Naren Shankar

IFH 596: The Art of Showrunning a Hit Amazon Show with Naren Shankar


Naren Shankar is the Executive Producer/Showrunner of the critically acclaimed television adaptation of the international best-seller science fiction novel series, The Expanse, an Amazon Prime Original Series from Alcon Television Studios.

Naren spent eight seasons as a Writer-Executive Producer and Co- Showrunner of the most-watched show in the world, CSI:Crime Scene Investigation. In 2011 he helped launch NBC’s Grimm as a Writer- Executive Producer.

Prior to CSI, Naren was an Executive Producer on the SyFy Channel cult hit series Farscape for The Jim Henson Company, and spent three seasons as a writer-producer on Showtime’s The Outer Limits.

Naren began his career as a writer and science consultant for Star Trek: The Next Generation, and he holds a PhD in Applied Physics & Electrical Engineering from Cornell University.

Naren has been honored with multiple Emmy nominations for Best Series, a WGA Award nomination for CSI’s two-hour event “Grave Danger” directed by Quentin Tarantino, and has received WGC and Saturn Awards for The Outer Limits, CSI, and Farscape. The Expanse won a Hugo Award for “Leviathan Wakes” in 2017 and was nominated in 2019 for “Abaddon’s Gate.”

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Naren Shankar 0:00
If I have an idea for a character and or a moment and somebody goes, that's just doesn't make any sense this character would never do that. And if the argument is good, then change it.

Alex Ferrari 0:11
This episode is brought to you by Bulletproof Script Coverage where screenwriters go to get their scripts read by top Hollywood professionals. Learn more at covermyscreenplay.com I like to welcome the show Naren Shankar how're you doing Naren?

Naren Shankar 0:25
I'm good, man. How are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:27
I'm doing great, man. I'm doing great. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Man. I, I've I've watched many of your shows over the years, you've been you have a very unique story on how you got to where you are. And hopefully it's going to inspire some people along the way. So first question, sir. Why in God's green earth? Did you decide to go into the film business? When you have a real degree with real skills that could actually help the world?

Naren Shankar 0:53
Wait, wait, are you my parents? Oh my gosh. I you know, I did have I did have kind of a strange path into the business I, I started in when I went to university. I started as undecided pre med, medieval studies, classics, French literature, I didn't know what I wanted to do. My dad was a doctor. And so I told my parents, I was going to be pre med, I didn't really want to be a doctor. And I spent the first two years at Cornell in the College of Arts and Sciences. But in that time, I started thinking about, Oh, what happens after college and I was like, I don't think any things I really love are gonna get me any kind of job. So I had always loved math and science. I was kind of I think I'm a generalist at heart. And so I transferred into the College of Engineering and, and the College of Applied Engineering Physics. And I ended up staying all the way into the doctoral program. So I stayed at Cornell. So as I was, you know, in the midst of writing my dissertation and working in the lab, I just started going back to the things I love, which were history and literature and just started taking more and more courses in the arts college. And I literally remember the moment where I was coming out of this amazing course told by a professor guy named Walter LeFevre is amazing historian, he taught a course a two semester course in the history of American foreign policy. And we had this amazing lecture about the early republic and Aaron Burr. And like, I walked out of the I walked down the hall, and I was going back, and I could see my labs sort of on the other end, across down the street, and another quad as like, God, I just don't want to be an engineer. And I think I think what it was was, it was part of what happens when you're in the hard sciences is, you end up becoming more and more of an expert in the smaller and smaller corner of the universe. And I think that's what was happening with me, it's like I had this, you know, I was doing this thing, and it was really, you know, and it was my thing, and you're adding, you know, original research to the world, which is the whole point of a PhD program. But it just wasn't the thing, that kind of jasmine, it's like, you know, and, and I had also very early on my sophomore year, freshman year and sophomore year, I joined the Kappa Alpha Literary Society, which is a Greek letter, social fraternity, but it's also a literary society. And you do every two weeks, the the members would meet, and like we would, you know, do original writing and present it to the rest of the gang is a very nerdy geeky fraternity. It's like, really, I mean, but, but I think those are the things that really got me excited. And the friends I was around, you know, like, we loved movies intelligence. So after I finished my thesis, I had some friends out in the business, who are just who had come out to LA and we're breaking into the show business side of things. And I said, Come on, tell me screenwriter. And I was like, That sounds amazing. I'll do that. And it was super easy. It's super easy. You'll be oh, oh, Ignorance is strength. It's like, it's like, for me, it was literally because I had no concept of what how high the bar was or how difficult it is to break into the business. Had I known those things I might not have come. But I also I was I had skipped a couple of grades and I was really young. And so I started college and just turned 16 I had like my parents, you know, I told my parents, you know, just let me do this. And my parents, I think felt like oh, he'll just get it out of his system and then he'll he'll go and do something sensible because, you know, it's a good Indian kid is like doctor, lawyer, engineer, businessman. It's like that's that's those are the only things that are okay, you know,

Alex Ferrari 4:53
Screenwriter not so much.

Naren Shankar 4:54
There's no tradition of it. There's no idea of what that means. Even it's like like, you know, was gonna pay you for that.

Alex Ferrari 5:02
And so right, I can write, who's gonna pay me and so no one's gonna pay you.

Naren Shankar 5:06
Exactly, exactly. So, but they were so sweet and they were so supportive. And yeah, and I came out and and started to make this such a long story. But in my in my fraternity in Kappa Alpha, it my best friend was Ron Moore, who created Battlestar Galactica. And he at the beginning of his career, he was actually a political science major. And we had a third friend who, who was the guy who wanted to come out to LA and be in the business. And so he went out to drag Ron out there a couple of years later, after Ron decided he didn't know what to do with his life. And then a couple of years after that, run convinced me to come out and I slept on his couch for like eight weeks and, and so that was literally the chain that brought me in and, and through Ron, I got a, a spec script to Star Trek The Next Generation that brought me to the attention of the producers. And then that led to a Writers Guild internship on the program. And that really was the start of it, it led to a staff job a little while, then a little while after that.

Alex Ferrari 6:19
So that's the long story. That's obviously like a standard Standard plan that every screenwriter, only I can only imagine the conversation with your parents. I know the conversation that I had, but I didn't have a PhD in engineering.

Naren Shankar 6:39
My mom was so sweet. years later, years later, after things were going well, it's like, because I remember like, you know, I just threw, like some suitcases and stuff in my car. And I drove out of sight. My parents were like, waving it back. Years later, my mom said, As soon as your car goddess got out of sight, I burst into tears.

Alex Ferrari 6:59
I went to I have kids, I would just I would be like, Oh, my God, I can't. Because that's one of the reasons why I do on the show, like, how on God's green earth that this this engineer and physics get into, into into writing for television, it's just,

Naren Shankar 7:17
You know, there's, there's a part of it that is actually I think that's like, you know, Self knowledge is somewhat important is that, I don't think I would have been a good engineer. I mean, I certainly had aptitudes for it. But part of what what I, I had problems with is I was a little impatient, you know, I got bored doing the same thing, you know, for focused amount of time. I loved certain aspects, but I loved it. It's an incredibly creative field. And people, you know, don't they really misunderstand the hard sciences and they go, that's not you know, that's not creative, like music, or, you know, or writing, it's absolutely as creative as all of those things. It's just in a different way. But, but if you don't have the sort of, you have to be meticulous you have to be you know, there's so many factors that when I took a look at myself, I was like, I just don't think that's me. And so, maybe there was one job actually, that I came so close to getting that I absolutely would have taken, I I got a I gotta get down to the last two people at Apple Computer in in the, in the early 90s, that I was going to be the engineering software evangelist in the one of the absolute bottom terrible times darkest times in Apple history. But but they flew me out to Cupertino, I interviewed and I just didn't get the job, that job I would have taken. And now I look back I go, Oh, would have been in Silicon Valley in the 90s may not have sucked.

Alex Ferrari 8:47
If that's what they paid you in stock options backs up. And so yeah, $8 it was $8 a share something.

Naren Shankar 8:56
Anyway, so, you know, but But you know,

Alex Ferrari 9:01
Being self aware, it's very important being understanding that you're like, you know, what, I've had, I've had staff jobs twice in my career industry and been fired, probably from both. And it's just, I just am not, I work well with others, but it's not something I can't It's not me, you just have to be aware.

Naren Shankar 9:18
Yeah. It's a tough thing. And it's like, you know, being in a staff. It's so interesting, like, you get different. It's so personality driven. It's like, especially television, it's like, you know, it's like it is a I've seen playwrights who are amazing, who just can't deal with being room feature guys who are like, completely used to like going off for weeks and thinking about three lines of dialogue. It's like, they can't handle the pace. It's like, and you know, and people who are just not gregarious, because it's such a social thing. It's such a it's such a group collaboration, you know, it's like a true collaboration. If you have the right mindset, and you enjoy that it's an incredibly fun experience. That's one of the things I love about television is part of the reason I think I've been And then for so long.

Alex Ferrari 10:01
So you so you get on to Star Trek Next Generation, which is arguably one of the the pinnacle sci fi shows, arguably television shows. I mean, it was just so well written, it was so bad. It's just so well written. I mean, if you go back to those episodes now and you just like damn, and they hold up the effects and the makeup, maybe not so much. But, but this, but the writing is solid, some of those storylines. I remember watching them in high school when I was coming up, I was just like, damn, and this was really well, well written. What were some of the lessons you learn from that first job? I'm like, when you walked on the set, for the first time? What was that feeling like?

Naren Shankar 10:37
Well, it was amazing. I mean, you know, the thing was, Star Trek was an unusual show, in a lot of ways in an unusual structure. It was. It was the first show that was, you know, really the kind of open the syndication market. I mean, this is a long time ago. And so, you know, it wasn't a network show. But it was a very high profile show. It was the reboot of this thing, which had been, you know, before the word reboot existed. You know, it was this thing that was kind of Beloved, and it was, but it was its own thing, but very different from the show. It went through its own kind of struggles at the beginning. What was unique about it, I think, was as a learning experience, because what had happened on next generation was at the end of the third season, which I think that was third third season, I think, was Ron's first season on the show, the entire writing staff got fired, except for Ron and Michael Piller, who was who was the showrunner kept on on and kind of rebuilt the show and in His image in a way and just in terms of how stories were told, and, and, and when I got there. By the time Star Trek ended the last two seasons. I was like a freelance in season five, and then six and seven, I was on the show. It was it was a very young staff, it was everybody was a first timer. It was their first gig in the business. It was Ron, Ron Moore, Brandon Braga, Renee, Murray and myself. And we were the core staff, Jerry Taylor was a was our boss, supervising producer who basically ran the room with us. But it was just kind of like all first timers, we had never, you know, never had other gigs before, it was really really spirited, good. You know, we all liked each other. We're all still friends to this day. It's you know, and, and Jerry had had, you know, essentially taking the position like, look, this is a room where best idea wins. That was like, you know, Mike Nichols, like his, his mantra. And so the arguments were passionate, but it was fun. Nobody was mean to anybody. And Michael was like, he was a really good editor, he gave us great discipline on how to break a story. So as a, as a school, it was a tremendous school for learning how to how to do sort of the work of television writing. And so it was, it was great discipline, I think that all of us took, you know, into, into our careers into into the rooms that we have run ourselves and the shows that we've made. So that was kind of amazing. There was also like, there was this rigid wall between the writing staff and the production because Rick Berman was in charge of sort of, like the, that side of it. Initially, like writers weren't allowed to go to the set. They didn't want us anywhere near the cast. It was like, yeah, it was, that's, that's slowly changed over the years. And, you know, I think, you know, being fair, as, as wonderful, as many of the episodes of next generation are, and there are some terrific episodes that really hold up to this day. You know, it was, it was very much a creature of its time, I think it owes a lot of, to like television in the 80s, highly episodic Instructure you freaking out, it's a kind of hitting the reset button every week. It was also, you know, going to the people of the planet with the problem. You know, it was like, it sort of had that vibe.

Alex Ferrari 13:57
There was a red shirt, there was

Naren Shankar 13:58
Exactly that guy, you know, that guy was, you know, he was not gonna make it. And so, you know, but and it slowly loosened up. I always, you know, I think Ron has said this too, in his interviews over the years, you know, what he did with Galactica was as much a reaction to, you know, to next generation, you know, in a lot of ways, like, Deep Space Nine got much, you know, I think, much more complex and dirtier in many ways in good ways. That was always a struggle the young guys had with the bosses, because they felt like that they were like, This was Gene, you know, Gene Roddenberry's? You know, dictum, this is this is the story that we wanted to tell and how we wanted to how next generation was people were kind of perfect, and they had gotten past all of the terrible parts of human age and we were like, but that's where the fun is.

Alex Ferrari 14:47
You have no conflict. You have no no story.

Naren Shankar 14:49
That's that's, that is really the issue. And the first thing that I wrote the first script that I wrote with Ron was was the first duty which was about like, move the world. Keaton's character Wesley Crusher, like lying, you know, to protect his friends and we're like, he would never lie. And like, of course he would lie. And that was, he's a kid. Exactly, exactly. It's like, and that's how you view the world. And so, you know, those are the some extent that show was like, a bit like writing in a straight jack in some ways. In many other ways. It was a phenomenal training ground and a great way to learn the discipline of writing. And so I look back very fondly on those years. And it was a great staff. And I think it's very rare to this day, when you have so many, like all of us first timers, we've all gone on to do so many things. It doesn't always it doesn't always happen that way. And I think it was a special staff.

Alex Ferrari 15:46
And it was an anomaly, too. I mean, that was just a special place at a special time. When things like that happened. It was a wild, it was almost wild, wild west, like in like to bring in a group of first timers in a writer. That's not doesn't happen now does it?

Naren Shankar 16:02
It doesn't it doesn't. Because what happened was one was hired off of a spec script, Renee was hired off of a spec script, Brandon was an intern for the Television Academy. I was an intern through the Writers Guild. Again, no experience in the business. But part of it was also in a successful as next generation was it was also a backwater. It was like it was like, oh, Star Trek, it's just its own weird thing. I like coming off of that show. Agents wouldn't even want to read a Star Trek script. They wouldn't. It's like, Oh, can you do like a like a real show? It's like, that was kind of the attitude.

Alex Ferrari 16:35
Yeah, I do remember that. It was Yeah. It was like, Oh, that's a movie they do for the geeks. And that's before Geekdom was where the money was.

Naren Shankar 16:44
In it took it took like, I do remember, like, probably about 10 or 10 years later, or so after leaving next gen. Somebody told me Oh, they want people to come from the Star Trek school. Because they understood that, that that, you know, he's a sports metaphor. And that coaching tree was actually incredibly applicable to anything, which is what we always would say it's like, you know, in the context of a science fiction, in the context of Star Trek, we would do a legal show a murder mystery, epic drama. It's like, you know, our version of Shakespeare and war. It's like everything. It's like that science fiction was a superset of genres. It was never treated that way. And I think that the business actually became educated to it. And and now it's like, I mean, you know, here, you know,

Alex Ferrari 17:29
Here we are now. We have geek beyond geek beyond everything. No, there's no outskirts now. No, I told I told you before we started work before we started recording that you and I have a connection. So yeah, yeah. Okay. Tell me. Orlando 95.

Naren Shankar 17:46
Orlando. 95.

Alex Ferrari 17:48

Naren Shankar 17:50
Oh, my God. Yes.

Alex Ferrari 17:52
I was working downstairs, out on fortune hunter. For Fox.

Naren Shankar 17:58
Oh my god.

Alex Ferrari 18:00
Remember that? Do you remember I do remember that show I worked on I worked as a PA on an office PA on fortune hunter. And then on my side hustle. I worked on the other show that was right underneath your office, which was us, which was the sketch comedy show, syndicated show, and I was working. Yeah. So I was there during that season. I was there when I was there. In between the last season so was when Roy was his last Roy's last writers last season. And then Michael Ironside. So that's where I went to I went to Full Sail.

Naren Shankar 18:32
That's that's the that's the that is the third season of the show. That's the one year I was on. seaQuest fortune hunter was that was that Steve Aspersa show?

Alex Ferrari 18:40
No, that was Boris. Oh, God, the guy who did Swamp Thing was his big thing. He did swamp show Okay, then. Yeah. So fortune hunter he was it was fortune hunter was on for one season did 12 episodes. And then it got canceled. But it was on Fox it was I was so excited to just be working on a show that I can go on on Saturday night and just look like my name's My name is like, like, you know, and then

Naren Shankar 19:06
I never got down. I never got down to Orlando because we had no I never got down because we all the writers and posts were based in in Los Angeles right at Universal. Okay, yeah, yeah. And the bosses went down to Orlando but I never got to and I think I was supposed to but we got canceled like after after 13 or 12 episodes that season. I can't remember but yeah,

Alex Ferrari 19:30
Because I didn't know anything. I knew a couple of the guys up and I mean pas and stuff like that. But I was on the set of requests all the time and walking around and I'm crazy.

Naren Shankar 19:41
Crazy time man. It was bananas. Bananas.

Alex Ferrari 19:47
It was insane. I remember I remember working because I worked at MGM. And then I also am studios. I think for one of the shows and then they they set up at Universal and man like the kids the star or the kid star would like jump out of the tours would have to stop. And yeah, and then there's like Royce rider walking around him like, where am I? And this is our Lando I know, I know that is our that is our slight connection, sir.

Naren Shankar 20:16
God, I was sad actually, I never got to go down there because the show looked great. I mean, it had many, many, many problems on the page, but the physical production and the sets were beautiful. They were really fun.

Alex Ferrari 20:32
So the set that I worked on was right next door to the soundstage was right next door sequence and then UCC quest props all over the damn Yeah, I mean, there was just so many vehicles and stuff like that was so cool, man. But again, when you're starting out when you're starting out, like it was like the coolest thing ever. And it was the 90s

Naren Shankar 20:51
Well, it was you know, I mean, I do remember those days, like we would go down to we would go down to the bridge when it wasn't obviously in use and eat lunch down there on the enterprise. Because what was cool about the set would close up and for those days, I mean, it was like, you know, internally let the ceiling would come down. And so you can just sit on the bridge and like, you know, eat a sandwich. It's kind of cool.

Alex Ferrari 21:14
Speak to my Subway sandwich. These are the things that like you people don't like yeah, I was like eating lunch on the enterprise. Like, you know, you take those are the kinds of little things that no one really knows about. No one hears about, but that's what you're doing in the production when you're there. Oh, yeah, I used to sneak on I just sneak on the set of sequence. Yeah, of course, constantly, constantly on the weekends when nobody was there. I bring relatives in from out of town. And I would just walk in.

Naren Shankar 21:42
They have those those built in tombs for Darwin, which were for real. I mean, it's like, animatronic fishes like and it's like that is that was a beautifully designed set. It really was.

Alex Ferrari 21:53
It was it was pretty stunning. It was pretty it for its time. It was insane.

Naren Shankar 21:57
Oh, yeah, absolutely. It was insane.

Alex Ferrari 22:00
Now, so how many times so you've been working on set for for I mean, you've been working in television for many years now. Can you pinpoint one of the worst days of something going wrong? Like some crap, something the days you're losing light, something, something really bad happens? And in how did you overcome that day?

Naren Shankar 22:21
Well, the one that really kind of sticks out is I was doing a show for NBC called UC undercover. It was it was, you know, early 2000 was on for one season. So it was 2001. And so I had written it was basically about the US Marshal Service. And it had Odette Farah was the star of your Farmiga was that was kind of her first show. I mean, it's like so great look great production. Shane Salerno created it. It was his first show, as a show runner, and I was I was the number two brought in there. I had written a script about domestic terrorism, a couple of psychopathic brothers who will like

Alex Ferrari 23:10
I already I already know where you're going.

Naren Shankar 23:14
And and the script opened with a sarin gas attack at a football game in which like, you know, I had like 100 people die. And my wife, my wife would read my scripts, and she goes, That's too many. That's just ridiculous. It's like, there's no way that that could happen. So I write the script, we are in prep, and I'm in bed, and I get a call my phone rings at Shane. And he goes, tariffs just slammed into the World Trade Center. We're throwing out the script. We're shutting down to talk later. Oh. And, and, and it is it was like, that was a surreal moment. We went back to the office. Like two days later, a day later. The whole writing staff was like, why don't we do?

Alex Ferrari 24:03
Yeah. Anyone living during that time? No, you just knew.

Naren Shankar 24:07
What do we do? We're in an absolute days. We have no script. The director who was being Ken Fink, who I worked with, you know, for years on seaQuest. Phenomenal director. We had to drive him up to Vancouver because there's no planes. So he can we put them in a truck with a Teamster. And we drove them up to Vancouver, because we needed a director to prep a show, which we no longer had a script for. And there's this place in Vancouver that was called crease clinic. It was a it was an old old hospital from like the built in like the 40s or 50s. And it had become it closed down and it become like this place in Vancouver. You could turn it into anything. It could be a hospital, it could be a prison, it could be it could be whatever, you know, and so film shot. It was it was it was used for locations for a million things over the years. And so Shane goes, Okay, we're gonna we're gonna book that thing. Um, we're gonna make a prison riot episode. And we're like, okay, and so the whole staff and this show was, I just have to say was a was a messed up nightmare. It was like, it was like, every every episode was some various form of disaster, highly dysfunctional in many ways is like, it's like, you know, people quitting as I was, oh, it's one of it was a crazy experience. And I'm actually fond of che, it was like, it was a nutty experience. But this was like, the one time where everybody just pulled together because we just have to get it done. And so we broke a story. We like we, we each like, wrote an act, turned it around real fast sent the the acts one by one up to production, Ken was like, I'm cool. It's like, like, everybody just got their shit together. And the episode turned out great. It was like one of the best episodes of the show. And it was, it was a, it was a terrible, terrible moment. And I still have trouble. I've looked at that script, like once or twice, but it's hard to disconnect it from the experience of that times. And and yeah, it was, it was just that was like that. I still, the memories are very vivid. The memories are very vivid at that time.

Alex Ferrari 26:19
That's well, that's, that's a heck of a story, man. I mean, having to get a phone call Jesus, I can only imagine. Well, so. Alright, so you've been doing this again for a while. I've talked to so many so many writers at high levels in the business. One thing that always surprises me is that every single one of them deals with impostor syndrome. Is that something that you deal with still to this day? And were like, Oh, my God, they just I'm just an engineer. Why am I here? Or do I just kind of just go away as you get go through?

Naren Shankar 26:54
I can't I don't think it says we're like, you know? No, I don't. You know, I don't feel that way. I think I think there is a you know, I think what what definitely happens is, and maybe maybe impostor syndrome is a narrow way to define it. But it is like, it's like you go oh my god, I've been so successful. Do I deserve this? It's like, that's, that's, that's part of it. And that's and that that is much more a psychological thing about yourself. And if you're, if you look at yourself as a good person, or as a bad person, or whatever person or you're being too mean, or you're being intolerant, whatever it is, those are things that are very complicated. And I think that those speak to that ideas, like more like, do I deserve what I've been given? Because, because, you know, it is a look, this is a low percentage success business is there's no question about it. And I think, for me, it's like, I'm very open. And Frank about the fact that I think I just got lucky, you know, I had I had, I had the right, I had the right, I had the right friend, you know, who, who and he had the right friend. And you know, and it's just like, I kind of blundered into it. And, you know, by the way, I came out to LA like a year and a half later, I was on staff, you know, that's like, that's, that's ridiculous. Like, my wife would, you know, she was an independent producer for years, and she never quite got anything, you know, running, she seems so close. And it's like, she got you didn't pay your dues. And I like, I'm like, I kind of didn't I mean, I I suppose I could lie and say, Oh, look, I was in school for 10 years. It's like, that's not I didn't want to be a filmmaker. I didn't I didn't think that that was a thing. You know, it's like, so. So I think, to me, it's it's acknowledging the people who helped you, and, and being humble about the role that luck plays in these things, right. It's like, it's like it is you have to acknowledge that it's like, I think, I think, you know, this idea that, Oh, I'm successful, because I deserve it. It's like, well, it may be you have talents and skills, and again, but it is timing, luck, you know, being in the right place at the right time. It's like, if you're convincing yourself that you're special. It's like, I don't I don't think it's as simple as that. And so, I, you know, basically what I tried to do is acknowledge that I try to I try to be very attentive to the, to the notion that we are an apprenticeship based guild, it's like I take I take the idea of mentorship really seriously. And, you know, I like I like bringing writers into into the business giving people chances promoting from within, because those are all the things that you know, enabled me to get, you know, further. So, it's like, so I don't have impostor syndrome that way. I also feel like every single experience I have is a learning experience. It's like I and I, and I take this back to I did a lot of martial arts and I was in college and the first Time or since they came in to teach us. It's like he like, you know, plus that everybody's asking at the end of the classes like, here's like, and he said, he said, Remember how you feel this way you feel stupid, you feel like you don't know anything, you feel like you're bad. It's like he goes, keep that keep that idea. In your head. It's called fresh mind. It's like me, there's always more to learn. There's always things you don't know. And just, you know, keep that idea in the business. And it's like, then it's joyful, right? You're always learning, you're learning from other people, you're learning new skills. You don't ever have to be the person and you shouldn't be the person that says, oh, no, I know everything. I know how it absolutely has to be like, and so that's sort of how I approach it.

Alex Ferrari 30:45
And of course, you've never met anybody in Hollywood that acts that way. Of course. Never nobody, right? Yeah, no, never, never, never, never, ever.

Naren Shankar 30:56
There there's, there are There are meanings like, a couple of times, I dabbled in features that were so hilarious. Like, my first time I got to write a feature. It was like this won't even specifically give you the names. But it was like it was it was adapting a novel, which is like this thriller, sort of with a slight science fiction bent. And, and the producer had the book, the first thing he said was throw away the one science fiction thing that made the book specialist like what, and then and then he and then he proceeded to draw a graph for me about, about how the audience should feel at any moment in a thing. Because like, they got to be here. And then they got to be there. And there's like, and then you got to build up here. And I'm like, I was literally, just, there's one guy in the room. I knew I was like, I looked, I turned him and I was like, why is he talking? Like, I didn't even understand what was happening. And it's like this. I've been on staff for years at this point, like, What are you talking? It's like, so, so mechanical, and it was, I don't know, if it was like the Robert McKee thing. It was like you're saying, gotta have this here and kind of just do this here.

Alex Ferrari 31:56
And you might have read the hero's journey, and then just all of a sudden,

Naren Shankar 32:04
It's like, but it was so mechanical is like you must write a story this way. I'm like, must

Alex Ferrari 32:12
17 This happens on page 27. This happens like,

Naren Shankar 32:16
Like, why must it happen? Can we have some control over?

Alex Ferrari 32:21
We're the ones creating this. I don't know. That's, that's funny. That is funny. So you, you worked on another little show called CSI for? Small independent show just started out. You worked on that for a while? Eight years? Yeah, eight years on that. So I wanted to ask you, how do you approach because I know a lot of a lot of writers coming up? Don't know this. How did you How do you approach procedural storytelling for a procedural show like CSI, which has an overarching arc of a story for the characters, but there's a new body of the new death a new mystery every week, as opposed to like the expanse, which is much more of a narrative, you know, storytelling with a full arc without the individual, daily or weekly things? How do you approach that storytelling differently?

Naren Shankar 33:15
Well, I mean, you know, procedural, every show has its own sort of specific problem in one way or another. And with CSI, you know, the classic one, our mystery has a lot of has a lot of, you know, built in inherent structure to it. If the intention is to solve a crime, it's like, it naturally goes in a particular way. And CSI had those had those rhythms built in, right. It's like, you have to start with a crime, you have to have different theories of the crime, there has to be some resolution to the case. So in a sense, the kind of show that you're telling dictated that structure. Now, you can say that's formulaic. Yeah. I mean, to an extent but but it's also it's like, couldn't you say the same that any detective mystery novel is formulaic? Sure. Right.

Alex Ferrari 34:06
And it's and there's a crime, you got to figure it out. It's at the end of the day. That's Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes story is a Charlotte som story.

Naren Shankar 34:14
Here is a Sherlock Holmes story. Exactly. So So you have to embrace that to some extent. I mean, I was probably the most, you know, experimental, of the writers on the bosses and writers on that show, is because I was constantly looking for ways to break the format and to change things and make things because I felt that was, I felt that was something that you could do in a show, is that successful is that and I think that we were much more experimental than we needed to be, like, I think we were much more experimental than Law and Order was Law and Order was, was like a rhythm. Right? And so I tried to break those rhythms in a lot of different ways. Over the years and and but but again, you know, I could point to episodes of CSI that are like straight formula episodes of the show. that are phenomenal. You know, and I think that what I liked about that show was it was a different way to tell a mystery story. You know, I watched it first as a fan. I mean, it's like, and by the way, hilariously, I was working on a show when CSI came out, and as an anthology science fiction show and the other one of the other writers on the show goes, you just because of the way I thought or you know, like we would talk about so he does, you'd be perfect for that show for CSI and I go, I'd rather be dead than tell mystery stories. That's like, fucking hell, man. That's just a nightmare. You got to come up with a crime and you come on come up with a it's like, of course. years later, I'm on the show.

Alex Ferrari 35:45
And yeah, I mean, it is it is it is. I mean, thinking about as a writer, you just like, Man, how do you got to come up with a crime every week? And it can't just be like, Oh, someone got stabbed. It's got to be like, some crazy thing to make it interesting.

Naren Shankar 35:58
I think the way I approached it, and the thing I liked about it was, in the early years of the show, it was a very serious crime drama. It was done with incredible high style. I mean, that was that was really, you know, Jerry Bruckheimer. He wanted to look a particular way. And it was beautiful. I mean, it was like, and it was very, very striking on the technical side. And it really used, you know, like, almost like a fashion photography, sort of like a quality to it.

Alex Ferrari 36:24
And then we're in 90s, and 90s, to early 2000s. Style, Bruckheimer.

Naren Shankar 36:28
But you you look at it, it still looks beautiful, it has a look, you know, and I think the television so often didn't have a look that it was, it was so beautiful, just to watch. Right. And so that was part of its appeal. But also it was the inherent message of the show, which was, which was that, you know, expressed by by Billy Peterson character, so many times was like, you know, if you're smart, if you're methodical, if you don't let yourself get confused by lies, you know, just objectively approach the evidence and the facts in the case that you'll get to the truth. That that is a that to me, is the DNA of the show. And so it was, there's so many times when, you know, the show with this unique, unique approach told a mystery story and a crime story in a different way. Um, that's really what I what I liked about the show, as it got bigger and bigger and more successful. There was a pressure on it, I think, to become much more sensationalized, much more fetishized. I think the show in its later years, really, kind of grotesquely fetishized violence, it was, it was part of the thing that I didn't like, as I was towards the end of my time there. Because, you know, one of the, one of our consultants on the show is a criminalist, with the LA County Sheriff's Department said, you know, and that this line made it into the show, it's like she said, you know, we meet people on the worst day of their lives. It's like, you know, it's like, it's like, and, and what she was talking about was, was understanding and the psychological trauma and connection to loss that these crimes had and the show had that focus very early on, and it got further and further away from it, as the show went on, and I found that very disheartening. And, and there's like, there's, there's a, there's a beautiful episode from the second season of the show called Chaos Theory. And it's basically every act is like this girl who dies a college student dies, and, and they can't figure out what what's going on what has happened. Each act they follow Ay ay ay, ay promisingly lead to a dead end and then the next act is okay, let's look at something else. And at the end of it what they realize is it's just some crazy accident it's like she was she was trying to get a cab in the rain and she gets hit by a car knock literally into a dumpster. And and it's just a random occurrence it's just a tragedy and and Billy Peterson's character tells us to the parents and the parents go no, we refuse to accept that no way there's no way it could have been something like that. And they just leave angry and he doesn't understand he goes I thought the truth would actually make them feel better. And Martin burgers character says, you know, it's like, that's not what's happening here. You got to understand that that's a deep idea you know, and it's like it's a those are the things a show did early on that they that they did less than less of the show did less and less of later on. And so I think it kind of went away from my from I think it's true mission. But you know, it also did some great episodes later I mean, we did one of my favorites was it was an episode called killer. And it was the first episode shows like we revealed the murder at the beginning. No, you kill killed. One of the beginnings William Sadler did this part and can think directly this is a beautiful episode. It's not a it's not a who done it. It's a wide done it turned it turned it over. little bit on his head is that you develop the personality this person you understand what he did and why he did it over the course of the episode. And it's just, it's one of my favorites of the entire time. And then we did you know, we did kind of style breaking episodes as we ended up having a lot of lab technicians on the show who are great comic actors, while the Langham was Vasey. They were and they were fun. And they were being underused, they'd come on the show, because they were you know, they had but they were being under use. So I started these episodes called the lab rats episodes, which were once a season, we would turn the entire show over to the supporting characters and just do like a black comedy. And, and they became like one of my favorite things. It's like we introduced them in a season where we had like an ongoing arc about a killer who leaves perfect scale miniatures of crime scenes at crime scenes, which is probably my favorite season of the show. But the lab rats like make this incredible break in the case, like, like, in their, in their, you know, one little episode and then year by year, we would do other shows. And maybe the most fun was, was one call is I think it was called Yeah, it's called you kill me. Which is, which is the entire show is the lab rats discussing about how they would murder each other. How they would, how they would just murder people, and how they how, and it is it's just like hilarious. Like, like, you know, imaginary, dark, dark humor. And it's like, it's, I loved working in those guys that Liz VAs you and I are good friends now. And they were they were super fun. And yeah, so I you know, the show had lots of rhythms, I think. I think it became culturally more of a caricature, in some ways.

Alex Ferrari 41:56
A generation of, of women specifically really became CSI investigators, because of that show.

Naren Shankar 42:04
I mean, that's, that's one of the things I loved about it. It's like, when the show started, there were like five forensic programs around the country. And after and, you know, 10 years into it, there were like, like, 500. You know,

Alex Ferrari 42:15
I mean, it became a real thing. So the show did a lot of good. It did a lot a lot of good. For for the world. Without that. You can't say that, about many shows.

Naren Shankar 42:27
You know, I actually, I liked that. I feel like Star Trek was that way it had that it had that quality CSI was that way. I mean, especially with women, because again, I think it's like their disproportion. It was not a show in which you resolve conflicts with violence. He was writing thought, thought your way through that. And I And so many times, you know, people would come up like a mother and her 12 year old daughter's like, this is our favorite show. We watch it together. It's like, I know, I know. And I'd be like, that's got intense, but it is it is it is a you know, it's just an interesting observation is like they would always gravitate to the puzzle solving aspect of it.

Alex Ferrari 43:05
Now, obviously, you've worked in a lot of rooms over the years, there's this kind of unspoken rule or unspoken information about the politics of a, of a writers room. Can you talk a little bit about what the politics are in the writers room as far as a young writer walking into it? So they understand what's going on

Naren Shankar 43:27
Unspoken politics in the writers room? How do you how do you mean, could you elaborate on that,

Alex Ferrari 43:31
So just kind of like how you know, because I know that everyone, every every show runner runs differently, sometimes they they're in the rooms, and run the actual room, sometimes they have, you know, the second command runs the room, how to speak what not to do, don't try to you know, you when you're throwing out ideas, don't throw out the problem throughout the solution. These kind of ideas. I've picked this up just from interviewing showrunners so those kinds of those kinds of things that young writer might not understand about a writers room and listening to this will give them an idea of how they should approach being in a room not theirs. Some people are too quiet some people are too out there. You know, everyone there's I know there was one writer I had on the show that when he was your showrunner, but when he was a writer, he's like, Yeah, I just kept throwing out I solved the ideas for everything. And the showrunner is like Wow, your universe, everyone, everything gets all thrown away. So these are those little things. I just love to hear from you what your opinion is,

Naren Shankar 44:28
You know, every every room is different. Every everybody who runs a show runs room a little differently. I can only really tell you how the way I look at things and and also sort of describe what I think are the bad rooms that I've seen running. Right. Yeah, you know, I feel like there there are maybe the extremes are one in which everybody is trying to please the boss in which in which it is as, you know, step on everybody else to get your hand raised. And so you get noticed, some people run rooms that way. Some people are very absent, they let their second do something, and then they come in and they blow everything up and say, you're all stupid, and then they leave. It's like, that happens as well. It's like, I, I feel like I don't, I don't think it's really a good idea for show runners to be out of the room. It's like a lot of a lot of bad show runners, I think. They say, Well, I gotta go fix, I gotta go fix Episode Five, it's like a disaster, I gotta fix it in editing. The reason everybody hides out in editing and why it's a very bad sign, is because you don't have to deal with another person's opinion. You don't have to, you don't have to defend anything, really. Because all you said do that do that do that is pure control. And so it's a, it's a, it's a hiding out kind of a behavior. The best rooms that I have ever been in, in the way I try to conduct ours is, is, again, it's that best idea wins. Everybody has a voice, everybody gets to make a contribution, everybody needs to listen to everybody else. If an idea isn't strong enough, and it can't withstand an argument, then you need a better idea. And, and that is there's no hierarchy, everybody's voice is equal. I've taken notes from, you know, suggestions from our pas, you know, it's like, we're sitting there in the room, it doesn't matter to me, you know, it's like, my job is, is probably like a hand on the rudder, right? It's like, I have to guide it, I have to give it shape. Sometimes, if you know, if the question is, should the dress be red, or the dress be blue? If I like red, then the dress is red. That's an aesthetic, you know, that's an aesthetic decision. If I have an idea for a character and or a moment and somebody goes, that's just doesn't make any sense, this character would never do that. And if the argument is good, and change it, right is the answer. It's like, you have to be able, you have to have the courage to do that. And I think part of it, for me, it goes back to my, you know, my background in in hard science, because it's like, it's essentially peer review, right? You write a paper, you put it up, and then you sit back with your colleagues. And then you question the fundamentals of it, you question the foundation of it, is it you know, that's what that is, right. And so you have to have, I think you have to have that is like that kind of when everybody feels comfortable like that, they're going to be listened to that everybody can make a contribution. I think you get the best out of people that way. And I treat departments on the physical production side the same way. It's like these are these people are experts in what they do. It's like, I don't tell them how to make everything, I tell them what I'm looking for, but then let them go and be creative.

Alex Ferrari 47:53
You know, you don't micromanage you don't micromanage you,

Naren Shankar 47:57
There's an inevitable amount of micromanagement that happens because, because it's hierarchical, right? Everybody is responsible for a piece of it, every department is responsible for a piece of it. But the people who are responsible for the whole thing, it's basically on my shows, that's basically me, right? I am the one that that ultimately says, this is the shape of it, this is a story want to tell, this is the cut, this is the, the sound, this is the music, it's like, but you're gonna get a better thing. If everybody at every stage of that process gets to make the thing that they do really, really well. All you have to do is guide them, because you're just gonna get tremendous stuff out of people, I think that way. And that's how I prefer to do it.

Alex Ferrari 48:37
Now, is there a piece of advice you wish someone would have told you at the beginning of your career, if you can go back and tell yourself when you when you when you were sleeping on that couch? Is there something that you wish you would have known?

Naren Shankar 48:51
I, you know, I actually had the initial my formative experiences in the business were really positive ones, they really were Star Trek was a very positive place to learn good people, good stories, you know, a stable place for several years, you know, seaQuest for negative examples, you know, it's like, like, things that were very clear that you shouldn't do. You know, and but but at that point, I was I was confident enough in my own abilities, that I could understand those. The Outer Limits was my next gig, which I did for three years, the Showtime anthology show, which was a phenomenal training ground just to learn to learn almost every aspect of production because an anthology you're creating a new world, every building yet making it you know, and the range of shows you got to do were tremendous. I mean, because we did, you know, an old western and then a futuristic show that a spaceship show and then a contemporary show, and it's like it's like, all like one after another. And so the amount of The amount of learning you get for literally any kind of production problem was astonishing, you know. And so, you know, I just I think I just got lucky in that sense. I just got good experiences upfront. So I think and good mentors, you know, who were, you know, gave me a lot of opportunities, a lot of freedom.

Alex Ferrari 50:25
So no, no, how did you get involved with the expanse net? Because that's been doing that's been doing pretty well for you. Over the years. I just had Thomas on by the way, I just had Tom. He's great. He's like, Oh, my God, Thomas. Jane is just an amazing human being. He's sitting there with his pipe, clicking on the clicking on his pipe, he has skulls in the background. And I'm like, Thomas, the level of cool that you are, is just not it's natural to it's not it's not manufactured. And you can see it in expanse, too. You could see that cool. Just come right off the street. It's pretty amazing.

Naren Shankar 51:02
He was he was he was so he was such a delight to work with it. I think initially, he was, you know, he's a little guarded when you're getting to know him. And I think he was guarded about just sort of, like, attaching himself to this weird thing on the Sci Fi Channel. But, you know, he. He really I think Mark Fergus, who Mark Ferguson Hawk Osby wrote the pilot, Link Mark, he really connected with Mark, and just in sort of the love of the same kind of movies. And Tom is such a cinephile is, you know, oh, my god, like, hardcore. And then I think he started, he became, you know, he started trusting us when we were delivering on the things that we said we were going to do in a way that we were going to do and, and I think that by the end of it, he became really, he was really choked up, like, like, on his last days of, you know, leaving the show, and it was like, it was really, I think, I think he feels proud of the work that we did on the expanse.

Alex Ferrari 52:07
So how did you get involved expense,

Naren Shankar 52:08
I was like the last element I was. Because the books had been optioned by Alcon mark and Hawk had been attached to write the pilot. They, they had never done television before. So the pilot was sold to sci fi with an on air commitment. And so Alcon was a small studio done, you know, done some, you know, they did the blind side, but they'd done you know, features and, and they were getting a little bit more in that space. But they had never done television show before. And Sharon Hall, who's the president of Alcon at that time, I'd worked with her. She'd been at Sony for many years, we've done development together. And she thought I would be a good fit for this show. And so I just came in and met with with the guys and this was at the pilot stage. They just had a script, they didn't have the production wasn't up and running. And so they just needed somebody, you know, who, who could mount a show like this? And it was, I mean, I'll be to be honest. I had, I had been away from science fiction for a very long time, but 10 years almost. And I was not a fan of what, you know, the Sci Fi Channel was putting on because other than Battlestar Galactica, they had a pretty grim slate of things, and they would send me stuff I read, and I go, and so my agent sent me the script. And it's on the Sci Fi Channel, and I went, delete. And I just deleted it. The first time, I just didn't even read it. And they came back to me, like three weeks later, I said, Look, please read the script, they really want you. And this time, I scroll to the bottom, and I see that mark and Hawk had written Children of Men. And and which I loved, and I'm like, okay, all right. And I didn't know the books. And so I read the script. I was like, Are they really going to make this? It's like, because this is not like the thing that they had they this is not the kind of material that they had. They had embraced, you know, but it was a new regime. Bill McGoldrick had come in there and, and I met with the guys and we talked about the script, and I liked them, and they liked me. And then, you know, there we go,

Alex Ferrari 54:11
The rest of this industry

Naren Shankar 54:13
Six years later,

Alex Ferrari 54:15
Naren I'm going to ask you a couple questions. I asked all of my guests three questions. What advice would you give a screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Naren Shankar 54:23
It's tough. Realistically, it's a very difficult business to break into. One of the big changes in the business from when I started was, you don't have this regular broadcast TV machine, making a zillion episodes of a show. What you have are really big productions making way fewer episodes with much tighter staff. So the abilities to get into it are actually I think tougher. It's like because the pathways have changed. It's like you don't really have a freelance writing market like you did 2530 years ago. The ways into the biz dentists are becoming a writers assistant, which is a highly coveted job becoming an executive producers assistant, which is another pathway into the business. And so aspiring writers are always trying to find that way in. That's right. Because yeah, you can write scripts, you can get agents to read them, you can get put up to staff, you know, there's always that available. But that's a numbers game too, right? Because it's like, he's just a lot of people in the business. But getting that shot at being in a room really learning. It's just tough. I mean, it's like, so the key is, right, network and try to get one of those gigs, you know, take advantage of internships and fellowships that are all, you know, they're out there at the studios. Those are all really, really good programs and the gills, you know, and, and that's really, and that's really the trick, it's like, and you know, even if it's like, even if the job is a pas job that gets you in the writers room, it's like, take it, take it, take it and learn, you'll learn something, it's learned something. And if you show people something and a desire, it's like, hopefully, if you're on the right people, they'll give you those opportunities and give you a chance to take a step up. I mean, we promoted several writers, from writers assistants and, and EPSS. On the expanse, we did that on CSI. I mean, even into editorial director, writers, like we did a lot of homegrown internal production, I mean, internal promotion. I'm a big believer in that. And I think that's the way things should work.

Alex Ferrari 56:35
I'll tell I'll tell you what I mean, I worked as I learned more as a PA working in Orlando, than I did at film school, I would skip school to just go and be on the set and learn and being and being in the office and seeing things run. I just You just learned so much more than you do at a school because you're just seeing it happen. You're picking up things that are not in books, and the teachers generally don't talk about and like those nuances of stuff that that go on, on set. You just, you know, I remember the first day as a PA, they're like, a bunch of grips like you want to intern in the grip department, or go to the grip department first in the grips did a giant pile of cable that's like 15 miles long, untangle that for me. I learned I didn't want to be a grip.

Naren Shankar 57:18
And the guys, that's hilarious. You know, and when you're on a set, people, people will talk to you, they will they they're happy to share knowledge with you, everybody really does understand this sort of like inherent apprenticeship model. But, you know, you should never be afraid to ask questions. What's the worst that can happen? It's like, Stop bothering me. We'll talk later. And it's like, but I would be like on CSI, we had this amazing experience, you know, focus puller, and his name's Gary Mueller. And he had worked for ever, like he worked in a fifth plug in the 50s and 60s for like, you know, Billy Friedkin, and it's like, he was like, a grouchy perfectionist, but like seeing everything. And whenever I had a question on CSI ago, I could give her as this where he's like, I'll go to Gary and ask him and he told me and I remember was I had this question about like, lenses and lens systems and CSI was, was really interesting, because all of the effects were almost all of them were practical in camera effects. We didn't do any any post digital stuff, really. So we experimented a lot. And I said, this is work because I don't I don't quite understand it. He goes, he goes, would you like would you like me to take you to Panama vision, and just go look at the camera, and I'll teach you like, and he arranged for visit, we went on the weekend. And he said like he said all of his years working. None of the bosses had asked him these questions. And it's like, I'm like, How the fuck do you learn this? Like, how do you learn? It's like, there's so many people who are afraid of looking stupid, because they don't know something. Right? I say, I don't know how that works all the time. Or tell me how that works. And I know a lot. I've been doing this for a long time. It's like, but you got it, you got to take those opportunities. There are people who knows so much and their knowledge is so specialized. And filmmaking is such a weird combination of pure, creative and highly technical. It's like it's an unusual thing. And so, you know, I think a lot of reasons these days that like writer showrunners like what's happening a lot of times now you see pairings like have a writer showrunner. And then a producing director. It's like, you know, because there's a whole side of post production that they don't even that they're terrified of people like to edit. But when you start talking about sound mixing when you start talking about music and talking about color and VFX they just get no you got you do that. That's fine. You show me it's like, I feel like that's like that's, you know, a little bit like a director saying we're just gonna do half a movie. You know, it's like, the right it's like all of those things are part of the experiences like I I have had friends who like I remember I was I was I came into a meeting on some show, and I'm still doing posts on the expanse and, and I said, Sorry, it's like, you know, are mixed with nine hours yesterday. And they're like, what, nine hours. And I'm like, about normal. It's like a seven or nine hour mix is what I do. And it's like, I just go to playback and then just say, you know, give them a couple of notes and then elite, I'm like, you're missing out on a lot of shit. Because you learn you learn you sound sound is half of the way you perceive the world.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:31
You could also see mistakes if it's there any mistakes being made on set you now because if you're just listening to a match, you don't see the details. But like, Man, this boot is not getting it. Oh, man. It's like it's offer. Something's happened and the sound guys not doing his job, right? You're in the mix, you're in literally in the mix, literally,

Naren Shankar 1:00:47
Literally in the mix. So you know, I feel like, you know, that is a That's the deal. It's like, just gonna learn a lot doing that.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:58
What lesson took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Naren Shankar 1:01:03
Okay, I'll limit it to the film industry, because there's probably many things I'm still learning. I think I personally have a tendency to, to take on projects or ideas that I probably shouldn't, because I want to prove that I can do it. And that, that that sometimes is not good. It's like, just to show somebody, oh, yeah, you think that's not adaptable? Fuck it, I'll do it. And then I'll beat my head against it forever, just to try to show somebody that it's not necessarily the best way to really do something, I would do that on shows a lot. And I think I would also I don't know, it's, there's a sort of like a Pruvit mentality, sometimes it's not healthy. And I think that maybe another aspect of that is, is I would, if something isn't working early in my career, I would force it, I would just try to ram my way through it and just just make it happen. I got good advice, saying, You know what, it's a creative thing. Maybe today isn't the day just step away from it and come back to it. It's like, you have to learn that too. It's like you have to learn when you're forcing, you have to learn when it's not being productive. And don't be afraid to just just let it take a step back and go for a walk or take a shower or go for a drive or something because your brain sometimes needs time to make connections between things. And so I'm think I'm much more comfortable doing that now than I was early in my career for sure.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:48
And last question, what are three pilots that every screenwriters who listen read, or every television writer should read? More episodes or episodes of a show?

Naren Shankar 1:03:01
It changes, I would say that changes era by era, and, you know, genre by genre, like, like, what is a? Like, what's a great, you know, if you if you like crime shows, like crimes and cop shows, like, what's a great show to watch now, you could make, you could make a lot of different, you know, you could say the sopranos if you wanted to go back aways, you could say mayor of Easton, you know, if you so it's like, it's really that's very much of a moving target. Because there are, I used to collect like pilots, I thought were really, really terrific. The problem is, they may not be so terrific. When you go back a few years. You know, you're it's like it really does change.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:47
I mean, like the Breaking Bad pilots still. You're absolutely brilliant, even though it was so many years ago when that came out, but you just read it. Well, that's, that's remarkable.

Naren Shankar 1:03:57
They can they can they do last? I mean, you know, I think Game of Thrones is a terrific pilot.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:02
And men, bad men.

Naren Shankar 1:04:03
Yeah, Mad Men is a great pilot.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:06
Yeah, Mad Men. Sopranos? I mean, David chases. I mean, it's it's the firt the first one. Yeah, there's so many. There's so many. But just,

Naren Shankar 1:04:14
I mean, I used to keep, I used to keep the X Files. I love that. I think I think what it is for pilots, for me, it's like, if you can think of pilots, first episodes of shows that were tremendous. Inevitably, there are like, one or two moments that are so striking that you always remember them. It's like, you know, you like feel

Alex Ferrari 1:04:38
Like a guy with a gun in his underwear. You know, with a mess with

Naren Shankar 1:04:44
The very first image of Breaking Bad, right? It's like, but that's but that's what I mean. It's like I think those are the pilots that stick with you. It's like even you know, independent of era or style or anything like that. I think that I think that really is what it is.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:57
Naren man. It has been such a pleasure talking to you. Thank You so much for coming on the show and sharing your sharing your knowledge and experience with with my tribe and hopefully somebody listening out there is terrified now and won't be in the business but or at least understands what they're getting into. Or you know, get a degree in engineering and applied physics.

Naren Shankar 1:05:20
You know, there are times you just what I really do go like, you know, man, really lucky and it is ridiculous that people pay me to tell stories and make cool shows for a living. It's like it is just a it is just, you know, pinch me and you know, I'll do it as long as I can because it's really fun.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:43
Man, it was a pleasure meeting you and thank you again for being on the show, brother. I appreciate you.

Naren Shankar 1:05:47
My pleasure.


  • Naren Shankar – IMDb


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