Thursday, March 26, 2015

When Barry Kemp Changed My Life: Confessions of an 11-Year-Old "Coach" Screenwriter

'90s Sitcom Coach Set to Return to NBC

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In light of today's exciting news that Coach creator Barry Kemp and series star Craig T. Nelson are re-teaming on a scheduled thirteen episode continuation of their '90s hit Coach, I wanted to share a personal story of my connection to the series.

A precocious budding scribe, I taught myself how to write screenplays at the age of eleven after a teacher told me that she could see me working as a staff writer for Saturday Night Live someday.

Armed with Syd Field's Screenplay and most of the nonfiction section at the local library in my oversized Esprit bag, I rushed home from school eager to turn someday into next month.

By the time I turned twelve, I'd begun submitting scripts to my favorite television series including Seinfeld and — as a Minnesotan in particular — Coach.

Flooded with submissions, most of the shows didn't bother replying aside from a very polite "thanks but no thanks" form letter (such as in the case of Seinfeld co-producer Peter Mehlman).

But imagine my surprise when a few months after submitting a script to Coach, I received an unbelievably kind, personally written letter of encouragement from series creator Barry Kemp who took the time to tell me that he not only thought I had "a lot of potential as a writer" but also that he expected "to hear from... [me] someday."

An amazingly generous gesture — Kemp's letter helped inspire me to continue writing, which led me to receive two of three national awards in the screenwriting category before I segued into film analysis.

In a funny twist of fate, over the past few months I'd started streaming Coach again on Netflix while taking care of a relative before and after surgery.

And indeed, recalling not only subplots but actual lines that had inspired me as a young Minnesotan screenwriter, I realized once again that laughter really is the best medicine.

So with this recollection, I'm thrilled to pay tribute to Coach, say "thank you" to Barry Kemp and wish him and the cast the best on the upcoming series.

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