How to Incorporate Real Life into Your Script


(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #1

This column is written by Sally Hassan, the creator of Ghetto Nerd Girl. I talk about how to get through the vital steps of making a web series as smoothly and painlessly as possible.

Real life is messy. It doesn’t fit into a box, but you can take situations and make it fit a centralized theme. It can be creative and structured at the same time. If you ask me, real life is better suited to be portrayed in an episodic medium. I think that’s why I love web series. There is a certain depth you can feel and see when watching something based on real events. The web series medium allows your story to unfold gradually and progress much like life does.

If you’re choosing to go this route, mentally prepare yourself. Be ready to expose many deep dark secrets about yourself to everyone and your mom. If you’re cool with that, keep reading. You don’t know it yet, but the writing process will assist you in digging deep and letting the story tell itself. For me, it was part of my healing process, but it was also emotionally taxing during production. It tested my every limit.


BTS as I direct our pilot Ep. 1 - The End of Clique-Dom

It’s important to have a strong support system. I think this is when working with friends and family comes as an advantage. They know who you are and if something is up. Don’t be afraid to stop and take a breather to talk about whatever it is you’re going through. It’s okay to be human, and know you can lean on those around you if needed.

Yes, I’m a filmmaker, but I had no idea what I was signing up for when I decided to make a web series about my life. I knew it would be awkward at times, but I didn’t think I’d be on the verge of tears on set A LOT. It means your actors are doing a good job! If you want to be brave and expose some skeletons for everyone’s entertainment here are some of my tips for you.


Nikki Lowe playing Joanna (Seth's sister). While 'Seth' does not have a sister in real life we changed the gender of his sibling to make for a more dynamic role and combine 2 characters into one.

1.) Allow for Creativity - Yes, you want to be as accurate as possible when recreating your life, but it doesn’t have to match every small detail. No one will notice but you and it won’t take away from the quality of your project. I find that the more changes you make to ‘loosely base’ it the more colorful it can be.

2.) Centralized Theme - There are so many aspects of our life that affect us and it can be easy to get lost. What life stage or time period do you want your series to take place? What was a recurring conflict or struggle during that time? Who was important to you? This will help you get an outline going early in pre-production.

3.) Filmmaking as Therapy - If you’re anything like me, you chose a specific topic to focus on because you haven’t fully dealt with it and that’s okay. Allow it to be how you find peace with it. I had a difficult time exposing Susan as myself during the first Season. I didn’t tell some of our cast members until we were filming the pilot! It was terrifying at first, but with each episode filmed, edited and released a weight was lifted off my shoulders. Once it was out in the world these memories were no longer playing over and over in my head.

4.) Be Courageous - It takes guts to make your own web series. It takes even more to make it about your own struggles, shortcomings, and breakthroughs. Trust me, if you take that chance you will not regret it.

The deeper you dig the better your script will be. People watch TV & movies because they can relate to the characters in them. They want to feel something genuine. Regardless of what genre you choose this content matters. I can honestly say that the situations recreated in Ghetto Nerd Girl thus far are no longer things that haunt me. The further we go with the season I can tell I’m stopping myself from releasing certain things. It is still an internal conflict and I have to push myself to stop hiding and making excuses. Will it get any easier? I’m not sure, but I know that I have grown so much personally and professionally since embarking on this journey. I have used GNG as a way to come to terms with my past and allow it to be something positive I can give to my viewers. This series is dedicated to anyone that has struggled with who they are growing up, doubted themselves, or felt like they didn’t belong. Every time someone tells me they have related to my story it literally makes my day and is a monumental push to keep going with my production.

Did you include personal life experiences in your series? Tell me I’d love to hear about it!


(Bri Castellini) #2

I love this! Thank you for being so open and honest with us :heart:


(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #3

Thank you @Bri_Castellini <3


(Bri Castellini) #4

I used my personal life in my latest two completed projects: Ace and Anxious (short film) and Sam and Pat Are Depressed (web series). Largely by exploring my own struggles with mental illness and my struggles figuring out how my sexuality plays into the rest of my life. In both cases I very much leaned into the “filmmaking as therapy” thing because letting characters work out my issues made those issues much clearer and I could see them from outside rather than internalizing everything. It also helped me put things into perspective and connect with people easier because I had a funny weird thing I could show them instead of having to rely on my own fallible retelling of emotions.


(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #5

LOVE this. Yes, I understand that completely. I think that’s why we can give advice but not follow it. Also your topics aren’t touched on publicly at all so you’re helping educate the masses at the same time! Excellent!