Category: GEMA, GEMA Alumni Spotlight

Title:GEMA Alumni Spotlight – Adam Countee (C’03), TV Writer/Producer at NBC

Adam Countee (C ’03) is a writer and consulting producer on the NBC comedy series, Community. His duties include working in the writers’ room to break stories for new episodes, rewriting scripts and supervising on set during production. He has also written his own feature film, which he is hoping to produce and direct in the New Year.

What was your first “big break”? Or, what is the most significant experience you have had that has made your success possible?

I suppose my first big break came about five years ago. I had a sketch comedy group called Handsome Donkey that I’d started with my brother and fellow Hoya, Brendan (COL ’02), good friend Marc Gilbar (also an ’02 Hoya) and Aaron Greenberg (not a Hoya but still a nice guy). At the time, we’d all been sort of struggling to make it in the industry, working various assistant or PA jobs or whatever would pay the bills and keep the lights on in the apartment we were sharing. But on weekends we’d go out and shoot sketches and short films and post them online. One of our videos—a short film called Le Montage—was a modest hit on YouTube and it got us noticed by agents and web content producers around town. From there we somehow hoodwinked a bunch of really smart people into giving us money to continue goofing off in front of a camera and putting it on the internet. For two years we got to write, produce, direct and act in our own stuff and it was a blast.

What is the most challenging part of your job? What is the most rewarding part?

The most challenging part of the job has to be the terror that comes from staring at a blank page. No matter how many times you’ve done it before, you always wonder if you have that good idea in you or if you have that funny joke rattling around somewhere in your brain. On top of that you wonder, “Gosh, is this going to be any good?” You’re constantly putting yourself out there and subjecting yourself to the very real possibility of failure and rejection on a daily basis. The most rewarding part for me is simply getting that laugh. Having someone read and respond to your work or better yet seeing it get made and watching talented actors deliver and elevate your material—there’s nothing better! Also, there’s usually a lot of free food around.

What is a current project you are working on that you are excited about?

I am back working on my favorite TV show Community, where I cut my teeth as a staff writer for Seasons 2 and 3. The show is currently in its 5th season and I think has never been better. Everyday I get to show up to work and be surrounded by writers far more talented than I can ever hope to be and I learn so much about the craft of writing and the art of being funny.

Are there any ways that you feel Georgetown especially prepared you for your career?

Georgetown prepared me in more ways than I can even count. First of all, I took my first scriptwriting class with Professor John Glavin, who to this day has given me my only “F” on an assignment. So yeah… I got a head start on the whole “rejection” thing. But his class was one of the most enriching experiences of my education and I still use the tools he taught us. Additionally, I took a lot of great film, culture and media courses in the English department during my time at Gtown and got to experience a sort of grassroots student film movement. My sophomore year saw the first ever GUTV Film Festival and it was so cool to be a part of something that was so new and so exciting for the school.

What is your best advice to those who are starting out in your field?

[Community creator] Dan Harmon is fond of quoting Joseph Campbell and to my mind the best advice you can offer anyone starting out in any field is: “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.”

How is the digital world affecting your industry? How are you approaching this transformational change?

Tremendously. There are so many exciting new platforms for content that provide outlets for filmmakers and artists and as a result we get to hear some fresh new voices that we otherwise might never have heard. Never before in history has so much great stuff been so available to so many people. It’s kind of amazing to think about. For me the double-edged sword of this kind of transformational change is that the way we consume content has become so personalized and tailor-made to our own sensibilities and viewing habits, that we’re losing some of that communal experience in watching a great show or movie together. Gone are the days of sitting in homeroom back in high school on a Friday morning and talking about last night’s Seinfeld with my friends. I feel like that kind of shared experience is a special one, particularly for comedy. That’s why to this day nothing beats seeing a movie in a packed theater.

Best Business Advice Received:

I’m terrible with money. I was hoping you’d have some advice for me?

Trait You Most Admire in People:

The ability to see humor in things. Also, the faith and courage to stand behind the ideas and principles you believe in. Also, the ability to whistle loud enough to hail a taxi.

Favorite iPhone/iPad/Blackberry/Android App:

“Flashlight.” It’s like a regular flashlight, but on your $600 phone.

Favorite Georgetown Professor:

This is really tough. I had so many great ones. Glavin, Dr. Cook, Father Steck to name a few… But I have to say that for me the MVP was probably Professor Steve Wurtzler. I took quite a few of his classes and to this day I’ve never met anyone who could speak more wonderfully about film. He took my natural love of movies and exalted it from adolescent interest to my life’s passion.

Favorite Georgetown Restaurant or Bar:

Also tough. Probably The Tombs. It’s great because you could stay there late partying with friends all night and then take your parents there for brunch the next day if they’re in town. And the staff is mostly students (I worked there myself junior year) so you could always shoot them a look like, “hey, man, please don’t tell my folks I puked in the fireplace last night.”

Favorite Georgetown Memory:

It’s hard to single out any one memory… I transferred in as a sophomore and that whole year was pretty great. It was the best move I’d ever made. Not only did I get to be at Georgetown with my two brothers Brendan and Chris, but that year I met some of the people who I’m lucky enough to call my best friends to this day.