108 – Will Pascoe (Showrunner of Absentia)

This week, host Gray Jones interviews Will Pascoe, showrunner of “Absentia.” Will also wrote for such shows as “The Finder,” “Orphan Black,” “Da Vinci’s Demons,” and “Shut Eye.”

This episode is sponsored by Pilar Alessandra of onthepage.tv. Pilar is offering TV Writer Podcast listeners a 10% discount on any of her services. To get your 10% off, reach out to her directly and tell her Gray sent you!

In this episode, Will has great tips on how not to get fired when you first get on staff, work/life balance, crafting your voice, standing out among the competition, and mentoring others. He also talks about running “Absentia,” including some of the challenges with shooting on another continent.

COVID-19 NOTE: though it was shot in person, safety was maintained through masks when not shooting, long lenses to separate camera and talent, shooting outdoors, and maintaining social distance.

Will Pascoe Bio:

Originally from Canada, Will Pascoe is an award-winning television writer and occasional documentary film director. After writing half-hour television series like “Degrassi,” Will made the jump to writing one-hour television dramas full-time, working on the military-medical series, “Combat Hospital” for ABC and Sony. He then went on to work on Fox’s short-lived series, “The Finder,” and later won a Humanitas New Voices prize and received a blind script deal with Fox to develop his own television show.

He then became an upper-level writer and co-producer on BBC America’s, “Orphan Black.” His episode “Variations Under Domestication” was selected by Entertainment Weekly as one of the best hours of television of the decade and won Will a Writer’s Guild Award and nominations for an Edgar Allan Poe Award and a Hugo Award (where he lost to his idol George R.R. Martin for his “Game of Thrones” “Red Wedding” episode). As well, “Orphan Black” won Will a Peabody Award for his work on the series.

Other credits include the BBC Worldwide/Starz drama series, “Da Vinci’s Demons” and Hulu’s drama series, “Shut Eye.” He’s developed television series for Fox, Playtone and Universal Studios. He’s currently running season three of Amazon Prime’s hit series, “Absentia.” He resides in Los Angeles.

INDEX TO THE EPISODE:

0:25- Interview start, talking about Will’s origins in Canada.
2:26 – First professional writing credit became infamous episode of “DeGrassi.”
3:35 – His first staff job on “Combat Hospital.”
4:42 – Thanks to Hart Hanson, landed a gig on “The Finder,” his first Hollywood show.
5:27 – How he learned to write TV mostly self taught, reading books and scripts, and doing a lot of writing, crafting his own voice.
8:34 – How directing documentaries has influenced his writing, becoming a student of human behavior and interaction, and trying to understand the world.
9:53 – Many of his scripts have stood out… discusses the “Orphan Black” episode which was selected by Entertainment Weekly as one of the best hours of television of the decade.
12:04 – About winning the Humanitas New Voices Award, selling a pilot to Fox, and moving to Los Angeles (including victories and challenges, and immigration).
19:07 – Comparing his path to the more traditional way of breaking in to Hollywood.
21:56 – Sponsor break.
22:54 – Talks about his experience in the Showrunner Training Program, learning about work/life balance for a showrunner. How the information and network of relationships has helped him in the time since.
30:29 – Coming in cold as the showrunner for “Absentia.”
33:31 – The challenges with shooting in Bulgaria, including a funny story about language barriers.
38:21 – Will’s development process, and some of the projects he’s developing.
41:53 – On pitching his material… pitching with slides, and why it’s more difficult via Zoom. Funny stories about Zoom calls.
47:29 – Positives that may come from COVID-19 — better treatment of production crews, better conditions on set.
51:56 – Differences between Canadian and American shows. How new staff writers are treated in each, and advice for new staff writers in US shows. Asking more established writers frequently for a “temperature check” — how did I do in the writers room this week? How more mature writers should go out of their way to encourage newer writers.
57:10 – How Will mentors other writers. Paying it forward.
58:20 – Advice to newer writers, in interviews and on the page. Have ideas for the show, and know the show really well.
1:02:22 – How to stand out among the competition. Make the showrunner’s job easier, constantly push yourself to improve your writing, and always keep learning. Leave your comfort zone, and challenge yourself with different types of writing.

Follow Will Pascoe on Twitter: @EvilWillPascoe

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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.

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072 – Jeremy Smith & Matt Venables (Continuum)

Writing teams are popular in Hollywood, as they can give shows more bang for their buck. But are they popular in Canada? Find out as we meet Jeremy Smith and Matt Venables, a Vancouver-based writing team currently staffed on Continuum.


Born in Barrie, Ontario and living in Vancouver, Jeremy Smith graduated the Victoria Motion Picture School in 2000 and has been in the film industry ever since, thoroughly learning all aspects of production working as a Producer’s and Executive’s assistant on television series and feature films.

During the first season of Continuum, Jeremy was a Story Editor and co-wrote his first credited hour drama with fellow writer Jonathan Lloyd Walker. He also acted as the Creative director for the Continuum Transmedia Campaign.

Jeremy’s Twitter: @CaptainPunch

Matthew Venables’ love of music lead him to the world of film. Bands like Suicidal Tendencies and Public Enemy’s socially conscious lyrics inspired him to write poetry and song lyrics. After graduating from Victoria Motion Picture School in 1999, he moved to Vancouver and started directing music videos with fellow filmmakers Jeremy Smith and Troy Sitter under the “The Lollypop Kids” moniker. He has spent the past decade working on various TV series and Films learning the trade and crafting his art. After spending a year with the writing team of Continuum, Matthew’s writing talent earned him his first credited script assignment.

Matt’s Twitter: @palithean

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.

071 – Vivi Anna / Tawny Stokes

What are your excuses for not writing? This week we meet Vivi Anna / Tawny Stokes, a successful novelist and screenwriter, who writes and publishes mountains of material while being a single mom and homeschooling her teenage daughter!


Vivi Anna is an award-winning Canadian multi-published author in paranormal romance, urban fantasy, scifi, and young adult under the name Tawny Stokes. Since 2003, she’s written and published close to 23 books for New York publishers such as Harlequin, Kensington and Avon. She’s also independently published several projects on her own.

Vivi is also a screenwriter and TV writer and is one of the co-founders of the weekly TV Writer Chat. One of her pilots, adapted from one of her books, was a finalist in both the Austin and Slamdance Film Festivals in 2011.

Vivi is excellent at time management, having accomplished all of these things while being a single parent and home schooling her children. In this interview, she discusses some of her secrets, as well as trying to break in to Hollywood from thousands of miles away, and her impressions of the TV Writer Chat pilot writing program so far.

Website: www.vivianna.net
Twitter: @authorViviAnna

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.

064 – Director Bradley Walsh (Beauty and the Beast)

Proof that directing a showcase film works, this week features an in-person video interview at the studio of director Bradley Walsh.

After graduating from York University, director Bradley Walsh was a very successful music video director. He then moved to commercials, but yearned to tell more dramatic stories. It wasn’t until he wrote and directed a showcase short film that he was able to break in to directing for television.

Since then, he has directed for many TV series and TV movies, including Instant Star, One Tree Hill, Salem Falls, and A Killer Among Us.

Bradley is a great example of how to make a career transition within the industry, and gives great tips on breaking in as a director.

Watch his episode of Beauty and the Beast on Thursday, November 1st, 9/8c on The CW!

Follow Bradley on Twitter: @Bonspielmusic

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.

061 – David Barlow (King, Nothing Too Good For A Cowboy)

As a production manager, David Barlow got his break into writing by a very unusual method… pitching jokes on set! Since then, he has created two series, including the long running Seeing Things, and has over 30 years experience writing in LA, Vancouver, and Toronto.

Most recently, David Barlow was a co-executive producer and writer on the Showcase series King. Previously, he was a producer-writer on the CBC series The Border – twice nominated for the Best Dramatic Series Gemini. He has co-created two television series – Nothing Good Too for a Cowboy (with Charles Lazer), and Seeing Things (with Louis del Grande). His series credits as a story editor and/or writer include Durham County, Blue Murder, Cold Squad, and North of 60.

Barlow may be the only producer to receive Gemini nominations for both Best Dramatic Series (E.N.G.) and Best Sports Program in the same year. The documentary was ‘Chasing the Dream,’ produced with Peter Raymont and William Thomas.

Barlow has received two Gemini Awards for Best Comedy Series (‘Seeing Things’), a Gemini for Best Writing in a Dramatic Series (Max Glick), the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television’s Margaret Collier Award for his body of work as a screenwriter, and the WGC’s Writer’s Block Award for service to Canadian screenwriters.

He is also a faculty member of the Advanced Television and Film and Media Arts programs at Sheridan College, Oakville and has conducted professional screenwriting workshops across Canada, in Singapore, and in Dublin.

David has lots of great tips on how to break in… you don’t want to miss this one!

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.

055 – Jana Sinyor (Dark Oracle, Being Erica)

She won an International Emmy Award for her series Dark Oracle, and received 16 Gemini Awards for her series Being Erica. This week, we meet Canadian series creator and showrunner Jana Sinyor!


After attending McGill for religious studies, it was an epiphany after a tough shift at a call center that led Jana Sinyor to pursue writing for the screen.

In her interview, Jana shares how her time at the Canadian Film Centre and attending screenwriting functions and parties led to her first freelance script for ‘Degrassi: The Next Generation,’ to writing for a children’s series, and then to create her own original series, ‘Dark Oracle,’ which won an International Emmy Award for Best Youth Drama.

Next Jana created the CBC critically-acclaimed one hour drama ‘Being Erica,’ on which she served as Executive Producer and Showrunner. Temple Street Productions produced the series, which subsequently sold to ABC Soapnet and many territories around the world. Being Erica has been nominated for 16 Gemini Awards – winning three. Jana is in active development on a new one hour series for ABC, as well as a new show for CBC with collaborator Aaron Martin.

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.