114 – Cameron Johnson (Empire, Zoe Ever After)

This week, host Gray Jones interviews Cameron Johnson, TV writer on ‘Empire‘ and ‘Zoe Ever After,’ who has sold several pilots. 

Cameron Johnson Biography

Cameron Johnson grew up in the Bay Area and studied political science at USC, because if you tell your family you’re going to be a lawyer, you don’t just commit to the bit – you get a degree in it. However, while there, he secretly pursued an additional education in screenwriting.

After several torturous years prepping the best and brattiest of Brentwood for the SAT, he became a writer on the BET show ‘Zoe Ever After.’ He then sold ‘White People Problems,’ an hour dramedy about a wealthy, dysfunctional black family to Bravo, and is currently redeveloping it as a half-hour for Peacock.

Cameron has spent the past two seasons working on Fox’s ‘Empire‘, where he wrote and produced six episodes and managed the 160,000 follower writers’ Twitter account. He also sold ‘Diversity Hire,’ a satirical look at race in the workplace, to Fox in 2019.

INDEX TO THE EPISODE:

2:02 – Interview start, Cameron’s background, from the Bay Area to Political Science at USC.
5:00 – from Poli Sci to his first writing gig.
7:07 – Writing material that wasn’t his voice.
8:12 – How he learned to write from his unique point of view, and what led to his first staff job.
13:13 – His relationship with representation.
15:21 – His first experience on staff, on ‘Zoe Ever After.’
19:10 – Sponsor break
20:16 – Selling ‘White People Problems,’ and what led to his job on ‘Empire.’
24:02 – The trial by fire in going from multi-cam comedy to one hour drama, and what he learned in the process.
27:42 – On developing and selling ‘Diversity Hire’ in a bidding war.
30:16 – Explaining a “put pilot” commitment.
31:02 – On the insecurities of a writer, and whether success makes them go away.
32:30 – How he got involved with Fake Empire, co-creating ‘Tom Swift,’ which will be a back-door pilot inside ‘Nancy Drew.’
36:31 – How he develops and manages his various projects.
38:59 – Advice to greener writers.
46:22 – How does someone develop their own voice, and learn to tell authentic stories?
49:05 – Conclusion.

Follow Cameron on Twitter: @CameronJAwesome.

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.

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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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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.

WATCH NOW:

LISTEN NOW: