Kelly Jo Brick: The Write Path with VJ Boyd

A series of interviews with hard-working writers –
by another hard-working writer!

by Kelly Jo Brick

Photo courtesy of the Austin Film Festival
Photo courtesy of the Austin Film Festival

Aspiring writers often wonder how the pros got where they are. The truth is, everyone’s story is different, but there are some common elements: dedication, persistence and hard work.

VJ Boyd came up through the assistant ranks before breaking in as staff writer on JUSTIFIED. He’s gone on to write for THE PLAYER and is producing his pilot THE JURY for ABC. He, along with writer Mark Bianculli and producer Carol Mendelsohn, recently sold the drama DOOMSDAY to ABC.


I started writing when I was eleven. I wrote a story that I thought was going to be a novel, but it ended up being 21 pages, which was a lot for me. It was basically just a rip-off of CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, but I thought from then on that I wanted to be some kind of writer and so I wrote a screenplay when I was 16. I started reading all the books at the library about how to write fiction, short fiction, how to write screenplays and kind of advanced from there.


I can’t really remember what movies made me want to write movies when I was 16. I know there were a lot of movies I hadn’t seen, so I would read the screenplays, like I read the screenplay for THE USUAL SUSPECTS, PULP FICTION, RESERVOIR DOGS and also SHAWSHANK.

When I was much younger, STAR WARS was a huge thing for me. I knew I wanted to do something with movies and so for a long time I was like, “I’m going to do special effects.” Then what I realized was I just wanted to tell stories. In grad school, when I started leaning toward writing for movies and TV more heavily, THE SHIELD was a big inspiration. That’s probably the show that made me want to write for TV. Watching the behind the scenes stuff on their DVDs on how they broke story, I was like, “Oh, I can do that. I can write these kind of stories.”


Someone said, “If you can think of anything else you can do that you’d be happy doing other than writing, then you should go do that, because it’s so difficult to succeed at and there’s no guarantee you will succeed, even if you’re good and even if you do all the right things.” You may be a great writer and a great person, but you just don’t get the opportunity, so you have to really love it. I made the decision to move out to L.A. and do it and to stick with it because I couldn’t think of anything else that I’d be happy doing.

Also always be writing. If you’re a writer, you should be writing. If you haven’t written anything this year, maybe you’re not a writer or maybe you need to try to write something and see if you really love it as much as you thought you did.

When I was assistant for Graham Yost, season one of JUSTIFIED and then also on FALLING SKIES season one, when Graham had a script he needed to write, he went in his office and he wrote it and then he came out and it was done. It was a job. It’s important to remember to treat it like a job. It’s not always going to be perfect. You can’t sit around waiting for inspiration. You gotta set a timeframe and get it done.


I was a writers’ P.A. on the show THE BEAST, the Patrick Swayze show. I got that about a month after moving to L.A., which is a pretty quick timeframe. I was very lucky. This doesn’t work for everybody; in fact I don’t know anybody else who it’s worked for. For me, I cold called production companies when I saw that shows were getting picked up to series and I asked, “Hey, I’m looking for an assistant job, can I send my resume?” I ended up being able to send my resume to THE BEAST and they interviewed me and hired me.


I was an assistant season one of JUSTIFIED. Then season two, one of the staff writers left to go work on another show and so I asked my boss if he’d read my stuff. I really wasn’t thinking he’d actually staff me, but I thought maybe I’d get a freelance, which is much more realistic. He did read a couple of my scripts. He liked one of them and he actually hired me as a staff writer. It was a huge opportunity. It was very good timing and again I was lucky, but I was also prepared for the opportunity.


I get a lot of questions about how important is it to have a manager. Getting a manager isn’t that important. I’ve never gotten jobs through my representation really. They’ve set up meetings for me, but I got my first job through coming up as an assistant. Networking and making contacts on your own is more important than desperately trying to get a manager.


Keep writing. Write something new all the time. I would also say don’t be afraid of networking. There are a lot of people, especially if they’re not from New York or L.A., who see networking as this transactional thing, as being a fake friend. I’m pretending to be your friend so I can get something from you, but you know what it is, it’s mutually beneficial for both of you. Like you both are trying to do the same thing. We’re both trying to be TV writers. We’re both trying to get assistant jobs, whatever it is. We’re not pretending to be best friends, but we’re like, hey, we’ll keep in touch, maybe we’ll get drinks and keep up with each other’s career every month or so. If I’ve got a job and I hear about one, I’ll tell you and vice versa.

It’s not being fake. Networking is a thing and it’s okay. You kinda have to get over the fact that Hollywood is all about relationships and networking is a thing. Don’t take it personally when people want to give you their card for networking and you’re like, oh, I thought we were friends. You can still be friends, but everyone is trying to do the same thing and trying to get that advantage and if you have a problem with that you might want to write novels.

Kelly Jo Brick is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. She’s a television and documentary writer and producer, as well as a winner of Scriptapalooza TV and a Sundance Fellow. Read more about her HERE.

Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 7/4/14

Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are
by munchman

  • Lodge Kerrigan & Amy Seimetz (newbies who scored big at Sundance this year) are writing and directing the Starz adaptation of a little sex type film directed by Steven Soderburgh called THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE. (Which is often referred to as “Steven Soderbergh’s THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE even though that film was written by David Levien & Brian Koppleman. Hollywood credits! How can we ever be sure who is or was responsible for what?)
  • Reuben Fleischer (GANGSTER SQUAD) has an overall deal with Universal TV to develop both dramas and comedies. (The big thing about this big deal is that Reuben was first noticed as a writer-director of various Funny or Die.Com videos, once again proving – “Start on the web, young man/woman, by all means start on the web.”)
  • Matt Nix (BURN NOTICE, baby!) has yet another new overall deal at Fox TV, this time to develop cable and broadcast series. (No snark here. Matt’s a bud. We love seeing his success. Have at the sons of bitches, dood!)
  • Jim Sharp is the new Executive Vice President of Original Programming & Development at Comedy Central. (And even though he isn’t a writer and therefore doesn’t have his name bolded, we’re rooting for him cuz, well, it’s always nice to cozy up to development head, don’tcha think? In the words of Yer Friendly Neighborhood Munchman, “Hey, ya never know when you’ll find yourself in the croc’s mouth so wouldn’t it be cool to know his name?”
  • As long as I’m munching about network executives (AKA The Enemy), Ken Segna has continued his 4 year climb over at Starz, going from executive assistant to Vice Prez of Original Programming. (munchie lurves a good success story, but here’s the question: Will Ken really be able to give us something “original?” What is “original programming” in the eyes of those in the executive suites anyway?)

Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 6/27/14

Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are
by munchman

  • Beatrice Springborn is the new Head of Originals for Hulu’s new Content Department. (So, theoretically, if you know Ms. Springborn and have an original series idea you should ring her up ASAP. Yer Friendly Neighborhood Munchman’s prob, however, is that I can’t for the life of me figure out what “original” means in this context. Nor, for that matter, am I all that sure I trust any company that hands out titles like “Head” instead of, you know, “Vice President” or “Director.” For now I’ll just chalk this up to Hulu trying to be “original.” Which, actually, makes me more confused than ever.)
  • Dana Vachon (MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS) is adapting Stephen Frey‘s novel The Chairman into drama series for Spike TV. (And el muncho sure wishes I could keep track of the Stephen Freys and Frys and whatever cuz I’d love to find some scandal to report but gotta make sure I’m nailing the right guy. Can somebody help me out here?)
  • Nick Kreiss & Ian Wolterstorph (newbies) have sold EAST OF EXURBIA, a fantasy novel about brothers, debauchery, and a magical portal between worlds to X-Box for development as a series. Gotta admit – they had me at “debauchery.”)
  • Speaking of debauchery – kidding, kidding, I swear!!! – Carol Mendelsohn (CSI) has left that show after 14 fucking years – not really fucking, I swear!!! – for undivulged reasons. (Which means that if you know her, give me a yell and let me know if something wonderful has happened that will affect TV writing and the future of humanity, or if Carol’s just made so much damn money as showrunner that she’s going to take it easy for the rest of her life, or anything in between. Thank you kindly.)
  • Stephen Scaia (HUMAN TARGET) is Kickstarting a new “love letter to Indiana Jones…featuring Indy’s daughter trying to track down her missing father.” (Does Stephen have the rights to do this as a TV or film project? How about Steven Spielberg’s blessing? Or George Lucas’? Hope not cuz that way, when this gets off the ground (it’s already reached its funding goal), the Lords of Legal Hell will go nuts and Chaos will rule. And you know how munchareeno luvs chaos!