Truly a Hollywood Story
STORY EDITOR, “CLAWS” TNT, WARNER HORIZON TELEVISION INC.
Darrin Dortch knows a thing or two about how to tell a great story. As a kid growing up in St. Louis, he was obsessed with “adult” movies like “Halloween,” “Taxi Driver,” and “The Silence of the Lambs.” Fascinated by their dark characters and twisting plots, he dreamed of someday writing his own scary stories and turning them into blockbuster movies.
It’s a dream he’s relentlessly pursued his whole life. After graduating with a degree in film production from Webster University, Dortch worked odd jobs and saved up enough money to move to Los Angeles in 2008. But making it in L.A. is tough, even for the most industrious of Hollywood dreamers.
Dortch’s first gig in the movie industry was in post-production. “In that field alone, there just aren’t a lot of black people working in the business,” he says. “I would say one of the biggest challenges [of being a person of color in Hollywood] is working in a field where there aren’t a lot of people that look like me.”
Despite the lack of representation around him, Dortch never abandoned his dream. “I don’t really know what I’d be doing if I didn’t write,” he says. And so he wrote and wrote, generating over 20 scripts for feature films, short films and TV pilots.
One of those pilots, “Short Changed,” was loosely based on Dortch’s time working at a small bank back in St. Louis. It’s about a struggling recent college graduate who is trying to build a respectable banking career but gets stuck working as a teller at a ratchet neighborhood bank in the most dangerous part of town. “The jokes pretty much write themselves,” he says.
“That meeting came with no guarantees, but it was just the opportunity Dortch needed to land his first gig as a staff writer on the hit TNT series ‘Claws’.”
Dortch submitted “Short Changed” as part of his application to the American Black Film Festival’s (ABFF) writing competition. Launched in partnership with Turner, the competition shines a spotlight on diverse writers in comedy and drama writing.
Dortch’s script won, securing him a cash prize, a trip to the film festival in Miami and the opportunity to sit down with Turner executives. That meeting came with no guarantees, but it was just the opportunity Dortch needed to land his first gig as a staff writer on the hit TNT series “Claws.”
Dortch says his first day in that writer’s room was a dream come true. It was also a little intimidating. But when his boss noticed that he was a bit quiet, she encouraged him to get out of his shell and not to hold back.
“So I was pitching things that first day, and some outrageous things too. It was a very fun first day, and it’s been like that ever since,” he says. “I’ve had a great experience [working with Warner]. Obviously, they took a chance on me. They’ve been very open-minded.”