In their charming office on the Disney lot, surrounded by inspiring artwork like Karen Hallion’s She Series and their famous treadmill desks, I had the great honor of sitting down with showrunners and writing partners Liz Craft and Sarah Fain.
Not only have Sarah and Liz been writing partners for 19 years and counting working on some of the most popular and influential shows on television (Angel, The Shield, The Vampire Diaries, and more), but they have also established themselves as mentors and fonts of information for folks who want to develop their own writing careers. In almost 100 episodes of their successful podcast, Happier in Hollywood, Sarah and Liz talk about what it is like to live in Los Angeles and work in the entertainment industry at large. They discuss workplace dynamics, mindset tricks, and take you on the journey with them as they develop and produce their new TV show The Fix on ABC. They include fantastic advice about finding ways to wind down and take time off, what it’s like to travel for a project, interviews with prominent folks in their work life, and even maintain a Happier in Hollywood Facebook group where they interact with listeners.
Additionally, they are gearing up for their first Writers’ Retreat – but I’ll share more about that later 😉
If you haven’t listened to their podcast yet (first, what are you doing? Go! Subscribe!) I would start with episode 4, from min 4-7 – this is where Sarah and Liz tell their spiel about how they both grew up in Kansas City, MO, ran their high school newspaper together, went to separate colleges and beyond, then reconnected over the holidays on the year when Sarah was moving to Los Angeles, and the three-beer decision that changed their lives. It’s a good story, but I’ll let them tell it 😉
Once you’ve listened to that, please enjoy this humorous and informative multi-part interview with powerhouse showrunners Sarah Fain and Liz Craft.
Since you write as a partnership, are there things that one of you does better than the other so that person takes it on, or do you both work on everything?
SARAH: We don’t think of it that way. Our feeling is that we could do it just as well separately, but it benefits us to do it together.
LIZ: I think because we went to high school together, we’re very good at similar things because we had the same teachers, same education. And we happened to go to a high school that had great English teachers. I think that has been the most helpful thing in our career. So it’s not as if one of us has led this hardscrabble life…
SARAH: …with a lot of street smarts.
LIZ: …yeah– neither of us has street smarts. We’ve led fairly similar lives in some ways, although we’re very different.
Are there any projects that either of you have taken on solo? Why/why not?
SARAH: Liz wrote a book, Flower. We talk about other things, but it’s just…when?
LIZ: Yeah, our issue is always TIME.
SARAH: It’s not that either of us would be upset with the other person for doing something solo–
LIZ: But again, it always comes down to time. Because the thing is – it’s a fulltime job just to stay afloat. So if your partnership is going to really thrive, you kind of have to be all in. The idea that we partner on some things but not on others is sort of not giving you the best chance for massive success, which is of course what everyone wants. We’re open to it…
SARAH: But at this point, it’s hard to imagine.
It’s so fun to be part of the HiH facebook group because I just assumed that most of the people who listen to the podcast are in the entertainment industry, and that isn’t even close to true.
LIZ: I know!
How do you make your podcast interesting to people outside of Hollywood – you mention specific business in LA, yet people all over the world love listening to Happier in Hollywood!
LIZ: Well, I have a best friend in Kansas City name Mindy, so we always say “Well, why is this interesting to Mindy in Kansas City?”
Ah, I love that. It reminds me of when I took a commercial class, and I learned that a lot of commercials are geared towards people who live in Iowa – or, middle America.
LIZ: Exactly. We think, well how does this apply to Mindy? So we know if it applies to Mindy, who is not in the entertainment business, it will apply to Joan in Arkansas.
SARAH: Or Sheila in Ireland.
LIZ: Yes! Or Australia! We have a lot of listeners from Australia. What we deal with is really a lot about work life in general, and office birthday parties are an issue no matter where you are, right?
SARAH: The evil donut bringer exists everywhere. **(This is a reference to this conversation on Happier with Gretchen Rubin, which Sarah and Liz have referenced many times on their own podcast.)
LIZ: Even listener questions that are specifically about the entertainment industry, often the answer applies to many other industries. It’s kind of the universality of what we all deal with going through life. And as we advance in our career, we have more and more experience with work politics, red tape, rejection, criticism, and all of those things that pretty much everyone has to deal with.
You really are speaking to a larger audience – it just seems so effortless.
SARAH: Thank you!
LIZ: We always wanted it to be for people in Hollywood and we assume a lot of our listeners are assistants because it makes sense for assistants, but we always wanted to be entertaining for anyone listening, not just people in Hollywood.
And for folks who are interested in writing for TV, you’re having your first ever Happier in Hollywood Writer’s Retreat, correct?
SARAH: That’s right! April 6-7 in Ojai, California – How to Get and Keep a Job as a TV Writer. It’s two days of workshops, Q&A, and networking with other writers.
Sounds great! Interested writers, click HERE for more information and to sign up for the How to Get and Keep a Job as a TV Writer retreat!
Huge thanks to Sarah and Liz for taking the time to sit down with me! Interested in chatting with them yourselves? They’re having a Happier in Hollywood Meet Up THIS WEEKEND on Sunday, March 3rd! And Part 2 of this interview will be released next week where we dig deep into their experiences working on The Fix, so stay tuned…and in the meantime, get caught up on Happier in Hollywood!