116 – Tawnya Bhattacharya, Founder of Script Anatomy

This week, host Gray Jones interviews Tawnya Bhattacharya, founder of the #1 TV writing school in the USA, Script Anatomy

Please watch Tawnya’s original interview from June 2013 (episode 078) to find out about her background, how she teamed up with Ali Laventhol (interviewed in episode 115), and how and why she started Script Anatomy.

TAWNYA BHATTACHARYA BIOGRAPHY:

Tawnya Benavides Bhattacharya is the Founder & CEO of Script Anatomy and currently the Co-Executive Producer of Apple’s “Salsa.”

A screenwriting teacher for the past 15 years, Bhattacharya launched Script Anatomy in 2011 just as her career was taking off. Her objective: to use her experience of breaking into the TV industry and building a career to help other writers do the same.

She created a unique writing curriculum with trademark tools for development, writing and rewriting, which have helped hundreds of writers get a job writing for TV, find representation, or sell pilots, screenplays and novels. 

As a guest instructor, Tawnya has brought the Script Anatomy method to the Disney | ABC Writing Program, The WGA Foundations, WGFestival, the Austin Film Festival, the Producer’s Guild (PGA) Power of Diversity Workshop, Hugo House in Seattle, the Willamette Writers Conference, Stage 32, The International Screenwriters Association, TV Writers Fund and the CineStory TV Writers Retreat in Idyllwild. Her column “Your TV Guide“ can be read in Script Magazine. She’s also been a guest on several podcasts, including Scripts & Scribes, Sell Your Screenplay, The TV Writer Podcast, and On the Page.

Bhattacharya and her writing partner, Ali Laventhol, are Co-Executive Producers and prior to Apple’s Salsa, she and her writing partner have written on “Ginny & Georgia” (Netflix), “A Million Little Things” (ABC), “Famous in Love” (Freeform), “The Night Shift” (NBC), “Perception” (TNT), “The Client List” (Lifetime) and “Fairly Legal” (USA). They’ve sold pilots to eOne, Lionsgate and MGM and been hired to do rewrites for Legendary. They are currently writing a movie for Ozy Media and Lifetime based on Trump’s “Zero Tolerance” policy and family separation at the border.

They are former NBC Writers on the Verge fellows, and were semi-finalists for the ABC Disney Fellowship before getting a job that took them out of the running. Bhattacharya was also a FOX Writer’s Intensive fellow. The team is repped by Industry Entertainment and Morris Yorn and UTA.

Bhattacharya, an alumnus of Cornish College of the Arts Conservatory, studied acting and playwriting, and interned with playwright, Marie Irene Fornes and New City Theater in Seattle. She has performed in Seattle, Chicago, Austria, Germany, Czech Republic and LA.

INDEX TO THE EPISODE:

2:14 – Interview start, intro
3:22 – Why she feels Script Anatomy is the #1 TV writing school in America.
7:08 – The value of current working writers doing the teaching. Talks about some of her teachers and the courses they teach.
12:24 – Theory vs practical, how there is a huge system teaching theory, but Script Anatomy teaches practical tools. Tawnya expands on their method.
26:36 – Explain why they teach a lot about how to develop projects. Tawnya tells about some of the tools they use, particularly around theme.
34:58 – The successes of Script Anatomy alumni.
41:22 – The community outside the classes.
44:42 – Sponsor break – visit sponsors avgearguy.com & drivingfootage.com.
45:52 – Script Anatomy’s offerings in 2021.
50:24 – Where should someone start?
54:59 – Other workshops, and weekend festival they’re planning.
58:45 – Tawnya tells how to navigate their website, and script consultation services they provide.
1:02:36 – How should someone prepare for one of Script Anatomy’s classes, so they can hit the ground running?
1:05:57 – Her recommended writing books.
1:09:55 – What will set people up for success in 2021?
1:13:03 – Conclusion

Follow Tawnya on Twitter: @tbhattacharya

Visit Script Anatomy on the web: scriptanatomy.com

Follow Script Anatomy on Twitter: @scriptanatomy

Buying Final Draft screenwriting software? Use this link to support the podcast: tinyurl.com/BuyFinalDraft.

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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112 – Elaine Loh (Gossip Girl, Dynasty)

This week, host Gray Jones interviews Elaine Loh, TV writer on the new “Gossip Girl” and “Dynasty,” and also award-winning film writer/director and actor.

Elaine Loh Biography

Elaine recently wrote on the new “Gossip Girl” reboot for HBO Max and is now writing on “Dynasty” for The CW. She is humbled to be a fellow in the HBO Writers Program, as well as to have been named on the coveted Young & Hungry List and as one of the Top 25 Screenwriters to Watch by the International Screenwriters Association. She has had scripts place in the world-renowned PAGE Awards (Silver Prize), Austin Film Festival (3 times), Final Draft Big Break (Top Ten), Tracking Board Launch Pad (Top 50), the ISA (Grand Prize), and the second round of the Sundance Episodic Lab (twice).

Elaine is also a director and her short form series “DOXXED” won Best Short Comedy at Catalyst (formerly itvfest), Best Achievement at Raindance, and a Telly Award (find out more at www.doxxed-series.com). She won the Grand Prize and Audience Vote at the NewFilmmakers LA On Location Project ($60k in cash and prizes) and scored an honorable mention in the Justin Lin/NBCUniversal Interpretations short film contest. She has also directed two short films that screened at Academy-qualifying festivals.

On a personal note, Elaine was born in Singapore, grew up in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and then moved to Massachusetts. She studied Psychology and Math at Brown University, does not speak any Chinese, loves Wendy’s junior bacon cheeseburgers, and can solve a Rubik’s cube in less than two minutes.

INDEX TO THE EPISODE:

1:03 – Interview start; her background, studying psychology and math at Brown, and how she pivoted into acting.
3:30 – When she started writing, and why.
4:04 – Her filmmaking and writing before TV, including placing and being recognized in many competitions. Why she considers competitions so important.
7:39 – How she developed as a writer, going a less traditional route into the industry.
12:45 – Compares Gossip Girl and Dynasty, how they helped prepare her to write a script.

14:14 – Sponsor break – visit drivingfootage.com for 4K 9-angle driving plates for TV & film, and podcast viewers get 10% off photo/video scanning and importing at avgearguy.com

15:21 – Getting into and going through the HBO writing fellowship.
18:45 – Getting staffed on Gossip Girl.
20:07 – Being in the writers room for the first time.
22:59 – The pandemic hit, but she was able to land a job on Dynasty. How that show has been different.
25:00 – How her acting experience, and writing directing films has helped her as a TV writer.
27:48 – On developing for TV.
31:45 – Her volunteer work, and what it means to her. 
32:21 – Advice to greener writers, especially when asking someone to read your script.
44:05 – Not giving up.
47:30 – On her award winning web series (www.doxxed-series.com), and how it was great training in telling episodic stories, and in the future, how to run a show.

Elaine runs a political advocacy group that encourages greater civic engagement and raises money for charities. Check it out at www.operationchecksandbalances.org.

Visit Elaine’s website at www.ElaineLoh.com and follow her on Twitter: @ThatElaineLoh.

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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110 – Greta Heinemann (NCIS: New Orleans, NBC’s Good Girls)

This week, host Gray Jones interviews Greta Heinemann, a TV/film writer who grew up on the Bavarian/Austrian border, and overcame language and immigration barriers to break in to Hollywood.

Greta Heinemann Biography:

Greta Heinemann grew up at the Bavarian-Austrian border and raised herself watching an abundance of German-dubbed US TV shows by day, and action movies by night. Greta has since learned how to speak English and fought hard to immigrate to the US to pursue her dreams of becoming a screenwriter. She currently serves as Supervising Producer on NBC’s “Good Girls,” has a show in development at HBO-Max and is in development on a feature film with David Leitch’s 87North and Amblin Partners.

Greta also developed the Writer’s Wright – The Writer’s Wright is an all-in-one productivity coach, career planner, journal, and notebook specifically developed to help aspiring and working writers structure their careers and lives just as thoroughly as their stories. Find more hours in the day. Make goals and deadlines less intimidating. Inspire. Stay sane, and always drive your story forward. 

Find out more at writerswrightjournal.com.

INDEX TO THE EPISODE:

1:40 – Interview start, with her beginnings near the Bavarian/Austrian border, living alone from the age of 11, and learning English by watching TV.
6:48 – How she immigrated to the US… sent 200 applications for internships, and only one was answered. Eventually found an LGBTQ-friendly production company, but had to go back and forth to Germany for 2 years before she got sponsored on a special skills work visa.
14:39 – Got green card — was finally able to apply for writing fellowships, and also became an intern writing coverage.
17:53 – Got into Humanitas New Voices fellowship, and then the CBS Writers Mentoring Program in the same year, and describes the differences between the programs (plus how the TV Writer Podcast helped her get in!).
29:04 – Discusses representation, and why she changed a few times.
32:06 – Staffing on “NCIS: New Orleans” from her first showrunner meeting (and what led up to that), and how she learned the ropes.
46:18 – How after 4 years she left to develop shows.
49:11 – Staffing on NBC’s “Good Girls.”
52:13 – Sponsor break. Visit drivingfootage.com for 4K 9-angle driving plates, or avgearguy.com for laptop rentals, and scanning/importing of photos, tapes, documents and more.
53:12 – More about writing NBC’s “Good Girls.”
56:42 – Her current feature film project and pilot for HBO.
1:02:32 – Where she sees herself in 5-10 years, and her least and most favorite parts about TV writing.
1:08:45 – Advice to greener writers.
1:15:27 – What does she know now that she wishes she had known when she started out.

Follow Greta on Twitter: @GretaHeinemann

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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102 – Spiro Skentzos (Arrow, Grimm, Chadam)

This week, host Gray Jones interviews writer Spiro Skentzos, who has written for “Arrow,” “Grimm,” and TV pilots, as well as “Chadam,” an animated web series he co-created.

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.

Spiro Skentzos grew up in a multi-ethnic family speaking Spanish, Greek, and English – and the inevitable mash-up of Magical Realism and ancient mythology primed him as a child to fall hard for genre stories, the world-building fantasy of comic books, and Star Wars.

His first foray into screenwriting was as a young boy, when he wrote a script for his Star Wars figures where they battled his sister’s giant, menacing Barbie dolls—and he’s been writing ever since.

His professional career began in comedy on “George Lopez.” Then Spiro co-created and co-wrote the animated sci-fi/zombie web series “Chadam.” He’s written on two seasons on “Grimm,” a season on “Arrow,” and has sold 3 pilots.

To inspire the next generation of writers, Spiro created the “Intro to TV Writing” panel at Comic-Con, currently in its eleventh year. He’s a graduate of NBC’s Writers on the Verge Program, and co-chairs the WGA’s LGBTQ+ Committee. When not writing, he paints (on canvas, not houses), is learning French, and still enjoys reading comics. Follow Spiro on twitter @spirographo & IG @spirovisionproductions.

INDEX TO THE EPISODE:

01:29 – Interview start.
02:18 – How is the virus affecting you?
04:41 – His background, art history major at U of Michigan.
05:31 – Started as an assistant on the George Lopez Show.
05:44 – How he “almost” got representation air that time.
07:34 – How he made the shift to genre writing, and where his love of mythology and comic books came from.
08:44 – Co-creating, co-writing animated web series Chadam, trying to break into one hour drama. Agent horror story, and the spec that got him into NBC Writers on the Verge.
10:19 – 2008 writers strike was a setback, but NBC really pushed to get him onto a show, and he finally got on staff on Grimm.
13:02 – On developing and selling pilots and a feature, and then staffing on Arrow.
15:19 – Sponsors.
16:17 – All about Arrow.
18:01 – What he’s been working on since Arrow.
18:57 – Who his mentors have been – Erika Kennair, Karen Horn, others, and the importance of fostering friendships. Also how he mentors others.
22:18 – How and why he got started moderating panels.
25:49 – how he learned and hones his craft.
27:21 – toughest part and best part about being a TV writer. Turning bad experiences into a story.
31:08 – How Peak TV is changing TV writing… smaller staffs, shorter runs.
34:14 – His future plans.
37:45 – Tips for greener writers, general writing & career tips.

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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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!

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035 – Mike Alber (Death Valley, Ultradome)

Ever heard of someone who didn’t live in L.A. or New York landing a staff TV writing gig? How about sight unseen, hired from a phone interview? Meet Mike Alber, who sold many pitches to a major network, wrote on a web series, and even landed a staff writing gig while not even living in the same state!

Mike & writing partner Gabe Snyder met in high school, and clicked right away. Despite going to different colleges in different cities, they wrote together constantly. Mike was on track to be a doctor, but after starting med school he realized that writing was his passion, so he switched his masters studies to creative writing.

Gabe moved to L.A. in 2006, but Mike continued his studies in Ohio. They placed in several screenplay competitions, but it was through an honorable mention at a trackingb.com contest that they got their first option. They were on the map! One relationship led to another, and soon they sold several pitches to Spike TV, worked on the web series Ultradome, signed for management and representation, and were taking meetings all over town.

Mike tells the amazing story of how his newborn daughter kept him away from L.A., yet he was able to land his first TV staff gig, on MTV’s Death Valley, with a phone call from the hospital waiting room! Mike finally did move to L.A. this year, and does advise that everyone else should move to L.A. first — his luck is not easy to repeat!

Mike and Gabe are idea machines, and Mike has great advice on how you can be one too!

Follow Mike on Twitter: @malber

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.