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Interview: Spec script winner Tracy Reilly talks writing and L.A. Comedy Shorts

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Six films were crowned in six categories at the 2014 L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival in Los Angeles, along with four Movie Magic Screenwriter Competition winners in four categories. I caught up with Tracy Reilly, Half Hour Comedy TV Spec Script winner, yesterday May 29 via phone to talk about her writing background and her exciting LACS win for her “Modern Family” spec script titled “Claire’s Day Out.”

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Tracy is originally from Colorado and moved to California in 2002 after graduating as a Film Production major from Ithaca College in New York. She began writing in school and got her professional start interning at George Clooney’s Section Eight Productions at Warner Brothers.

She went on to become a writer’s assistant for NBC’s landmark Emmy-winning sitcom “Friends” and its spinoff series “Joey” as a writer’s assistant and script coordinator. She also freelanced and worked for a season as a script coordinator on NBC’s “Up All Night.”

Tracy is recently a new mom to her nearly five-month-old daughter, Acadia. She took some time off to spend with her daughter while maintaining clear writing goals. She said, “I have been writing spec scripts and pilots trying to get that next step from assistant or script coordinator to writer. It’s one step; just one step, but it’s a big step. It’s so hard to get that first shot as a writer.”

Tracy credits Tina Fey (“30 Rock,” “SNL”), Larry David (“Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Seinfeld”) Nora Ephron (“When Harry Met Sally”) and Louis C.K. (“Louie”) as some of her favorite writers. She is also very grateful and impressed by two writers she worked with on “Joey,” Matt Hubbard and Robert Carlock. Both went on to work on “30 Rock,” with Carlock being show runner.

“Matt Hubbard is just a phenomenal writer and also a great person. Matt is one who is really genuine and is really supportive. He’s one of those rare writers who is really, really good in a room and is also a really spectacular writer. He’s very funny and very personal,” Tracy said, “Robert Carlock who ran ‘30 Rock,’ I also worked with him on ‘Joey’ and he’s one of the funniest people in the world. He’s an inspiration.”

Tracy’s work has been recognized at the Austin Film Festival with her spec script for “Curb Your Enthusiasm” winning Best Half Hour Spec Script there and also placing as a finalist at last year’s L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival. This year, her spec script for “Modern Family” won the Half Hour Comedy TV Spec Script category and Tracy is thrilled with her win.

“The day I found out, I got the email saying congrats, you actually won, was a horrible day the day before. It was just like one thing after another was going wrong,” said Tracy. “So, my husband let me sleep in and took care of the baby because I was just exhausted from the previous day. So I woke up and it was the first email I saw. I was like, 'Ah perfect.' It was really cool to have that happen.”

The idea for the script story, in which Claire (Julie Bowen) gets a day off and realizes she doesn’t have any friends, is based on a real life event in which Tracy reprimanded some obnoxious teenagers in a mall.

“I spoke up and said something, reprimanded them basically,” Tracy said, “and this other woman who I totally didn’t know at another table spoke up and backed me up and said, ‘Yeah, go ahead and come back and clean this up.’ It was just this moment that almost sounded like angels, [realizing] I’m not alone. I have a partner in this world who sees their behavior and corrects it. This is something I could see Claire going through and so I knew that in the end, as part of a storyline for her that is almost straight out of my life, is what ends up happening with her in the script.”

Tracy considers writing to be a “solitary art” unless you’re in a writer’s room and enjoyed hearing her “Modern Family” script read aloud at a recent family reunion. She also truly appreciates her husband and family’s support in her writing endeavors and her recent LACS win. She said, “My husband is always supportive and so excited when this stuff happens and my parents are the same; my brother, my friends. Everyone is really supportive.”

The multi-tasking wife, mother and writer really loves comedy and has dabbled in doing stand-up herself. She enjoys watching reruns of “Seinfeld,” “Roseanne” and “The Cosby Show” and particularly empathizes and relates to Tina Fey and Larry David.

She said, “I love Larry David. I wrote ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm.’ That was my script that got in the finals last year. I empathize and relate to him a lot. I think that if we ever met and either of us actually enjoyed socializing, we would be really good friends. He’s a hilarious guy.”

Tracy is looking forward to her future industry meeting that will come as part of her LACS win and is patiently waiting for things to calm down during staffing season for it to be arranged. She’s especially grateful to the L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival staff and credits the festival, overall, as one of the best festivals out there, especially for comedy.

It’s such a great festival,” Tracy said, “I’ve gone to other film festivals where you leave kind of feeling discouraged because there are so many other people trying to do what you do. For some reason, I don’t know if it’s just because it’s all comedy and it’s all positive energy, I feel like you leave the festival feeling more inspired about your work. It’s just fun. And, because it’s all shorts you get to see everything if you’re able to be there the whole time. It’s a really great festival and really well run.”

See a full list of film and screenplay winners on the L.A. Comedy Shorts website.

“Modern Family” returns this fall on ABC.

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