044 – John Finch (A Family At War, Sam, Coronation Street)

This week we are proud to welcome the creator of some of the UK’s finest and highest-rated TV series of the 1970s, recipient of the Best Series Writer award by the Writers Guild of Great Britain, writer-author-series creator John Finch!

John Finch was born in Liverpool during the Depression. When his father disappeared, he moved with his mother to a mining community in Yorkshire. Life was tough, and by the time he left school at the age of 14 he had been to 12 schools, including an orphanage.

At the outbreak of war, he joined the Merchant Navy at the age of 16 and sailed from Liverpool in 1941. He served as a sparks on a freighter, a tanker, a troop ship, and a rescue tug before being medically discharged in 1944.

He worked various jobs upon returning from the war, gradually moving toward writing as a career. In this time, he wrote for various magazines such as Illustrated and Picture Post, with occasional contributions to the BBC, and his first play, the first in television to have an industrial setting, was transmitted in 1958.

In 1960, he became the first trainee writer to be contracted to write Coronation Street, now the world’s longest-running TV soap opera, and later became editor and producer. He went on to became Granada’s most prolific writer and created, wrote and edited many of the company’s longest-running serials and series. These included the 52-hour series A Family at War, which sold throughout the world and is still being transmitted in countries such as India and Pakistan, and throughout the Middle East. Norwegian viewers recently voted it the best television series ever. He later created and personally wrote every episode of the 39-hour series Sam, a tribute to his mining village upbringing, and went on to create and write many other long-running series.

In 1975, he was given the award of Best Series Writer by the Writers Guild of Great Britain, and received the Broadcasting Press Guild Critics Award for Sam in the same year.

His novel, Cuddon Return, was a bestseller, and in 2002 he completed his first play for the theatre, JOE, described as “a play for two actors and a load of junk.” It has been warmly praised by critics, producers, actors and fellow writers.

He has lived with his family for many years in the Yorkshire Dales.

Visit John’s website: johnfinch.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.

043 – Pamela Douglas (Writing the TV Drama Series, USC)

She wrote the book on TV writing … literally! And she also started what has become the most esteemed graduate school for television writing. This week Gray has a wonderful chat with author, writer, and professor Pamela Douglas.

Born and raised in New York, Pamela Douglas wrote poetry, stories and plays, and was involved in journalism. Her work was published in small magazines, and won her some prizes. This led to a job offer across the country, as program director for experimental public TV station in Los Angeles.

When the station went broke, a bold interview led to her being hired as an executive in feature film development at MCA-Universal. She honed her craft there, writing several unproduced features, but grew to realize that television was where she wanted to be.

The first TV episode she ever wrote, for Trapper John M.D., won an Emmy® for actress Madge Sinclair, and Pamela was off to the races! She worked on many well-known shows, and was honored with many awards, such as a Humanitas Award for Between Mother and Daughter, an original drama which also won a nomination for a Writers Guild Award. Multiple Emmy nominations and awards from American Women in Radio and Television went to other dramas she has written.

Seeing a need in the industry, Pamela started the TV writing program at the School of Cinematic Arts of the University of Southern California, and is now a tenured professor there. Her book, Writing the TV Drama Series: How to Succeed as a Professional Writer in TV is considered one of the premier books on the subject, and has just been updated with a third edition.

You can find out more about her non-screenwriting works on her websites: http://pamdouglasbooks.com and http://pamdouglasart.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.

042 – Alan Cross (Weird Science, Dawson’s Creek)

From Robert McKee’s “Screenwriting 101” class at USC, to co-developing a successful spinoff of a John Hughes classic, to writing on some of the most well-known shows of the last two decades, writer-producer-author-director Alan Cross has a lot of great stories to tell!

Born and raised in Alaska, Alan Cross filled his time with watching TV. He came to California to attend art school, but when he discovered a TV writing book, he was hooked. He switched to USC, where he had the fortune of attending Robert McKee’s “Screenwriting 101” class.

After working some odd jobs, he finally landed a staff TV writing job, and his dream of working in TV was realized! After several seasons of the comedy Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, he and his writing partner co-developed the TV adaptation of the John Hughes classic teen comedy Weird Science, which he helmed as co-executive producer for its successful five-season run.

After Weird Science, Alan co-executive produced Veronica’s Closet as well as Get Real, and was a consulting producer on Dawson’s Creek.

Since then, Alan has written on well known shows Star Trek: Enterprise, Desperate Housewives, Reaper, and more.

Follow Alan on Twitter: @Alancrossss

Visit Alan’s website: http://www.alancrosswriter.com

In the Video Tips section, Gray has a very practical lesson on holding the camera steady with or without extra gear, applicable to shooting with a still camera, camcorder, or DSLR camera. Featured gear includes the Steady Freddy and Indisystem AIRsupport.

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.

040 – Phil Klemmer (Veronica Mars, Chuck)

Today brings not just one but two interviews with Phil Klemmer, a writer on all five seasons of Chuck, and all four seasons of Veronica Mars. We also launch the new “Video Tips” segment of the podcast, and welcome a number of new sponsors.

After graduating with a classics major at Stanford, Phil Klemmer moved to L.A. and became a reader for Propaganda Films. There, he worked with such names as Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze, though his first break would come through Rob Thomas, who he met through Rob’s “crazy Halloween parties.”

Based on a Six Feet Under spec script that Phil wrote in two weeks, Rob hired him to write on Veronica Mars, a job that would last four seasons.

After Veronica Mars, Phil got a job on NBC’s Chuck, a show that has always been on the bubble for renewal. After the third season, renewal news came late, and most of the Chuck writers, including Phil, took jobs on other shows.

Phil describes what it was like to work on NBC’s Undercovers, a show that he says was doomed even before it aired, and then how he fortuitously returned to Chuck mid-season, immediately after Undercovers was cancelled.

Then Klemmer talks about the present, sharing how the cast and crew of Chuck are gelling like never before, but are already nostalgic about the end, as Chuck wraps up production for good on December 7th.

In the Video Tips section, Gray talks about how easy it is to add custom color looks to your showcase film or webisodes using Red Giant Software’s Magic Bullet Suite.

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.

039 – Eric Kaldor (Kojak, Rockford Files)

He was born on the first day of the Great Depression, did competitive ski racing in Europe, and went to spy school to become a special agent. But a passion for writing led Eric Kaldor to Hollywood, and he has many stories to tell about his journey!

After spending some time as a sports producer, Eric Kaldor landed his first TV writing gig. He then went on to write for some of the most well known hits of the 1970s: Emergency, Kojak, The Rockford Files, and The Incredible Hulk.

You’ll love hearing about how TV writing worked in the 1970s, and how much it differs from the group writing of today. Also, Eric is full of amusing anecdotes about his path to and through Hollywood.

After 1980, Eric left TV writing to raise his family and build a successful family business with his wife. He started acting, and has had parts in films, like 2006’s Hollywoodland, and many recent shows, including ER and House.

Eric never stopped writing … he is currently working on a novel, and publishing it a chapter at a time on his website at erickaldor.com.

Follow Eric on Twitter: @EricKaldor

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.

038 – Kristin Newman (Chuck, That 70’s Show)

Comedy writer Kristin Newman spent almost 10 years writing on very well-known comedies, and had her own pilot shot and picked up to series (though not aired). She now brings her talents to a one-hour drama, on NBC’s Chuck.

Kristin Newman got an early break, with a production staff job on Everybody Loves Raymond. She graduated to writer’s assistant on Nikita, Mad About You, and That 70s Show.

She ended up stuck in the 70s (in a good way!) for the next seven years, rising up from staff writer to supervising producer. Moving on to How I Met Your Mother as co-executive producer, she also landed an overall deal at Fox … which was unfortunately cut short when the 2007 writers strike happened.

Because of an injury, Kristin was not able to walk the picket lines. What could she do? She wrote the pilot Single With Parents, which was shot with Alyssa Milano and Beau Bridges, and picked up to series … though it unfortunately never aired.

Then came NBC’s Chuck. She entered the staff as co-executive producer in its fourth season, and is currently breaking the series finale. Make sure to watch the final season, when Chuck returns on Friday, October 28th!

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.