Behind every great line of TV dialogue are countless hours of breaking and rebreaking a story, editing and re-editing, burning the midnight oil, and, yes, questioning one's salt sometimes. Of course, I am referring to the arduous life of a TV writer; a life that Hollie Overton, story editor of 'The Client List,' didn't initially believe was her path to take. But, luckily for fans of the show, she did. I was lucky to chat with Overton about her writing process and why she loves writing for TV.
TVRage: Did you always want to be a TV writer?
Hollie Overton: No. I grew up wanting to be an actor. I was in all the plays in my hometown [in Texas] and also during in high school, and then I went to drama school in NYC. But writing was always in the background. I filled hundreds of journals as a kid. I worked on my high school newspaper and placed third in State competition for journalism writing. It sounds silly, but I never thought TV writing was an actual job. When I moved to L.A., I was pursuing acting, but I began reading blogs and books and learning more about TV. I signed up for a TV writing class at UCLA Extension and it was like falling in love. It was just a perfect fit. You get to tell great stories and really get to know the characters.
TVRage: How did your TV writing career start?
Overton: After several years writing scripts and taking classes at UCLA Extension and reading hundreds of scripts, I wrote a 'Friday Night Lights' spec and was selected to participate in the Warner Brothers Writers Workshop. It's a program sponsored by WB and is essentially a nine-month TV writers bootcamp where, if you prove yourself, you're introduced to agents, managers and showrunners. I was lucky enough to get staffed and worked as a writer on the last season of 'Cold Case.'
TVRage: How did you land the gig on 'The Client List'?
Overton: I'd been taking meetings all over town and my manager, Adesuwa McCalla of Metamorphic Entertainment, submitted my material (a spec of the TV show 'The Big C' and a collection of personal essays I had written) to Jordan Budde, the creator of 'The Client List.' I got a meeting with Jordan and the executives at Lifetime and two (very long, very anxious) months later, I was hired to write for the show.
TVRage: What attracted you to the series?
Overton: 'The Client List' is set in Texas and is a show about a single mom doing what she has to to take care of her family. I grew up in Texas, raised by a single mom, so I really related to the main character and her struggle. Of course she's breaking the law, but she's doing it because she's desperate to support her family. I think that's a very universal struggle and it really appealed to me. I also just really loved Riley (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and her mom and best friend. They were real, funny and flawed women and that's always fun to write.
TVRage: Can you describe a typical work day?
Overton: We generally get to the office around 9:30 a.m. and meet in the writers room. At the start of the season, the showrunners and the writers would discuss the season arc and the big plot points that would occur. As the season went on, we started to break each individual episode. Then, a writer would be assigned that episode and they'd go off and write an outline, which would get notes from the producers, the network and the studios. Once that was approved, you'd go off and write the script. When you weren't writing a script, you'd be in the room helping breaking other episodes or once production began, you'd be on set supervising your episode. We'd usually finish the day around 6 p.m., unless there were major deadlines or changes that had to happen or if you were on set.
TVRage: What's your writing process like?
Overton: I love writing at night. t's not always easy to do on a show, so I adapt and get things done when I have to. But my perfect writing schedule is starting around 9 p.m. and finishing around 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. Also, some writers are really careful and take a ton of time with their first draft so that it very closely resembles a final draft. But I usually write very crappy first drafts and then revise like crazy. Sometimes every word changes.
TVRage: What's been your favorite episode in the series so far?
Overton: I really loved episode 207, written by Natalie Chaidez, our consulting producer and directed by Jennifer Love Hewitt. It was a big turning point in the show, because Riley faced her biggest moral dilemma of the series. I think her decision ended up being really surprising. The episode had so much heart and even though the audience could have vilified her for it, they ended up rooting for her.
TVRage: What's been your favorite episode that you wrote?
Overton: I loved 'Cowboy Up,' the first episode I wrote in the second season. It was directed by Rick Wallace, who's also the producing director on 'Major Crimes.' Not only is he incredibly nice and talented, but he's a great teacher and a collaborator. I learned a lot from him, about how you have to improvise and be able to change things you'd planned and how to work with actors. Also, the episode was centered around a rodeo and so our talented production team created an authentic Texas rodeo. Being from a small town in South Texas, I grew up going to the annual rodeo and livestock show, so it was very cool to be back in that world.
TVRage: Why do you love writing for TV?
Overton: Because it's the best job in the world. Where else do you get paid to sit in a room all day and make-up stories? TV is an incredible place to work right now. There's just such freedom to tell these bold and unique stories. Whether it's big budget sci-fi or genre shows like 'Revolution' or 'Game of Thrones' or 'Walking Dead,' or intimate nuanced character dramas like 'The Killing' or 'Mad Men' or 'Rectify,' you're going to be entertained. And as a writer, you're working with smart, passionate and talented people. It's that constant collaboration that makes you better and pushes you to work harder. I could do this job for the rest of my life and be very happy.
TVRage: Can you give us a sneak peek about what's to take place on 'The Client List' this season?
Overton: The show hasn't been picked up for next season yet, so right now we're all waiting to hear. But the finale was action packed, so it'll be exciting to see what happens.
TVRage: What TV shows are you most excited to watch this season?
Overton: I saw the pilot for 'The Black List' and thought it was really good. I love anything Toni Collete does, so I'm looking forward to seeing 'Hostages.' 'Homeland' and 'Masters of Sex' are two shows I can't wait to see. And 'Scandal,' because no show takes bigger risks.
TVRage: Anything in the pipeline for you?
Overton: I'm currently developing new projects and taking meetings. And, of course, I'm writing like crazy. It's an exciting time and I'm looking forward to the year ahead and new opportunities that are on the horizon.
'The Client List' airs on Lifetime.