016 – Tawnya Bhattacharya, Founder of Script Anatomy

This week, host Gray Jones interviews Tawnya Bhattacharya, founder of the #1 TV writing school in the USA, Script Anatomy

Please watch Tawnya’s original interview from June 2013 (episode 078) to find out about her background, how she teamed up with Ali Laventhol (interviewed in episode 115), and how and why she started Script Anatomy.

TAWNYA BHATTACHARYA BIOGRAPHY:

Tawnya Benavides Bhattacharya is the Founder & CEO of Script Anatomy and currently the Co-Executive Producer of Apple’s “Salsa.”

A screenwriting teacher for the past 15 years, Bhattacharya launched Script Anatomy in 2011 just as her career was taking off. Her objective: to use her experience of breaking into the TV industry and building a career to help other writers do the same.

She created a unique writing curriculum with trademark tools for development, writing and rewriting, which have helped hundreds of writers get a job writing for TV, find representation, or sell pilots, screenplays and novels. 

As a guest instructor, Tawnya has brought the Script Anatomy method to the Disney | ABC Writing Program, The WGA Foundations, WGFestival, the Austin Film Festival, the Producer’s Guild (PGA) Power of Diversity Workshop, Hugo House in Seattle, the Willamette Writers Conference, Stage 32, The International Screenwriters Association, TV Writers Fund and the CineStory TV Writers Retreat in Idyllwild. Her column “Your TV Guide“ can be read in Script Magazine. She’s also been a guest on several podcasts, including Scripts & Scribes, Sell Your Screenplay, The TV Writer Podcast, and On the Page.

Bhattacharya and her writing partner, Ali Laventhol, are Co-Executive Producers and prior to Apple’s Salsa, she and her writing partner have written on “Ginny & Georgia” (Netflix), “A Million Little Things” (ABC), “Famous in Love” (Freeform), “The Night Shift” (NBC), “Perception” (TNT), “The Client List” (Lifetime) and “Fairly Legal” (USA). They’ve sold pilots to eOne, Lionsgate and MGM and been hired to do rewrites for Legendary. They are currently writing a movie for Ozy Media and Lifetime based on Trump’s “Zero Tolerance” policy and family separation at the border.

They are former NBC Writers on the Verge fellows, and were semi-finalists for the ABC Disney Fellowship before getting a job that took them out of the running. Bhattacharya was also a FOX Writer’s Intensive fellow. The team is repped by Industry Entertainment and Morris Yorn and UTA.

Bhattacharya, an alumnus of Cornish College of the Arts Conservatory, studied acting and playwriting, and interned with playwright, Marie Irene Fornes and New City Theater in Seattle. She has performed in Seattle, Chicago, Austria, Germany, Czech Republic and LA.

INDEX TO THE EPISODE:

2:14 – Interview start, intro
3:22 – Why she feels Script Anatomy is the #1 TV writing school in America.
7:08 – The value of current working writers doing the teaching. Talks about some of her teachers and the courses they teach.
12:24 – Theory vs practical, how there is a huge system teaching theory, but Script Anatomy teaches practical tools. Tawnya expands on their method.
26:36 – Explain why they teach a lot about how to develop projects. Tawnya tells about some of the tools they use, particularly around theme.
34:58 – The successes of Script Anatomy alumni.
41:22 – The community outside the classes.
44:42 – Sponsor break – visit sponsors avgearguy.com & drivingfootage.com.
45:52 – Script Anatomy’s offerings in 2021.
50:24 – Where should someone start?
54:59 – Other workshops, and weekend festival they’re planning.
58:45 – Tawnya tells how to navigate their website, and script consultation services they provide.
1:02:36 – How should someone prepare for one of Script Anatomy’s classes, so they can hit the ground running?
1:05:57 – Her recommended writing books.
1:09:55 – What will set people up for success in 2021?
1:13:03 – Conclusion

Follow Tawnya on Twitter: @tbhattacharya

Visit Script Anatomy on the web: scriptanatomy.com

Follow Script Anatomy on Twitter: @scriptanatomy

Buying Final Draft screenwriting software? Use this link to support the podcast: tinyurl.com/BuyFinalDraft.

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.

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115 – Ali Laventhol (Ginny & Georgia, A Million Little Things)

This week, host Gray Jones interviews Ali Laventhol, most recently co-executive producer on ‘Ginny & Georgia‘ with her writing partner Tawnya Bhattacharya of Script Anatomy.

Ali Laventhol Biography

Ali Laventhol got her start in show business working on movies like ‘National Treasure: Book of Secrets,’ ‘Terminator: Salvation‘ and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.’ Only not as a writer. She was a visual effects compositor for features, commercials and music videos before making the leap to her original love: writing.

Teaming up with Tawnya Bhattacharya and together attending the NBC Writers on the Verge writing fellowship led to staff gigs on shows like ‘A Million Little Things,’ ‘Famous In Love,’ ‘Perception,’ and ‘The Client List.’ Most recently the duo have been Co-Executive Producers for ‘Ginny & Georgia‘ at Netflix and ‘Salsa’ at Apple.

A former competitive equestrian and certified massage therapist, Ali currently teaches TV writing at Script Anatomy. Her free time is generally spent playing in local tennis leagues or with her rescue mutt, Mavis, who has her extremely well trained.

INDEX TO THE EPISODE:

0:04 – Intro, special discounts for podcast listeners – 15% off photo & video scanning/importing at avgearguy.com, and 20% off 9-angle driving plates at drivingfootage.com.
3:41 – Interview start, Ali’s background in visual effects.
10:22 – How she made the career transition into writing.
11:50 – Building a writing partnership with Tawnya Bhattacharya, after meeting her at Writers Boot Camp in 2005.
13:57 – How they got into NBC’s Writers on the Verge, and their experience in the writing fellowship, including getting representation and their first job. Discussion about being in a writing partnership.
19:30 – Her experience on their first staff job, ‘Fairly Legal.’
22:08 – Signposts of their subsequent 8 year successful run, going from one show to another.
25:07 – Discussing producer responsibilities, like visiting set, casting, etc.
27:35 – Their more recent projects, discussing different showrunning styles.
30:40 – Co-executive producing on ‘Ginny & Georgia’ and their most recent project for AppleTV, which was primarily developed over Zoom in a mini-room format.
33:43 – Script tips based on her wealth of experience reading scripts, and coaching and teaching through Script Anatomy.
36:51 – What Script Anatomy offers writers.
39:55 – The most common advice she gives newer writers.
46:37 – Do you really need to go to film school?
48:09 – What does she wish she had known at the start of her career, that she knows now: how different each showrunner is.
49:52 – What helps to get through the harder times?
51:13 – End of interview, how to connect with her.

Follow Ali on Twitter: @AliLaventhol.

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.

Buying Final Draft screenwriting software? Use this link to support the podcast: tinyurl.com/BuyFinalDraft.

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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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.

Buying Final Draft screenwriting software? Use this link to support the podcast: tinyurl.com/BuyFinalDraft.

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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113 – Lee Aronsohn & Jason Kyle

This week, host Gray Jones interviews Lee Aronsohn, co-creator and showrunner of “Two and a Half Men” and EP of “The Big Bang Theory,” and actor/writer/producer/director Jason Kyle, the founders of the Creators Writing Room.

Lee Aronsohn Biography:

Lee Aronsohn served as showrunner of “Two and a Half Men,” a show which he co-created with Chuck Lorre, and he was also an executive producer on “The Big Bang Theory.” His work spans over three decades, having written for hit shows such as “The Love Boat,” “Who’s the Boss,” “Charles in Charge,” “Cybill,” “CSI,” and others.

Jason Kyle Biography:

Jason is an actor, comedian, writer and voice actor best known for his roles in “100 Blocks,”, “Redress,” and “Watch Dogs 2.” He was also the creator, producer, director and lead actor in “The Bay Area Show.” He currently works in development at Sony Pictures TV, with Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa (creators of “Homeland” and “24“).

INDEX TO THE EPISODE:

2:25 – Interview start
3:38 – Lee’s background, from “The Love Boat” to “Big Bang Theory” and “Two and a Half Men.”
5:17 – How the industry has changed over the years.
6:23 – How needing health insurance led to co-creating and running “Two and a Half Men.”
10:01 – How “Big Bang Theory” almost didn’t make it, and needed a second pilot.
13:32 – Jason’s background, from the peace corps in Albania to standup comedy.
18:08 – His next few years acting, directing, producing and writing.
23:05 – The “meet cute” — how they connected and ended up working together.
26:25 – Sponsor break.
27:32 – All about The Creators Writing Room – free content and fee-based classes over Zoom.
32:28 – Why free content on the internet isn’t enough.
36:33 – What the Zoom format provides, especially with their small class sizes.
40:33 – Discussing the different classes they offer.
43:18 – Free Co-Pilot Zoom sessions where they deconstruct pilot scripts
45:49 – Wrap up, website info.

Visit The Creators Writing Room at theCWRoom.com and follow on Twitter: @thecwroom.

Follow Lee Aronsohn on Twitter: @BennyAce

Follow Jason Kyle on Twitter: @GetMeJasonKyle

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.

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112 – Elaine Loh (Gossip Girl, Dynasty)

This week, host Gray Jones interviews Elaine Loh, TV writer on the new “Gossip Girl” and “Dynasty,” and also award-winning film writer/director and actor.

Elaine Loh Biography

Elaine recently wrote on the new “Gossip Girl” reboot for HBO Max and is now writing on “Dynasty” for The CW. She is humbled to be a fellow in the HBO Writers Program, as well as to have been named on the coveted Young & Hungry List and as one of the Top 25 Screenwriters to Watch by the International Screenwriters Association. She has had scripts place in the world-renowned PAGE Awards (Silver Prize), Austin Film Festival (3 times), Final Draft Big Break (Top Ten), Tracking Board Launch Pad (Top 50), the ISA (Grand Prize), and the second round of the Sundance Episodic Lab (twice).

Elaine is also a director and her short form series “DOXXED” won Best Short Comedy at Catalyst (formerly itvfest), Best Achievement at Raindance, and a Telly Award (find out more at www.doxxed-series.com). She won the Grand Prize and Audience Vote at the NewFilmmakers LA On Location Project ($60k in cash and prizes) and scored an honorable mention in the Justin Lin/NBCUniversal Interpretations short film contest. She has also directed two short films that screened at Academy-qualifying festivals.

On a personal note, Elaine was born in Singapore, grew up in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and then moved to Massachusetts. She studied Psychology and Math at Brown University, does not speak any Chinese, loves Wendy’s junior bacon cheeseburgers, and can solve a Rubik’s cube in less than two minutes.

INDEX TO THE EPISODE:

1:03 – Interview start; her background, studying psychology and math at Brown, and how she pivoted into acting.
3:30 – When she started writing, and why.
4:04 – Her filmmaking and writing before TV, including placing and being recognized in many competitions. Why she considers competitions so important.
7:39 – How she developed as a writer, going a less traditional route into the industry.
12:45 – Compares Gossip Girl and Dynasty, how they helped prepare her to write a script.

14:14 – Sponsor break – visit drivingfootage.com for 4K 9-angle driving plates for TV & film, and podcast viewers get 10% off photo/video scanning and importing at avgearguy.com

15:21 – Getting into and going through the HBO writing fellowship.
18:45 – Getting staffed on Gossip Girl.
20:07 – Being in the writers room for the first time.
22:59 – The pandemic hit, but she was able to land a job on Dynasty. How that show has been different.
25:00 – How her acting experience, and writing directing films has helped her as a TV writer.
27:48 – On developing for TV.
31:45 – Her volunteer work, and what it means to her. 
32:21 – Advice to greener writers, especially when asking someone to read your script.
44:05 – Not giving up.
47:30 – On her award winning web series (www.doxxed-series.com), and how it was great training in telling episodic stories, and in the future, how to run a show.

Elaine runs a political advocacy group that encourages greater civic engagement and raises money for charities. Check it out at www.operationchecksandbalances.org.

Visit Elaine’s website at www.ElaineLoh.com and follow her on Twitter: @ThatElaineLoh.

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.

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111 – Michael Jamin (Beavis & Butthead, King of the Hill, Maron, Tacoma FD)

This week, host Gray Jones interviews Michael Jamin, TV comedy writer and showrunner who has written on such shows as “King of the Hill,” “Maron,” and “Beavis and Butthead,” and is currently a consulting producer on “Tacoma FD.”

Housekeeping Announcement:

This is the 20th weekly episode since quarantine started, and I am taking a 2-week break before resuming right after Labor Day. I am actively seeking new showrunners and upper level writers to interview, so if you know anyone you think would be a good fit, please reach out.

Michael Jamin Biography:

For the past 25 years, Michael Jamin has been a television writer and showrunner.  His many credits include “King of the Hill,” “Wilfred,” “Maron,” “Beavis and Butthead,” “Brickleberry,” “Just Shoot Me,” “Rules of Engagement,” “Tacoma FD” and many more.

Get 3 lessons from Michael’s new class “The Showrunner’s Guide to TV Writing” for FREE! Visit michaeljamin.com/gray/ for details.

Photo Credit: Paula Marshall

INDEX TO THE EPISODE:

1:43 – Interview start, Michael’s backstory, having the desire to write but no experience. Got a few PA jobs, and then while working on “Lois & Clark” he and his writing partner Sivert Glarum had a chance to pitch an episode, which became one of the highest rated episodes of the season.
5:19 – When he first got representation, and how it didn’t really help him… was when he first got on staff for “Just Shoot Me” that things really took off. Shares what it was like when he first got on staff and didn’t feel he was contributing. Speaks about his mentors during the 4 seasons he was on the show, and some of the advice they gave.
8:17 – Landed the job on “King of the Hill,” where he also wrote for 4 seasons. Speaks about how at that time, it was much more common to jump from show to show as you negotiated more money or a better position. 
10:05 – When he and Sivert started running the room, on “Glenn Martin, D.D.S.” Talks about difference of running the room and writing for animation and live action, single camera vs multi-camera.
11:20 – Fun stories about running the room in live action for the first time, on “Maron.”
13:57 – Talks about his development process, where he finds ideas and projects.
14:50 – His most recent show, “Takoma F.D.”
16:08 – Sponsor break.
17:14 – All about Michael’s new TV & screenwriting online course, “The Showrunner’s Guide to TV Writing.” Visit http://michaeljamin.com/gray for 3 free lessons.
20:32 – State of the industry now vs 20 years ago — easier to break in, but harder to make a living.
21:29 – How he hustles for work — doesn’t depend on his agent, and is constantly writing new material.
23:03 – Aside from his course, suggests reading and studying lots of scripts.
23:55 – Advice to greener writers… write and work on your craft every day. What separates a mediocre script from a good script? In interviews? What gets a writer fired from a staff?
28:59 – What does he wish he had known when he started out? How to break a story. How to learn that skill.
30:41 – How to make it long-term in this business — be nice to people.09

Follow Michael on Twitter: @MJaminWriter

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.

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