Monday, September 19, 2011

An Interview with Eureka's Amy Berg

by Megan S.


Chances are you love Amy Berg and don't even know it.  The writer and producer has been a part of some of science fiction and fantasy's best shows, most recently as one of the incredible people behind SyFy's highest rated series, Eureka.  I was lucky enough to have the chance to chat with her about Eureka and the state of women writers for television in the US today.

Here's the result!


You're one of the few women television writers in the US. What was it like breaking in to the business? Do you think science fiction and fantasy writers rooms are more welcoming to women than other genres like late night comedy?

The idea that there are only a few women writing television is one of the biggest misconceptions in the business. There are a lot of us out here. One of the big reasons I work so hard on the publicity side of things is so I can help promote the voices who aren't necessarily being heard.

I have a rather unusual breaking-in story, but it's long and circuitous. The short version is that I had some great early mentors in writer/producers Kevin Kopelow and Heath Seifert. My first job in town was as an assistant at Nickelodeon and they were generous enough to teach me the ropes. They created an atmosphere on their shows that celebrated good ideas, and it didn't matter where they came from. Fortunately, I had a few and they asked me to join the writing staff.

I don't think the gender politics of a writers room is predicated on the genre of the shows as much as it is on the people running them. Like in any business, sometimes you work for amazing human beings and sometimes you don't. The thing I will say about sci-fi creators/showrunners is that they're more likely to be geeks. And people who grew up feeling socially isolated themselves are, I think, generally more accepting of different types of people.

Mo Ryan wrote a great article about the lack of women in writing positions for TV shows. She mentioned that the numbers have actually decreased from 35 percent during the 2006-2007 season to 15 percent in 2010-2011 season. What are female writers doing to help open the door for others?

Those numbers are abysmal. Unfortunately, there is only so much other writers can do if they're not the ones doing the hiring. The people involved in making staffing decisions are primarily network/studio executives and showrunners. And I'd venture a guess that the number of female showrunners is less than the 15% that was quoted in the study. But the number of female executives is much higher. I'd love to hear their answer to your question.

One thing that I try to do is mentor writers who are just starting out. There are a lot of us who feel like we owe it to the next generation coming up to share what we've learned so they can maybe bypass some of the hardships we've faced along the way. I'm an equal opportunity mentor, though. Provided they're not a douchebag, I'm happy to help anyone who has the tenacity and talent to make it.

An artist rendition of Amy at work on Eureka
Switching topics, now that filming Eureka has wrapped, what's your fondest memory working on the series?

Without question, it's the people. It really was the finest collection of humans I've ever worked with, from our writing staff to our cast and crew up in Vancouver. I'm going to miss everyone tremendously. Fortunately, the fans don't have to miss us quite yet. There's still 14 more episodes left of the show. A holiday episode this December and then a 13-episode season five next year.

You've mentioned in previous interviews that relationships are one of the aspects that interest you most in a television series and Eureka was chock full of great ones. What was one of your favorites?

Although the plots may not always be, all the relationships on the show are incredibly grounded. Even the only-in-Eureka romance between two A.I.s -- a Smart House and a robot Deputy -- comes across as honest and genuine. That's definitely one of my favorites. Also, the friendship between Carter and Jo. It's one of the things that attracted to me to the show in the first place. And getting to work closely with Colin and Erica has been amazing.

Eureka had an awesome cast and crew. What was one of the funniest behind-the-scenes stories involving the team?

There are countless stories, but you're asking the wrong person. I have the worst memory of anyone on the planet. Although I do remember something Colin did when we were shooting the series finale. It was his last scene with Niall (who plays Zane) and there was a giant roll of bubble wrap on the set. I stepped away to take a call and when I came back Colin had wrapped up Niall in it from head to toe. Naturally, I did what any producer would do in that situation... I grabbed my camera and took a picture.

What's next for you? Are there any hints about your upcoming projects you can share with us?

Unfortunately, no. Not yet anyway. Let's just say I haven't had a day off since we wrapped Eureka. I'm very, very blessed.

One last question. You're a self-proclaimed science fiction fan and geek. What's been your geekiest/most fangirl experience being Hollywood so far?

I don't really fangirl it up very often, but I will say that I got to share a stage with Ben Edlund recently and that was an absolute dream. I've admired his writing for a long time. But I think my geekiest moment might be at Comic Con a few years back when my buddy Marc Bernardin introduced me to Nathan Fillion. Because, let's face it, Nathan is all kinds of adorable.
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2 comments:

  1. Congratulations to Amy Berg!

    "Eureka" is such a good show. Very good writing and such fun entertainment :)

    My favorite story line was the trip to the 40s and back. I hope that's somehow worked into future episodes.

    Stella

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  2. You know, I haven't actually seen Eureka yet. I've got season 1 around here somewhere. I've gotta fire up ye olde DVD player.

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