Every writer, actor, fine artist, filmmaker, musician, artisan food / liquor magnate, or mom & pop small business owner has a story of the "Big Break." New York startup attorney Michael Prywes interviews successful artists and entrepreneurs, and common themes become evident: there is no such thing as overnight success, learning continues for a lifetime, and relationships are everything. The guests--who all have succeeded where so many others have failed-- share actionable insights, retrospective advice, and instructive stories.
Sitcoms with Janae Bakken ("Scrubs") - 026
Janae Bakken grew up in Minnesota - where she spent too many frozen winters on the cross-country ski team, and went to college in Chicago - where she rarely saw the sun, so she made her escape to Los Angeles soon after graduation. She worked on the production staffs of such shows as Mad About You, Caroline in the City, and Malcolm in the Middle before making the jump to writer, where she spent eight years writing on the critically-acclaimed Scrubs, rising from a Staff Writer to Co-Executive Producer. Janae was twice-nominated for an Emmy Award with the other Scrubs writers. In addition, she has written & sold television pilots for Warner Brothers, ABC Studios, MRC and ABC Network. Janae was most recently a Co-Executive Producer on Freeform’s Baby Daddy for four years, and before that a Co-EP on Anger Management and Gary Unmarried. In 2007, she was selected to participate in the WGA Showrunner Training Program. In 2011, Janae was a guest professor at her alma mater Northwestern University, teaching Television Writing to the MFA Creative Writing students.
Notes from the show:
Grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis St. Paul, MN.
She discovered "The Wonder Years," her favorite and my favorite television show.
Northwestern University's "Creative Writing for the Media" program - selected 12 people each year, was in the program with me, Breen Frasier ("Criminal Minds")
Heavily influenced by the show "Friends." A lot of her friends back home in MN got married in their early 20s.
She lived in London, England after college.
Hollywood will always be there, but you're better off going without attachments.
If you want to be in television, you need to be in Los Angeles.
20 years later, she loves Los Angeles. "Everyone's starting over... you're in it together."
It helps there are so many alumni there.
Has been in the workforce since the age of 14, but all Los Angeles jobs were "in the industry."
First screenplay was a comedy. First TV job was a comedy.
Gave a funny speech at high school graduation.
First job she had in L.A., she got fired.
Agency job is a good foot in the door.
On her resume, she mentioned her job as "Gedney the Minnesota Pickle." William Morris called about it.
Interview with Pang-Ni Landrum; Mascot life got her the job.
Unruly: most people can't do funny.
At least 70% who made it in television comedy went the assistant route.
During all down time, she wrote scripts. Every night, after work, would stay at desk and work on own scripts.
Skills went "through the roof" being in the room with great writers.
Had "interview" with UTA, thought she was being interviewed.
"The longer I have done this, the more I realize how hard it is to run a show. And it's really easy to see who does it well and who doesn't."
"I'm not young enough to know everything." - Oscar Wilde
"Baby Daddy" is over, and she can't wait to get back in a writer's room.
"The TV Writer's Workbook" - Ellen Sandler
"Writing the TV Drama Series 3rd edition: How to Succeed as a Professional Writer in TV" - Pam Douglas
Take a UCLA Extension class or Santa Monica Community College class
How I Broke Into Writing with Taffy Brodesser-Akner (GQ, NY Times) - 025
Taffy Brodesser-Akner is a writer who has contributed compelling non-fiction features to major publications such as the New York Times Magazine, GQ, Cosmopolitan, Los Angeles Times, SElf, and so many more. Taffy is also the author of the forthcoming Random House novel, Schrödinger's Marriage. Taffy has been a finalist for multiple awards, including the James Beard Award and the Mirror Award, and has won awards from the New York Press Club, the Los Angeles Press Club, Society of Feature Journalists. She also teaches a phenomenal writing class, but the class we discuss in this interview unfortunately sold out before we launched. Subscribe to "How I Broke Into" on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, TuneIn, I Heart Radio, or Google, or listen to the entire podcast here:
Notes from the show:
John Cheever's short stories
Inspired by writer Lauren Slater.
"It’s also telling that I’m not a trained journalist. I have a degree in screenwriting from NYU. The highest priority when I’m writing is on storytelling, not voice, but storytelling. That’s my business. Voice comes easily to me because it’s easy for me to write how I sound. And structure is the thing that I think about the most. ‘What is the beginning, middle, and end of this?’ "
Loved the soap opera Santa Barbara, and got a job at a Soap Opera publication
Worked at Mediabistro in Los Angeles
PTSD from giving birth
"Moving Swift-ly on? Giggling Tom Hiddleston is spotted bidding farewell to a mystery brunette during evening stroll back in London" - Daily Mail
"Chasing the New American Dream"
"My Color Story"
"Obsessive-compulsive disorder nearly ruined her life" by Sarah Maraniss Vander Schaaff
"Who Controls Childbirth?" - Self Magazine
"We Have Found the Cure! (Sort Of)" - Outside Magazine
Water's Edge (The story of Bill May, the greatest male synchronized swimmer who ever lived, and his improbable quest for Olympic Gold) - ESPN Magazine
The Art of War by Steven Pressfield
Interviewing celebrities is never not weird.
Classes at: taffyakner.com/classes (but August 2017 class is sold out)
How I Broke Into Photography with Jordan Matter ("Dancers Among Us") - 024
Jordan Matter, a Manhattan portrait photographer, is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Dancers Among Us, a collection of photographs of dancers in everyday situations around the world, and his collection of photos of nudes in public places, Dancers After Dark, is a monumental achievement, in my humble opinion. He and his work have been featured on television, in print, online, and in exhibitions throughout the world, including Buzzfeed, ABC World News Tonight, Today, The Tyra Banks Show, the BBC, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, #1 on Reddit, Daily Mail U.K., O, The Oprah Magazine, NPR, Lincoln Center, and the Savina Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul, Korea. Matter lives in New York with his wife, two children, dog and cat.
Notes from the show:
Dancers Among Us: A Celebration of Everyday Life
My interview with my father.
My interview with ballet champion Brooklyn Mack.
Behind the Scenes
"Ode on a Grecian Urn" by John Keats
The Professional Photographer's Legal Handbook by Nancy Wolff
Uncovered: Women in Word and Image
The Beauty Myth - Naomi Wolf
Camera + App actually DOES work with the iPhone 7 Plus dual lens system (but not "Portrait Bokeh" mode)
Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs
Surf Art with Nelson Ruger, "Nelson Makes Art" - 023
Nelson Ruger grew up along the beaches of southern New Jersey, finding his stomping grounds among Ocean City’s 7th Street and North Street beaches and boardwalks. Loving art from an early age, he dove into a career as a theatrical artist, designing scenery and lighting for stage productions up and down the eastern United States, lending his creative style from tiny one-room shows to huge regional theaters. In 1998, he fulfilled his dream of designing on Broadway. With this life goal achieved so young, Nelson began searching for new horizons and artistic possibilities. Nelson eventually left the theatre industry to pursue his surf painting and zen watercolor art.
He formed the ‘Nelson Makes Art!’ Studio in Virginia, where he spent several happy years developing commissioned pieces in his flip-flops. ‘Nelson Makes Art!’ then led him far far west to the opposite coast of sunny Los Angeles. As Creative Director at RGH Themed Entertainment, Nelson worked with a diverse team of artists across many disciplines, designing theme parks and attractions around the world.
In 2014, Nelson discovered a passion uniting two of his favorite things - painting, and tropical beverages. This led him to his most exciting works to date - the Huli Pau Glassware series - painted glassware featuring the beautiful waves of oceans from around the world. He's the guy who believes you deserve to live the life you've always wanted. And he's gonna do everything he can to help get you there.
Notes from the show:
He didn't like the "drama" offstage of theatre. He went to work for Apple. He was invited to build a theme park in Los Angeles.
He opened an Etsy store.
Can Infringement on Etsy, Ebay, or CafePress be Considered "Fair Use?"
Helped by Amy Colella
Kim Bloomberg Designs
The One of a Kind Show
Liquitex enames to be discontinued.
Jason Fellerman Glass
Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss
1000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly
James Schramko's SuperFast Business
SoCal vs. Hawaii
Ocean City, NJ
A Crash Course on Taking on Centuries-Old Brands... and Succeeding
The Virgin Way by Richard Branson
Simon Sinek's TED talk
No, No, No, No, No, Yes. Insights From a Creative Journey: Motivation & Self-Improvement (Creative & Innovation series Book 1) by Gideon Amichay
Charity with Brad Broder, Kenya Education Fund - 022
Bradley Broder is the founder and Executive Director of the Kenya Education Fund.
Bradley founded Kenya Education Fund as a means of supporting the children he befriended while serving in the US Peace Corps for two years (Kenya 1999-2001). Bradley has over 17 years experience working with Kenya and speaks fluent Kiswahili. His deep, personal connection with Kenya and knowledge of international development issues has led Bradley to focus KEF focus on keeping Kenyans in school to develop the country’s human capital and reduce dependency on foreign aid. Brad holds a BA in Spanish from SUNY Stony Brook and an MA in Political Science from Western Washington University. He lives in New York City with his wife and two sons.
The story of KEF weaves together the rich histories of three organizations, the Kenya Education Fund (est. 2006), the Nomadic Kenyan Children’s Educational Fund (NKCEF, est. 2001) and the Children of Kibera Foundation (est. 2007).
KEF has over 20 years of collective experience working to promote education in Kenya.
KEF was started by former Peace Corps Volunteer, Bradley Broder and local community leader, Dominic Muasya, to keep kids in high school when their means did not allow.
NKCEF was formed after a group of families from McLean, Virginia accompanied their children’s high school teacher, Hon. Joseph Lekuton, on a trip to his nomadic homeland in Northern Kenya where many of the children were not in school. NKCEF combined with KEF in 2011.
Children of Kibera Foundation was founded by Honorable Ken Okoth (Kibra) and provided hundreds of educational scholarships to primary, secondary and university students from Kibera –Africa’s largest slum. CoKF decided to join hands with KEF in 2013.
Notes from the show:
Brad founded the KEF in 2006.
The KEF gives scholarship to Kenyan high schools; you can sponsor a child for just $750 a year.
He was a Peace Corps volunteer in Loitoktok, Kenya from 1999-2001.
He was in Namibia when the towers came down.
When he returned to Kenya 3 years later, so many people had died from AIDS.
The KEF started with asking friends and family for money to send one girl and then five kids to school.
About Schmidt (2002), starring Jack Nicholson.
The KEF has helped thousands of kids get an education.
"The ask is sort of an art... asking is a sales pitch.
Barack Obama: "Fired up, ready to go" video
Salesforce.com gives 10 free licenses to non-profits
Chronicle of Philanthropy
The Art of the Ask - Connie Phieff
Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortenson
The Ask - Laura Fredericks
Ask. - Ryan Levesque
Essentialism - Greg McKeown
Chef Life with Chef Rossi, Anti-Caterer, "The Raging Skillet" - 021
Chef Rossi, of the renowned Raging Skillet, is a master storyteller, and this episode doesn't disappoint. She is not your ordinary chef. She credits her success to everything from "kishka and grits" to marijuana munchies to the Hasidim in Crown Heights to foul-mouthed bar tending. Her stories are phenomenal, worthy of a Moth competition. Oh, and don't take my word for it: her cookbook (!)/memoir is being turned into a play and screenplay!
Rossi, yes, she only has one name -– has been a writer for many publications, such as The Daily News, The New York Post, Time Out New York and Mcsweeney's to name a few. She has been the food writer of the "Eat Me" column for Bust magazine since 1998, hosts her own hit radio show on WOMR and WFMR in Cape Cod called "Bite This," now in its twelfth season, has been featured on "The Food Network" and "NPR” and is a popular blogger for “The Huffington Post.”
As the owner and executive chef of "The Raging Skillet," a cutting-edge catering company known for breaking any and all rules, she has earned a reputation as the one to call when it's time to do something different.
The Raging Skillet has been called "a new breed of rebel anti-caterer" by The New York Times, "the wildest thing this side of the Mason Dixon line" by Zagat and has been named among The Knot’s Best Of Wedding Caterers for 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 2015 and now 2016. Having won six years in a row, The Raging Skillet is in The Knot’s Hall of Fame.
On November of 2015 Rossi’s first memoir; The Raging Skillet/The True Life Story of Chef Rossi was published from the Feminist Press to rave reviews.
From Kirkus - "A humorous and witty chronicle of a woman’s pulling-herself-up-by-her-bootstraps rise through the culinary ranks."
From Publisher’s Weekly: "With an insightful and irreverent voice, Rossi’s debut is well suited for foodies, feminists, and creative revolutionaries."
Rossi’s motto is simple; "molds are a delicious thing to break!”
Notes from the show:
As a child, she always thought she would end up as President of the US. Then she thought she would end up an artist. She has always had a problem with authority and considers herself completely unemployable.
Her parents bought swampland in Panama City, Florida (the "Redneck Riviera"), diet of "kishka and grits."
At 13, her mother got a microwave and that was the end of home-cooked meals.
She discovered marijuana, made stoner food.
At 16, she ran away from home. Her parents drove her to Hasidic Crown Heights... "like being dropped off on Mars with matzoh balls."
She explored different cuisines based on the ethnicity of women she dated.
She hired a sous chef who was so good, should have been the chef.
She cooked for 10 years before going solo.
"The Raging Skillet" came to her like a light bulb.
Doing V-Day for The Vagina Monologues led to her listing in
Celebrities love to be treated like everyone else, and she likes to treat everyday people like celebrities.
She is most comfortable with 150-200 people.
She did not like working in restaurants: too high stress yet boring. She lived for the daily specials.
Her goal is to delegate more and have more fun.
By working for others, she learned what not to do.
She has a "Zen kitchen." No yelling allowed.
"Gordon [Ramsey], there's no way people aren't spitting in the food."
She turns down competition shows.
"Why One Neuroscientist Started Blasting His Core" - The Atlantic
Like Water for Chocolate
Stay super-organized. Never let things accumulate.
The food processor: "mi esposa."
The play based on her book is written by Jacques Lamarre.
Advice: go work for as many different types of kitchens.
She loves The White Trash Cookbook.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I listened in to hear a friend on the show. I found it interesting to hear how people have "made it" in their field and ended up listening in to the entire catalog. Definitely some good pointers on what to do if you are trying to get a start in any discipline, not just the one being featured.