1. What is a typical "Day in Your Work Life" like?
When I’m in a writing room, a typical day looks like a group of writers (somewhere between 5-10) gathered around a boardroom table, surrounded by white boards and cue cards, mostly talking about what horrible and/or cute things are happening on the Internet. On a given day, we might be giving notes on someone’s draft of a script, “breaking” or coming up with ideas for a new episode or storyline, or addressing larger issues in the season. We’re usually in the office from 9:30-5:30 or so, so it looks like we have cushy hours, until we go home and write the ENTIRE REST OF THE TIME. Sorry. Just wanted to get that out there in writing.
2. What are the best parts of your job; what are the necessary evils?
Best part: I laugh all day. In every room — from Rookie Blue to Workin’ Moms. TV writers are funny, articulate, interesting souls to spend your days with. Highly recommend.
Necessary evils: I hope those all died in 2017. Because in all seriousness, #metoo. Other evils: long hours, no job security, and endless snacks.
3. How did your degree influence your career choice?
Directly! I graduated from Radio and Television Arts in 2007 and have worked consistently in television ever since. I spent the first 5 years post-Ryerson in lifestyle/reality TV (we make a lot of home reno shows in Toronto), before transitioning to scripted film & television about 5 years ago.
4. What are some skills you developed through university that help you in your career?
Collaboration would be a big one. Most of my work at Ryerson was group project-based, which forced me to come out of my shell in a way that continues to be invaluable. Television writing is not a solo sport. But it’s also not a competitive one — you need to respect your fellow writers/directors/actors’ ideas, and all the projects I did while in RTA prepared me to work in that dynamic.
5. What do you wish you could tell your university self?
To be more brave with my work. Also (sorry, Profs/mom!), to care a little less about grades… I haven’t been asked for transcript since I graduated. For that matter, in my field, post-secondary isn’t a requirement at all. Having said that, I think my university time was invaluable in terms of becoming ready for the industry as a young adult. As it turns out, it costs a lot of money to produce projects in the real world, so I wish I’d pushed my own development as an artist further when the stakes were lower.
6. How did your experience at Ryerson help you find your first position and/or writing gig after graduation?
One of my peers, Jenna Fair, got me my first paid job in the industry — working as a production assistant on a kids show called Ghost Trackers. So that was a very tangible link. Also, my close friend and fellow ’07 alumna, Lauren Gosnell, was my first example of someone I knew getting into a writing room. She became the script coordinator (and subsequent writer) on Degrassi, which is an entry-level job in a TV writing room that I didn’t know existed prior to her doing it. That led to me chasing those positions and finally landing one a few long years later on the cop drama, Rookie Blue.
7. What are some attributes of individuals who are most successful in your field?
In terms of showrunning — which is as it sounds, running your own show — I think it’s knowing when to listen to yourself and when to listen to those trusted individuals you’ve surrounded yourself with. That is, of course, impossible. But the best showrunners I’ve worked with have had an ability to delegate and trust, yet maintain their creative vision. As a staff TV writer, you need to be able to take notes. You need to have patience with the process and that process is re-writing. Over and over. Sounds super fun, right? It is. Ish.
8. If you could start all over again, would you change your career path?
I wouldn’t. Every job I’ve had has helped me in some way. Years on set have made me a better writer and less likely to say something embarrassing now that I’m in a fancy directors chair behind the monitors, listening to talented actors bring my words to life. If anything, I would’ve stressed less about how and when it would all happen, and taken more time after RTA to wander. Then again, as I write this while on a flight to Nicaragua, that seems like it’s worked out OK too. This Cheryl Strayed quote sums up how I feel about my path:
“The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.”
- Cheryl Strayed (Torch, Wild, Tiny Beautiful Things, Brave Enough, DEAR SUGAR)