by Kathryn Graham
EDITOR’S NOTE: Jeane Wong, a friend of TVWriter™ and previous People’s Pilot winner, recently won the First Universal Cable Pitchfest with her pitch for The Thin Line! Don’t miss the first part of this interview with this rising star HERE.
ANOTHER EDITOR’S NOTE: Empower: Fight Like a Girl is a collection of short stories about female heroines by female television writers, including Jeane Wong! Buy here: Amazon
And now the, you know, show:
How much has the industry changed since you started?
I came of age when all of the social media was such a big deal. Now I feel like it’s grown even bigger with all of the social media stars using that as a different platform. I don’t know if it’s changed so much as grown. Especially with Lost. I grew up with shows like that, and seeing showrunners interact on social media platforms.
Writers are more known now. I remember I was at a party at Comic Con, and Joss Whedon was there. Everybody recognized him. I don’t know if that would happen if I had started in a different age. Writers are more engaged, more known, more online. They’re pseudo-celebrities in their own right. That has been fascinating.
I feel like some things haven’t changed. Someone’s cousin’s son will get hired, and I have friends who have spent years just trying to break in as a writer’s PA. And then you meet people who, because their dad was So-and-So, they get in. A lot of things haven’t changed.
Unfortunately some of the things, I haven’t worked for anyone like that, but being a woman and a minority is still tough. I sometimes joke around with a friend of mine. He’s also a writer and he’s developing material. Everyone is all ‘we have our woman and our diverse person on staff.’ We joked around that when we staff our shows, we’ll say ‘oh, we have our white man.’
Do you see that getting any better?
It’s weird because my pilot is a lot about racial things, and now we’re talking about this. I think people do try, but I don’t think a lot has changed. I’ve worked at a lot of shows where unless it was a woman at the top, there were not a lot of women or diverse people on staff. I think people do try. I will admit that. But there’s a concept that there can only be one woman. Why can’t there be two? Whoa, shocker. We’re half the population, guys.
Is ageism still a big thing for people trying to break in?
You can get staffed from any age. I worked with a PA who was in his or her late thirties and got staffed from the PA position. That’s a little more rare, but it does happen.
In my opinion, if I were putting together my show, I would prefer people with some life experience. As a first time showrunner there’s a lot of pressure. Let’s say your show is at a certain studio, they’ll pressure you to hire people from their writing program. You want to keep everyone happy. There’s so many demands, even in terms of staffing, from what I understand.
I would want people who are a little older, especially at the staff writer level. Theoretically I would only hire a staff writer who has been in support staff and who’s at the breaking point. The way I like to describe it, the person who’s at the point where they’re almost going to quit because they’ve been there for so long. I feel like that person deserves to get staffed.
On The Thin Line I would hope I would find a diverse staff because of the subject matter. It would be weird if everyone on there was white.
How much of an impact do you think TV has on us as people, on our country, on the way we think?
Me personally, I hope to, no, I will create stronger roles for women. Stories that pass the Bechedel test. At the same time, I don’t want to take myself too seriously. I’m not curing cancer. At the end of the day, this is television. Let’s just have fun and entertain. It’s that weird balance where yes, I want to create roles that are great for women, but I also don’t want to take myself too seriously.
Kathryn Graham is a Contributing Writer to TVWriter™. Learn more about Kate HERE