Saturday, June 18, 2011

TV and Comic Book Writer Christina Weir

As far back as she can remember, Christina Weir, Emerson College class of ‘94, knew she wanted to be a writer.

“When I was a kid, I was sure I was going to write prose,” Weir said. “My mother had written several books, and I thought that was the coolest thing in the world.”

In high school, however, Weir realized the power of a more visual medium: television. During her senior year, Weir interned at Boston’s CBS affiliate, where she was given the opportunity to write a five-part, 20-minute “teen soap opera” that aired on a morning show for children.

“The week they filmed that was the most amazing experience I had ever had,” Weir said. “I loved the notion of having written a script and then watching actors say the lines as the camera people filmed it.”

After high school, Weir toyed with the idea of attending Emerson for her undergraduate studies, to “kick-start [her] life in Hollywood,” she said. But she ultimately decided to “do the liberal arts thing” first. She enrolled at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY, where she met her future husband and co-writer, Nunzio DeFilippis, though neither of them knew it at the time.

Upon graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, Weir decided she was ready to tackle Tinseltown. She enrolled in Emerson’s Mass Communication graduate program and focused on creating a career in television, while DeFilippis attacked Hollywood directly by enrolling in graduate school at the University of Southern California.

“I knew I wanted to work in film and television and there was no denying that Emerson had a fantastic program that would give me amazing classes, networking opportunities and valuable internships,” Weir said.

It also didn’t hurt that Weir’s father was Emerson’s dean of continuing education at the time. “It was the logical choice,” Weir said.

While at Emerson, Weir spent a semester in Los Angeles interning at NBC, during which she said her “certainty that [she] wanted to work in television only grew.” Once she completed her master’s degree, she did what any aspiring television writer would do: she moved to L.A.

But as the old saying goes, you can take the girl out of Boston, but you can’t take Boston out of the girl.

“I love to set stories in Boston,” Weir said. “The city has such a rich environment and history. Boston has a personality all its own. And in many ways, my sense of what a city is comes from living in Boston. I had no idea what to expect when I moved out to Los Angeles. I had visited New York and lived in Boston and those two combined defined what a city was supposed to be. Cities are things you can walk around and take in. You can sit at a street cafe and watch the people go by.”

In Los Angeles, Weir wrote for the HBO series Arliss and the Disney Channel cartoon Kim Possible with DeFilippis. Comic books were never something Weir gave much thought to, despite her husband’s love for the medium. It wasn’t until good friend and acclaimed novelist Greg Rucka (the Atticus Kodiak novels) wrote a comic book called Whiteout, about a deputy U.S. marshal dispatched to Antarctica, that Weir, wanting to be supportive, read her first comic since the Archie comics she had read as a child.

“I loved it,” Weir said. “Suddenly after years of my husband trying to coax me to read comics and me politely declining, I was interested in learning more.”

Weir quickly developed a taste for comic books, devouring her husband’s collection.

“I read all of his favorites and found a definite appreciation for the medium,” Weir said.

When Weir and DeFilippis were developing the idea for what would become their first comic book, Skinwalker, they originally planned to write it as a film. Rucka, by then an established comic book writer, had a suggestion.

“[He] came to us and said, ‘Hey, have you ever thought about doing that as a comic?’” Weir said. “We hadn’t, but then we started to entertain the idea and decided it would be perfect as a comic.”

Weir said that transitioning from writing for the screen and writing comics was a learning process, but not a difficult one.

“They’re both visual mediums,” Weir said. “And when you’re writing a comic script, it’s as if you’re the director as well as the writer.”

In addition to Skinwalker (with artist Brian Hurtt), Weir and DeFilippis have written numerous comic books over the past decade, everything from Marvel and DC superhero mainstays like the X-Men and Batman to creator-owned work like crime story Three Strikes (also with artist Hurtt) and the action comedy Frenemy of the State (illustrated by Jeff Wamester), which they developed with film and TV actress Rashida Jones.

Weir and DeFilippis also have a series of graphic novels about a young private investigator in Los Angeles named Amy Devlin.

The seedy underbelly of humanity always seems to find its way into Weir’s writing.

“There’s a romanticism to the crime fiction genre that’s fun to explore,” Weir said. “I think being from Boston definitely influenced that. I grew up on Beacon Hill which at times feels like you’re walking around a movie set. It looks like what you think an old New England city is supposed to look like. … I just feel like any neighborhood you go into in Boston can serve as the perfect backdrop for a story.”

For a complete bibliography and updates about what’s next for Weir & DeFilippis, check out their website at weirdefilippis.com

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