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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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.

033 – Koo (The West Side, NoFilmSchool.com)

Want to shoot a showcase film? Web series? Crowd fund a project? This week Gray talks to Koo — a Webby Award winner, DIY filmmaker, and the creator of NoFilmSchool.com and its excellent free DSLR Cinematography Guide.

Koo co-wrote, directed, shot, and edited the “urban western” webseries The West Side, which won the Webby Award for Best Drama Series. Filmmaker Magazine heralded the series as “ingenious low-budget independent filmmaking that just happens to be viewable only on the web,” and named him one of their 25 New Faces of Film.

Koo has shot for Focus Features, The Workbook Project, and Ralph Lauren; he has written for Filmmaker Magazine and Weblogs, Inc.; and he has served as Senior Designer for Rhapsody and MTV. His films have been official selections at several film festivals nationwide, and he was the recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

His website NoFilmSchool.com focuses on DIY filmmaking and independent creativity, and won Total Film’s Best Creative Blog award. He is in pre-pre-production on his first feature film, Man-Child, which is being funded through a crowd funding Kickstarter campaign.

Follow Koo on Twitter: @ryanbkoo

Visit Koo’s web site: NoFilmSchool.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.