Sunday, May 17, 2009

Spotlight Interview: TV Script Writer/Screenwriter Jennifer Heath/Part 3 of 3

Jennifer Heath/TV Script Writer/Screenwriter

In 1992, as a staff writer for one of the all-time great TV sit-coms, “Roseanne,” Jennifer Heath was Emmy-nominated for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing in a Comedy Series.

This was around two years after Heath and fellow 20-something Amy Sherman, whose father was a Catskills comedian, began collaborating on TV scripts after a chance meeting in an improvisational comedy class at the famous Groundlings Theatre in Los Angeles.

“We were two short, Jewish, annoying women that no one wanted to deal with, so we dealt with each other," Sherman once told a magazine.

The duo, with no professional writing experience, shockingly landed fulltime-writing gigs on Roseanne soon after the temperamental star suddenly fired her entire staff.

“She needed female writers and we were cheap,” Sherman said in a recent print interview.

Since Roseanne, Heath has co-created two other TV comedy series, “Mr. Rhodes” and “Dave’s World,” sold screenplays to Disney, Paramount, Warner Bros., Universal and Miramax, and had a feature film, “Ella Enchanted,” hit theatres in 2004; Sherman (now Sherman-Palladino) went on to write scripts for “Veronica’s Closet” and create the wonderful TV series, the “Gilmore Girls.”

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The following is the third and final part of my exclusive newsletter interview with Ms. Heath:

Mike: How often do writers send you stuff?

Heath: All the time. I read a lot. And a lot of them are asking for advice.

The truth is, 90 percent of it is crap. I read a lot of crap. And I hate telling people that their stuff is crap. But, then again, amazingly, a lot of crap gets bought. So who am I to judge? Maybe someone else will love it.

I’m still waiting for that day when someone will send me something and I say to myself, "Oh, my god. I want to produce this."

Mike: What kind of script captures your eye immediately?

Heath: One that keeps moving, is well written, highly creative, and possesses good, interesting dialogue.

Mike: What quickly turns you off to a script?

Heath: If I don’t know what it’s all about in the first 10 minutes, I won’t read anymore.

Mike: What’s the biggest error a novice makes?

Heath: Exclamation points every other sentence.

Mike: What’s some advice you’ve been given?

Heath: Honestly, I never got any advice. I just started by saying to myself one day that I wanted to write a “Seinfeld” episode. I thought, "I’m just going to write this thing and write it for myself. I don’t have to show it to anybody. And if I don’t like it, big deal." It gave me total freedom to do whatever I wanted and not be concerned with what people thought of it.

Mike: When do you write?

Heath: When I feel inspired and only then. That’s why I like collaboration so much. You can inspire each other, feed off the other person. If one isn’t inspired, the other might be.

Mike: What’s your secret to success?

Heath: I happen to be naturally funny. Nothing more complicated than that.

Mike: How would you sum up your writing life?

Heath: It’s a good life, but if you’re having a bad year, it can be a scary life. There are times when you’re saying to yourself, “Oh, my god, I’m done. I’m not talented. I’ve been fooling everybody all this time. I’ll never work again. My luck is over. Oh, my god!”

That’s why I still play the lottery. I buy my ticket every week hoping I can win and just walk away from all this.

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