Christos Gage- Writer: Daredevil & Law & Order: SVU
When did you realize you wanted to work in television?
I settled on wanting to be a writer in college. TV was one of the fields I was most interested in, because I enjoy writing dialogue, but I was also interested in comics and movies.
What advice do you have for college students who are looking to pursue the television industry?
These days, your best route is to apply to the writer’s programs that many studios (Disney, WB) have. If you can get into these programs, it’s your best way in, because many of these studios require that staff writer jobs on new shows be filled by graduates of their writer’s programs. Failing that, try to get a job as a writer’s PA on a show, then from there become a Writer’s Assistant, which gets you in the writer’s room, then hopefully you can become a writer on the show.
If you are something other than a white male, people like you are under-represented in the industry; don’t be afraid to take advantage of that. Many of the writer’s programs are intended to increase diversity.
If you have some skill or life experience everyone else who wants the job doesn’t have, play to that. For example, if you’re a veteran, or have a law degree, or medical experience, pursue shows where you can put that to use (i.e. military shows, legal shows, medical shows).
To do any of the above, you’ll need an original pilot script (to show you have the ability to write interesting stuff in your own voice) and at least one, preferably several spec scripts of existing shows (to show you can write in the voice of the show you’re hired for).
I don’t know if I’d advise majoring in writing. I mean, you should write every day, and be a part of writing classes and writer’s groups, for sure. But it doesn’t hurt to have a field of knowledge that others you’re competing against don’t, whether it’s science or law or whatever. (But, of course, it should be something you’re actually interested in.) And it doesn’t hurt to have skills to fall back on if writing doesn’t work out, which it often doesn’t.
What was your first job in the industry? What did you learn from it?
In TV, my first job was writing (with my wife and writing partner Ruth) a freelance episode of LAW & ORDER: SVU. Prior to that we had written feature scripts, with a few getting made. Prior to that, we went to AFI film school where we got our masters degrees.
What is your writing process like?
I get up in the morning, eat breakfast and write. 5 pages a day minimum. Every day. Unless I’m outlining (which I hate, but is necessary). If I’m on a TV show and going into a writer’s room I still write in the morning before going in, but not as much, like 2 or 3 pages. Later in the day when my brain’s less limber I’ll rewrite, research or whatever.
How was going from writing comic books to writing for Daredevil? Was it a hard adjustment?
Ruth and I were writing for Law & Order SVU before I ever got a job in comics, so no. You have to understand that each medium is its own thing. You can be subtler in your dialogue when you have real, live actors reading it. In comics, you think in terms of the page instead of the scene.
How was your time working on Daredevil?
It was wonderful and inspiring working with brilliant people like Drew Goddard and Steven DeKnight, and getting to translate a comic I grew up loving into a show, and seeing it realized by actors as amazing as Vincent D’Onofrio, Charlie Cox and Deborah Ann Woll. It was also really, really hard work. First season shows always are.
What shows made you fall in love with television? What shows are you currently loving?
The shows I loved most when I was a kid and remember for their brilliant writing tended to be comedies; Taxi, Cheers, Barney Miller. I also liked wonky 80s sci-fi shows like V, Greatest American Hero, and an obscure little show called The Phoenix. Right now I love Better Call Saul, The Americans, Game of Thrones most of the best stuff is on cable these days.