia is new and exciting and we have the opportunity to create and connect with an audience in an enormous way. I’m lucky in that I don’t have to go to the office. I can work in my pajamas some days. HOWEVER…
Worst thing about your current job: Being a solo practitioner means that I’m the sole person responsible for the online world. The internet never sleeps, the world never stops existing, which means that some days I don’t sleep, either. During “Valemont,” my father-in-law passed away suddenly, and I was updating character Twitter accounts from my cell phone at the gravesite.
Brush with greatness: I think after working out here for awhile, famous people cease to be interesting. Brent Friedman (Co-Founder at EFE, and my boss for “Valemont”) is a brilliant forward thinker. The Co-Creator of “Valemont,” Christian Taylor, is an amazing writer who creates characters that are fun to play with. People who are out there creating transmedia – Mike Monello, Steve Peters, Brian Clark, Jan Libby, Andrea Phillips – who I just had a chance to hang out with at ARGFest, are creating the future of entertainment. The world is changing, and I think they’re in front of it.
Secret of your success/advice to the newbie: Two things: 1. A.B.C. Not “Always Be Closing,” but “Always Be Creating.” 2. Talk to people. Meet people. Get out and find where people who are doing what you want to do are and meet them there. I used to be incredibly shy, but the internet helped me out of my shell. I can connect to people without using an intermediary by following them on Twitter, friending them on Facebook, or sending them a polite, non-creepy email through their website.
Next move: I want to marry my two jobs (TV writing + Transmedia Producer.) I have a few pitches I’m putting together that are not only a show, but the entire built-out world around the show. There’s a lot of stuff living in my head right now that’s finding its way to paper and then hopefully to a TV AND Computer Screen near you!
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