Writer & Producer (Code Black, LAX); Series Creator (False Profits)
Written by Cristina Slattery AB '97
Edited by Dona Le
Series creator finds comedy in multi-level marketing in upcoming ABC show False Profits
Kayla Alpert AB '91 says Harvard taught her that “everyone has a special gift,” and that it is important for each student to find out what that gift is for him or her. The writer-producer of False Profits, a new comedy that will air on ABC this fall, Alpert studied English in college and knew she wanted to be involved in the humanities when she graduated.
"I always loved reading and writing, so I had a vague idea about pursuing a career in the humanities (no med school or law school for me)—but it wasn’t until the end of my senior year that I specifically wanted to try my hand at screenwriting in Hollywood."
Now, Alpert says one of the phrases she most overuses is: “I’d be happy to do a rewrite.”
A former resident of Adams House, Alpert was an editor for The Advocate, a Signet Society member, and an active photographer while at Harvard. She cites David Sedaris and Jeffrey Eugenides as two of her favorite writers, and mentions David Benioff, Buck Henry, and Mike White as screenwriters she admires.
But Alpert enjoys a "huge range of genres—from black comedy like Election and Notes on a Scandal to period drama like Remains of the Day and gothic horror like The Others.... There’s so much good television now as well—Handmaid’s Tale, Silicon Valley, Difficult People, The Crown."
Alpert's diverse tastes are reflected in the diversity of success she has achieved throughout her career. She adapted for the big screen Confessions of a Shopaholic, as well as works by author V.C. Andrews, Flowers in the Attic and Petals on the Wind. More recently, Alpert served as writer-producer on Code Black.
"Movies have definitely taken a backseat to television, and I think that’s in large part because in TV, writers control the medium," notes Alpert.
Speaking of TV, next up on Alpert's docket is her new series False Profits, for which she has assembled a writers' room, now that ABC has ordered it for the upcoming season. Alpert thought of the idea for False Profits last summer, when she noticed friends and women she knew involved in businesses that were based on multi-level marketing, in which a seller makes a commission by convincing others in his or her network to sell a particular product. This is a common business model in the makeup and skincare industries.
Alpert observed that it is often women working in such capacities, and thus blossomed her idea for a series that focuses on women in Arizona who are fighting to reach the highest levels in the multi-level makeup business. False Profits, given its comedic bent, has been described as reminiscent of ABC hit series Desperate Housewives.
Alpert explains that she is drawn to stories about “strong, compelling women who are flawed.”
Her mother had a career as an economist in New York City at a time when most moms in the suburb north of the city that she grew up in were baking cookies and leading Girl Scouts. Kayla’s pathologist father was the one who was responsible for grocery shopping and cooking dinner, and the young Kayla never doubted that she would “have a career or make [her] own money.”
After graduating from Harvard, Alpert moved to Los Angeles and answered fan mail for American Gladiators at the film studio that later bought her first screenplay. Her advice to young graduates who want to make it in Hollywood: “Move to Los Angeles… and be willing to take any job, no matter how ‘low level’ or lame it sounds.”
The Harvard network in Los Angeles has been “very impactful,” according to Alpert, and it exists as “an interconnected web” of social acquaintances and individuals she knows from projects and various work environments.
Now a mom of ten-year-old twin boys, Alpert admits that finding balance with a demanding career and a husband and young children is a challenge. The responsibility of raising her actual children and the “baby” that is False Profits that she has brought to life onscreen means that she has little time for outside interests right now and any small moments to herself—such as when she walks her dog—are valued.
This writer and producer does “a little of everything” in order to realize her vision for the show, and we as viewers look forward to seeing the creation that results when False Profits airs on ABC in the 2018-19 season!