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.

034 – Sheri Elwood (Call Me Fitz, Defying Gravity)

Within seven years of graduating from film school, Sheri Elwood had not only created her own successful TV series, but had written and directed a feature film starring Kirsten Dunst and Lynn Redgrave. Fast forward to the present: her current series, Call Me Fitz, which was inspired by her own family, has just won seven Gemini Awards.

After graduating from Ryerson University’s Film Program in Toronto, Sheri Elwood was awarded the National Apprenticeship Award from the Academy of Canadian Film and Television. This launched her to many seasons of comedy writing for networks such as Disney, Fox, The Family Channel, and YTV. By 1999, she had created her own series for tweens, I Was a Sixth Grade Alien, which went two seasons.

In the off season, Sheri wrote and directed a Gemini nominated short film, Eb and Flo, and her first feature film, the romantic teen drama, Deeply, starring Lynn Redgrave, Kirsten Dunst and Brent Carver. Deeply premiered to a four-star review at the Toronto International Film Festival, and was also nominated for four Genie Awards.

Elwood teamed with Lionsgate TV to create the comedy series Beta Males for the CW Network, and also wrote for the 1-hr ABC/CTV drama Defying Gravity for Fox Television Studios with creator James Parriott (Grey’s Anatomy).

Fulfilling a dream to capture the spirit of her loving and unique family on TV, Elwood created the edgy cable series Call Me Fitz, starring Jason Priestly, for TMN/Movie Central. They have just begun shooting season three, with Elwood writing, directing, and showrunning. You can catch Call Me Fitz on HBO Canada, or in the U.S. on Netflix or DirecTV.

Elwood has just signed a blind development deal with Jerry Bruckheimer Television.

Sheri splits her time between Los Angeles and Nova Scotia, where she and her family spend time at their century-old schoolhouse and love to ring the bell.

Follow Sheri on Twitter: @elwoodink

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.

023 – Jennica Harper (Shattered, Mr. Young)

Next in our “writers who have done it all” series is Vancouver-based TV/feature/graphic novel writer, poet, and stand-up comic Jennica Harper. Not only has she worked in many genres and mediums, but she has great tips and anecdotes about them.


Jennica Harper has published poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction in over 25 publications in Canada and the United States, as well as two poetry collections, and a graphic novel Abigail’s War, which she currently developing as a feature with Zeros2Heroes Media.

An award-winning stand-up comic, Jennica is a lot of fun to listen to … You’ll love the discussion on how story editing for Canadian features has many similarities to TV writing in Hollywood, yet how Hollywood feature writing differs from the Canadian approach.

Jennica also has a lot of great tips about breaking in, planting many seeds, and being aggressive at going after what you want.

Follow Jennica on Twitter: @jennicaharper

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.