From writing a feature film and three television pilots to participating in the Television Academy's Young Writers to Watch program, Troy Dangerfield '07 has had a busy year, even by Hollywood standards.
The following is an interview with Troy Dangerfield, originally obtained for a story in the 2019–20 Convent & Stuart Hall Bulletin featuring alumni who are adapting and thriving in the fast-paced world of media and entertainment.
What are one or two of your fondest memories of your time at Stuart Hall?
Playing basketball with my brothers on Varsity will always be one of the big highlights of Stuart Hall. We spent so much time together that we really became a family. Winning as many games as we did didn't hurt either — 2011 BCL West city champs, baby!
Also, Shuja Khan's (Algebra) and Henry Neff's (U.S. History) classes were always very fun and interesting. Having young male teachers made things more relatable in the classroom. Every once in a while, class felt like guys hanging out — we were learning, but the student-teacher veil could slip away.
Thinking back to high school, have you always been interested in writing and telling stories?
Writing was very important at Stuart Hall. My freshman year was the first year the SAT had an essay section. I felt even in math class that writing was part of the process. Social Justice with Ray O'Connor had more writing than classes I took in college. I never thought of myself as anything more than a decent writer because my grammar was horrid. I wrote a lot of poetry, but I would only ever tell stories. Now, the stories feel the same, it's just getting them down on paper that is the work.
What are a few milestones in your career since moving to Los Angeles?
In January, I was one of 10 writers selected to be part of the Television Academy's (Emmy's) inaugural Young Writers to Watch program. It was a 10-week writers program that included mentorship from upper-level writers including EP's from Mad Men, New Girl, Pose, The Chi and Snowfall. It was a great experience, and the showcase was amazing exposure for all of us as writers.
Describe your experience in the Television Academy's Young Writers to Watch program.
Every week we had a different writer or executive producer read our work and give us notes. After you get over the shock of meeting a revered writer and the vulnerability and anxiety of them reading your work, you begin talking story. Quickly you realize that you speak the same language, but have fewer tools. Then we worked together to find a solution to problems in a script. It was not an easy process, but I learned more about writing in those first three weeks than I had learned in the previous two years. It was a hard process, but I am an exponentially better writer because of it.
With the exposure and training of the 10-week intensive program, what new opportunities have come up?
The television academy program directly led to me signing with a management company, MANAGE-MENT. I am now repped by the same people as Taika Waititi (Thor Ragnarok), Terrell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight) and Joseph Weisberg (The Americans) to name a few. Through my manager, I have had general meetings with almost every network in the industry and dozens of production companies. My manager has been able to open doors for me in a way that I didn't know was possible. It's amazing to have a professional partner who is actively putting you in positions to win.
Briefly describe the idea behind Tokens, the comedy web series you wrote and produced.
Tokens is a comedy about a young African American who has spent most of his life in predominantly white spaces and sets out to find a black community where he is truly accepted. It focuses on the comedy and awkward moments that happen when you are the only other in a room. It's a funny and fun ride.
How do you hope audiences respond to the series?
Well, I hope that everyone can identify with the desire to find their own cultural community and that they find the character's struggle resonant, compelling and relatable. I want people to laugh and empathize, but most importantly understand that minorities in the workplace, school and even in relationships may give up part of themselves to make others feel more comfortable.
What other scripts and/or projects have you been working on this year?
I am very excited that I have finished three television pilots this year and am currently working on a feature film that I hope to finish soon. In addition to the pilot I wrote in the writing program, I adapted Tokens into a half-hour pilot. I also have an hour-long show called the LeVoy Chronicles, which is an Afrofuturism sci-fi pilot. I am most excited about this script because it is the kind of story I always wanted to write, and the response has been very positive.
What advice would you give a young writer hoping to break into the entertainment industry?
My advice for any writer or any creative is to finish. So many scripts or stories never blossom into great art because people realize it's not perfect and stop rather than finishing. Even if it's bad, if you finish, you can work to make it better. You kill your own potential and the potential of your art when you don't finish. Whether it's a good script, bad script, web series or movie, it doesn't matter. Now, once you've finished, put it out there and get feedback. How something is received is important. Be open to all opinions. It's not easy, but that's how artists grow, and it takes courage.