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.
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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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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!