104 – Evan Bleiweiss (Vampire Diaries, Rosewood, Black Sails, The Crossing)

This week, host Gray Jones interviews writer-producer Evan Bleiweiss, who has written for “The Vampire Diaries,” “Rosewood,” and “The Crossing,” and has sold several TV pilots, though he never went to college.

This episode is sponsored by Pilar Alessandra of onthepage.tv. Pilar is offering a 10% discount on her online “Writing TV” class, which runs Saturdays from July 11 – August 1. To get your 10% off, use the coupon code onthepage10 at checkout.

Evan Bleiweiss grew up on Long Island, but his family moved to Los Angeles in time for him to attend high school here. It was a teacher’s encouragement of his unique voice that led him to pursue writing… and it just so happened that he played hockey with then-unknown Shawn Ryan. Shawn gave him an opportunity to intern on the pilot of “The Shield,” but then encouraged him to take some time to hone his craft before really trying to break in. That’s exactly what he did… and another relationship led to him being hired onto the series in season 4 as a post-PA. By the 7th season, he was a writer’s assistant, and ended up co-writing the penultimate episode of the series.

You might see a pattern emerging… Evan credits many of his opportunities and successes to taking the time to foster relationships. He shares many great stories about staffing on “The Vampire Diaries,” “Matador,” “Black Sails,” and then the full run of “Rosewood,” where he rose to supervising producer level. His many sold pilots include a remake of “Big Trouble In Little China,” which is an amazing story of a pilot he wrote on spec WITHOUT the rights, but ended up being contracted to do a paid rewrite.

Evan has a lot of advice for greener writers, and he shares how a strong work ethic, the willingness to study hard and hone his craft, active networking, and the fact that he was already based in LA made it possible for him to break in without a college degree..

INDEX TO THE EPISODE:
2:16 – Interview start; Evan’s background, how a high school teacher inspired his interest in writing for film & TV.
6:00 – How playing hockey with Shawn Ryan led to him becoming an intern on “The Shield.”
8:00 – How Shawn Ryan encouraged him to take time to hone his craft, and he started writing together with a friend of his.
10:41 – How they wrote a play together that got produced in LA.
11:32 – How another hockey buddy led him to apply for a post PA job on “The Shield,” which he did for over 2 seasons and learned a ton.
16:24 – How on his 3rd season at “The Shield,” he applied to be a writers assistant and got the job.
17:07 – how he proved himself invaluable by being an encyclopedia of everything that had happened on the show, and he ended up co-writing the second-last episode of the series.
20:01 – Discussion about how he didn’t need to go to college to break in.
21:18 – Discussion about his representation.
21:57 – Using the 2008 Writers Strike to write a killer spec pilot, and wrote a TV version of “Big Trouble In Little China” (without permission), and the crazy circumstances that led to him being contracted to re-write it as a real pilot.
26:13 – On getting an agent and writing his next pilot.
28:36 – His first staff gig on “The Vampire Diaries.”
31:26 – Leaving “The Vampire Diaries” after 2 seasons, when his daughter was born. Took time off, then was staffed on “Matador.”
34:18 – How he landed on his feet when his show was unexpectedly cancelled, and ended up working on “Black Sails” season 3.
37:24 – How an old friend he kept up with led him to work on “Rosewood,” which was his first chance to be on a series from beginning to end.
40:06 – How another relationship led to him working on “The Crossing.”
41:37 – Getting back to developing his own projects, selling a couple of pilots. with a stint on “See” for Apple and the upcoming show “Archive 81” for Netflix.
45:34 – Coping with COVID-19.
46:25 – What mistakes he sees younger writers making. Learning to break story very quickly, and to write quickly. Not being precious with your ideas. Writing specs to practice writing the voice of the show runner.
52:47 – How he never saw not going to college as a disadvantage.
55:25 – Who his mentors have been over the years. How he feels you need to be always learning. Watching a show while reading the script to study it. Fostering relationships.
59:00 – Advice to younger self – reassurance that you are on the right path, even if things are hard. Don’t give up! If you work really hard and persist, people will notice. Throw yourself all the way in — read lots of scripts, study, put the work in to learning your craft.

Follow Evan on Twitter: @EPBleiweiss

Photo credit: Kenchy Ragsdale

You can help with the ongoing costs of bringing these weekly podcasts to you by becoming a patron of the podcast – for as little as 25¢ per episode! There are many reward levels. CLICK HERE to find out more.

Buy Gray’s book for only $4.99! Look for it on Amazon – How To Break In To TV Writing: Insider Interviews.

Didn’t get your questions asked? Make sure you follow Gray on Twitter (@GrayJones) so you can get the scoop on who is being interviewed and how to get your questions in. Also check out our TV Writer Twitter Database to find Twitter addresses for over 1,200 TV writers. Find previous episodes and other resources at www.tvwriterpodcast.com.

PLEASE NOTE: we are now doing Tuesday releases, to line up with Script Magazine’s release dates.

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103 – Carole Kirschner (CBS Diversity Institute Writers Mentoring Program, Showrunner Training Program)

This week, host Gray Jones interviews Carole Kirschner, creator and director of the CBS Diversity Institute Writers Mentoring Program, and director of the Showrunner Training Program.

This episode is sponsored by Pilar Alessandra of onthepage.tv. Pilar is offering a 10% discount on her online “Writing TV” class, which runs Saturdays from July 11 – August 1. To get your 10% off, use the coupon code onthepage10 at checkout.

This is Carole Kirschner’s third appearance on the podcast — be sure to check out her first interview in episode 054, where she talked about her own career path through the industry and her excellent book, Hollywood Game Plan. Her second appearance was in Gray’s well attended panel at San Diego Comic-Con called “How to Write a TV Pilot,” in episode 085.

In this new interview, Carole reveals tons of great tips on how to stand out from the rest of the pack in your submissions to the CBS Diversity Writers Mentoring Program. Her advice is also applicable to the other writing fellowships, and college applications as well. She also has great tips on what makes or breaks writing samples, and shares at length about the Showrunner Training Program and the current state of the industry.

Having worked as a senior level television development executive for eighteen years (including her posts at CBS and as head of Steven Spielberg’s first Amblin Television), Carole has read over heard over 3,000 pitches, read more than 1,000 scripts, bought hundreds of projects and was involved in developing dozens of television series.

She is currently the Director of the Writers Guild of America’s Showrunner Training Program, the creator and Director of the CBS Diversity Writers Mentoring Program and is consulting with the Jewish Writers Initiative Program.

She’s also an author and international speaker. In her role as an entertainment career coach she helps aspiring writers, producers and directors navigate Hollywood as they break in and move up in the entertainment industry.

Her book, Hollywood Game Plan: How to Land a Job in Film, TV and Digital Entertainment, published by Michael Weise Publishers, is taught in film schools and universities around the country.

INDEX TO THE EPISODE:
0:00 – Introduction
4:01 – Interview start, discussing how the industry has and hasn’t changed since she published Hollywood Game Plan 8 years ago. How she considers it easier to get your content produced, and social media is playing a bigger role.
8:20 – Main topic of interview — expanding on her Twitter thread discussing script submissions to CBS Diversity Institute Writers Mentoring Program. What is the program and why would someone want to apply for it?
12:15 – 6-8 are chosen each year from over 1,300 submissions. What will make your application stand out?
13:22 – How the letter of interest/personal essay is a writing sample.
19:30 – Story submissions – make it something only you can write, but universal.
22:02 – Need genuine life experience, not just being inspired from TV you’ve watched. Read other mediums, not just TV.
26:13 – What makes a compelling spec episode? Do stunt scripts work?
35:08 – Why stay within one genre? Finding your sweet spot and sticking to it. What will you bring to the room?
40:12 – How many are disqualified for not following instructions, and why?
42:53 – What is the track record of the program?
44:19 – Sponsor break.
45:30 – All about the Showrunner Training Program, moving from being a writer to a manager, delivering quality scripts on time. What does the program offer? Who is eligible?
52:40 – What is its track record?
56:41 – What is the landscape like for breaking in to television writing in 2020, virus aside? How she finds people aren’t working hard enough on their careers.
59:58 – How important is a college education now?
1:01:05 – How is COVID-19 changing the way someone might break in?
1:03:17 – Final advice and call to action.

You can help with the ongoing costs of bringing these weekly podcasts to you by becoming a patron of the podcast – for as little as 25¢ per episode! There are many reward levels. CLICK HERE to find out more.

Buy Gray’s book for only $4.99! Look for it on Amazon – How To Break In To TV Writing: Insider Interviews.

Didn’t get your questions asked? Make sure you follow Gray on Twitter (@GrayJones) so you can get the scoop on who is being interviewed and how to get your questions in. Also check out our TV Writer Twitter Database to find Twitter addresses for over 1,200 TV writers. Find previous episodes and other resources at www.tvwriterpodcast.com.

PLEASE NOTE: we are now doing Tuesday releases, to line up with Script Magazine’s release dates.

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102 – Spiro Skentzos (Arrow, Grimm, Chadam)

This week, host Gray Jones interviews writer Spiro Skentzos, who has written for “Arrow,” “Grimm,” and TV pilots, as well as “Chadam,” an animated web series he co-created.

This episode is sponsored by Pilar Alessandra of onthepage.tv. Pilar is offering a 10% discount on her online “Writing TV” class, which runs Saturdays from July 11 – August 1. To get your 10% off, use the coupon code onthepage10 at checkout.

Spiro Skentzos grew up in a multi-ethnic family speaking Spanish, Greek, and English – and the inevitable mash-up of Magical Realism and ancient mythology primed him as a child to fall hard for genre stories, the world-building fantasy of comic books, and Star Wars.

His first foray into screenwriting was as a young boy, when he wrote a script for his Star Wars figures where they battled his sister’s giant, menacing Barbie dolls—and he’s been writing ever since.

His professional career began in comedy on “George Lopez.” Then Spiro co-created and co-wrote the animated sci-fi/zombie web series “Chadam.” He’s written on two seasons on “Grimm,” a season on “Arrow,” and has sold 3 pilots.

To inspire the next generation of writers, Spiro created the “Intro to TV Writing” panel at Comic-Con, currently in its eleventh year. He’s a graduate of NBC’s Writers on the Verge Program, and co-chairs the WGA’s LGBTQ+ Committee. When not writing, he paints (on canvas, not houses), is learning French, and still enjoys reading comics. Follow Spiro on twitter @spirographo & IG @spirovisionproductions.

INDEX TO THE EPISODE:

01:29 – Interview start.
02:18 – How is the virus affecting you?
04:41 – His background, art history major at U of Michigan.
05:31 – Started as an assistant on the George Lopez Show.
05:44 – How he “almost” got representation air that time.
07:34 – How he made the shift to genre writing, and where his love of mythology and comic books came from.
08:44 – Co-creating, co-writing animated web series Chadam, trying to break into one hour drama. Agent horror story, and the spec that got him into NBC Writers on the Verge.
10:19 – 2008 writers strike was a setback, but NBC really pushed to get him onto a show, and he finally got on staff on Grimm.
13:02 – On developing and selling pilots and a feature, and then staffing on Arrow.
15:19 – Sponsors.
16:17 – All about Arrow.
18:01 – What he’s been working on since Arrow.
18:57 – Who his mentors have been – Erika Kennair, Karen Horn, others, and the importance of fostering friendships. Also how he mentors others.
22:18 – How and why he got started moderating panels.
25:49 – how he learned and hones his craft.
27:21 – toughest part and best part about being a TV writer. Turning bad experiences into a story.
31:08 – How Peak TV is changing TV writing… smaller staffs, shorter runs.
34:14 – His future plans.
37:45 – Tips for greener writers, general writing & career tips.

You can help with the ongoing costs of bringing these weekly podcasts to you by becoming a patron of the podcast – for as little as 25¢ per episode! There are many reward levels. CLICK HERE to find out more.

Buy Gray’s book for only $4.99! Look for it on Amazon – How To Break In To TV Writing: Insider Interviews.

Didn’t get your questions asked? Make sure you follow Gray on Twitter (@GrayJones) so you can get the scoop on who is being interviewed and how to get your questions in. Also check out our TV Writer Twitter Database to find Twitter addresses for over 1,200 TV writers. Find previous episodes and other resources at www.tvwriterpodcast.com.

PLEASE NOTE: we are now doing Tuesday releases, to line up with Script Magazine’s release dates.

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101 – Shawn Ryan (Timeless, SWAT, The Shield, The Chicago Code, The Unit)

This week, host Gray Jones interviews veteran producer Shawn Ryan, who has created or co-created a number of series, including The Shield, The Chicago Code, Last Resort, Timeless, and his current series SWAT.

This episode is sponsored by Pilar Alessandra of onthepage.tv. Pilar is offering a 10% discount to TV Writer Podcast viewers. To get your 10% off, contact Pilar through her website and mention the podcast.

Shawn Ryan started out writing and acting in plays. He won the prestigious Norman Lear Playwriting Award, which included an opportunity to come to Los Angeles and observe the TV series My Two Dads. One of his pitches got turned into an episode for the series, and he knew he wanted to write for TV! But it would be several years of hard work, honing his craft and writing over a dozen spec scripts, before he finally got his first staff gig on Nash Bridges.

Shawn is a learner, and a very hard worker. He has many helpful stories to tell about how he learned his craft, and how he learned to be his own worst critic. You’ll love hearing how he came to create and run The Shield when he had very little production experience, and how he learned to create and co-create so many successful series.

Timeless fans will be especially excited to hear about how he co-created that show with Eric Kripke, the love he has for the show and the fans, and how hopeful he is for future continuation of the story.

INDEX TO THE EPISODE:

1:22 – Interview start, overview of creating and helping to create and run shows in a competitive industry.
3:24 – How has COVID-19 affected him?
7:18 – Back at the beginning, how did winning the Normal Lear Playwriting Award help launch his career? Discusses theater and playwriting, then going to Hollywood to observe My Two Dads as part of the award, and starting to pitch ideas on the show.
10:56 – Harder times after that show, getting days jobs and learning to increase his work ethic. Was a clever writer, but needed to learn the craft of being a deep writer.
12:28 – Wrote 16-17 spec scripts… talks about the 3 most important factors in breaking in.
14:53 – His first staff gig on Nash Bridges, after writing freelance episodes of Life with Louie.
16:54 – How the years of struggle are important for a writer.
19:23 – How not getting hired on Buffy the Vampire Slayer was actually better for his career — describes this training ground on Nash Bridges with Carlton Cuse and John Worth in detail, and working on Angel. Learning to become valuable to a show by being a story machine.
25:31 – How The Shield was born out of a spec pilot he had written… how he didn’t have much production experience but was open about what he didn’t know and relied on good people around him to succeed. Lots of detail about building this show for the new FX Network.
37:44 – The next few years, successfully developing many projects, working on The Unit with David Mamet, Mad Dogs. Getting excited about projects.
41:48 – Sponsor messages.
43:02 – All about co-creating Timeless with Eric Kirpke, and running that show. How he loves history, and the book The People’s History was a great resource for stories. How amazed he is by the fans, and how he is hopeful about the show’s future.
51:27 – How he feels about Peak TV as a show creator. Will TV decline the way movies did?
54:22 – Advice to younger writers, and to people trying to break in. How he asked to read a spec that was getting that writer work, and studied it. Learned not to settle for B+ work.

Follow Shawn on Twitter: @ShawnRyanTV

You can help with the ongoing costs of bringing these weekly podcasts to you by becoming a patron of the podcast – for as little as 25¢ per episode! There are many reward levels. CLICK HERE to find out more.

Buy Gray’s book for only $4.99! Look for it on Amazon – How To Break In To TV Writing: Insider Interviews.

Didn’t get your questions asked? Make sure you follow Gray on Twitter (@GrayJones) so you can get the scoop on who is being interviewed and how to get your questions in. Also check out our TV Writer Twitter Database to find Twitter addresses for over 1,200 TV writers. Find previous episodes and other resources at www.tvwriterpodcast.com.

PLEASE NOTE: we are now doing Tuesday releases, to line up with Script Magazine’s release dates.

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100 – Benjamin Raab & Deric A. Hughes (Warehouse 13, Arrow, The Flash, Legacies)

This week, host Gray Jones interviews writer/producer team Benjamin Raab and Deric A. Hughes, currently co-executive producing Legacies on the CW, who have written and produced on Arrow, Scream: the Series, The Flash, Beauty and the Beast and Warehouse 13.

Episode 099 is sponsored by Pilar Alessandra of onthepage.tv. Pilar is offering a 10% discount on her interactive-online class “Rewrite Techniques,” running Four Saturdays, May 23 – June 13. To get your 10% off, use the code onthepage10 at checkout.

Benjamin Raab and Deric A. Hughes have written together for almost 20 years. Ben got his start in comic books, which led to their “geek cute” in a comic book shop. They describe how it took many years of writing and applying, including for for a comic book series and web series, and multiple years applying for fellowships, before they finally landed a spot in NBC Writers on the Verge.

While still in that fellowship, they were staffed on Warehouse 13, and have high praise for the positive creative environment fostered by showrunner Jack Kenny (interviewed in episode 2). From there, they wrote on Beauty and the Beast, The Flash, Scream: The Series, and Arrow, before landing a co-EP gig on Legacies.

They also describe their experience in the Showrunner Training Program, what they’ve learned, and how important it is to mentor others and “pay it forward.”

INDEX TO THE EPISODE:

0:00 – Fun blooper from the interview.
2:01 – Interview starts, Ben & Deric describe the “geek cute” of their writing partnership, in a comic book shop.
4:44 – Deric tells about his background, and what led to them writing together.
6:52 – the years of hard work from when they started writing together to when they got into NBC Writers on the Verge, including writing a comic series and web series.
13:59 – Their experience getting into and attending the Writers on the Verge program, then staffing on Warehouse 13 while still in the program.
17:39 – Their experience writing on Warehouse 13 under showrunner Jack Kenny
21:30 – Discussion about going to set for their episodes, and different showrunner philosophies. Do they focus on trying to get work with showrunners they like? Also about stepping stones in your career.
27:12 – Puppy cameo! (Also 50:07)
31:23 – On getting fired from shows, bad showrunner experiences. Other trials and tribulations.
39:22 – Sponsor break
40:21 – All about the Showrunner Training Program — how a lot of being a good showrunner boils down to being good communicator, and hiring the right people to do each job (and then letting them do their job).
52:44 – The mentoring they’ve received, and paying it forward.
1:00:56 – Advice to greener writers – be patient, check your ego at the door, listen, learn, never stop being a student.

Follow Ben on Twitter: @Wondermasons. Follow Deric on Twitter: @dblackanese.

You can help with the ongoing costs of bringing these weekly podcasts to you by becoming a patron of the podcast – for as little as 25¢ per episode! There are many reward levels. CLICK HERE to find out more.

Buy Gray’s book for only $4.99! Look for it on Amazon – How To Break In To TV Writing: Insider Interviews.

Didn’t get your questions asked? Make sure you follow Gray on Twitter (@GrayJones) so you can get the scoop on who is being interviewed and how to get your questions in. Also check out our TV Writer Twitter Database to find Twitter addresses for over 1,200 TV writers. Find previous episodes and other resources at www.tvwriterpodcast.com.

PLEASE NOTE: starting today we are moving to simultaneous Tuesday releases on all platforms. Watch for us each week on Podbean (video), Podbean (audio), YouTube (video), Spotify (audio), iTunes (video), iTunes (audio), at scriptmag.com, and of course here at tvwriterpodcast.com.

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099 – Ken Estin (Showrunner of Cheers, Taxi) and Paula Finn (Author, Sitcom Writers Talk Shop)

This week, host Gray Jones interviews veteran comedy writer Ken Estin, showrunner of Cheers and Taxi and creator of The Tracy Ullman Show, and Paula Finn, the author of Sitcom Writers Talk Shop.

Episode 099 is sponsored by Pilar Alessandra of onthepage.tv. Pilar is offering a 10% discount on her interactive-online class “Rewrite Techniques,” running Four Saturdays, May 23 – June 13. To get your 10% off, use the code onthepage10at checkout.

Paula Finn grew up in the shadow of her late father Herbert Finn, who wrote on such classic comedies as The Honeymooners, The Flintstones, and Gilligan’s Island. This also gave her unique access for her book. In Sitcom Writers Talk Shop, Paula interviewed some of the greatest names of the genre: Carl Reiner, Norman Lear, James L. Brooks, Phil Rosenthal, and many more.

Ken Estin, one of her interviewees, is also in this interview; he tells compelling stories of his unique path into the industry, becoming a showrunner of an Emmy-winning series within 2 years of getting on staff, running Taxi and Cheers, and creating The Tracy Ullman Show. He gives great advice and insight on comedy writing, and how writing sitcoms differs from single camera comedies.

INDEX TO THE EPISODE:

2:39 – Interview start.
3:10 – Paula talks about growing up in the home of veteran comedy writer Herbert Finn, what she learned from hanging around sitcom sets.
4:47 – What led to her writing the book Sitcom Writers Talk Shop, and what it was like to interview the greats like Norman Lear, James L. Brooks and Carl Reiner.
7:45 – Ken discusses writing on Taxi, and having to have big jokes, and other differences between writing then and now.
11:28 – Ken shares about his unique path into the industry, sending a Bob Newhart spec script to the Bob Newhart show… how that led to staffing on Taxi, and what he learned while writing that show.
18:57 – How Ken became the showrunner of an Emmy-winning show within 2 years of getting on staff, and then later ran Cheers.
22:55 – Ken talks about some of the careers that were made on Taxi.
25:50 – Sponsor ads.
26:50 – Specifics of comedy writing – coming up with ideas and jokes, and if there are rules to follow.
31:01 – What is the best part about writing comedy? The hardest?
34:43 – What is different about writing single camera comedies?
37:09 – Ken discusses creating the Tracy Ullman Show.
41:30 – How do veteran comedy writers feel about the state of the industry now?
43:11 – Paula shares highlights of interviewing the great comedy writers for her book, and what the response has been to it.
47:20 – Advice to someone starting out in comedy writing.

Follow Paula on Twitter: @Talkingcomedy

You can help with the ongoing costs of bringing these weekly podcasts to you by becoming a patron of the podcast – for as little as 25¢ per episode! There are many reward levels. CLICK HERE to find out more.

Buy Gray’s book for only $4.99! Look for it on Amazon – How To Break In To TV Writing: Insider Interviews.

Didn’t get your questions asked? Make sure you follow Gray on Twitter (@GrayJones) so you can get the scoop on who is being interviewed and how to get your questions in. Also check out our TV Writer Twitter Database to find Twitter addresses for over 1,200 TV writers. Find previous episodes and other resources at www.tvwriterpodcast.com.

Upcoming weekly interviews will include Shawn Ryan (creator of Timeless and The Shield), writers from Arrow, The Flash, Legacies and Warehouse 13, and lots more! PLEASE NOTE: there will be no episode the week of Memorial Day, and we will be moving to Tuesday releases in June, to line up with Script Magazine’s release dates.

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