We had the good fortune of connecting with Olivia Cuartero-Briggs and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Olivia, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Taking big risks in any facet of your life is terrifying, but I heard somewhere – and now, of course, I can’t remember where exactly – that “fear” is the same as “excitement”, the only difference is how you frame that sensation in your mind. I live by this. Whenever I am faced with a scary choice – and even though being a television writer probably sounds pretty sedentary, I find I’m constantly having to make challenging decisions – I always try to reframe that nervous, uncertain energy as excitement; exhilaration at the fact that I’m here and I get to make this choice.
As long as I trust my gut, I find taking risks creates an almost inevitable net positive result. In one of my earliest job interviews pursuing a career in television, I had a showrunner ask me what position I was more interested in, writers’ assistant or assistant to the showrunner. In a bold move, even for me, I said, “Whatever gets me a script first.” Meaning, I wanted whichever role would earn me a bonafide writing credit on the show. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I wanted to reach out and pull them back in again. But he just smiled and said, “Either one. When you’re ready, you’re ready.” Well, I got the job as his assistant, and come to find out, he respected the risk I took in asking for what I wanted right off the bat. And wouldn’t you know it, I got my first TV script that year on that very show.
But it’s not just risks in career that have been rewarding in my life. Having kids can be a really tough decision for women like me who have ambitious goals in life. But ultimately, for me anyway, being a mom became a driving goal as well. I had no idea what would happen when I realized I was pregnant, just a few months out of graduate school, in 2013. People asked me if I was “going to keep working”, which made the whole prospect even more terrifying. I mean, why would folks be asking me this if becoming a mother wasn’t somehow prohibitive? Well, long story short, my first daughter’s arrival so opened my heart that I found myself more open, giving, and caring to almost everyone and everything around me. It wasn’t until her birth that things began falling into place, and opportunities started coming my way like they never had before. Children don’t close doors unless you want them to. In fact, for me, they opened them, even more so with my second daughter. Perhaps my life would be simpler had I not taken risks: dedicating myself to a career in the arts, having kids before I was established, speaking my mind and asking for what I want… But I can’t imagine that without them, my life would be nearly as exciting.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
There’s nothing easy about becoming a television writer, or maintaining a career as one. Even if you’re lucky enough to have your very own show on the air, you’re still an independent contractor, and will, eventually, have to find another job. And it’s an extremely competitive field, so you can’t rely on your representation to bring opportunities your way. You have to pound the pavement too, network, keep your ear to the ground, all while constantly writing new pilots, feature scripts, or pitches. It’s like you’re always up to bat, while simultaneously playing catcher, pitcher and first base. But the thing is, it’s so much fun. Okay… I realize I might be a teensy bit of a sadist now that I’m “saying this out loud” as it were, but I’m the kind of person who is best when they are busy, spinning plates, tossing irons in the fire, and checking in one each one of them compulsively until they either pay off, or someone tells me to go away. (The latter hasn’t happened often, but to me, it’s an occupational hazard.)
But there are times when the work just doesn’t come. People don’t get back to you. You get rejection after rejection. And then you do get a response, or an offer, but it’s not at all what you expected. There are times when you work so hard on a project, just to have the opportunity taken from you and handed to someone else. Times when you are obviously undervalued and taken for granted, and that can hurt. I’m a sensitive person by nature – as are most creatives, I find – and as much as I hate to admit it, I’ve had more than a couple bouts of tears in the past few years. But at the end of the day, writing is what I love. It gives me purpose, direction, and joy in every sense of the word, and no matter what, I’ll never stop. Rejection is a huge part of this business, and, believe it or not, it’s a gift. Rejection has allowed me to see what truly matters to me, what I’m made of, and reminded me, again and again, to just keep writing. And so I will. No matter what.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I was born and raised in New York City, so I feel a little guilty saying this, but I LOVE living L.A.. Drive in any direction for an hour or so and you have the beach, snow-capped mountains, hiking, wineries, camping, hot springs, you name it. And then within L.A., I feel like you could do something new every day for a year and not run out of options.
One of my all-time favorite spots is The Huntington Library. My family and I have been members for a couple years now, and we never get sick of dining on the terrace, laying in the sun in the Japanese garden, or writing by the lily pond. We’re also a bit obsessed with Universal Studios Hollywood, and have been going once a week since they reopened. There’s just something about that studio tour that makes my husband and I dream big. (He’s an actor and I’m a writer. You know how the story goes.) And on Sundays, the Melrose Trading Post (a flea market on Melrose and Fairfax) is literally always a good time. The Aroma cafe on Tujunga in Studio City is one of my favorite lunch spots, and then if I had it my way, I would go right to The Moroccan Spa in North Hollywood for what are seriously the best facials EVER. (Hey, writers need a spit shine every once and a while too, okay?) Then perhaps a jog over to the Neon Retro Arcade in Pasadena for some Tetris and pinball. (I’m old school. Deal with it.) Dinner at Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot, (I lived in Singapore for two years, and this place is as authentic as it gets!) a cocktail with the hubs at Black Market on Ventura Blvd, and then a drive in movie. I’ve been going to a great popup at the Thursday Club in La Canada, and I highly recommend it. I had totally forgotten how amazing “50 First Dates” is, or how seriously good John Travolta was in “Grease”. I mean, that walk. Come on!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Scott Dean, Quinn Dean, Kit Dean, Adam Glass, Shari Cuartero, and Robert Briggs
Other: https://womenwriteaboutcomics.com/2021/04/interview-olivia-cuartero-briggs-silver-city-dreams/ https://what-shes-having.simplecast.com/episodes/olivia-cuartero-briggs-6CjEf18c http://www.multiversitycomics.com/news/aftershock-silver-city/