An interview with Romina DerMardirosian, comedy writer
Vinita Kinra: Hi Romina, welcome to GAT! You have come a long way from teaching English and French to new Canadian immigrants to writing comedy scripts for Second City, Hollywood. Tell us about your incredible journey.
Romina DerMardirosian: Thank you so much for having me here, Vinita. I always had a passion for languages, and when I first came to Canada, I mastered both English and French within a year. My private tutoring and teaching services began when my family and a family friend moved to Canada. They had never spoken French before, and when their kids needed help with their French homework, I was the first person they came to. Eventually, I started making money tutoring students, and expanded my business to teaching ESL to newcomers. As far as writing comedy is concerned, I decided to join The Second City in Toronto late in 2010. I just took some classes, and in the meantime, I wrote a couple of short plays that were played out on stage at The Second city in Toronto. In 2011, I decided to move to Hollywood to continue classes at The Second City in Hollywood. It was the best decision I’ve made. I got to work with many television personalities who also work and contribute to The Second City. After I graduated, I co-wrote some shows which were directed by Ron West, who is also an actor’ and is known for his role as Dr. Strudwick in 3rd Rock from the Sun.
Vinita Kinra: What was the experience like to work with famous TV writers and actors?
Romina DerMardirosian: Intimidating at first. When I decided to go to Hollywood, it was only for a two month gig. I just wanted to do one term in Hollywood and then return to Canada and continue from there. I had no idea that I would be working with real TV actors and producers. I thought, once they get famous, they will never show up at places like Second City. Boy, was I wrong! Not only did they participate in our shows, they also encouraged and helped aspiring actors and writers to move forward. In the last 3 years, I have had the pleasure of working with Kurthwood Smith from That 70’s Show; Laura Hall from Whose Line Is It Anyway; Sean Kennan from The Young and the Restless, and many more. They all gave me the confidence I needed to move forward as an actor.
Vinita Kinra: Is it sometimes a challenge for Canadians to tap into the abundant opportunities presented by the US arts scene?
Romina DerMardirosian: Getting noticed in Hollywood is the biggest challenge facing any aspiring writer, actor, producer, etc., and it doesn’t matter where you’re from, or who you are. The challenge for Canadians lies only in the immigration progress, and your financial situation. US art industry doesn’t care about where you come from as long as you have talent, and they see your enthusiasm. They are only interested in you. The challenge is in supporting yourself financially while you’re in the United States.
Vinita Kinra: Talk to us about the two shows you co-wrote for the Second City in Hollywood: Fuselage of Love and Second City This Week.
Romina Dermardirosian: Furselage of Love was a single show that ran for six consecutive weeks in Hollywood on stage; it was written as a class assignment, and had a good review. Second City This Week, on the other hand, was more of a weekly show. We had to write every week and parody events that went on during the show’s run. It was directed by Ron West. It ended in July 2012 when Ron decided to retire.
Vinita Kinra: You are an alumni of the York University of Canada, where you teach online courses in film, television and theatre writing in affiliation with their Glendon campus. Tell us more about the courses.
Romina DerMardirosian: Yes, I teach creative writing online with special focus on screen writing in general. It is meant for aspiring writers from around the world who dream of writing for Hollywood, but have no means of getting there. I teach individually through Skype or email, based on students’ availability. Students who take comedy courses will have the opportunity to have their work presented on their behalf live on stage at Hollywood Magic Theater in Los Angeles.
Vinita Kinra: What is your advice to comedy writers looking for a breakthrough in Hollywood?
Romina DerMardirosian: Nothing is achieved without enthusiasm, hardwork and perseverance; if you keep at it and don’t give up you’ll eventually get there. I would also add that you have to secure yourself financially first before pursuing your dream.
Vinita Kinra: You divide your time between Toronto and Los Angeles. What strikes you as the most telling difference between the two North American mega-cities in terms of opportunities for comedy writers?
Romina DerMardirosian: I am sorry to say that there is almost no opportunity for writers in Toronto; Needless to say every opportunity is in Hollywood. There is no agency that will represent you, and you can’t get a job without having an agent or a representative. In Hollywood, there is an abundance of agencies that welcome new talent.
Vinita Kinra: You also collaborate with Hollywood Magic Theatre. What scripts do you write for them?
Romina DerMardirosian: I write sketch comedy for Hollywood Magic Theatre. I also run workshops there that are played live on stage.
Vinita Kinra: What is your advice to novice comedy writers who want to follow in your footsteps of making it in Hollywood?
Romina DerMardirosian: If your readers are only from Canada, the best advice I could give them is to never give up and find ways to get there, but keep in mind that the most difficult challenge you’ll face in Hollywood as a Canadian is financial hardship. You have to be able to support yourself. Find ways to support yourself while you’re pursuing your dream. The immigration process is very hard and long. That’s the most difficult challenge you’ll face in Hollywood and sometimes it will discourage you to go further.