Altschuler spoke with roughly 40 students and faculty of UNC's creative writing program about his experiences as a working writer. A graduate of UNC, Altschuler is co-executive producer and a writer for Fox's hit animated comedy, "King of the Hill," now in its fifth season.
While visiting family in North Carolina, Altschuler came to UNC to share his experiences as a struggling writer who has finally made it big.
"I've spent most of my life trying not to work at a bank," Altschuler said.
Altschuler graduated an economics major, but he became interested in communications when he met David Krinsky, a creative writing major at the time, during his junior year.
"We did this goofy half-hour comedy show on STV," Altschuler said. "Basically, we got to pick up a camera and use it for stupid stuff. But the important thing about it was that we had something we could show people," he said.
From that point, he and Krinsky knew they were headed for Hollywood. They spent a year working in Chapel Hill to save money so they could move to Hollywood and write feature films.
"A great thing to have is wealthy parents. Unfortunately, we didn't have them," Altschuler said with a wry grin.
After spending years scraping by and being turned away by movie studios, Altschuler and Krinsky decided to try their hand at television writing, which eventually led the duo into writing for "King of the Hill."
"There's so much luck involved getting a script produced, but you have to get to that level where you can compete," Altschuler said. "Endurance. There is talent, but it's work," he said.
Marianne Gingher, director of the creative writing program, arranged the visit with Altschuler because she believed it would be a valuable opportunity to raise students' awareness of the many options they have as creative writers.
"We teach all kinds of writing here in the creative writing department, from poetry to fiction and non-fiction," Gingher said. "But it's important to know that there are other types of writing in the entertainment industry."
Gingher said Altschuler's presentation was a chance to help future writers prepare for the business. "It is important for students to know that the process of being a writer is a long and difficult one."
Altschuler speaks from experience when he remembers the frustration of being an aspiring writer. "I wish that when I was in school there was somebody to help me out -- show me the hard knocks."
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