095 – Michael Narducci (Showrunner of The Originals)

This week, host Gray Jones interviews Michael Narducci, showrunner and EP for The Originals, co-EP for The Crossing, and writer and producer for The Vampire Diaries.

Episode 095 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.

Michael Narducci biography:

Currently working on an as yet unannounced Netflix series, Michael recently developed Warriors through ABC Studios. Prior to that, he was the showrunner of The Originals for Warner Brothers TV, and also served as a writer on The Vampire Diaries, Medium, The 4400, and The Crossing.  
 
Michael was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio. He attended Harvard University where he lettered in football and graduated magna cum laude with a degree in psychology. He went on to receive his MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Virginia. His short stories have appeared in The Texas Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Pembroke and Gadfly magazine. He taught creative writing at The Idyllwild Arts Academy for seven years and has also taught writing in Boston, Charlottesville, South Central Los Angeles, and South Korea. 

INDEX TO THE EPISODE:

2:01 – Interview start
2:38 – how COVID-19 is affecting him and his work
6:16 – how he went to Harvard and lettered in football but ended up doing an MFA in creative writing
8:38 – how he published short stories, taught in school for several years, and started writing specs
11:50 – how the Warner Brothers writing fellowship helped him get his first staff gig and an agent
14:43 – on landing the staff gig without going the traditional route of being an assistant
18:15 – on having a manager since before the WB program, and what he feels managers offer
20:18 – in between series, what happens? Details about show runner meetings and pitching.
22:57 – landing the gig on Medium after a lot of unsuccessful interviews
24:49 – landing the gig on Vampire Diaries, and what made that show different
27:51 – traveling to New Orleans to research the Originals spinoff, moving up to EP
28:53 – getting an overall deal, and consulting on The Crossing
30:54 – on development
31:09 – what showrunners are looking for in interviews
32:42 – Michael shares about many mentors who have helped him along the way
36:04 – on being a learner, and a team player – references the book Difficult Men, and the masculine vs feminine style of showrunning
39:28 – his showrunning on The Originals, mentoring others
41:30 – on having an overriding principal idea for each season, with examples from each season of The Originals
45:08 – why mentoring and giving back is important to him, and the value of story
50:00 – on development, and some of the projects he has developed
56:17 – what he is most passionate about – common cause, ensemble shows where people begin as adversaries but grow together, and making people care about characters and story.
1:00:22 – hardest thing about being a TV writer
1:04:10 – best part about being a TV writer – the “what if” brainstorming sessions, and collaboration with other writers to develop story, working with incredible actors and seeing it come to life on scene .
1:06:26 – what is positive in the industry and what needs to change?
1:07:42 – how much more diversity there is in writers rooms now, and how it is a great time to break in
1:09:35 – advice to greener writers – what he looks for when interviewing and reading scripts, and mistakes he sees people making, including on social media.

Follow Michael on Twitter: @MichaelNarducci

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 Keto Shimizu (EP, Legends of Tomorrow), Dan O’Shannon (EP of Cheers, Frasier, and Modern Family), Shawn Ryan (creator of Timeless and The Shield) and lots more!

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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

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

WATCH NOW:

LISTEN NOW:

092 – Bob Goodman (Creator of The Zeta Project, EP of Elementary)

The TV Writer Podcast is back, and better than before! In our re-launch, host Gray Jones will be primarily interviewing showrunners and EP level writers. We’ll be moving away from the focus on the newbie writer, and aiming more at the oft-neglected staff to mid-level writer. There is now a dedicated audio-only feed at iTunes, Podbean, Spotify and coming soon to Pandora. You can access the video version via YouTube, iTunes, Podbean, and on the web at tvwriterpodcast.com. Follow @GrayJones on Twitter for updates on upcoming interviews, and be sure to subscribe, like, and post reviews on all of these aggregators. We’ll be bringing WEEKLY episodes every Monday during the stay-at-home order due to Coronavirus / COVID-19.

In episode 092, sponsored by Pilar Alessandra of onthepage.tv, host Gray Jones interviews Bob Goodman, winner of two Daytime Emmy Awards, creator of The Zeta Project, EP of Elementary and writer and Supervising Producer for Warehouse 13. Speaking of On The Page, Pilar is offering a 10% discount on her interactive online class, Writing the First Draft, which starts April 4th. To get your 10% off, use the code onthepage10 at checkout. 

Topics of discussion in the interview included: 

• What to consider when choosing college programs.
• Singing the praises of the Children of Tendu podcast.
• The 5 most important things to succeed in Hollywood.
• How to avoid getting pigeon-holed.
• How to pick the right jobs for your resume.
• Why he feels we need to purge “paying your dues” from our lexicon.
• The glut of Peak TV with 500+ shows — why it is more competitive than ever.
• Going from animated show creator / showrunner to 1 hour drama staff writer.
• About development at the EP level.
• About picking your battles with the network.
• How a show is staffed.
• Do’s and don’ts in staffing meetings.
• How your job is to get into the showrunner’s head.
• What needs to be on the page when staffing, and what is the kiss of death?
• On why taking the long view is so important when looking at your career.

If you are interested in breaking in, check out Bob’s other excellent interviews on episode 8 of the Creative Writing Career podcast, and on Storybeat with Steve Cuden.

Be sure to watch until the end, and listen for the contest code — if you follow GrayJones and tweet the contest code before Friday, April 3rd, you will be entered into a draw to win… 2 rolls of toilet paper! Other prizes may be added too.

Bob Goodman official bio:

Bob Goodman is a television writer-producer who most recently served as Executive Producer on the hit CBS TV series Elementary, and before that he wrote and produced on Syfy’s Warehouse 13.

Prior to his work in live-action, Bob wrote for many years in animation, primarily as a staffer at Warner Bros. His credits include Batman, Superman, Batman Beyond, Justice League Unlimited and Ben Ten; plus he created and ran the Batman Beyond spin-off The Zeta Project. He’s written web-series and videogames including the Dungeons & Dragons game Demon Stone, and several direct-to-DVD animated features including the two-part Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.

Bob has received two Daytime Emmy Awards, as well as an Annie Award nomination for Individual Achievement in Writing. He currently has a pilot in development at ABC.

Follow Bob on Twitter: @b0bg00dman

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 previous episodes and other resources at www.tvwriterpodcast.com.

Upcoming weekly interviews will include Sarah Watson (The Bold Type, The Goonies reboot), Arika Lisanne Mittman (Paradise Lost, Timeless), Michael Narducci (The Originals), and lots more!

PLEASE NOTE: ON THE FIRST VERSION OF THE PODCAST GRAPHIC, BOB WAS INCORRECTLY SHOWN AS EXECUTIVE PRODUCER OF WAREHOUSE 13. THIS WAS QUICKLY CORRECTED.

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087 – ‘Hand of God’ Creator Ben Watkins

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Ben Watkins moved 14 times by the time he graduated high school. As a kid, his experiences ran the gamut from living in a fancy, gated community, to being homeless and sleeping in a 1976 Ford Monarch. He was married and had a family by the time he graduated college.

Before he turned to writing, Ben had worked more than 30 jobs ranging from plastics salesman to paralegal to soap opera stud. With such an eclectic background, it’s no wonder he has emerged as one of the most original storytellers in television.

Ben Watkins began the transition to writing with the award-winning Sundance short film Quest to Ref, which he wrote, co-directed and starred in. Soon after adapting that project into a feature screenplay for Universal, Watkins joined USA Network’s Burn Notice. He rose from staff writer to executive producer, before moving on to create the provocative Amazon Originals series, Hand of God. Watkins recently completed production on season one of Hand of God, which premiered in September.

Ben resides in El Segundo, California, with his wife and four sons.

Follow Ben on Twitter: @_benipedia_

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.

007 – V Showrunner Scott Rosenbaum

What if you were called in to run a show that had just aired its first four episodes, and was put on hold? That happened to former Chuck writer/co-executive producer Scott Rosenbaum, and it he accepted the challenge!

It wasn’t easy, but Scott steered the show V into new waters, and it has gotten stronger and stronger ever since.


You’ll be fascinated to hear how Scott lost his writing staff due to production delays, and had to deliver the last two episodes and the pitch for season 2 by himself, with just the studio as a sounding board!

Hear also how he selected the season 2 writing staff, his advice for writing spec scripts, how to properly prepare for a staffing interview, and how a chance meeting ended up securing an actor for one of the most important new characters in season 2.

We also include an interview Gray had with Scott back in March 2010, just before his first V episodes started to air. In this interview he shares his career path, from how he got started as a writer to his work on Chuck, including insight on why “bottle episodes” often end up being the strongest.

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.