Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger: The Wunderkinds
The first time Isaac Aptaker and his partner, Elizabeth Berger, were on a professional soundstage together, everyone kept trying to take their clothes off.
"Hair and makeup kept coming up to us," Aptaker reports, "saying, 'OK, let's get you guys in your nude cover; let's get you guys in body makeup; your scene is probably coming up!' "
"They kept thinking Isaac and I were a couple," Berger interjects.
"And we had to be, like, 'No, we're not shooting a sex scene -- we're the writers,' " he says.
That day, the pair was supervising the filming of a montage of 20 midcoitus couples for the NBC sitcom Friends With Benefits. Such situations, however, have become a recurring problem for the boyish Aptaker, 24, and Berger, 26, who might pass as an ingénue if not for her dry wit.
And while it can be an inconvenience -- like the time a security guard on the Universal lot refused to believe they had a meeting and radioed in their driver's license information to make sure -- their youth is also part of their cachet. Studios care what the kids are up to.
"We were in a meeting with this guy who couldn't be more than, like, 32," Aptaker laughs, "and he wouldn't stop being, like, 'So what are the kids doing nowadays? What are the kids into?' "
The friends have been writing as a team for five years -- since they were 19 and 21 -- but both got started even earlier. Aptaker, who grew up outside Boston, amused himself as a 10-year-old by writing a script for Boy Meets World. Meanwhile, Berger, who grew up in Queens, began doling out advice to the head writer of Sesame Street (who happened to be her father) at a very young age.
The pair met as freshmen at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts in 2005; as seniors, they won a $10,000 grant to write and film a sitcom. The Walk-Up was about five post-college strangers who meet on Craigslist and live together in a cramped, sixth-floor apartment.
Life imitated sitcom a year later when Berger joined Aptaker in Los Angeles. She couldn't afford her own apartment, so, Aptaker remembers, "We built this wall in the living room out of IKEA bookshelves and she found this amazing girl on Craigslist to live behind it."
"Not to live behind it -- to, to, to sleep behind it. It was cool; it was a partition," Berger protests.
"It wasn't quite a partition," he insists.
"It was almost a partition," she concedes.
After a little hustling, the pair landed Friends With Benefits, followed by another series about early-20somethings, MTV's I Just Want My Pants Back. Now they are working on two projects: an adaptation of the popular young-adult novel The Future of Us, and another MTV series, Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous, the brainchild of 21-year-old YouTube wunderkind Bo Burnham. The latter will mark the first time the two have worked with someone younger than themselves -- not that anyone is keeping track.