Tasha Gray first received recognition of her writing talents while she was attending Washington Preparatory High School in South LA. For one hour, she had to write a description of how and why she was involved in a girl fight.
“It was a punishment,” she said. “I had to write it. And the dean was like ‘you’re writing is good.’ I got ‘A’s in English, but I didn’t know what she meant. She was encouraging me, but I just didn’t get it.”
Even though Gray moved onto UCLA to pursue her education, she didn’t really ‘get it’ until she was in grad school at San Diego State University (SDSU), studying film and television. SDSU at the time was listed as having one of the top five media programs in the country, because it was relatively new.
“I didn’t break the bank, but I got a quality education,” Gray said of her Aztec experience.
Soon after, she worked as an educational consultant and grant writer. Her road to Hollywood was unconventional, as she explained that most writers start as assistants and meet the right people to get into a writers room.
Through her grant writing, Gray knew how to complete applications and she entered writing competitions. Later she was accepted into an NBC program called Writers on the Verge.
“That was the kind of validation I needed,” she said. The following year, she had a manager and after joining her first Hollywood writing staff, Gray transitioned into full-time, official writing for a living in 2013, working on ABC shows.
“Everything I write has levity in it,” she said, noting that the process is the same for comedies or dramas, in that since most of comedy derives from an uncomfortable place of pain, those writings can easily translate into dramas. “It still has a beginning, middle and end. It still has conflict. A protagonist has a goal. While comedy writers can write drama, not all drama writers can write comedy.”
Gray is currently helping conceive, write and produce “Reasonable Doubt,” which is soon going to be broadcast on Hulu. She believes that television is more of a writer’s medium, where serialized shows are driven by the people who write the pages and live with the characters, episode by episode. Different directors can be hired for different segments.
In film, the director is more of the showrunner.
“They become the boss of the set. They get all the accolades,” Gray said. “They’ll have different writers to rewrite your script. It might pass through a number of different hands.”
“That’s why a lot of writers direct their own work,” she added. “They don’t want to lose control. They don’t want it bastardized.”
Gray plans to dole out writing advice in her upcoming podcast, “Becomeatvwriter.com.” Set to launch Nov. 1, for one, her podcast will urge writers to enter their works in competitions and get professional feedback in workshops or writers bootcamps.
She also suggests networking across the table with persons at the same level, instead of networking up to someone who is already ingrained in the business.
“Partnering with a new producer,” Gray said. “That’s the perfect marriage, because you’re both hungry.”
Although her profession had an unusual start in high school, Gray has found satisfaction as a writer, director, executive producer and creator.
“No one has to give you permission to write,” she said. “You just have to have the audacity to do it.”