046 – John Vorhaus (Comic Toolbox, Married… with Children)

John Vorhaus is best known as the author of The Comic Toolbox: How to be Funny Even if You’re Not. This seminal book on writing comedy for television and film is now available in four languages, and continues to be a definitive source of information and inspiration for writers from Santa Monica to Scandinavia.

An international consultant in television and film script development, Vorhaus has worked for television networks, film schools, and production companies in 30 countries on four continents.

Vorhaus’ own screenwriting credits include Married… with Children, Head of the Class, The Sentinel, The Flash and many overseas television shows and films, including the sitcoms House Arrest and Pretty, Sick and Twisted, and the movie Save Angel Hope.

John is also the author of the six-volume Killer Poker series, plus miscellaneous other books on the subject, including the novel Under the Gun, a “how-to whodunit” set in the world of high stakes tournament poker. His other novels include The California Roll and its upcoming sequel, The Albuquerque Turkey.

Vorhaus is a graduate of Carnegie-Mellon University and a member of the Writers Guild of America. He has taught writing at Northwestern University and the American Film Institute, and lectured for such disparate groups as Mensa and the New Jersey Romance Writers Association.

Discover more about John at his website: http://johnvorhaus.com

Follow John on Twitter: @TrueFactBarFact

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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 1,000 TV writers. Find our previous episodes and other resources at www.tvwriterpodcast.com or on Gray’s YouTube channel.

044 – John Finch (A Family At War, Sam, Coronation Street)

This week we are proud to welcome the creator of some of the UK’s finest and highest-rated TV series of the 1970s, recipient of the Best Series Writer award by the Writers Guild of Great Britain, writer-author-series creator John Finch!

John Finch was born in Liverpool during the Depression. When his father disappeared, he moved with his mother to a mining community in Yorkshire. Life was tough, and by the time he left school at the age of 14 he had been to 12 schools, including an orphanage.

At the outbreak of war, he joined the Merchant Navy at the age of 16 and sailed from Liverpool in 1941. He served as a sparks on a freighter, a tanker, a troop ship, and a rescue tug before being medically discharged in 1944.

He worked various jobs upon returning from the war, gradually moving toward writing as a career. In this time, he wrote for various magazines such as Illustrated and Picture Post, with occasional contributions to the BBC, and his first play, the first in television to have an industrial setting, was transmitted in 1958.

In 1960, he became the first trainee writer to be contracted to write Coronation Street, now the world’s longest-running TV soap opera, and later became editor and producer. He went on to became Granada’s most prolific writer and created, wrote and edited many of the company’s longest-running serials and series. These included the 52-hour series A Family at War, which sold throughout the world and is still being transmitted in countries such as India and Pakistan, and throughout the Middle East. Norwegian viewers recently voted it the best television series ever. He later created and personally wrote every episode of the 39-hour series Sam, a tribute to his mining village upbringing, and went on to create and write many other long-running series.

In 1975, he was given the award of Best Series Writer by the Writers Guild of Great Britain, and received the Broadcasting Press Guild Critics Award for Sam in the same year.

His novel, Cuddon Return, was a bestseller, and in 2002 he completed his first play for the theatre, JOE, described as “a play for two actors and a load of junk.” It has been warmly praised by critics, producers, actors and fellow writers.

He has lived with his family for many years in the Yorkshire Dales.

Visit John’s website: johnfinch.com

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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 1,000 TV writers. Find our previous episodes and other resources at www.tvwriterpodcast.com or on Gray’s YouTube channel.

043 – Pamela Douglas (Writing the TV Drama Series, USC)

She wrote the book on TV writing … literally! And she also started what has become the most esteemed graduate school for television writing. This week Gray has a wonderful chat with author, writer, and professor Pamela Douglas.

Born and raised in New York, Pamela Douglas wrote poetry, stories and plays, and was involved in journalism. Her work was published in small magazines, and won her some prizes. This led to a job offer across the country, as program director for experimental public TV station in Los Angeles.

When the station went broke, a bold interview led to her being hired as an executive in feature film development at MCA-Universal. She honed her craft there, writing several unproduced features, but grew to realize that television was where she wanted to be.

The first TV episode she ever wrote, for Trapper John M.D., won an Emmy® for actress Madge Sinclair, and Pamela was off to the races! She worked on many well-known shows, and was honored with many awards, such as a Humanitas Award for Between Mother and Daughter, an original drama which also won a nomination for a Writers Guild Award. Multiple Emmy nominations and awards from American Women in Radio and Television went to other dramas she has written.

Seeing a need in the industry, Pamela started the TV writing program at the School of Cinematic Arts of the University of Southern California, and is now a tenured professor there. Her book, Writing the TV Drama Series: How to Succeed as a Professional Writer in TV is considered one of the premier books on the subject, and has just been updated with a third edition.

You can find out more about her non-screenwriting works on her websites: http://pamdouglasbooks.com and http://pamdouglasart.com.

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 1,000 TV writers. Find our previous episodes and other resources at www.tvwriterpodcast.com or on Gray’s YouTube channel.

042 – Alan Cross (Weird Science, Dawson’s Creek)

From Robert McKee’s “Screenwriting 101” class at USC, to co-developing a successful spinoff of a John Hughes classic, to writing on some of the most well-known shows of the last two decades, writer-producer-author-director Alan Cross has a lot of great stories to tell!

Born and raised in Alaska, Alan Cross filled his time with watching TV. He came to California to attend art school, but when he discovered a TV writing book, he was hooked. He switched to USC, where he had the fortune of attending Robert McKee’s “Screenwriting 101” class.

After working some odd jobs, he finally landed a staff TV writing job, and his dream of working in TV was realized! After several seasons of the comedy Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, he and his writing partner co-developed the TV adaptation of the John Hughes classic teen comedy Weird Science, which he helmed as co-executive producer for its successful five-season run.

After Weird Science, Alan co-executive produced Veronica’s Closet as well as Get Real, and was a consulting producer on Dawson’s Creek.

Since then, Alan has written on well known shows Star Trek: Enterprise, Desperate Housewives, Reaper, and more.

Follow Alan on Twitter: @Alancrossss

Visit Alan’s website: http://www.alancrosswriter.com

In the Video Tips section, Gray has a very practical lesson on holding the camera steady with or without extra gear, applicable to shooting with a still camera, camcorder, or DSLR camera. Featured gear includes the Steady Freddy and Indisystem AIRsupport.

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 1,000 TV writers. Find our previous episodes and other resources at www.tvwriterpodcast.com or on Gray’s YouTube channel.

041 – Pilar Alessandra (The Coffee Break Screenwriter, On The Page)

It’s podcast mashup time! Instructor, author, and script consultant Pilar Alessandra, host of the “On the Page” podcast, joins Gray for a wonderful interview.

Pilar Alessandra moved to L.A. from Boston to pursue acting, but immediately fell in love with storytelling, and got a job as a script reader for Amblin Entertainment. With the formation of DreamWorks, she became Senior Story Analyst and a reader liaison between the studio and Robert Zemeckis’ company, ImageMovers. Her expert script analysis was also sought out by The Robert Evans Company, Cineville Entertainment, Handprint Entertainment, and Saturday Night Live Studios, and work at Interscope Communications led her to a position as Senior Story Analyst for Scott Kroopf’s production company Radar Pictures.

Pilar was later bitten by the “teaching bug” while teaching screenwriting and story analysis at the UCLA Writers’ Program. In 2001, she started her own company, “On the Page,” and in 2004 opened the On the Page Writers Studio in Sherman Oaks, California. In the interest of expanding access to her teaching tools, she presents weekly “On the Page” podcasts with guest hosts from within the industry. The shows regularly appear in the iTunes Top 100 list of film and TV podcasts.

In this interview, she discusses overcoming writer’s block, how a writers group mixing TV and feature writers can actually benefit both groups, the most important elements when pursuing a writing career, and much more!

Follow Pilar on Twitter: @onthepage

Visit her website: http://onthepage.tv

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 1,000 TV writers. Find our previous episodes and other resources at www.tvwriterpodcast.com or on Gray’s YouTube channel.

032 – Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars, Party Down)

Do spec pilot scripts sell? What about pilots shot on spec? This week Gray talks to successful author-writer-producer Rob Thomas, creator of Cupid, Veronica Mars, and most recently, Party Down.

Rob Thomas has a fascinating story. He went from basketball and football player to rock band bassist, then graduated from college with a history degree and taught high school … all by his early twenties!

He moved to L.A. in the early 1990s to work at Channel One News, an L.A.-based TV news show aimed at teenagers. He then got a book deal, and published four young adult novels and a collection of short stories.

One of his novels led him to his break in Hollywood, and he got on the staff of Dawson’s Creek in its first season. Fourteen months after starting Dawson’s Creek, Rob wrote and sold the pilot Cupid, which was picked up! Halfway through its first season he became the showrunner.

Rob shares some great stories about how he came up with the idea for the critically acclaimed Veronica Mars, which he wrote on spec, and also how he not only wrote Party Down on spec, but shot the pilot with his own money at his own house!

Follow Rob on Twitter: @slaverat1

Visit Rob’s web site: www.slaverats.com

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 1,000 TV writers. Find our previous episodes and other resources at www.tvwriterpodcast.com or on Gray’s YouTube channel.