Recent English graduate Michael Heyer had forgotten he entered the contest until the congratulatory e-mail arrived in his inbox.
Heyer ’08, was awarded first place in the Television Spec Script category of the Broadcast Education Association’s national competition for a script he wrote for the NBC sitcom “30 Rock.”
“It’s been established that Liz Lemon (a character played by actor/writer Tina Fey) won an Emmy,” Heyer said. “I created a storyline where Liz wins a second Emmy but forgets to thank her boss during her acceptance speech.”
Heyer wrote the script as an assignment for “Primetime TV Writing,” a course taught by radio-TV-film (RTF) coordinator and professor Douglas Heil. He chose “30 Rock” because of his affinity for the show — and Fey.
“Tina Fey is an idol of mine. Writing funny is hard, so someone who does it well is deserving of praise,” he said. “I would like to see myself in a career like hers.”
Heyer estimated that his script went through seven drafts before it was finished. “Liz Wins Another Emmy” was judged for professionalism, the use of aesthetic and/or creative elements, sense of structure and timing, production values, technical merit and the overall contribution to the discipline in both form and substance.
Awards aside, Heyer said the best compliment is that people who read it thought it could fit as part of the show.
“Mike is one of the most committed writers to have ever been affiliated with UW Oshkosh’s radio-TV-film program,” said Heil, who encourages all of his students to submit scripts to festivals, if only to get their names out there. “To the best of my knowledge, he has written more scripts than any other student in my 22 years at UW Oshkosh.”
Heyer has racked up a number of National Broadcast Society awards for his scripts, including a Grand Prize in the Comedy Program Series category for an episode of “Life on Hold,” a show he produced for Titan TV while a student.
“It’s a surreal experience to work on a Titan TV show. It’s extremely rewarding,” said Heyer, who also served as senior editor of the Wisconsin Review literary journal at UW Oshkosh.
While hunting for a job, Heyer remains in Oshkosh and helped RTF students create their independent films during spring break. He plans to move to Los Angeles in August.
“I want to get a job in television — hopefully in the writing room, but I’ll take what I can get,” he said.
Heil has high hopes for his former student.
“Mike’s ability to critically sift through suggestions is exceptional and bodes well for a career in Hollywood, where writers must perpetually revise,” Heil said. “He has a bright future ahead of him.”
Because Heyer’s scores were the highest of any submission in all three of the scriptwriting division’s categories, he also will be awarded the Best of Festival King Foundation Award, entitling him to $1,000 and a copy of Avid Media Composer software. He will accept his award in April at the BEA’s Festival of the Media Arts in Las Vegas.
“I’m still in awe of it,” Heyer said. “I found out that I can give an acceptance speech, which I never thought I’d get to do.”
Here’s to hoping he doesn’t forget to thank anyone.