Illustration by Moises Marquez

Member Voices

From the Frontlines to the Writers’ Room

WGAW members who served in the military discuss the two arenas.

Who would guess that navigating through the blazing hot deserts of the Middle East, riding in a Chinook helicopter in south Baghdad, or interrogating suspected terrorists in Iraq would translate into breaking stories? Success in the military relies on both mental skill and physical ability. Written by spoke to four WGAW members who served in the U.S. military about their transition from the service to the entertainment industry. For Ryan Martinez-Slattery, Aaron Carew, Tony Camerino, Megan Ferrell Burke, and many others, the two arenas require similar attributes: collaboration, leadership, and a thick skin.

Ryan Martinez-Slattery

Ryan Martinez-Slattery – U.S. Navy Reserve
WGAW Member since October 2021

As part of a military family, Martinez-Slattery moved around a lot growing up but has always considered California home. He started exploring his love for writing before joining the U.S. Navy Reserve, studying dramatic arts and film at Harvard and receiving his MFA from the producer’s program at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television. 

After trying to sell scripts and not getting traction, he “sold his soul to the dark lords of reality television” serving as a Senior Vice President of Digital Content for World of Wonder Productions unscripted television. 

Martinez-Slattery, who identifies as gay, says Don't Ask Don’t Tell was always a barrier to serving, but when it was repealed he began to see joining the military as a possibility. He was commissioned into the U.S. Navy Reserve in 2014, where he became a lieutenant, and served in Afghanistan. A combat veteran, he still serves as an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve. 

When he returned to writing, Martinez-Slattery felt his experience provided a reservoir of experience from which to draw. 

“Getting to know people who’ve only known war and persecution, yet still maintain a sense of hope can give you a perspective on humanity you can't get anywhere else,” he said. “In writers’ rooms, my military background gives me a work ethic and an ability to work in demanding environments on tight deadlines where details matter.” 

Martinez-Slattery completed the Warner Bros. Television Writers’ Workshop in 2021, and served as a staff writer on the final season of Manifest.

Aaron Carew. Photo by Tim Schaeffer

Aaron Carew – U.S. Army
WGAW member since June of 2016 

Aaron Carew was originally only supposed to be in the Army for four years but, because of the Bush era policy of Stop-Loss (the involuntary extension of a service member’s term), he ended up serving three additional years. Carew joined about four months after the September 11, 2001 attacks, enlisting as a private at the age of 17 and rose to the rank of sergeant E5, which involves managing operations, before being honorably discharged.

“When I got out of the military, I wanted to go the complete opposite direction from my service so that I wouldn’t been typecast and labeled as an ‘Army writer,’” said Carew. “Eventually, I realized that the best way for me to achieve success was to combine all of my experiences into my writing, with the military definitely being a part of my formative years. Attributes such as paying attention to detail and completing tasks were absolutely elements I brought to my writing.”

He wrote and directed the short film, A Final Gift, when he was an undergraduate at UC Riverside. The film, loosely based on his mother’s career as a registered nurse, helped him get into the Peter Stark Producing Program at USC. Ultimately, he landed a job as a writer’s PA for the series Gang Related in 2014 before getting staffed on the series Lethal Weapon. He has since written for numerous shows, including L.A.’s Finest, Dirty John, and Walker, and recently sold a feature to Orion through Amazon. 

“There's something about creating something from nothing, putting it onto the page and breathing life into it, that I just love,” Carew said.

Getting to know people who’ve only known war and persecution, yet still maintain a sense of hope can give you a perspective on humanity you can't get anywhere else.

- Ryan Martinez-Slattery

Tony Camerino

Tony Camerino – U.S. Air Force 
WGAW member since January 2014

Though Tony Camerino joined the Air Force to travel, the experience led him to a two-pronged career. 

Camerino was a pilot of fixed-wing aircraft and special operations helicopters. He also became an interrogator, overseeing or conducting more than 1,300 interrogations in Iraq, and receiving a Bronze Star Medal for his exemplary work. 

“I volunteered to return to active duty as a Reservist in 2006 to train to be an intelligence interrogator, and went to the Army interrogations course at Fort Huachuca in Arizona,” Camerino said. “I was previously a special agent in the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and I had criminal interrogations training at our academy and in the field.” 

Camerino’s agent connected him with author John Bruning, who showed him how to spin his stories into first-person narratives. Camerino (writing under the pseudonym Matthew Alexander) and Bruning published How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq in 2008. 

In 2011, a screenwriter friend introduced Camerino to Jonathan Nolan, creator and showrunner of Person of Interest. He was a consultant on the series for its first three seasons before becoming a staff writer. 

He has a pilot in development at Netflix about Area 51, is developing a detective series, and is working on a feature adaptation of Rob Kugler’s book, A Dog Named Beautiful: A Marine, a Dog, and a Long Road Trip Home.

Megan Ferrell Burke

Megan Ferrell Burke – U.S. Marine Corps
WGAW member since February 2017

Megan Ferrell Burke was a high school junior in JROTC on September 11, 2001. The event galvanized her decision to join the Marine Corps, and she was commissioned into the U.S. Marine Corps in 2007. In the military, she often found herself the only woman in the room, a situation that she would subsequently experience in entertainment as well. 

Writing and being in the military are both experiences that involve “endurance, commitment, and tolerance for pain!” Burke said with a laugh. 

Burke’s father and brother were both Marines, and her aunt, Laine Dunham White, was a lead Disney Imagineer for the original Hollywood Tower of Terror. Burke attended USC’s School of Cinematic Arts on an ROTC scholarship. She later worked as a writers’ assistant on Manhattan, and sold a freelance script to the series. Upon learning that Outlander was looking for lower-level staff writers, she jumped at the opportunity. 

“Historical fiction is my wheelhouse, so being able to integrate into the already powerful base story was amazing,” said Ferrell, who wrote an episode of Outlander that aired in 2020.

She’s currently working on the upcoming Netflix series The Corps, based on WGAW member Greg Cope White’s memoir The Pink Marine: One Boy's Journey Through Bootcamp To Manhood, which is set on a Marine Corps base.

Burke sees leadership and vision as key components of both being a Marine and operating in the world of entertainment. Writing is her calling but, as with her military service, it's a difficult arena. “It’s not for the faint of heart!” 

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