The Marvels of Screenwriting

In 2008, just after the writers’ strike of 2007, a hopeful and ambitious Brandon Easton ’97 moved from New York, where he had been teaching for six years, to Los Angeles to try to make it as a screenwriter.

After two years of trying to break into the industry of his dreams, he was beginning to lose hope. He was living in an apartment with a less-than-great roommate and working a few part-time jobs. He told himself that if something didn’t happen by May 2011, he would move back to the East Coast.

And then, finally, Easton got his first big break. In February 2011, Easton was offered a gig writing for a Warner Brothers Thundercats reboot.

As the writer for episode 24, “The Soul Sever,” Easton learned that there is much more to the entertainment industry than being creative.

“The entertainment industry is first and foremost a business,” he said. “The only thing that keeps an animated series coming back is when people buy merchandise. When I was pitching the episode, I had to come up with a concept or a story that would introduce new characters that they could turn into action figures down the line.”

Though Thundercats had a brief one-season run, Easton described it as beautiful and extremely well written. It just never quite found an audience—or at least not one that bought its merchandise.

Easton has worked on other projects since then, including a documentary and a graphic novel series.

But this year, Easton reached a new level in his screenwriting career: he was accepted into the prestigious Disney/ABC Writing Program, which only takes eight of the more than one thousand people who apply. The program puts participants in contact with development executives, studio executives, producers, show runners, and other professionals in the industry. Participants are contracted Disney/ABC employees for one year.

With the help of the program, Easton met with executive producers for Marvel’s Agent Carter and was hired as a writer for season two. He is in the writer’s room 10–12 hours a day, five days a week, which is typical for a TV show. Working on a Marvel show is fitting for a comic book fan such as Easton, who has been creating graphic novels since 1998, a year after he graduated from Ithaca College.

In 2002, Easton worked for Dreamwave Productions on a series called Arkanium before he started writing his own material. After 10 years of writing a few smaller books, he released a series titled Shadowlaw, a graphic novel about a rebellious soldier of the future who is sentenced to life in prison in a distant colony.

He credits his sociology degree from IC with giving him unique perspectives that helped improve his writing. “One of the problems with a lot of writers and filmmakers is that they never really expand their mind beyond the world they were raised in,” he said. “Because I was exposed to different ways of thinking, it made me a better creator. When I create characters, they’re not going to be just from my perspective; I can bring in other ideas and other perspectives.”

Easton will be releasing a new graphic novel by December of this year: a biography of Andre the Giant, a French professional wrestler and actor known for his role as Fezzik in The Princess Bride.

Reflecting on his career so far, Easton said he is very selective with the projects he chooses and has thoroughly enjoyed each one. But currently he is excited about working on Agent Carter and its connection to the Marvel universe.

“Words that I write will become a part of the Marvel universe, and to me, that’s awesome,” he said. “I’ve been reading comics my whole life, and everything that I do on Agent Carter becomes a part of that billion-dollar world. It’s a dream come true.”