Allan Heinberg | The Backlot | New York Film Academy

Hey guys just wanted to let you know that today our guest is speaking about some sensitive subjects.

They’re important subjects but still listener discretion is advised. Hi I’m Eric Conner senior instructor at New York Film Academy.

And I’m Aerial Segard acting alum and in this episode we bring you a writer who’s collaborated with two of the most powerful women in Hollywood. Wonder Woman.

And Shonda Rhimes.

Writer. Allan Heinberg.

If what you’re concerned with is your name being out there and what people are saying about you and doing you’re not gonna get any work done you’re just not. So by giving up the dream of what. Traditional success looks like I got my name on Wonder Woman.

His TV writing credits spanned from the feels of Party Of Five to the fashionable life of Carrie on Sex and the city.

And the bro-ness of the O.C. to Shondaland on Grey’s Anatomy Scandal and the catch and it all can be traced back to the musical tale of a sad orphan who innocently asked.

Please sir may I have some more.

I started as a singer and as an actor. And I really wanted to express you know and I was gay but I didn’t know it in Tulsa Oklahoma which basically tells you everything. So I had a lot I couldn’t express and a lot I couldn’t be. And I wanted to. And in 1970 Well I don’t even know when it was. I saw the movie Oliver which is a musical based on Oliver Twist and I saw kids my age singing and dancing and acting and expressing and I was like I want to do that. I want to do what they’re doing. And then Annie happened on Broadway and I was like first of all. Andrea McArdle is amazing even as like a six year old seven year old. I was like She’s amazing. So I wanted to do that. And so I started singing professionally really early and. A lot of it was about I want to be on Broadway and I think some of it was like Look at me look at me. But a lot of it was I want to be with other people who like this stuff and don’t think I’m a freak and call me a fag like I want to go where my people are. I loved Broadway I loved the movies I loved TV and so like in Tulsa Oklahoma the only thing I had was the New York Times Arts and Leisure section on Sunday. Once I was old enough to subscribe so like a lot of my focus was like I want to get there even at Yale I wasn’t present. I wanted to skip university and go straight to New York and be on Broadway and write Broadway shows and write movies and stuff. I wanted to get there.

He was really anxious to get his career started.

Yeah yeah. And he was like at Yale which pretty pretty good school you know and he was like No I gotta get to Broadway.

I love the fact how he knew when he was young what he wanted.

It’s like he saw them from afar.

Yeah.

You know Oklahoma as you know.

As I know I’m from Oklahoma I did the same thing. What are these people doing. They’re making noises and running around Oh I like that. You know you see that as a young child and you know that that’s your tribe. Of course you’re going to run to it. Hearing him talk about how that just kind of opened him up to express himself and really delve deep into why do I like this. And this really allowed him to find himself I think is so beautiful.

During this whole time though in the back of his mind had this one character and that character of course was Wonder Woman.

I cannot stand by while innocent lives are lost. It is our sacred duty to defend the world. And it’s what I’m going to go.

It’s such a weird story. I think it was a cartoon called Super Friends when I was 7 years old I think because that was before the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman series that took place in 70. I think it started in 76. So I got exposed to the character really early on and fell madly in love with her and was obsessed with her comics for a long time. And then flash forward after I graduated from college and moved to New York. I’d written a play about her my first produced play off Broadway was about Wonder Woman and that play got me out to L.A. and to writing TV and eventually writing movies and then I ended up writing the comic book because DC knew that she was my favorite character and when they relaunched Wonder Woman in 2005 Dan DiDio who’s the publisher offered that book to me and I couldn’t say no. Even though I was really busy doing Grey’s Anatomy and then when I left Grey’s a couple of years had gone by and I asked Peter Roth who who runs the place if Geoff Johns and I redeveloped Wonder Woman as a TV series and we did and it was an odd process because they were really in the Smallville mindset. They didn’t really want the uniform it was grounded was the term. And so basically she was just a super cop. We started it as a kind of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She’s a mythological creature she’s fighting mythological creatures. They didn’t want that they wanted her fighting crime so then it became sort of a police procedural it was a rough fit because they didn’t want Themyscira. They didn’t want any of the stuff that ended up. It’s such an irony. So the CW basically just killed it after reading one draft they didn’t even give notes. They’re just like No Themyscira no. And I was wounded and sad and then I went back to Shondaland land I did three seasons on scandal and then wonder woman who was being developed as a movie at that point. So my buddy Geoff who who is chief creative officer of DC Comics is very involved in the movies and this was two years ago and I’m a TV writer and usually there’s like a big wall between TV writers and movie writers and like there are some very skilled and talented and highly accomplished screenwriters in town and some of them are very famous and some of them are very famous for doing great work but not getting their names on scripts because you know these movies have like 15 19 writers on them sometimes but it’s usually the same people that get these jobs over and over and over again and it’s a big risk for them to go to somebody like me and say hey you know Allan who’s never written a script since we were at Yale together and I wrote one for my senior thesis. Would you like to write a huge blockbuster tentpole movie. They don’t do that. So I’ve just been quietly supportive of Geoff for these past few years as he’s worked with his people. Then he called and said we’ve hit a wall. This was after about a year of development and Zack Snyder really wants to sort of like go back to the beginning with the character and the fundamentals and he wanted to get his team together with Geoff’s team and like really talk about core character concepts and Geoff very graciously said there’s only one person I want on my team and that’s Allan. So Zack was like Cool. Ask him what he wants from Tender Greens and then see what time he can get here. And so I ordered the chicken. There was a chicken kale salad in case you were interested on the side. No potatoes. It was good. And I get to Zach’s and it’s like me and Geoff and Zach and his assistant Trevor who’s awesome and his team and they’re very intimidating and there are a lot of them and they are very cool and they have tattooed sleeves and they’ve got suspenders and it was very Mumford and Sons there’s sideburns happening and I’m feeling like Hollywood. This is Hollywood and we’re eating Tender Greens but whatever. So we sit down and he starts pitching me where they are with the movie and it’s he’s pitching me. He’s saying Dude here’s where we are. And I said Well here’s the thing. The story that you’re pitching me is very much like her story in Batman versus Superman. She has a brief arc but she has an arc and it feels like you’re telling the same story twice. I said there’s really only one essential Wonder Woman story. And then it gets harder to tell stories about her after you’ve told that story. And that’s the origin story and it’s a fish out of water story and I referenced splash. Mostly I said the problem with Wonder Woman as I have discovered trying to develop her was that she didn’t have an origin myth that was primarily emotional and relatable. People get scared by the gods. They get scared by the Amazons there are a lot of Greek names. There’s a lot. And Batman it’s super easy his parents get murdered and he wants revenge. Super easy and Superman is the ultimate immigrant story. You know he loses his parents and his planet and he goes to his adopted planet and is just trying to be loved by being a good boy. And we can all relate and with Wonder Woman It’s like she’s made of clay and oh god it’s just stops there. So I said to Zach and I later got in trouble for it on the Internet for talking about this. But what I said Is Zach is to me it’s the little mermaid. It’s a really emotional story about a young woman who’s grown up in this very closed world something a lot of us can relate to wanting to go out on her own and try to be herself and a good person and make her mom proud. And you’ve got to a parent like King Triton who really knows how bad the world is and knows that he’s offering his daughter up to a world that does not deserve her. So I tell this story to Zach and I didn’t expect Zach to respond necessarily but I was there to eat my chicken and say my peace and go and then we walk out to the parking lot after about two and half hours three hours and Zach is like so what are you doing tomorrow. Do you think you could be here by 7:15. And I was like for what exactly. And he’s like Dude we’re gonna do your movie. And I was like What. And he was like yeah let’s do that we should do that. Like I’ll get whiteboards. It’ll be you and me and Geoff and we’ll just like rework the movie from scratch. So I was like OK OK OK I’ll do it. Yeah OK.

Can you imagine being a TV writer and the one character that you’ve loved your entire life you then out of the blue basically get asked to write her origin story feature film. It’s going to premiere everywhere your entire life. You loved her.

Yeah I think he willed into existence.

Oh yeah.

Especially because I had false starts like there was a TV show that didn’t happen. And they’ve tried to do other Wonder Woman TV shows that also flopped. This has been like a curse with this character.

Right.

They’ve been trying for so long to get this thing a reboot and it was almost like he was just waiting.

Yeah without knowing that that’s what he was waiting for.

Right. Right right right. Just being a friend you know.

I need to make sure I make some good friends.

Yeah I was about to say. And then also to like he was ready.

Right.

Because he knew the character he knew the world.

Yeah. But he was only one little problem with all of this. He was already employed.

By Shonda Rhimes.

He already had a contract.

With like the greatest TV producer there is.

So you get offered this incredible deal but you got to go to the boss.

One dream getting in the way of another.

We broke the movie in what I want to say is three days I had to write something for him to pitch to the studio that Monday. So it was like Wednesday Thursday Friday. Write write write. Saturday Sunday. Zach pitches Monday they greenlight this movie that we’ve just rebroken over three days. He says dude now you have to write the treatment. I’m like I’m full time on Scandal dude. I can’t. So he’s like you can do it. I know you can do it. And Zach is awesome. Like when he looks at you with his surfery eyes and like his tattoos and he tells you you can do it no one talks to me that way with. OK. Zach thinks I can do it I can do it. So I write this treatment in a week and it’s you know it’s a lot of words on a page. And then Zach is like cool that got approved you’re writing the script. And I said No no because they needed it in no time. The movie had a release date like we’re now up against it like Michelle MacLaren is scouting locations. That’s who was directing the movie at that time like it’s happening and I know myself and I wasn’t gonna put myself in a position where I could fail at the outset. So I said no. And he was like Do you want me to call Shonda Rhimes. And I said No please don’t do that. I’ll talk to her. Why don’t I talk to Shonda. And we’ll just see what happens. Knowing Shonda’s like fuck no. So I call her assistant and I’m like hey does she have five minutes in the morning and like she’s in my office like that. And she’s like Are you quitting. I was like No you I want to hear two more years on my deal with you you own me. However something has come up and she’s an extraordinary woman like we could do hours on how extraordinary Shonda is. Shonda said well you have to do it. It’s Wonder Woman You have to. And she made it possible. I went down to three days a week like no show runner in town would have said this except Shonda Rhimes. And so the movie was made and it and it was that movie. So Zach was true to his word. Well thank you. Listen I mean you saw it. It’s a relationship movie. It has some fighting in it and stuff but it’s about these two people. Like Zach is a hero to me for championing this vision of this movie. And then when we lost Michelle who wanted to make a different movie Patty Jenkins got involved and really embraced it and took it to the next level and I mean she’s just an incredible human and collaborator. And you know Zach and Debbie Snyder gave all notes along the way. It really was this incredible group effort.

You know it’s interesting the history of Hollywood is written by so many examples of like people who cannot get out of their contract for like the role they dreamt of. But Shonda Rhimes I mean.

The fact that she and she must have known also his history with Wonder Woman. Don’t you think the way he even poses that of how she it. Wonder Woman go.

Right.

I think it said it goes to show that you know sometimes you can have this idea of being scared to ask those questions and sounds like he was a little timid to ask her.

Especially her like.

Her. Exactly.

The Wonder Woman of TV.

And the fact that he went there he asked her and she was so understanding that I mean that says a lot about her. But good for him to have that courage to take it on his own and ask.

Right. And I think being around people like Shonda Rhimes or Amy Sherman Paladino who was the showrunner on Gilmore Girls they also taught him like no you stick your guns. That’s how you’re going to get the best script.

I did not get fired although I did try to quit 16 times and they just wouldn’t let me. It’s something I guess I learned it from Amy Sherman Paladino because she created Gilmore Girls and she has a very specific vision and whenever Warner Brothers would push back she’d say OK then I’m just I just won’t do the show because I don’t know I don’t know how to do it that way so I’m going to go and they would go no Amy stop. So that’s what I would end up doing is go like that is a totally valid way to go. I don’t know how to do that. So I’m going to go and they’re like wait wait wait wait stop. Okay we’ll do it your way. That has been the big discovery of my time as a professional writer. It has taken me a while to figure it out and I think I knew it intuitively but I didn’t understand it. I wish I’d understood it sooner and maybe you can relate to this because I think it applies to whatever it is you do. But the job especially writing TV and film the job is to serve like you are here to serve and you’re not here to be walked on. You know whenever they would push back in a way that I couldn’t do I would say I bow out like I’m here to serve the character I’m here to serve the studio I’m here to serve Patty Jenkins and Gal. But like if I’m not able to do what you need me to do. It’s not about me. I’m gonna go. I’m going to leave. And you guys can go on your way. But while I work for Patty Jenkins while I work for Shonda Rhimes or ABC or Warner Brothers I’m here to serve them and the surrendering of ego and caring about what people say about me or think about me or my legacy when I’m gone like all that crap like unburdening myself of that has been the major discovery of my adult life. And it has just made it all much more fun. Do you know any mean like you guys know that any attachment to thinking about how others perceive you or you know how you’re doing in comparison to others what other people think it’s just my ego any suffering I’ve had in this business has been as a result of my ego.

Just letting go and not worrying about other people are thinking just staying true to yourself. I applaud him.

I think it’s funny too it’s like normally you would say someone threatening to walk out is like the height of.

Diva.

Yeah. Like no I could not have it my way. I am gone. In his case though it was weirdly enough it’s like the total opposite. It wasn’t so much like fighting it and like being like No I have to be this I have to be this and he is like no I’m good.

Like he.

You want something else.

Exactly and he’s doing it for them. You know you want a certain thing. I don’t think I can deliver that. I want you to have what you want. So I’m going to bow out. It’s him being like No I want you to have what you want. I just can’t give it to you.

Go be well. Work with someone else work with one of the other dozen writers.

Exactly.

I’m good.

I’m good. Yeah. And the fact that they keep on. No no no wait no no come back.

Right.

They wouldn’t let him go.

And that’s where the script comes from. I mean when you when you see the film you can totally tell. That. He never lost sight of what made Wonder Woman so special to him as this kid growing up in Oklahoma.

It is that ultimate wish fulfillment fantasy. If you had these abilities how would you use them and how would you make a difference or try to. I love that it seems to appeal to the heroic instinct in people or at least that’s my interpretation of it because these are not I think with the exception of that will Smith movie Hancock these are movies about people who want to make a difference and help and in the end Handcock That’s his arc too. And so the impulse to go to them I think is a good one and a and an affirming one. Obviously superheroes had a huge effect on me as a 7 year old because now I’m 50 and I’m still obsessed with the same character. So I think if you get kids exposed to that early enough and they’re the right kid they can have a profound effect like you know fantasies play an enormous role these Star Wars movies especially when I was growing up. You know that had a profound effect on the psyches of all kinds of young people and informed you know sort of who they are. And and and what they believe in. Those are antifascist movies. I mean I’m sure there are fascists who disagree with me but I think when you are exposed to pop culture at an early age it has an absolutely powerful and transforming effect on who you are. And it’s emotional because when you’re so young you’re not jaded you’re not distanced you’re raw you’re you feel everything probably even as young as you guys are. You still feel everything much more directly and so I think they’re profoundly important. I really do. My only goal for Wonder Woman I said this to Patty one day when we were working was I want little boys straight and gay to leave the theater wanting to be Diana you know what I mean because on the playground when we would play superheroes in middle school or not middle school but grade school I would want to be Wonder Woman and you’re immediately a fag if you want to be Wonder Woman. And I just didn’t want another little boy to you know what I mean like that’s not only to avoid the shame of that but also like she’s pretty cool like you know the sort of gender thing not withstanding you should really want to read about her like they wouldn’t even make Wonder Woman Action Figures female action figures for decades because boys won’t buy them they will not buy them and girls don’t. There is no audience for for that with young women. They weren’t writing stories for young women involving superheroes for decades when I was growing up to get a Wonder Woman action figure was that was tough. I think we’ve come a long way. But yeah I think they’re pretty important.

I just wanted to talk about how lucky young girls are who are growing up right now that have all of this to inspire them. I mean he’s talking about it too about how when we were all younger you wouldn’t see those type of women in the movies or action figures and all that. I mean sure she was a comic but we weren’t exposed to that the way that young girls and boys are exposed to it now. And he’s right. We still have a way to go. Oh my goodness. The fact if I was a little girl and I had Wonder Woman to look at when I was younger. I probably would have done so much more or differently at least.

You’d be right now lifting a car to save someone.

I’d be ripped.

And what’s great too Wonder Woman Not only we’ll just say the best of the DC Universe movie so far. I think it’s fair to say.

I’m way OK with saying that.

With all due respect but then also even Justice League how much her character popped.

Yeah.

It was Wonder Woman who really was like the root of that thing and she is now the one that built that DC House in the way Iron Man has built it for the Marvel Universe.

It really opened up the doors for more powerful women to step through.

Wonder Woman made some money right. So that’s the most important thing people showed up for Wonder Woman and it got an enormous amount of wonderful press. Not universally wonderful but I really did not know if people would show up especially women. So we’ve sort of demonstrated that there is a market you know every once in a while a movie comes along to demonstrate that there is a market for this kind of thing. It is very difficult to make something like this a bullseye to hit because we weren’t trying to make a feminist movie. Our aim was just to tell her story as well as we could. So I think it would be a mistake to go past the observation of like oh there is a marketplace for movies like Wonder Woman or Bridesmaids or Sex And The City The Movie. But occasionally these movies come along that say you can make money by telling stories that are primarily emotional stories. I still think you have to get it right and it’s a little scary. So I don’t know. I know Marvel’s obviously doing Captain Marvel which I hope is great and I know there’s been interest in DC in sort of taking that Harley Quinn character and doing more with Harley Quinn. But I think people are gonna see a space like there’s a space that we can serve an audience we can serve. It’s just a matter of it’s not going to be a formula you can replicate I don’t think do you know what I mean. Even wonder woman 2. I was involved in early talks for Wonder Woman 2. And it’s not a magic trick you can do twice you really need to come up with a compelling and emotional story that can stand on its own.

So many of his ideas you know make it to this film. He’s one of the only credited writers to it. Unfortunately, you have all these other writers who also had their connection to wonder woman. Some of them even got hired to write treatments and scripts because in Hollywood you might pay 10 different people to in essence do the same job with only one of them actually having their work make it to the screen or at least have their names appear in the credits. Tough world out there.

Tough world out there. But knowing this character so well and her story so well he was able to shine.

Yeah it’s like he had the depth of his appreciation. He loves the character of Wonder Woman but he also understands why he loves the character of Wonder Woman.

Right. I think it’s funny how he was talking about how they didn’t set out to write a feminist movie yet. Look what they got. And I think that that’s the difference between Allan Heinberg and some some of these other writers. He loves the character sure and he can connect with it but he knows her as well as he probably knows his best friends here on Earth in 4D you know but it goes to show that you know all these other scripts could have been outstanding. But the thing that set his apart. Was how much he knows this character.

It just took. The producers and the studio hiring a lot of people before they found the right one.

I think in total there were twelve screenwriters involved in Wonder Woman each doing his or her own version privately and then you turn it into the studio and the producers and then they usually decide we like this we don’t like this we fire you we hire you but I never read anything anybody else ever does ever. It’s very private because that way it protects them and it protects you. There’s no stealing. I mean like I never had access to any of those documents. Now with some of the bigger superhero movie universes like Transformers like the Marvel universe maybe universal monsters there are things now called Writers rooms where they get a bunch of these screenwriters together for long periods of time like TV writers and they talk about the universe and all the different stories you could tell in that universe. And then usually they end up asking each screenwriter if they want to stay involved which one of these do you want to do at which point the writers all go off on their own. But writers rooms are becoming more and more commonplace. DC was going to do one and then we didn’t end up doing it for scheduling reasons I think but you sign a waiver and you get a nominal fee and you don’t own any of the material that you generate but you get first right of refusal to write one of these movies if you participate.

How fun would it be to be in a writer’s room that you’re just talking about all these different universes and you can come up with all these ideas and bouncing it back and forth.

Get in arguments about Bumblebee.

It’s crazy to think about how you just sit there and you put your all into it and it could stop there and then you’re stuck with all these questions of But I want to do this and this and this. But now you don’t own that material anymore.

It’s also if you go online you can find old versions of so many different screenplays you know ones that were sometimes drastically different as they went through different writers because then a different director comes on and they want their own writer or a different actor comes on.

Oh yeah.

And then they’re like Oh no no but my producing partner is going to do a rewrite. So it’s like it’s in some ways miraculous this stuff ever gets made when it goes through that many hands.

I kind of want to take. Wonder Woman and see all the scripts.

Yeah.

And have all made. And then watch them like one after another.

A billion dollars worth of Wonder Woman movies have been made. Well even the exorcist had exorcist the beginning which is like a prequel. And they shot it then they were so unhappy with it that they reshot the movie after it was already shot. Not not not not the script but the actual film. And then they go well this time we’ll double the budget. And we’ll keep we’ll fire every actor but one.

Oh wow.

Yeah and it didn’t work out for that version either. Luckily they had him.

Right.

And then they also had initially Michelle MacLaren to direct now. She directed Breaking Bad.

Right.

One of the great episodes of one of the greatest shows of all time also did. Game of Thrones a bunch other TV. She was ready to direct Wonder Woman. It was going to be her feature debut. Creative differences suddenly. She’s not on it anymore. Patty Jenkins steps in who directed the Charlize Theron film Monster which is incredible.

Oh my gosh. I didn’t know that.

Yeah.

I love monster.

And she was ready to rock. And luckily Patty Jenkins and Allan Heinberg got along swimmingly.

When Patty came on board the movie I’d only written the first half. She came on board at Page 60 because the way it was scheduled I had to turn in every 21 days I had to turn in another set of pages. I think it was four segments of 30 pages. So Michelle left the movie a page 60. Patty came on board the movie at page 60. So we were actually able to build the back half of the movie working very closely together off of that treatment I had written. So where there were places where Patty didn’t understand a scene or thought maybe we could go in this direction like we were on the phone or having meals together daily. We had a very close working relationship and then once that was done I went to London where they were prepping and we worked through the entire script together for a three week period and then when I left I didn’t get to see them because I was busy doing the catch but up until that point we were talking every day and emailing all day every day.

Must be crazy to work on a film with someone and become like family working so close every day. To then the show ends and you kinda got a little part of you missing but it sounds like they worked so closely together so they were able to share that same vision. That’s that’s pretty remarkable and that’s probably why it ended up being so awesome.

And she came in at page 60 during development like literally halfway through the development process of the script and just was able to jump in and that’s what they needed over at DC and Warner Brothers because they had their date and it’s like All right let’s find another director who can jump in ready to party and make this thing happen. And sometimes chemistry works. Sometimes you get just the right people together at the right time and out of that comes Wonder Woman which of course exceeded all their expectations. And I think also what helps Allan Heinberg’s own background. You know his view of women where he was not only like comfortable writing strong women but like in essence that to him was writing women.

Right.

He didn’t view it as like I have to write a woman who is this or this no. He worked with Shonda Rhimes he worked with Amy Sherman Paladino and even his own mother was an inspiration to him to make sure he really captured a strong female voice.

You might as well write what you know.

Luckily he knows the right people.

That’s all I do. That’s all I do. And again we have my mother probably to thank for that. She’s a very loud assertive presence. And you know it was the 70s and she was the sort of woman who would not tolerate sexism in any form. She went back to medical school at 30 after having sort of been talked out of it. You know earlier in her life and became a doctor summoning a strong woman’s voice has never been a problem for me perhaps romantically. Is that is a problem. I don’t know who can say but the other thing about this that I I did one interview where this hadn’t occurred to me but I will mention it like I’m a gay man and always have been. So I have never looked at a woman as a sexual object. I’ve never sexually desired or objectified a woman. And so it would never occur to me to write a woman from that point of view as a sexual object. And I’m very lucky in that every show I’ve ever worked on maybe it’s the symbiotic thing. It would only make sense to hire somebody like me because I write assertive women but I’ve never had to work on a show that didn’t have a really mouthy assertive female protagonist whose story it was you know and now I work for Shonda Rhimes and that’s all she does. I feel like I’ve been really lucky in that I don’t think I’ve written on any boy’s shows. So I’ve been really lucky. I have my mom’s voice in my head and and never having sexualized a woman in any way. Yeah I think it really has affected how I approach them. I don’t approach them any differently except that. And this is important. I know the world treats women differently. And so when I have a woman saying something or doing something I am always aware of the context and a world in which she’s operating. Does that make sense politically. I don’t want it to sound like I blithely like characters are characters and men and women are the same. They’re not they’re not the same the way the world treats them is not the same. And especially in Shondaland we never take that for granted.

I just want to start this out by saying thank you. Allan Heinberg I love when I watch something where there is a powerful strong woman dealing with something the strong woman who is powerful in her own right is something that you can’t get on every show that you watch and to be able to connect with that is so empowering.

I agree. You know I think a lot of his sort of training in Shondaland really prepped him and what’s great about Wonder Woman is. You can almost see the fingerprints of his TV work all over the final product of the film.

I can’t believe I got away with two scenes. One is the infirmary scene where Chris is naked.

Would you say you’re a typical example of your sex.

I am above average.

That is my Shondaland training coming right up because it was like Steve is naked in case you were wondering whether we want ladies to come to this movie and we do. But that’s what I do. Like that scene on the boat is the other one which is four and a half pages long. That’s just people talking. I don’t even get to do that on scandal like the scenes on Grey’s and the Shondaland shows. You can’t really get past a page or a page and a half so that infirmary scene is like two pages two and a half pages and then the boat scene. I cannot believe that is in a major motion picture. I cannot believe it. It’s a little shorter than I had them talking about Diana’s religious beliefs a little bit longer and Chris improv’ed one line that always gets a laugh where he says I’m not average. The whole average run from the like I got dick jokes and Wonder Woman it’s crazy it’s crazy. But then Chris does a callback. You know like it takes someone with vigor.

You know where I come where I come from I’m not considered average. You know. Being a spy you have to show a certain amount of vigor.

Like that was Chris like. So those are the scenes that I am like I still cannot believe they made that.

Maybe I’m being naive but I’m not surprised he was able to get away with those we’ll call them.

Scandalous.

Scandalous jokes that’s a good word. We’re now Shonda Rhimes characters but I think it does take though that sort of perfect marriage of an experienced writer mixed with a super experienced comic book fan. You know super geek if you will. You need to be both in order to get away with those scenes.

Exactly. But this film did have at least one major critic James Cameron.

I’ve heard of that man.

Yeah.

He’s directed a couple of movies and made like a buck or two.

A buck or two.

Yeah. He directed Terminator 2 aliens and of course Avatar which is the highest grossing film of all time.

He’s known for creating such strong female characters which is why he might find Wonder Woman not so groundbreaking.

He was less of a fan than most we’ll just say.

I felt like what James was sort of taking issue with was all the attention that the movie was getting as a breakthrough because if you’re James Cameron and you made aliens and well Terminator and Aliens right and both Terminators Linda Hamilton is really the star of those two movies and then Sigourney Weaver is the star of aliens. I guess because they were written and directed by a man. It was less of an event at the time. I don’t know that it got as much press as a breakthrough for you know these huge big budget action movies with female heroines. I took that as the point. Like look guys I did this 20 years ago so don’t think you’re oh you know what you mean like it’s getting a lot of attention and they’re calling it a breakthrough. Well what about what I did because I did that and nobody’s talking about that right now. So that’s how I heard it. And honestly I’m so press shy. I’m so allergic to it that I read the headline and went I can’t I can’t know about it. I can’t get involved in it. I can’t. So I took his point to be. No I did that 20 25 years ago. Again we are not filmmakers who said this is our feminist manifesto. We made a Wonder Woman movie. Like we made the movie about a character who’s been around since 1944. We never went into the world touting our accomplishment. And you know to my knowledge I don’t think anybody involved with the movie is doing that. We’re just so stunned and grateful by and for the response. So yeah go James Cameron.

1944.

It’s like we caught up to Wonder Woman instead of the other way around. You know.

It’s just amazing to think that you know we sit here and we think about we don’t have any strong female empowering characters out there. And it’s been there since 1944 ready to tell the story and it’s the time for it. But she’s she’s been around.

For a long time and the TV show. You know I feel like we had to give a shout out.

That was what Lynda Carter.

Yes it was. And that show was fun. But yeah it took Hollywood a long time to catch up to this film. Well when Allan Heinberg was here speaking with our students. You know one thing that came to mind was a quote from the James L. Brooks movie Broadcast News is what do you do in your real life exceeds your dreams well that’s been happening to Allan Heinberg. He dreampt to Broadway and then he saw firsthand what it was like to be on Broadway dreampt of films. Also saw firsthand what it’s like to be on films.

Everything that he hoped for.

Yeah his dreams do come true.

I was very fortunate in that I had been working professionally since I was 10 and I graduated into an off Broadway show and was on Broadway shortly thereafter where I realized oh these people are miserable like I was at the height I was like in a Neil Simon show on Broadway working for Jerry acts with Nathan Lane and John Slattery it was an all star cast and they were miserable and the play wasn’t very good and Neil wasn’t happy and Jerry was happy and I just thought like. This is no one’s happy what’s going on. But again I was like I need to get my shows up I need to have my Off Broadway show I need to get on television I need to I need to matter I need to contribute I need to be successful and so I feel like a lot of the first part of my career and maybe you can identify with that because you’re at New York Film Academy and you want to be able to do your thing and have people pay you for it and have people watch it and like it and let you do more. And so I feel like I let a lot of great stuff go by being young and wanting to jump ahead and be established and successful whatever that means. And once I got to the place that I always wanted to go and this is cliché. Everybody talks about this. I got to Broadway and I was like oh everybody’s unhappy. And then I got to Hollywood and I’m like oh everybody’s miserable like everybody wants so much they want what they don’t have they hate that he got it and she didn’t and he did and it pulls at you you’re constantly comparing yourself to other people.

Well that’s the truth about Hollywood isn’t it. You’re looking at other people saying oh look at them they’re successful I got to do that. That’s what I got to do. I want to be them. I want what they have without sticking to your truth.

Right. It’s a one man race. I think sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. People go oh you’re pushing aside other people for work but the truth is if you create things in that regard it’s just you versus you.

Which is a better place to be.

Right right right right. You don’t have to worry about the horse next to you.

Exactly.

And I think the best lesson Allan Heinberg got from his his experience is that he put himself in the best position to be happy and that is when the work came to him and only then was he able to do his best.

I had a turning point I did a show called looking for HBO. Michael Landon created that show with Andrew Haig and it was a tough one. It was a really tough one for me. And after one season I left and after having been out of Shondaland for about three or four years at that point to develop shows and like I was doing the Amazon pilot I said to my agent you know what. I give up I give up trying to have my own show. I give up wanting to have a huge superhero movie. I don’t think I’m ever going to have any of that and I don’t care. All I want to do is go back and work with people I love and care about and I don’t care anymore. And I said I’m over it I’m over trying to strive I’m over it trying to get my name out there having a brand. So the turning point was being old enough to know oh there’s really no there there. There’s no level of accomplishment where you are happy or you know recognized and suddenly it’s awesome and you’re awesome and you can you know date whoever you want or whatever it is like first you’re insulted because it’s like well nobody’s thinking about me and then you’re like oh this is so liberating nobody’s thinking about me. It’s awesome. So I said to Larry let’s just look for a great fun project with people who are nice and then he said you know your friend Pete Nowak is leaving scandal to go into how to get away with murder. Why don’t you sit in his chair at scandal. And I was like Oh that sounds perfect. And two days later I was sitting in Pete’s chair who’s my best friend. At scandal. And I spent the next year loving just being one of Shonda’s army just seeing my friends every day. And I’ve been working you know the same people from Grey’s. So it’s been 10 years I’ve been with these people and then wonder woman happened and I said no to Zach. I said no I choose scandal. I didn’t pursue it. I didn’t want it. I tried to quit it. I was really content not just in a fake way in a real way because I’d been so beaten up by the development process and by what had happened on looking and I was just tired of it. I was tired of trying to achieve and succeed in that traditional sense. I just wanted to do good work with my friends. So if there’s a lesson. It’s giving up you know what I mean like the lesson is about passion and about craft and not about having people know my name. And look I’m not an egomaniac really I mean I have that part of me that would love for people to know my name and stuff but like bad shit happens when people know your name like they come after you and they all want. It’s not great. And if what you are concerned with is your name being out there and what people are saying about you and doing you’re not going get any work done you’re just not. So by giving up the dream of what traditional success looks like I got my name on Wonder Woman. That is how that happened. I’m not telling you not to strive. Shonda hates the word dream. She hates it. Like follow your dreams. And she’s right. She’s like don’t sit around dreaming don’t follow lead and do. And that’s what I’m telling you to do too but make it about your craft and make it about working with people you love on projects you love don’t think about the end result.

Listen Eric just give up.

Yeah. Yeah. This is the most positive message from everything he said give up. Well it’s funny too it’s like.

Give up.

Yeah.

The need to be liked. The need to be a rock star.

The need to be first.

The need to be first and start doing what you love to do and surround yourself with good people.

Yeah. So it’s kind of like stop dreaming and start doing great or don’t dream it Be it. Go go work.

Go work just do.

And it’s okay. Like if it’s not the greatest title because you keep working and better work finds you at some point which definitely happened with him.

Well we want to thank Allan Heinberg for speaking with our students and we want to thank all of you for listening. She is Aerial Segard.

And he is Eric Conner.

And this episode was based on the Q&A moderated by Phil Kauffman to watch this interview for our other Q&As. Check out our YouTube channel at YouTube.com/NewYorkFilmAcademy.

This episode was written by Eric Conner edited and mixed by Kristian Hayden our creative director is David Andrew Nelson who also produced this episode with Kristian Hayden and Eric Conner.

Executive produced by Jean Sherlock and Dan Mackler. A special thanks to our events department Sajja Johnson and the entire staff and crew who made this possible.

To learn more about our programs check us out at nyfa.edu. Be sure to subscribe on the podcast or wherever you listen. See you next time.

Thank you Christine thanks. Christian.

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