From Drexel in LA to ‘Give Me an A’: Screenwriting & Playwriting Alum Lexx Fusco on Development and Communication
By Laurel Hostak Jones
December 13, 2022
Drexel Screenwriting & Playwriting alum Lexx Fusco (’17) never clicked with Los Angeles; she clicked, rather, with the people of LA’s film and television industry. Just a few years after graduating early from Drexel, she made waves in 2022 as an associate producer and writer on the feature-length anthology Give Me an A, which responds to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Give Me an A links together 17 short films, two of which are penned by Fusco. The star-packed feature screened at Fanatic Fest, Scream Fest, and Brooklyn Horror Film Fest, where it garnered a Gold Audience Award.
The shorts contained in Give Me an A range in genre from horror and sci-fi to satire. Fusco’s contributions include the anthology’s anchor piece “Traditional,” which explores a speculative future in which maternal and fertility care are administered by the United States government (to dystopian results), and “mediEVIL,” a conceptual short with elements of horror and science fiction. For “mediEVIL,” Fusco mentored Rowan Fitzgibbon, a young aspiring writer, who has a story credit on the segment.
The production, led by executive producer Natasha Halevi, came together on an almost impossible timeline with a shoestring budget. Major stars like Gina Torres, Virginia Madsen, and Alyssa Milano signed SAG waivers to join the cast, and Panavision and Keslow donated camera packages to lend the project a high production value. There was a palpable sense of urgency around the material; only 10 weeks elapsed from the Supreme Court decision to Give Me an A’s completion.
“The public zeitgeist is very short,” Fusco says about the speed with which the project progressed. “This did get the story out there and prove that if you have something to say – and you say it loud enough – people will hear it.” The swift timeline, so antithetical to Hollywood’s typical lengthy development processes, was a testament to the horsepower of a solid industry network. The producers leaned on relationships and leveraged collective sentiment to get it done.
How it Started
As a rising junior in Drexel’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, Fusco ventured out to California with her cohort for a program called Drexel in LA: three months of immersive education and experience in Los Angeles.
While Philadelphia has risen considerably on the ladder of entertainment cities, LA remains the center of the entertainment universe. Meanwhile, a large contingent of alumni from Drexel’s programs in Film & Television, Screenwriting & Playwriting, Television & Media Management, and related majors ultimately move to Los Angeles to kickstart their careers. Drexel in LA was born as a way to let students in Drexel’s media and entertainment-focused programs explore the realities of living and working in Los Angeles before making the leap.
“It can be scary to go out there cold,” says Karin Kelly, now head of Drexel’s Cinema & Television Department, who founded the Drexel in LA program in 2011. “This gives students a sense of the city as a place to live and work, and a chance to figure out if LA is for them.”
The program, intended for the end of students’ sophomore year, is a three-month, immersive Los Angeles experience, complete with coursework, internship hours, and exploration. Kelly calls it “co-op lite,” as it lasts half the time of a typical undergraduate co-op term; students who love and thrive in LA have support to extend their stay and pursue a full co-op after summer wraps up. Those students get nine months of industry experience in LA before returning to complete their junior year at Drexel.
Fusco was one of those students who took advantage of the extended industry immersion. During the summer, in between taking classes and going on Drexel-organized excursions (the faculty program tours of LA sites like the Hollywood Bowl, Disneyland, Paramount Studios, etc…), she worked two internships. One was at Heroes & Villains, and the other at Millennium Films which she then continued on at for her co-op (more on that later).
“I made my Drexel in LA experience all about the industry,” Fusco says. “I came with the express purpose of figuring out my next step… it really did set me up for my career today – not only professionally, but personally.”
She recalls an especially significant Drexel in LA class, taught during by Screenwriting & Playwriting professor Ian Abrams, titled “An Evening With…” In each class meeting, Abrams brought in colleagues and connections from his storied LA career to lecture or give panel discussions for the students. One of those industry guests was Larry Brand, the late writer-director whose credits included Halloween: Resurrection and The Girl on the Train. Brand’s first job in Hollywood was as a production assistant to Orson Welles; naturally, he was full of stories and advice for aspiring filmmakers.
“We instantly clicked,” Lexx says. Brand introduced her to friends and colleagues, hosting dinner parties and film discussions. “We created a little family. That’s what made me feel like I was part of LA.”
Fusco stayed on for a six-month co-op with Millennium/Lionsgate and the comparatively smaller production company Blumhouse, known for producing horror films like Paranormal Activity, Get Out, and The Purge. She saw firsthand how movies came together, whether on the low-budget, independent level or within the bigger studio system.
As soon as she returned to Drexel after the whirlwind, nine-month LA experience, Fusco was laser-focused on getting back to Hollywood. She worked with Screenwriting & Playwriting program director Matthew Kaufhold to stack course credits and graduate ahead of schedule.
Industry Communication and Creative
Drexel in LA, like many similar programs, went on hold during the pandemic. It returned in 2022 with renewed vigor, welcoming a new cohort of students. While working to rebuild the program, Cinema & Television Department Head Karin Kelly approached Fusco about teaching a class.
“I pitched a class called ‘Industry Communication and Creative,’” Fusco says, “about learning how to communicate within the industry… how to pitch and convey ideas and get people excited about things you’re excited about.”
The course endeavored to synchronize students to the softer skills of working in entertainment: public speaking, project management, and – critically – feedback.
“Feedback is the language of the industry,” says Fusco, “You have to learn to give it and receive it with grace.”
Fusco’s course was a safe environment to practice pitching, professional language, communication cadence, and setting and managing expectations. It mimicked a professional environment, introducing students to development processes, studio mandates, and the interconnectedness of industry communication.
How It’s Going
The 2022 session of Drexel in LA lined up nicely with the condensed production timeline of Give Me an A. Fusco brought ten Drexel students in to work on the project; many were experienced on student sets and had interest in working in production. The Give Me an A set, starpower notwithstanding, felt similar in many ways to a student set: “it’s guerilla, fast, low-budget,” Fusco adds. “And a great networking opportunity.”
One of Give Me an A’s segments, “Abigail,” is a dramatized rendition of Abigail Adams’ letters to John Adams, extrapolating on the famous line, “Don’t forget the ladies.” It stars Alyssa Milano, known for TV roles on Charmed and Who’s the Boss and a long career of activism. Fusco laughs when she recalls bringing Drexel student Amanda Rosenblatt on set as a last-minute wardrobe assistant, forgetting that Rosenblatt is a devoted fan of Charmed.
“I think that changed Amanda’s life,” she says, “lacing Alyssa Milano into a dress.”
Meanwhile, Drexel in LA is gearing up to welcome a new crop of students this summer. The program recently hired a dedicated internship coordinator in Elizabeth Kitchens, who lives and works in Los Angeles full-time and has been representing Drexel at conferences and in industry conversations.
Fusco credits her experience with the Drexel in LA program “transformative.” It was the gateway to a burgeoning career and a strong professional network, and it’s come full circle as she returns to mentor the new cohort. She was drawn to Drexel’s Screenwriting & Playwriting program because of Drexel in LA and co-op, but more importantly, because every aspect of the education felt purposeful and practical. “I always felt like I was actually working towards a goal,” she says.
About Drexel in LA
Since 2011, Westphal's Drexel in LA program has brought hundreds of students to Los Angeles. Students drawn from the Film & Television, Screenwriting & Playwriting, Digital Media, Television & Media Management, Animation & Visual Effects, and related programs spend the entire summer term at the center of the entertainment universe. Students live and take classes in LA, while they work at internships for leading companies across the entertainment spectrum and begin to build their professional networks. For more information please contact Karin Kelly at email@example.com.
About Lexx Fusco
Lexx Fusco has a Bachelor of Science in screenwriting, a literal BS in story. Cosmically hilarious. She puts the multi in multi-hyphenate as she’s a writer, producer, director, development executive and technically an ordinary immortal—but that’s a story for a different blurb. Her scripts showcase her knack for dialogue, ability to tell tales from the perspective of the outsider that pique the audience’s mind, and are socially relevant…while still being commercial, fun, and engaging. During 2020's quarantine, she wrote and produced FLABULOUS, a 44-episode web series starring TikTok creators with followers ranging from 10k to 6m; and in 2021 sold a murder mystery comedy feature to Lifetime. Currently, Fusco is working alongside some very interesting individuals to bring her features to life: Prodigal’s Tarquin Pack is producing her horror comedy feature, FINAL GIRLS ANONYMOUS, and AFI's Carly Usdin is directing Fusco's modern day take on the classic black comedy HAROLD & MAUDE. She just wrapped production on a horror anthology she was an associate producer and writer for two of the segments on the star studded feature anthology about the overturning of Roe v Wade, GIVE ME AN A. Fusco is a big believer in if you don’t ask, it's an automatic no. She is perpetually looking for new ways to tell stories and champion those stories who haven’t been told.