Breaking In: Interview with TV Writers Kelley and Courtney Turk

Home » Breaking In: Interview with TV Writers Kelley and Courtney Turk
What’s the next compelling sci-fi show? Well, I’m hope its title is Identicals by Kelley and Courtney Turk, who are, you guessed it, identical twins. In the world of their spec pilot, parents can opt for a super version of plastic surgery for their children… in the womb! The result? Athletic, near-genius, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, “perfect” clones. We follow the journey of twin sisters Claire and Jane Smith, one of whom had the surgery and one who didn’t due to complications. Instead, she’s just normal plain Jane, struggling like the rest of us. It’s an intriguing world to explore and an interesting metaphor for what it feels like to be a high school student
TV writers Kelley and Courtney got their start on 7th Heaven, and they recently sold a story to NCIS and wrote a tie-in young adult novel for The Secret Life of the American Teenager, entitled “The Secret Diary of Ashley Juergens,” which will hit bookstores in June. They were gracious enough to take time out of their busy schedules to share their “breaking in” story as well as info on their current projects.
Why did you first decide to go in to TV writing?

C: I love TV. The thought of creating and telling stories always excited me. When I was in high school, I pretty much studied and did my homework during commercial breaks. I just always knew that’s what I wanted to do.
K: In college, I was a film major and hadn’t thought about working in TV until Courtney took a half-hour sitcom writing class and would show me what she was working on and ask me to fill in a joke, etc. The next semester I enrolled in the same class and I showed her what I was working on and then she helped me. We decided from then on to be writing partners and focus on television.
How did you get your first job?

C: I graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a BA in television production and had done a couple of internships at Warner Bros. and Sony while I was in school. After I graduated, I faxed my resume to every production company listed in the Hollywood Creative Directory. I was hired as a receptionist on a TV pilot that didn’t go, but it led me to other jobs through people I had worked with there.
K: Courtney had heard through the grapevine about an opening for a Writer’s P.A. position for 7th Heaven. I submitted my resume and got the job. Then I was promoted to Writer’s Assistant, then to Script Coordinator. Courtney and I were eventually given a freelance episode and then were hired on staff the following season.
Do you think being identical twins helped you to get noticed as writers?

C: You know, not really. It’s definitely a good conversation starter when you have a meeting. I’m hoping it helps with our pilot because it has a twin angle, and we obviously have a strong connection to the subject matter. I think it helps people remember us, which is helpful – especially with the amount of writers studio and network execs meet with every day.
K: I can remember only one meeting where the person we were meeting with only wanted to talk about twin stuff. For the most part, it’s discussed briefly, and then we move on to other topics.
My husband and I are a writing team, so I am always curious about how other teams work. What’s your process?

C: We usually break a story and do an outline together. After that, it’s “see you later.” We’re nowhere near each other when we actually write. I’ve met writing teams who work with one person at the computer and the other sitting right behind them going over every word. I can’t write like that because I find it stifling. What I like about writing separately is a lot of times Kelley will have approached a scene or conversation in a completely different way from what I was thinking – and I like it better. From there, we blend everything together. Then it becomes a game of hot potato – we just keep passing it back and forth, editing and making changes until it’s done.
K: We definitely break story and outline together. There’s also a lot of discussion along the way, but for the most part writing together is a very separate process. I like exchanging drafts back and forth because sometimes that allows us to work on two things at once. Plus, when you get stuck, it’s nice to give it to someone else to fix.
Can you tell us a little bit about your pilot script Identicals? How did you come up with the idea?

C: We’re big fans of the Twilight Zone. One of my favorites is the episode, “Number Twelve Looks Just Like You.”In that episode, people in a future society must undergo an operation at age 19 to become beautiful and conform to society. They have a catalogue of faces/bodies that are numbered for everyone to choose from, but one young woman desperately wants to hold on to her own identity and doesn’t want to get the operation.
K: I hadn’t seen this episode, but Courtney told me about it. I had been thinking about an idea for a story where you can get plastic surgery on your unborn baby and thought it would be interesting to have the operation on twins but one is unable to get the plastic surgery. Then we thought it would make a good high school dramedy because it takes place at a high school where everyone is “perfect” because they’ve all had plastic surgery except for the one twin who didn’t.
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