Jane Espenson- Writer/ Producer: Once Upon A Time & Husbands
When did you realize you wanted to work in television?
When didn’t I? I always knew I wanted to write for TV, but I figured it was impossible without “connections”. That turned out to not be true. There are as many ways into the business as there are writers, and most of the writers I know found their way in without any connections, except those they created themselves.
What advice do you have for college students who are looking to pursue the television industry?
Don’t wait for your education to be complete to start looking for your way in. Apply for the studio fellowships, start looking for a manager, join groups of people who are also starting their writing careers, and look into student internships. Most of all, spend this time writing the spec Pilot scripts that will be your tickets to jobs.
First job in the industry? What you learned from it?
As an ABC/Disney writing fellow, I was paid, but I don’t suppose that’s technically a job. My first paid job was on a sitcom called “Monty.” I learned so many things, but the most important was that I had something to contribute that could be valuable for a boss.
What is your writing process like?
I write quickly, in intense short bursts of activity. I often write episodes out of order, trying to capture important or difficult scenes first. I try to write a script in the first few days of the time that I’ve been given, so that I can give myself a day away from it to regain perspective. I rely heavily on the fact that the structure for the episode is hammered out by the whole staff, so I don’t have to make structural changes as I go.
How were each writer’s rooms that you’ve worked in different? Any standout specifically to you?
They’ve all been different. The main difference is that comedy rooms actually perform rewrites on the script, while drama rooms are all about structuring the episode. The standout room for me was at “Ellen”, which was a comedy room that was run in a very different and satisfying way. The genius Tim Doyle used a method that allowed the writers some quiet alone time for joke writing that worked much better for me than the usual active clamor of a comedy room.
What is your favorite thing that you’ve written that has made it into an any show you’ve worked on?
I wrote a speech that Spike once delivered to Buffy, about how his reaction to her death that I remain very happy with. It was written in one of those happy spells in which the character simply starts talking in your head and you just write it down.
What show made you fall in love with television? What show are you currently loving?
I loved lots of shows when I was a kid. “MASH” probably had the biggest impact, not just for the content, but also because I saw the names of female writers on the screen. I’m currently loving “Transparent”, “Empire”, and lots of others — it’s a very interesting time for TV!