Tracy Held Potter

Writer for Stage & Screen

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Neon Bracelet

I was very honored to be invited to participate in the Playwrights Foundation’s FlashPlays festival this year. Below is “Neon Bracelet,” one of three micro plays that I wrote for this event. This piece was directed by Rem Myers and performed by JD Scalzo and Radhika Rao.

A short play
By: Tracy Held Potter

Setting: Apartment in the San Francisco Mission.


WOMAN (f, 30s) – tech project manager
MAN (m, 30s) – computer developer

[WOMAN and MAN lounge on the couch with their respective laptops.]

Bam! Work day is officially over!

[WOMAN shuts her laptop.]

Did you actually do any work?

That’s between me and my supervisor.

So. What are we doing for date night tonight?

Oooh… how about we Netflix and Chill?

[They kiss.]

How about we go out?

[MAN strokes Woman’s arms.]

WOMAN (cont.)
I heard that new place Neon Bracelet is good.

You mean that bar on Valencia with the life-sized cutouts of Ferris Bueller?

(pulling away)

We had one rule when we moved to the Mission: no hipster places.

I just…

It’s a slippery slope, Babe. You go to Neon Bracelet tonight, then you think, “Oh, there’s nothing wrong with this place.” And the next thing you know, you’re gentrifying like everyone else.

We’re already gentrifying. This way, we can stay in our neighborhood and save on the Uber. I’m tired of pretending to be someone I’m not. I want to go to a bar with expensive drinks where people dress nicely and they project 80’s cartoons on the wall.

Like what?

GI Joe. Smurfs. Fraggle Rock.

Fraggle Rock?

[WOMAN nods.]

MAN (cont.)
It’s just once.

[MAN and WOMAN hop up and down and run offstage, holding hands. End of Play.]

Fashion Foes is Online

Last winter, I completed my first short film called “Fashion Foes,” a clothing swap comedy featuring actors from Carnegie Mellon University and a crew primarily from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA. Incredible cinematography is by Kevin Galloway. Enjoy!

“A is for Adeline” at the Loud & Unladylike Festival

My latest full length play, “A is for Adeline,” inspired by the 19th Century writer Adeline Dutton Train Whitney, is getting a second staged reading tonight through the Loud and Unladylike Festival that I co-founded with Rachel Bublitz and Claire Rice as part of DivaFest at The EXIT Theatre. All three of us will present our new plays in this development workshop series.

Loud and Unladylike is dedicated to presenting stories that feature complex historical women that most people don’t know much about. In “A is for Adeline,” I’m building a story around the complex and conflicting attitudes that people had about women’s roles in society and a home and specifically whether or not they should have the right to vote.

Join me tonight to hear a reading of this piece and offer comments and feedback afterwards.

Get your tickets for the Loud and Unladylike readings.

Claire Rice, Rachel Bublitz, Tracy Held Potter. Photo by Rob Reeves

Claire Rice, Rachel Bublitz, Tracy Held Potter. Photo by Rob Reeves

Got my MFA!

It’s official! I earned my Dramatic Writing MFA at Carnegie Mellon University on Sunday and  now I’m working on putting together my full-length play commission for the Loud and Unladylike Festival through DivaFest at The EXIT Theatre in San Francisco, preparing for a live screening of the entire season of my web series Merritt Squad at PianoFight, and producing two shows for All Terrain Theater, including Women in Solodarity: Waking Up and Six Monsters: A Seven-Monster Play.

Some of the projects that I completed or had performed during my two-year MFA program include:

  • Science Fair the Musical (full-length screenplay, winner of the Alfred P.  Sloan Screenwriting Competition at CMU)
  • Plastic Nest (full-length stage drama)
  • Ninja Scientist (one-hour TV action comedy)
  • Merritt Squad (8-episode web series)
  • Newbie Sally (short opera comedy performed by Opera Theater of Pittsburgh)
  • Last Night in the Hague (20-minute opera co-written with Wei He and composed by Chung Wan Choi)
  • Status Update (1-minute play performed at the SF Playwrights Foundation’s One-Minute Play Festival)
  • Fashion Foes (8.5 minute short film; to be posted soon!)
  • Around the Globe (10-minute stage comedy)
  • Public Transportation (10-minute stage drama)
  • Student Bake Sale (30-minute stage comedy)
  • Friends or Maidens (10-minute film comedy)
  • Alexis, the Bronze-Age Warship (10-minute stage comedy, staged reading at the SF Olympians Festival)
  • The Sword (6-minute drama, staged reading at the SF Olympians Festival)
  • Wrote a spec script for the TV drama “Masters of Sex”
  • The Dinner Project (short media film designed by Dave Yen and Danni Zhang)


Princess Audrey (People’s Choice Award winner and finalist for the Best of PlayGround festival in 2013) received a staged reading at True False Theater in New York City.

It’s been quite a busy couple of years! I’ve definitely learned a lot about what I didn’t know and am excited to apply my knowledge to cleaning up my existing scripts and developing more projects for film, TV, and the stage (including opera!).

CO-OPERA Live Webcast, Friday, April 10

Dramatic Writing MFA’s from the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama will be presenting short operas composed by MFA’s from the School of Music.
The show on Friday, April 10 is sold out, but there is a wait list and an opportunity to watch a live webcast.
To get on the wait list, email Ashlinn Dowling at
To watch the live webcast, visit Find the link in the text that says “This performance will be webcast live.” Tune in at 7:30 PM EST.

CO-OPERA is a collaborative opera production involving Carnegie Mellon University students from various parts of the university as well as community partner, Pittsburgh Opera. Students, alumni, and faculty from the School of Music, School of Art, School of Drama, and Master of Arts Management Program are working together to present a production on the cutting edge of opera, at the intersection of arts and technology.

Five newly composed operas, 15 minutes each, fully staged and sung in English, will be presented on April 10 at 7:30 PM in Pittsburgh Opera headquarters in the Strip District. The scenes will be created through technology, with the projection of art and other media on stage. Come and explore how an opera is created from scratch. An artist meet & greet reception will take place following the performance in the Founders’ Room of Pittsburgh Opera. This performance will be webcast live.

Cold Hands 
Composer: Dayton Kinney

Librettists: Dan Giles and Julie JigourA sweet story of two people sharing a moment. It is the interaction between a mortician and a girl who has just died as she reflects on her life and what she has not done yet.

Composer: Davis Good

Librettist: Josh GinsburgAn Appalachian setting of the Echo story from Greek Mythology.

Last Night in The Hague 
Composer: Chung Wan Choi

Librettists: Wei He and Tracy Held PotterA vignette of Van Gogh’s early life, when he lived in the Hague with the prositute Sien and her children.

For the Time Being 
Composer: Daniel Arnaldos

Librettists: Barbara Jwanouskos and Stephen WebbA lesbian couple and their witness travel to a remote place in Southwestern American to get married. Along the way, they encounter some otherworldly beings who help the main character discover some aspects of himself he thought no longer existed.

The Elephants (A Modern Fable) 
Composer: Xiao Liang

Librettists: Savannah Reich and Jonah EisenstockThis opera is a short tale of a group of elephants’ interaction with the humans who live nearby, and how modern advances have changed that relationship.

Merritt Squad the Web Series is Up!

Merritt Squad Pilot

Merritt Squad Pilot

Yayyyy!!!! I’m really excited that my web series Merritt Squad is now up and the world can fully access the zany antics that my co-writer Colin Johnson and I imagined for our rag-tag team of mystery solvers.

On Monday night, we hosted a premiere screening of the first five episodes with many of our collaborators and funders from our Kickstarter campaign, and on Tuesday we launched the pilot episode on YouTube.

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Visit the Merritt Squad playlist on YouTube to watch all 8 episodes!

Follow the series on Twitter @merrittsquad.

Sundance 2015

Photo by Chris Compendio

Photo by Chris Compendio

In January, I had the pleasure of attending the 2015 Sundance Film Festival with three classmates thanks to the Carnegie Mellon Filmmaking Club.

This was the first time that I’d attended the festival and, although we showed up in the second week when all of the glamorous people have packed up and gone home, I got an incredible sense of the independent film scene through the 13 films I saw while I was there.

Some of the most memorable films I saw included Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, which deservedly won both the Grand Jury and Audience Choice prizes due to great storytelling and cinematography (filmed in Pittsburgh!), Stockholm, Pennsylvania, a thoughtful drama about child abduction, Most Likely to Succeed, a documentary that studies alternative methods of teaching that can better engage students in learning, and Seoul Searching, a cheeky film about summer camp for kids who are visiting Korea to reconnect with their roots.

Listening to Marielle Heller, writer/director of The Diary of a Teenage Girl, was also inspiring because she’s based in the San Francisco Bay Area and she shared her experiences of interpreting a story that was meaningful enough for her to make her first big film.

Sloan Summit 2014


I’m honored to be participating in this year’s Sloan Summit as a result of winning the Alfred P. Sloan Screenwriting Award at Carnegie Mellon University for my full length screenplay, “Science Fair the Musical.” This is me on dinner break after watching great films like “Particle Fever” and “The Theory of Everything” and networking with other filmmakers and getting advice from professional filmmakers and scientists. I wore my Merritt Squad shirt to promote my web series. People said I looked like a filmmaker, so I wanted to document that.

New Articles in Cinemastilo

I recently wrote two new articles for Cinemastilo magazine.


Submit or Produce? What to do with your masterpiece

Filmmakers have a lot of options for getting their movies in front of audiences, but what’s the best strategy? Is it better to submit your film to festivals in exchange for laurels and accolades, or should you post your work online for instant clicks and the hope that internet buzz will send your film into countries that you’ve never heard of?

These are tough questions that filmmakers across the country face. This article offers insights that can help you maximize your time and dollars.

The Festival Circuit

Traditionally, filmmakers relied on major festivals like CannesSundance, and SXSW to premiere their movies in front of elite members of the film industry and press, gaining them credibility, promotional buzz, and possible opportunities to connect with distributors.

The power of the festival remains immense. Pittsburgh filmmaker Christian Lockerman, Creative Director of Maverick Visuals in Pittsburgh and Visiting Artist at Point Park University, notes that acceptance into reputable film festivals provides “prestige” as well as “validity” to the films chosen, as well as their creators. He notes that festival approval can help emerging filmmakers get their careers rolling through acknowledgement of their talent combined with opportunities to network with other film professionals.

Los Angeles-based writer and director Katherine Vondy agrees, “It doesn’t hurt to accumulate laurels; I see each one as sort of a stamp of approval that someone else enjoyed the film.”

Visit for the rest of this article.


New Developments at Steeltown Entertainment Project

Basic Screenwriting Tips (Special Topic: Horror)

On Wednesday night, I led a screenwriting workshop for the Carnegie Mellon University Film Club and wanted to share some of the materials that I brought to the group.

Basic Screenplay Format

The offers this sample screenplay for spec scripts, or scripts that are written on “speculation” to be sold to a film production company. A shooting script is a version of this script that includes production information (ie. scene numbers) and camera angles.

If a person is going to self-produce a screenplay, it’s not strictly necessary to write in spec script format, but I find it’s easier to convey information to collaborators (and also to attract collaborators) if the script is in the standard format. After all, the screenplay is a blueprint for the production that is going to happen and if the starting document is clear then the filming process will benefit.

Screenplay Structures

There are a lot of ideas about what makes a film great and no one structure applies to all effective films. However, I find it useful to keep in mind the common ingredients for an effective screenplay. I refer to them when I’m outlining my script and when I’m not sure why the script isn’t working for readers.

This diagram provides a visual description of the Three-Act Structure featuring the various points that the Hero’s Journey travels in a typical western screenplay. I particularly love this diagram because a lot of resources explain the same elements of the Three-Act Structure using different terms and this diagram blends them all together in one helpful visual.

Although controversial, I also included Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet which offers a page by page breakdown of where elements of many successful screenplays typically appear. This structure doesn’t apply to all great scripts, and critics complain that it makes storytelling too cookie-cutter, but I think this is an extremely helpful tool for writers who have written a script but can’t quite pinpoint why a certain scene isn’t landing with readers or why a certain character isn’t having the impact they want. I also found this calculator that translates the number of pages of your script into the beats so you can use this as a diagnostic tool. Again, these aren’t “rules” that scripts must follow, but they can help diagnose problems that might be hard for a writer who is very close to a script to recognize.

Writing for Horror

The workshop offered a special emphasis on writing for horror, because the CMU Film Club is creating short films with a Halloween theme. I am not a big horror writer–in fact, I’m kind of a chicken when it comes to watching scary movies–but I dug up some helpful information.

Tips for Writing Horror:

  • If the film isn’t scaring you as the writer, then it may not be powerful enough to work on audiences.
  • Horror films and jokes have a lot in common: they have a set-up, they answer a question, and they deliver a punch-line or a twist at the end. Make sure that punch-line lands.
  • Show don’t tell: horror is a visual art.
  • Horror is not always concerned with why or how a monster or metaphysical entity does something, but it’s very concerned with what is happening.

Henrik Holmberg offered some helpful tips for writing horror and I found this blog by Chuck Wendig to be very useful.

Sample Short Horror Films:

The best way to learn to write horror is to watch other films and read scripts. Compare how The Offering delivers on world-building, suspense, character-building and relationships to how La Boca Del Leon tells its story. Were both films equally surprising? Which elements helped or hindered these stories?


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