Stories

WRITING AWARD-WINNING ‘FAKE NEWS’

Eric, 26, on navigating reality as an aspiring screenwriter.

Fake News Writer is a YouTube series about a recent college grad, Ethan, who moves to LA in the hopes of being a screenwriter — but the only job he can find is writing Pro-Trump conservative propaganda for a fake news website. Ethan has to hide his work from his extreme liberal roommate who hacks and publicly shames fake news writers.

I wrote this series based on my own experience moving to LA after graduating in screenwriting. While in school, they drill into your head that hardly any of us will actually make it as screenwriters. Or that we will be working as an assistant for years, just for the opportunity for someone to maybe read your script and maybe like it enough to give you a job. Or that won’t happen and it’ll just be a waste of years of your life. It was discouraging. When I graduated I started taking small copywriting jobs that I was able to get with my major. These would pay $5 for 4 hours of work. Then eventually I moved up the ladder and got paid $12 for 4 hours of work. It wasn’t a sustainable way to live.

Then, one day as I was searching on Indeed, I found a posting for a political news writer where you needed to write with whatever biases the company gave you. I thought I could do that. I grew up with both intelligent liberals and conservatives and thought I had the ability to channel both perspectives as needed.

During my job interview, my boss explained to me how he runs a pro-Trump conservative page and the readers are old, fragile people whose emotions I needed to cater to. It was a company that didn’t want to influence politics at all — they ran both liberal and conservation websites and were just profit-driven. They wanted me to study what people clicked on, and write more of that. And so, after I got hired, I would just read a bunch of conservative articles, rewrite them in my own words, and come up with click-driven headlines. I was ashamed of myself the whole time I was working there, but I really wanted to be financially independent. I didn’t want to be dependent on my parents. This job gave me the financial security to live in LA.

From the start, I realized I wanted to write a script from this experience. I thought it was very topical and I had a unique first-hand perspective on how it all worked. I originally began writing it as a movie as I was starting the job — yet I didn’t know what was going to happen next and what my character arc was going to be. Eventually, I realized I could turn the acts into 7-10 minute episodes to capture the character’s day-to-day happenings.

Most of the show was an accurate reality of my job. My boss was a cynical, monotone guy who was just about the business. I never met him in person and don’t think I even knew his real name. When I wrote this show my goal was to make fun of liberals and conservatives evenly; this two-sidedness is something I miss from television and I think it’s what made South Park so successful. In my comedy, I don’t mean to mock specific viewpoints. With liberals, I’m making fun of the overuse of shaming tactics and people who believe that any form of disagreement with them is racism, sexism, bigotry, etc. People feel they can’t express their opinions or even entertain opposing opinions without being shamed. So instead of having conversations, they look for content that agrees with their point of view, fake news writers capitalize on this, and we all get more divided. With conservatives, “With conservatives, I’m making fun of how easy-to-write and disingenuous a lot of their news sources are and the types of people who point out bias in the mainstream media but don’t notice the obvious bias on their own side.

I also wanted to explore the themes of a millennial trying to find their place in the world. Ethan’s journey in the series is about self-worth. For example, before he gets the job, he feels like he can’t talk to women, because he’s a loser who can’t get a job and relies on his parents. He thinks that by taking a job that makes him financially independent, he will be proud of himself and feel like he has value and this will give him confidence. However, when he gets his job writing fake news, this doesn’t work out because he’s so ashamed of what he does.

If you’re looking for some fun, dark humor, check out Fake News Writer on YouTube — they’ve just won the Webby Awards and will be coming out with a Season 2!

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