094 – Arika Lisanne Mittman (EP of Paradise Lost, Timeless)

This week, host Gray Jones interviews Arika Lisanne Mittman, EP of Paradise Lost on Spectrum Originals, and Timeless. She also wrote and produced on Elementary and Dexter.

Episode 094 is sponsored by Pilar Alessandra of onthepage.tv. Pilar is offering a 10% discount on any of her services: to get your 10% off, reach out to Pilar directly and mention the TV Writer Podcast.

Arika got her start as an assistant on Dawson’s Creek… though she would not get her first staff gig for several years, she landed an agent during that time.

Her career took a detour when she was asked to head up a web initiative for Sony, producing dramatic short series for their website. This experience, combined with many years networking as an assistant led to her first staff gig on South of Nowhere. One of her first scripts there led to a WGA Award nomination and a Humanitas Award.

She tells about several series where she was stuck at the staff writer level, but how she was able to catch up on Medium and Dexter, which was really the show that put her on the map.

After several seasons of Elementary, and one season of Timeless, she was finally ready for the jump to showrunner — and shares about her first experience showrunning on Timeless, a show she was very passionate about, and then co-showrunning the new Spectrum Original Paradise Lost and getting it off the ground.

Arika is very open about the challenges of balancing a family with a busy TV career, and shares great tips about how to win in showrunner interviews, on the page, and in the writer’s room.

INDEX TO THE EPISODE:

1:58 – How is the virus affecting you? How will this impact the industry going forward — is there a “new normal” that will be a different way of doing business?
8:18 – Her unconventional start in the industry, pioneering into online content for Sony; how she has seen some parallels in Twitter and networking directly with fans.
16:26 – About South of Nowhere, her first staff writing gig, and how she was nominated for a WGA award and won a Humanitas award for one of her first scripts.
20:21 – Her experience getting an agent while still an assistant at Dawson’s Creek; got fired by that agent, and signed with another later on.
22:33 – How valuable it is to be an assistant, and what your attitude and work ethic needs to be — how this network will be what gets you work later on.
24:13 – On staff, now what? Her trials and tribulations on her first few shows… repeating the staff level three times, shows getting cancelled, and how Dexter changed the game.
30:48 – On developing pilots, while still working on Dexter and having 2 young kids.
32:53 – On getting offered a position on Elementary
34:17 – How it wasn’t easy – some of her challenges working her way up.
41:12 – Landing the gig on Timeless and becoming showrunner for the first time — how being passionate about the show is a key to getting the job, and the experience from the start of the show to its cancellation and movie wrap up.
51:40 – on Paradise Lost, co-showrunning a show, starting from scratch and staffing it.
53:24 – building a diverse staff.
56:25 – Help for greener writers — what she looks for in an interview, being enthusiastic about the project and being able to articulate why, as well as what you bring to the table.
1:00:49 – What she looks for on the page.
1:02:38 – Juggling young kids and a writing room, or working from home developing projects — how does she manage? What is her writing habit?
1:04:11 – Final thoughts — general career advice to greener writers.

Follow Arika on Twitter: @arikalisanne

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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.

Upcoming weekly interviews will include Michael Narducci (EP, The Originals), Keto Shimizu (EP, Legends of Tomorrow), Dan O’Shannon (EP of Cheers, Frasier, and Modern Family) and lots more!

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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.

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.