This one’s for fans of FX’s ‘The Bridge’ and also for wannabe-TV-writers, or both. I was fortunate enough to interview Adam Gaines, the writers’ assistant for ‘The Bridge,’ whose previous work includes ‘Fringe’ and ‘Undercovers.’ He shared with us some pretty cool insight into what happens inside a writers’ room and what’s coming up for the rest of the season of ‘The Bridge.’
TVRage: Give us some background: when did you know you wanted to be a TV writer?
Adam Gaines: I grew up in suburban New Jersey. I went to college at NYU Tisch School of Arts. I've been writing my entire life (it sounds corny, but even before I could write sentences, I took a piece of paper, folded it in half, drew stick figures, and went into the kitchen and told my parents a story, pointing and acting it out). I knew I wanted to be in the industry when I was 11 years old. I rented 'Scream' with my Grandma, we watched it, and it was the moment that clicked for me that movies were written, that actors didn't just say whatever came to their mind in front of the camera. I turned to her and decided that I would become a screenwriter.
TV came a little bit later. TV got better and I just enjoyed TV more. And though there are no steps out here [in L.A], and you don’t know where to go, in TV, there’s like a path. It takes some of the mystery away and it applies steps to a step-less career path.
TVRage: How did you get started?
Gaines: I was involved in J.J. Abrams' production company, Bad Robot, and I let it be known to them that I wanted to be involved with TV. This was back in 2010 and they just started and created ‘Undercovers’ and I interviewed with the showrunner and they gave me the chance to be in the writer’s room as a writer’s assistant and that’s when I left my cushy assistant job.
TVRage: Currently, you’re the Writers’ Assistant on 'The Bridge.' How did you get that gig?
Gaines: It had to do with ‘Undercovers.’ One of the co-executive producers, Elwood Reid, was someone I befriended in the writers’ room and who I kept in touch with and we happened to have lunch last summer, and he said you’re going to read this in Deadline Hollywood that I am leaving ‘Hawaii Five-0’ and creating this show ‘The Bridge.’ And we talked about it and he sent me the script and once FX picked it up to series, it was a matter of keeping in contact, and emailing and I said I would love to do what I did for you on ‘Undercovers’ and he hired me.
TVRage: So what exactly does a Writers’ Assistant do? Describe a typical day for us.
Gaines: In a drama writing room, there’s 6-10 writers, sometimes less, sometimes more. On a functional show, you’ll try to room every day. There are sessions. Three hours at a time, six hours at a time. And when you go into a room and talk about the stories, you need someone in there who’s recording the session. So that there’s someone who’s writing dialogues, planning, organizing their thoughts in a real-time. That’s me. Producing a document that details the notes of the day.
TVRage: Do you get to pitch stories?
Gaines: The way I do it, I stay quiet for the first few weeks and see who’s into me talking, and who’s not. You obviously wait your turn, but I pitch everyday on the shows that I’m working on. That might not be a storyline, but maybe about a scene. What if we do this in a scene? Or what if this character did this? Sometimes if you have a good idea, grab someone on lunch break or coffee break, and then you can ask them what they think of an idea, and they can bring it up in the room and make you look better.. And hopefully you can write scenes, and then if there’s an episode that comes out, you might be able to co-write it or write it by yourself. Then that builds. Then the following year, you hope they’ll bump you up to a staff writer.
TVRage: What’s been the most fascinating thing you’ve learned from being in the writers’ room?
Gaines: All the different ways you can tell a story. It’s cool to see eight really smart people debate something simple like “this guy is a spy” or something we‘ve seen so many times on TV and see how they can come up with so many different versions of it. The fly-on-the-wall experience of witnessing breaking story and hearing why writers think what’s the best idea and why, that’s interesting to me.
TVRage: Will you return to 'The Bridge' next season?
Gaines: We haven’t gotten our second season renewal yet, but I would hope that I would be coming back.
TVRage: Is the goal to become staff there?
Gaines: Yes, and there are seven levels of writing positions. So you can move up there and move on at some point and then sell my own shows. In my spare time, I am writing my own pilots, so I have those pilots ready to go.
TVRage: What is it about one-hour series that you like?
Gaines: I really like the cable model. I really like the serialized element. Growing up, my dad always had ‘Law & Order’ on in the house, and they were fine, but it seems like you are watching the same thing every week. But what I like about the serialized drama, like ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘Dexter’ and ‘Homeland,’ ‘Damages,’ is seeing characters start from one place and growing into something else. And going through these ups and downs, escalating and changes, and not being what you thought it was during that first episode. I like the stuff that requires a lot from the viewer. That you have to watch every episode, you can’t miss one. The person who watches everything is rewarded. That stuff excites me.
TVRage: What else do you have in the pipeline?
Gaines: I released a free e-book ‘Mixtape,’ a collection of one-act plays that showcases my dialogue. It was designed to get people a taste for me and get excited about me. Sometimes people don’t know what they have right in front of them. This is for people to get excited about me. This is kinda for people to get on the Adam Gaines train. I’m also directing and writing an independent movie in New York City. I have cast attached and I’m currently finding financing. And hopefully I’ll be in New York in October. The film is called ‘Prepaid.’ It’s about a lonely guy who gets a knock at the door from a prostitute who was paid for by his best friend.
TVRage: Without giving too much away, is there something you can tease us with about what’s coming up on 'The Bridge'?
Gaines: Well, I’m so glad that people are watching every week. Hang on because things are not what they seem and things get even crazier.
Be sure to tune into 'The Bridge' starring Diane Kruger and Demian Bichir every Wednesday at 10/9c on FX.
Check out Adam's free e-book, 'Mixtape', which is available at Amazon (Kindle) and Apple i-Books (iPad/iPhone).