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.

029 – Sheldon Bull (author, “Elephant Bucks”)

Writer-producer-author Sheldon Bull was challenged by friend and co-writer Blake Snyder to write a Save the Cat for sitcom writing. Thus was born Elephant Bucks: An Inside Guide to Writing for TV Sitcoms.


Sheldon Bull has earned Elephant Bucks as a highly successful TV writer and producer for 30 years.

He has held positions from story editor to executive producer on 11 different primetime network situation comedies, working with and writing for stars like Bill Cosby, Alan Alda, Danny DeVito, Bob Newhart, Henry Winkler, Craig T. Nelson, Loni Anderson, Betty White, and Melissa Joan Hart.

Sheldon has produced a string of hit series including Newhart, A Different World, Coach, and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.

He lives in the Los Angeles area … You can visit his website at www.sheldonbull.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.

026 – Jen Grisanti (author & story career consultant)

Jen Grisanti is a story career consultant, independent producer, writing instructor for Writers on the Verge at NBC, blogger for The Huffington Post and author of the new books, Story Line: Finding Gold in Your Life Story and TV Writing Tool Kit: How To Write a Script That Sells.


Jen spent 12 years under the mentorship of Aaron Spelling, eventually running Current Programs at Spelling Television Inc., covering all of Spelling’s shows including Beverly Hills, 90210, Melrose Place, and Charmed. In 2004, Jen was promoted to VP of Current Programs at CBS/Paramount, where she covered such shows as Medium, Numbers, NCIS, 4400, and Girlfriends. While at CBS/Paramount, she served as a mentor in the CBS Diversity Program, which seeks out and nurtures young writers and directors.

In January 2008, Jen launched Jen Grisanti Consultancy Inc., a consulting firm dedicated to helping talented writers break into the industry. By drawing on her 12-year experience as a studio executive where she gave daily notes to executive producers & showrunners, Jen personally guides writers to shape their material, hone their pitches, and focus their careers. Since launching, Jen has worked with over 300 writers working in television, features, and novels. In the first three years, already 20 of her clients have staffed as writers on television shows and two have sold pilots that went to series. In 2008, Jen was hired to be the Writing Instructor for NBC’s Writers on the Verge.

Her brand is Developing From Within. Her company hosts Storywise Seminars and Teleseminars as a way to get this message out. In addition to her books, she has CDs and workbooks, and also has an excellent Storywise Podcast Series available on iTunes and her website.

Visit her website at jengrisanticonsultancy.com.

Follow Jen on Twitter: @JenGrisanti

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.