107 – Jami O’Brien (Creator / Showrunner of N0S4A2)

This week, host Gray Jones interviews Jami O’Brien, creator & showrunner of “N0S4A2” on AMC.

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, Jami has great tips for the writers room, improving your writing, winning in interviews, adapting pre-existing material, and general career advice.

Jami O’Brien Bio:

Jami O’Brien created and showruns “NOS4A2” for AMC. Previously, she’s written for “Fear the Walking Dead,” “Hell on Wheels,” “Big Love,” and “Flesh and Bone,” which was nominated for a Writer’s Guild Award. Jami has an MFA in Playwriting from the Yale School of Drama.

INDEX TO THE EPISODE:

1:06 – Interview start, mention her show “N0S4A2.”

2:00 – Her back story – writing as a kid, Yale playwriting, and eventually moving to LA because of a friend who was a TV writer.

5:18 – Her first LA job, assisting a manager, learning about the industry.

7:11 – When she first started trying to write for TV, got a writing assistant job thanks to one of her Yale professors who was a show runner. Resisted writing a spec, but when she finally did, got good traction from it and landed an agent. Still did not get staffed right away, but after several interviews she was staffed on “Lie To Me.”

12:38 – What it was like to finally write on staff.

14:10 – Talks about her next couple of shows, “The Deep End,” “Big Love,” and a longer stint on “Hell on Wheels.” Describes great lessons she learned from the showrunners and another writer who was a mentor, which helped her scripts to be rewritten less and less.

19:32 – Sponsor break.

20:37 – How she got an overall deal at AMC, got attached to the “N0S4A2” project, and was co-EP on “Fear the Walking Dead.”

23:06 – Her process in how she adapted the book “N0S4A2” into a series, and doing a mini writer’s room.

25:53 – Being a part of the Showrunner Training Program.

30:39 – What it was like to build a staff and run a show for the first time. Some discussion about mini writers rooms.

34:28 – What is she looking for when she interviews new writers? Looking for a voice, a point of view, and something unique. Must stand out from the bulk of scripts which are pretty good.

37:19 – What she looks for in interviews.

38:17 – Where her show is at with respect to Coronavirus.

39:13 – How she feels about the current TV landscape.

41:06 – Advice to younger self.

42:52 – Mistakes she sees newer writers making.

Follow Jami on Twitter: @jami_obrien

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.

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106 – UK Show Creator / Show Runner Dan Sefton (Co-Founder, Seven Seas Films)

This week, host Gray Jones interviews UK show creator / showrunner and practicing doctor Dan Sefton, who is also the co-founder of the independent production company Seven Seas Films.

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!

Dan Sefton Bio:

Dan Sefton is a prolific television writer who founded Seven Seas Films in 2016 alongside producer Simon Lupton, with the aim of creating and producing TV drama for the UK and international markets, putting the writer at the center of the process. Together they have several projects in development, including “The last Days of Marilyn,” in partnership with 101 Studios.

Previously an A&E doctor, he started his television career as a hobby; writing episodes of UK medical dramas such as “Doctors,” “Casualty” and “Holby City.” Delving into the world of scripted drama, Dan also wrote episodes of Harlan Coben’s “The Five” (Sky One), “Death in Paradise” (BBC One), “Monarch of the Glen” (BBC One), “Mr Selfridge” (ITV) and “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” (ITV2).
Having written comedy series “Porters” for UKTV to critical acclaim, Dan went on to write the original four-part drama series, “Delicious,” starring Dawn French, Emilia Fox and Iain Glen for Bandit TV and Sky One. He also wrote four-part thriller “Trust Me” for Red Productions and BBC One, starring Jodie Whittaker, which was broadcast in August 2017.

Most recently, Dan’s writing credits include Tiger Aspect’s “The Good Karma Hospital,” now in its third series on ITV, and “The Mallorca Files” with Cosmopolitan Pictures and ProSieben for BBC One which is in production with series two.

In May 2019, Great Point, the UK’s leading independent media and investment firm, invested in Seven Seas Films.

INDEX TO THE EPISODE:

1:42 – Interview start… how Dan started out as a medical doctor, and amazingly, continues to practice medicine while writing. How the first script he ever wrote was produced, for the UK show “Doctors.” Many medical shows followed… Dan discusses the difference between his real life experiences and the shows the end up on TV, how he was actually more appealing to producers when he was practicing medicine than when he quit it, and how he maintains the balance between the two.

9:41 – Dan discusses how representation works in the UK, and his experience with representation.

12:19 – How freelance scripts work in the UK… how there is not as much of a writing room in the UK, but how there are non-writing creative producers who do a lot of the series building and planning.

17:27 – How he made the jump to creating and running shows.

21:40 – The process from pitch to production of how he creates shows. How in the UK, you work much more with independent production companies to pitch shows to the network… discussion on the UK process is similar to how reality TV is developed in the US.

26:40 – Why and how he created his own production company.

29:29 – Sponsor break

30:26 – Differences between the US and the UK in how a show is run… how UK TV is much more of a writer auteur medium, but the US excels at delivering volume. Could a US writing room work in the UK?

36:54 – Dan has worked in several genres… is that easier in the UK?

40:40 – With shorter seasons in the UK, is it easier for a younger writer to get a show off the ground? How pairing with established production companies can help. How his company Seven Seas looks for new unique voices, but expects people to have done a lot of homework before walking in the door.

49:37 – Does he see many writers crossing the pond, one way or the other? Mostly, he sees showrunners from the US attracted to the writer-as-auteur system.

52:44 – Advice to greener writers… understand that you are the product, not just your script. What do you bring to the table? You must be able to sell that too. Also, know what you are getting into, and be willing to work very hard. It’s better to write a fresh take on a genre than to reinvent the wheel. And… train yourself to work very quickly, even if it’s not for a specific deadline.

Follow Dan on Twitter: @dansefton

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.

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105 – Steve Harper (God Friended Me, American Crime, Send Me)

This week, host Gray Jones interviews writer-producer Steve Harper, who wrote for “God Friended Me,” “American Crime,” and “Covert Affairs,” and created the hit web series “Send Me.”

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.

In this interview, Steve shares how his acting and playwriting experience has helped him in his TV writing, the way the CBS Writers Mentoring Program helped him to win in showrunner meetings, how adapting in a gap in his career resulted in a hit web series that kickstarted the next leg of his career, and tips for networking. He also shares about the current racial unrest, challenges he has faced as an African American writer, and where he sees Hollywood needs to change going forward, in the diversity in writing staffs, and in the stories that are told.

Steve Harper is a native New Yorker who grew up in a house with a Catholic father and a mother obsessed with Stephen King and true crime novels. He enjoys writing character-based dramas that (sometimes) make use of magical realism.

Steve served as producer on the CBS show “God Friended Me.” He was co-producer on the upcoming HBO Max series “Tell Me Your Secrets” and wrote for ABC’s “American Crime” (created by John Ridley). Steve spent two seasons on the USA network’s “Covert Affairs.”

His original web series “Send Me” – about time traveling black people – (CLICK HERE to view on YouTube) premiered on BET.com to 1.66 million views, won multiple festival awards, and garnered a 2016 Emmy nomination for series lead Tracie Thoms. Steve’s short films include “Betty on The Bed” (writer, producer, director and actor) and “Intelligence” (writer).

He has written more than 20 plays, which have been workshopped and produced in New York, L.A. and in between. He also coaches writers through his company Your Creative Life. Steve is a graduate of Yale, The A.R.T. Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard, Juilliard’s playwriting program and the CBS Writers Mentoring Program.

INDEX TO THE EPISODE:
01:57 – Interview start, discussing Steve’s background and influences.
04:13 – Studying at Yale, Harvard, and Juilliard, and writing over 20 plays — how playwriting can be an excellent training ground for TV writers.
14:03 – His acting work, and how that also helped prepare him for TV writing.
16:26 – Being accepted to CBS Writers Mentoring Program, and what the experience was like.
19:30 – What he learned about how to win in showrunner and other meetings, and lots of detail on how to network after the meeting.
27:14 – Getting on his first writing staff, on Covert Affairs… learning the culture of the room, and how to contribute to the stories being told.
32:40 – After Covert Affairs… 3 whole years of not being staffed, how he adapted, and did the web series “Send Me,” which got an Emmy nomination for the series lead, and led to his new series, “American Crime.”
36:55 – How Steve feels about the current racial tensions, and the challenges he has faced as an African American writer and actor. What can be done to change the situation? What can change Hollywood, both in diversity of hiring and in the stories that are told?
51:46 – Advice for greener writers: cheerful persistence, adapting and be continuously developing new material. Also what inspires you? Proactively reach out to people.

Follow Steve on Twitter: @HarperCreates

Photo Credit: Greg Crowder

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.

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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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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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098 – Robert Hewitt Wolfe (EP of Elementary, The Dresden Files & Andromeda)

This week, host Gray Jones interviews veteran TV & feature writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe, executive producer of Elementary, and developer/EP of The Dresden Files and Andromeda.

Episode 098 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.

Robert Hewitt Wolfe attended UCLA for screenwriting. His first screenplay, “Paper Dragons,” placed second in the prestigious Goldwyn awards. He started out writing features, but soon was able to pitch and write an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which led to staffing on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, where he would write for five years.

After leaving Deep Space Nine, Robert worked on several pilots; one was produced as a TV movie called Futuresport, starring Dean Cain and Wesley Snipes.

Robert was then approached to develop the syndicated series Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda, where he would serve as head writer for two years.

Robert has a lot of great stories of the subsequent years, writing for The 4400, The Gates, Alphas, Star-Crossed, and developing the series The Dresden Files. In 2016, he landed on Elementary for another long run; he explains how different it is writing for a series that doesn’t have a writing room.

Robert has spent a lot of time developing pilots, features, and novels, and has great advice for what’s needed on the page.

INDEX TO THE EPISODE:

2:16 interview start.
2:58 – Describes Star Trek franchise’s open script submissions.
3:49 – how he had an agent fresh out of film school at UCLA because of placing in contest, and was able to come in to Star Trek: The Next Generation to pitch.
5:37 – how he initially wanted to write features, and some features he wrote sold, but ended up in TV.
7:06 – his first staff writing experience, from the beginning of Deep Space Nine – discusses his many mentors from the show, and how different that room was to other more current shows.
12:00 – why he eventually left Deep Space Nine, but then was approached to develop Andromeda; stories about what it was like to develop and run that show.
18:53 – his career right after leaving Andromeda, back to writing features.
19:53 – went back to TV to help launch The 4400, then developed pilots, including the one that became The Dresden Files. Talks about that time, being a number two for two different shows, writing for several others, before landing on Elementary.
23:30 – talks about writing on Elementary, and what it was like to write without a writers room. Talks about the difference between that and having a writers room.
28:06 – talks about his mentors, and what he learned from them.
29:29 – mentoring others – how he feels it’s part of the job.
31:36 – sponsor break.
32:35 – discusses development, and what he does between shows – different situations, and how to succeed; finding your passion.
36:58 – talks about chasing IP, and why IP is so important.
41:25 – discusses his most recent show, Prodigal Son.
43:12 – what’s next – lots of irons in the fire.
45:52 – what will production be like after COVID-19.
49:50 – help for greener writers – make the show runner’s life easier, help their vision to come true, research.
53:08 – advice on the page – characters, dialogue, scene & story structure.
57:13 – general career advice – TV is a team sport.
59:28 – least and most favorite parts of being a TV writer.

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!

WATCH NOW:

LISTEN NOW: