Claire Jennings (COM '18)

A tall, model-like girl with a kind face, Claire Jennings is both parts extremely talented and extremely humble. Originally from Washington, Claire came to Boston University from Southern California to study Film/TV. She’d always loved writing and a summer internship at a film production company sparked an interest in screenwriting. Though double majoring wasn’t in her original plan, she recently declared Philosophy as a second major. She feels philosophy complements her study of film/TV because it “gives [her] something to think about [and] something to write about.” Also, as both screenwriting and philosophy stress being concise, her majors have taught her “to get right to the point and trust that your ideas are strong enough to stand on their own without too much embellishment.” 

On campus, Claire sings with Off Broadway, a service group that performs at homeless shelters and nursing homes, and works on Bay State, a student-run show on BUTV, the school’s network. Bay State is the longest-running college soap opera in the US – they recently celebrated their 150th episode. Claire started as a production assistant but has been a writer for a year and a half now. She describes the show as “college Degrassi, with all the crazy plot twists you’d expect.” This year, they’ve been approaching more serious issues, such as “the institutional obstacles that victims of sexual assault face on campus.” Claire is excited, albeit nervous, to take over as head writer next year, but we have no doubt she’ll continue to lead the show in a great direction.

Claire prefers TV writing because it’s more collaborative and the writers have more control over the story than with film writing. “My ultimate dream is to be a TV showrunner,” she says, “People like Jill Soloway (Transparent) and Tina Fey (30 Rock) who create, write, and produce their own TV series have the coolest job ever!” She’s already on her way there. She recently won third place in the Fleder-Rosenberg Short Screenplay Competition at the Redstones, BU’s version of Sundance. Her script, titled “Uno Due Tre,” is about an aging opera star who feels threatened by a talented young singer in her theater. It’s about more than the rivalry though, Claire says, “it’s about the protagonist’s struggle with compulsive behaviors and learning to let go.”

When asked about her favorite part of the film/TV industry, Claire talks about the emotional connection it fosters: “everyone has shows they grew up with, VCRs they wore out from re-watching the same movie.” She’s also proud of the direction TV has been moving in. With more TV outlets beyond the main cable channels, more shows have diverse casts, tackle topics of racism and discrimination, and LGBTQ representation. She acknowledges that there’s still a long way to go, but she thinks “TV has never been better.”

Interning in the industry since high school, Claire’s already well into building her industry experience. At Skydance Productions (Mission: Impossible, Star Trek), her job involved reading and reviewing scripts that writers and agents would submit. She admits it felt a bit strange to be deciding the fate of scripts at age 16, but it gave her invaluable insight. “Now I understand the mindset of someone who’s shifting through all these submissions,” she says, “I have to fight for my 16-year-old self’s attention if I want to get my work produced.” When interning at a much smaller company, Sixth Sense Productions, she had the opportunity to work on everything from fundraising to sitting in on production meetings. Here she was able to observe the pre-production process from every angle.

So any advice for someone pursuing a career in Film/TV? “One thing I didn’t realize until I moved to California and spent time around people who work in the industry is that film is much bigger than you think,” Claire says. There are many opportunities, so “don’t get intimidated.” Claire recommends to “keep practicing whatever it is you really want to do (writing, directing, cinematography) while you’re doing the less fun work of establishing yourself in the industry.” Ever humble, she’s quick to point out this is just uninformed advice. She quips, “Check in with me in a few years when I’m a frazzled personal assistant, and I’ll let you know if I was right!”