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Briarcliff Alum Returns To Speak About Screenwriting For 'Sleepy Hollow'

Briarcliff High school alumnus Sam Chalsen is flanked by English Department Coordinator Jamie Mandel and Superintendent of Schools James Kaishian.
Briarcliff High school alumnus Sam Chalsen is flanked by English Department Coordinator Jamie Mandel and Superintendent of Schools James Kaishian. Photo Credit: Photo Courtesy of the Briarcliff Manor Union Free School Dis

BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. -- "Sleepy Hollow" screenwriter and Briarcliff High School graduate Sam Chalsen recently spoke about his career to students at his alma mater.

In a workshop on Nov. 25, Chalsen spoke about the process of screenwriting for the hit FOX television series “Sleepy Hollow,” sharing photos from the sets and the writers’ room for the show, shot in North Carolina.

Students asked questions of Chalsen, including, “How do you come up with titles for the episodes?” and “How do you decide how to break up the (plot) of the entire season?”

Student Sydney Agona, stage manager for the school’s drama productions, said she learned a lot from Chalsen.

“I thought it was really cool how they organize their thoughts,” she said. “I watch complicated shows like ‘Once Upon a Time’ and find it fascinating that they have different storylines that intertwine.”

When Chalsen graduated in 2008, he left quite an impact on his teachers.

“Sam was probably one of the most brilliant students to go through Briarcliff,” said English department coordinator Jamie Mandel. “He’s very gifted; he’s incredibly creative.”

While at BHS, Chalsen was active with the student newspaper, chorus, drama club, plays and other creative outlets. After graduation, Chalsen went on to Harvard University, where he harnessed the creative talents he explored at BHS by delving into screenwriting. A year after graduation, he found himself working as a production assistant on “Sleepy Hollow.”

He credits Mandel, his drama club teacher, for helping him discover his love of writing for the stage.

“I like writing with action in mind,” he said. “That’s why I like screenwriting – because it’s alive.”

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