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Spotlight Interview: Sarah Fain and Liz Craft, Showrunners – Part 3 – Advice

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Here is the 3rd and final part of my interview with The Fix on ABC’s Liz Craft and Sarah Fain, where we chat about #MeToo and their incredible advice for writers looking to break in. If you missed Part 1 (all about their fantastic podcast Happier in Hollywood) or Part 2 (about their exciting new show The Fix), definitely check them out. Here we go…


Have you seen any noticeable changes in the ways TV is made since #MeToo? Are certain conversations taking place that had not been happening previously? Are you seeing actual change?

SARAH: This interview is happening in the wake of the Oscar nominations, which I found incredibly discouraging because it made very clear that in fact on a macro level, things are not changing. But I do think conversations are happening that wouldn’t be happening. I think on the whole, we are more likely to speak up and be more assertive about what we deserve.

LIZ: I also think that in television, there is a push to hire female directors, which was not previously there, and I do not think it will ever go away.

SARAH: And there is an acknowledgement that there are, in fact, a multitude of great female directors. Not this, “well, we tried to hire a woman but we couldn’t find one!”

LIZ: I think the short answer is yes, it’s going to have an enormous impact, but it’s maybe going to take longer than everyone thinks. I also think that a lot of what we deal with is just misogyny, and I don’t think that’s changed.

SARAH: Right. I 100% agree.

LIZ: I think that’s going to take a longer time to change, but I do think that hiring more female directors, having to hire women on crews, cutting short a lot of the sexual stuff that goes on will ultimately lead to a decrease in misogyny, so I think we’re going the right direction. Whether we’ll benefit from it, I don’t know, certainly Mary, our assistant, who is (younger) will benefit from it I would hope.

It’s encouraging to hear about the changing attitude when it comes to female directors, because I have so many friends who are trying to break in who are reading these articles about how the same ten women keep getting hired. And when those directors are all busy, folks often stop considering women. And my friends are sitting there thinking…huh? I’m right here. Give me a chance.

LIZ: I do think that’s changing.

SARAH: On one of the Women Writer WGA facebook groups that I’m in, someone recently posted asking for recs for great women directors. And the responses went on and on and on — the thread has 157 comments, and many of those comments have multiple recommendations. I saved it.

LIZ: But one thing that I think we need to do, and we’re tasking ourselves with this moving forward, is insisting on more female crew members and more people of color on crews, because that is something WE can have a hand in that WE need to personally do better, and I think all showrunners need to do better. Except Shonda, Shonda’s great.

That’s awesome!

LIZ: One thing I would say to Ms. in the Biz readers about the #MeToo of it all, is one thing that has been very helpful to us in our (so far) 19 year career, is that we had each other to amplify each other’s voices. When we feel we’re not being heard, we have someone else there to say, “Well, did you hear what Sarah said?” “Did you hear what Liz said?” And so I would say to people who are on staffs, even if you don’t have a partner, be there for each other and do that for each other. Because that can really make a difference. Make your voice heard. Because at the end of the day, to me #MeToo is so much bigger than sexual harassment. So that’s what I would say: amplify, amplify, amplify.

Oo, I love that. What advice do you have for new writers who are truly ready to be working and just haven’t found that way in yet?

SARAH: I’m weirdly going to give the same advice that our first agent gave us – she said, “Just go out and meet showrunners.” And we were like, “Are you fucking joking? That’s crazy, how do you do that?!” It was almost offensively absurd. And then Liz saw an opening to meet a showrunner, and rented a bicycle and bicycled down the beach to meet this guy Bob Fisher, who helped us immeasurably. He didn’t hire us, he’s a comedy writer, but just knowing him and being introduced to his friends, and Matt (their current agent) was his agent…

LIZ: Yes, he got us our next agent.

SARAH: Things spiral. So the more people you know and the more outreach you do, the better your results will be. You don’t know which connection will be the one that leads to the break.

LIZ: Right, because often it’s not your friend, it’s your friend’s friend.

SARAH: Like in this case, Bob was our friend’s friend’s boyfriend.

LIZ: That was the dividing line – there was before Bob and after Bob, for some reason. Partly because I met him and he said, “Yeah, you’ll make it. Don’t worry. You’ll be fine.” And that gave us confidence. Part of it is just having the will to continue, because as we say on the podcast, it’s a war of attrition, and it really is. It is a fucking war of attrition.

Absolutely.

LIZ: And one thing a lot of writers probably don’t realize is that who your agent’s other clients are can really affect what opportunities you get. They can nudge clients who are further up the ladder to read your stuff.

That reminds me of packaging, but I’ve never thought about it as a writer to a writer, you always hear about actors being packaged on a project.

SARAH: Yeah, and that’s an agency thing. But your actual agent and who they represent, it really does matter. We hired one of Matt’s clients on The Fix.

LIZ: I mean you have to be able to write, that’s #1.

SARAH: And you have to keep writing because it really takes one great script. Our friend Karine, who is now married to Bob, has one spec script for Without a Trace that she wrote 150 years ago.

LIZ: It was a great damn script.

SARAH: It got her that one job that she then had for 7 years, and now people just want to hire her. And she doesn’t have to write spec scripts anymore. It takes one GREAT script.

LIZ: And you have to treat getting a TV writing job as a full time job. We cared about nothing else. I didn’t stop at a gas station unless I thought it would move me towards my goals. It was ALL we talked about. It was the only thing we cared about.

SARAH: And we studied things! Before we wrote a spec script, like Oz, we would break it down, we would watch it scene by scene and talk about — is this the a/b/c story, how do they weave together, okay this doesn’t have act breaks but what is the structure of this show. We STUDIED like we were in law school.              **Hm, sounds a lot like my process for writing a spec 😉

LIZ: We always say, treat it like you’re in law school. It’s a fucking grind.


Wow. Amazing. I hope you all got as much out of this conversation as I did!

Once again, thanks so much to Sarah and Liz for sharing all of this incredible information with Ms. in the Biz. Remember to tune in to The Fix on ABC next Monday, March 18th at 10pm!

 

Sarah J Eagen

About Sarah J Eagen

A Writer, Actor, and Choreographer, Sarah is currently a staff writer on the sci fi audio drama The Veil from Voxx Studios. She co-wrote/produced/acted in the short Soledad, which screened on the Disney lot as part of the Alliance of Women Directors/Shoot Em Up collaboration. She wrote/starred in the webseries Magic for Muggles based on Harry Potter, and the scientific short "The Interview", based on her graduate school research in Genetics and Virology. Sarah was a finalist for the Women in Film/Blacklist Episodic lab in the fall of 2017 & the NYTVF Script Comp in 2018. One of her scripts was performed live by the Parsec award-nominated podcast Once Upon a Wine. Sarah was seen as the helpful paralegal Carol in CBS's action comedy Rush Hour, and had the pleasure of sharing the screen with funny lady Kristen Schaal in the feature film Austin Found.