016 – Ellen Sandler (Author, TV Writer’s Workbook)

This week we have an absolute treat… a 46-minute interview with Emmy-nominated writer-producer, playwright, director, and author of the TV Writer’s Workbook, Ellen Sandler!


Entertainment Today calls Ellen Sandler the “Dalai Lama of television writing”… her TV Writer’s Workbook is used by the top film schools in the world, including USC, UCLA, and NYU. The praise is well-deserved… like Save the Cat by Blake Snyder does for feature writing, Ellen’s book comes from a writer’s approach, telling you in very simple, easy to understand terms, virtually everything you need to know to be a successful TV writer.

Ellen is a seasoned writer — she was nominated for an Emmy for her work as a Co-Executive Producer of the CBS hit series, Everybody Loves Raymond. She has written for many other prime time network television comedies, including ABC’s Coach, and has created original television pilots for ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox Family, Oxygen Network, and the Disney Channel.

Both a teacher and a consultant, Ellen provides script development and career coaching for professionals and emerging writers in the entertainment industry, as well as writing workshops and seminars at conferences and universities both in the US and abroad.

Do we need to tell you she has a ton of wisdom to share? Even if you haven’t read her book, you’ll benefit greatly from the interview. If you have, you’ll get a lot of extra depth.

Follow Ellen on Twitter: @sandlerink — or visit her website at www.sandlerink.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.

015 – TV/Feature Writer Wil Zmak

He moved permanently to Los Angeles! And then the phone started ringing for Canadian jobs… Award-winning Canadian TV & feature writer-producer Wil Zmak is sure to win records for the longest commute!


Wil Zmak grew up in Toronto, and studied film at Toronto’s York University (around the same time Gray was there), as well as the Canadian Film Centre. Then, his wife’s career demanded a move to the US, and it was off to Los Angeles!

Now permanently planted in L.A., Wil was offered the first of many Canadian jobs, that would see him travel to Canada for several months at a time, flying home on weekends to be with his family. Since then, Wil has worked as a writer, producer, and story editor on several Canadian television series, including The Listener (CTV, FOX International), The Aladdin Project (CTV), Stone Undercover (Tom Stone – CBC / US syndication), Jinnah on Crime (CBC), and Being Erica (CBC).

Hear the fascinating story of how a conversation with director Paul Fox on the state of film storytelling resulted in Wil writing the script for the 2005 thriller The Dark Hours, which has won fifteen awards at international festivals, including seven for Best Feature.

Wil has also worked in development for both TV and features, and offers many helpful tips, including the best way to adapt novels to the screen; what adaptations can teach you about your original material; targeted networking; and why you shouldn’t limit yourself to the hero’s journey and commonly taught story structures.

Follow Wil Zmak on Twitter: @wilzmak

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.

014 – TV/Feature Writer Matt MacLennan

Whether you live in Los Angeles, Toronto, or anywhere else, you’re going to love this interview with Canadian TV & feature writer Matt McLennan. Not only is it full to the brim with tips on breaking in and getting ahead, but you’ll be inspired by Matt’s tenacious “never give up” attitude, his resourcefulness, and his desire to mentor.


Once Matt set his eyes on the goal, nothing would stop him from achieving it. He read books, worked as a script reader, sent out hundreds of unsolicited emails, worked as personal assistant and production assistant, and met with anyone who could give him advice on the industry.

When one door would close, Matt would open another. When he did get a job, he would milk it for all it was worth, volunteering his time for duties outside his job description, so he could learn as many aspects as possible of what it takes to put a show together.

Learn the amazing story of how he proposed an innovative solution to a modestly budgeted teen show, to use indie local bands for fresh but inexpensive music. Matt ended up helping to promote many bands that would use the TV show to springboard to greater success, and at the same time he was credited not only for his writing, but for his music supervision as well!

To top it all off, Matt graciously offers his email address to any writers who would like to seek his advice or help. if you’ve learned anything from Matt, take him up on the offer!

Matt’s latest show, HBO’s “Call Me Fitz,” starring Jason Priestley, begins airing in April.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @mattmaclennan

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.

Special – Ink Drinks Toronto (HD)

In episode 012, writer-producer Karen Walton told us about the online group she founded, called “Ink Canada,” and their “Ink Drinks” events. This week, Gray had the opportunity to bring a video camera to Ink Drinks Toronto. It was a blast, and Gray has put together a special high definition mini-episode highlighting the event.

Follow Karen Walton on Twitter: @inkcanada

Make sure you also follow Gray on Twitter 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 several hundred TV writers. Find previous episodes and other resources at www.tvwriterpodcast.com.

Hosted by Gray Jones, the TV Writer Podcast is devoted to interviews with working TV writers. It is brought to you by Script magazine and Scriptmag.com, the leading source for scriptwriting information in print and on the web; and by Final Draft scriptwriting software, the entertainment industry standard for scriptwriting worldwide.

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013 – TV/Feature Writer Tim Stubinski

The prevailing wisdom says that “you must move to L.A.” if you want to make it as a TV or feature writer. This week we meet Tim Stubinski, a Canadian writer who has not only had several features optioned, but got an award winning television pilot produced and on the air… all while living in a small town five hours away from Toronto.


Are you frustrated, trying to work at a day job, while writing in your spare time? Tim Stubinski continues to work as a salesman in his small town, yet is constantly networking, pitching, and writing. He offers great tips on how to write the best query letters, how to pitch over the phone, and how social media tools like Facebook and Twitter are invaluable to anyone trying to break into writing, but especially the “remote writer.”

Hear how he and his writing partner Michael Markus managed to get several feature scripts optioned, and how they made the decision to turn one of their features into a TV pilot, called Wolf Canyon. This pilot got produced by Really Real Films out of Vancouver, starring Kevin Sorbo, Lorne Cardinal and comedienne Nikki Payne… it aired nationwide in Canada, and won five LEO awards!

As a salesman and successful writer, Tim offers much encouragement to other remote writers. He shares openly about the statistics he has observed in how many rejections he must get through before he finds someone who will read and respond to his script, and reminds us all that when selling a script, it’s the “yes” that matters!

Follow Tim on Twitter: @timstubinski

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.

012 – TV/Feature Writer Karen Walton

Best known as the writer of the original cult horror film, Ginger Snaps, award-winning writer-producer Karen Walton has developed original and adapted film projects in almost every genre with top producers in Canada, the UK and the American studio system for almost twenty years.


The episode starts with… homework! For the first time, Gray assigns a book to read – The TV Writer’s Workbook, by Emmy-nominated writer Ellen Sandler – as he’ll be talking to Ellen on April 1st, and wants to solicit informed questions about her book.

Then on to the interview with Karen Walton…

After graduating from the Canadian Film Centre, Karen wrote a critically acclaimed independent horror film, Ginger Snaps, that has become a cult hit, and is listed by many critics on their all-time top 10 lists of high school horror films.

This film led to many years of assignment writing, and Karen shares the differences between writing an independent feature versus feature development in the studio system.

Karen has also written critically acclaimed TV movies, including the Gemini-winning The Many Trials of One Jane Doe, and she talks about the challenges of adapting true events, writing socially and morally conscious material, and writing a movie within the confines of the television format.

Karen has also been busy in series television, including freelance episodes of CBC’s Straight Up and CTV’s The Eleventh Hour, being a executive story editor on Showtime’s Queer as Folk, and just recently, she has started as a writer-supervising producer on season 4 of CTV’s Flashpoint, which airs on CBS in the US.

But wait, there’s more… Karen is the executive producer of the successful web series for tweens, Ruby Skye P.I.; has an original paranormal series currently optioned; is an active member of the Writer’s Guild of America – West, Canada, and Quebec’s SARTEC; and if that’s not enough… is the founder and current editor of the online writer’s community Ink Canada.

Follow Karen Walton on Twitter: @inkcanada

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.