WE THE WOMEN

in conversation with

NIKI SCHWARTZ-WRIGHT

 

We The Women is thrilled to be co-producing a short film titled Debbie alongside the writer and director Niki Schwartz-Wright. Niki has worked as a producer and as a screenwriter for projects including The Office, The Goldbergs, The Grinder, Speechless, and Abby’s. In the new short film, Debbie cares for her dying, life-long best friend by revisiting a skill she hasn't used in almost forty years: selling drugs.

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We the Women: Did you always want to be a writer?

Niki Schwartz-Wright: I think that I always enjoyed it—ever since I was a little kid. I'd write weird little stories and horrible poetry. But I don't think that I ever really thought of it as an actual "career" possibility. I knew that I wanted to work in the movie business in some capacity, but this notion was so general. I just knew that I loved movies and television shows, and I think ultimately I wanted to do something that would put me within the vicinity of Luke Perry. RIP.

We the Women: Is there a specific method that you employ while writing?

Niki Schwartz-Wright: It's definitely changed over the years. I used to really guilt myself if I didn't write like, all day long. Now I've figured out what works for me and how I can be most time effective. I wake up super early when I'm on script. That to me is 7AM (sorry parents, I know that's like a vacation to you). I make a big pot of tea and I get a lot done by lunch time. I'll usually write until about 4PM or 5PM. Nothing good gets done past 5PM for me, as that's when happy hour starts. I never write at night. Nighttime is for wine and food and for hanging out with my husband and Bravo.

We the Women: What has been the most challenging part of your life thus far? Advice to your younger self?

Niki Schwartz-Wright: Damn—this interview is getting deep! I think that the most challenging part has been to gain confidence in my writing. It's funny because I'm a pretty confident person in life and just out in the world. But it took (and still continues to take) a lot of effort to feel confident in my work. But the more you write, the better you get. It's like science. So my advice to my younger self would be to just write, write, write. Don't worry if it's shit, because it probably is shit. But it will get better.

We the Women: What is your astrological sign and do you think that your personality is a reflection of your sign?

Niki Schwartz-Wright: I'm a cancer. So that's a crab. Cancer's whole thing is tough shell on the outside, soft goo on the inside. So, yeah. I relate to that. I think that's a pretty good description of my personality. Although who knows? People who know me best may not agree. But that's probably because they're Libras.

We the Women: What challenges do you face as a woman in a male-dominated industry?

Niki Schwartz-Wright: Probably the same challenges that all women face in the world every day. Trying to be smart but not obnoxious, funny but not caustic, fuckable but still approachable, confident but not arrogant, sweet but not weak, likable but with an edge, fun but not TOO fun (that's the hardest one for me)....The list goes on.

We the Women: Favorite project that you’ve worked on to date?

Niki Schwartz-Wright: My favorite job that I've been paid for has to be my last one: Abby's on NBC. Such a great group of people. A fun show to write. We worked the most human, wonderful hours, which allowed everyone to really participate in their lives outside of work—and everyone liked to drink. Oh, and it was close to my house. Please come back, Abby's!

Other than that, it's definitely the short film that I wrote and am about to direct called DEBBIE. Because I can write whatever I want and see it on screen. Nobody is the boss of me in this situation. I like that.

We the Women: Is there any overlap between your life and the relationships and lives that you write?

Niki Schwartz-Wright: Absolutely. I'm not somebody who writes fantasy or sci-fi. I take from my own life. All of my friends have been characters in everything I've ever written. I've written about my parents, my brother, real relationships I've had, incredibly embarrassing moments that I've experienced. I keep a list in my phone. I probably just don't have that good of an imagination. But also, people in my life are so weird and funny, so how can I not steal from them?

We the Women: Favorite authors, writers, artists, etc?

Niki Schwartz-Wright: Hmm. I'd say: Miranda July, Patti Smith, Chrissy Hynde, Barbara Kruger, Lucille Ball, Patricia Arquette, Greta Gerwig, Cindy Sherman, and Shelley Long.

We the Women: Favorite movie?

Niki Schwartz-Wright: I guess it would have to be True Romance. I can watch that movie over and over and over. Long live Patricia Arquette. And Christian Slater is peaking in that film. He's delicious.

We the Women: What, to you, are the three most important things in life?

Niki Schwartz-Wright: Oh god. This one's hard. I would say family, self-respect, and the ability to have a really good time.

-Interviewed By Alexandra Malmed