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Los Angeles television writer Cody Brotter has long wondered how successful, big-name BU alumni made it in Hollywood’s entertainment industry.
So he decided to ask them.
The result is a new podcast series, Hollywood Terriers, which launched in May 2018 and features Brotter (COM’13) interviewing BU alums working in all aspects of LA’s entertainment industry. Guests on the podcast, created in conjunction with the BU Los Angeles Internship program (BU in LA), are a veritable who’s who of LA power brokers.
Brotter offers a 40-minute interview with BU overseer Jay Roewe (COM’79), HBO senior vice president, one week and a wide-ranging discussion with Orange Is the New Black writer Hilary Weisman Graham (COM’92) the next.
“LA attracts all these hardworking, big-dream people who have come from other places to pursue something,” says Brotter. “BU alumni have traveled across the country to be in LA. A lot of these people are also super-successful, and I wanted to know how.”
One of his favorites is a conversation in May 2018 about men and the #MeToo movement with Emmy-nominated TV producer and Grey’s Anatomy showrunner Krista Vernoff (CFA’93), who talked about what men can do to help support women writers in an industry that remains male-dominated.
In Vernoff’s interview, she noted that as an undergrad she studied acting, not screenwriting, but after several years of successfully pursuing acting roles, she decided to trust her instincts. “My family really struggled with that,” she said. “I probably have the only family that struggled with someone quitting acting” for another career.
Actor and comedian Langston Kerman (GRS’11) recalled his passion for writing poetry in graduate school and taking a job as a high school teacher after graduation. He said that for sheer enjoyment, he always performed stand-up comedy on the side. It also resulted in his first big break, working with comedian and writer Chris Rock.
“I was working with a development company, and they thought he would like me as a potential producer. They talked him into coming out for one of my shows,” Kerman says. “It was literally the most life-changing thing that could have come along.”
Kerman wrote some of the jokes Rock used when he hosted the 2016 Academy Awards, and he landed the role of Jared Oliver in season one of the HBO hit show Insecure.
BU in LA associate director Michael Ouellette says Brotter pitched the idea for Hollywood Terriers, then found most of his guests on his own, using his connections and word of mouth. And although Brotter had never produced a podcast, Ouellette was persuaded to give it a try, he says, by his enthusiasm for both screenwriting and all things BU.
“Cody’s been amazing,” he says. “He’s truly the creative force behind the show.”
So how does Brotter get the interviews?
He’s recruited his guests, he says, by leveraging many of his professional experiences. For example, he worked at HBO as Roewe’s intern during a semester in LA before he graduated. And Kerman helped Brotter, who did stand-up comedy as a BU undergrad, get his first gig at Nick’s Comedy Stop in Boston. Bruce Feirstein (COM’75), a screenwriter for the James Bond series and author of Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche, who is featured on an upcoming podcast, has been a mentor since Brotter’s undergrad days.
“For people I don’t know,” Brotter says, “sometimes the BU in LA program will connect me or ask on my behalf. One of my favorite professors at BU, Garland Waller, has also offered to help me get a handful of impressive guests.”
That networking has resulted in the more than 20 podcast episodes currently available on iTunes. Brotter has produced another 17, which are being released twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays at 3 pm (EST).
Other episodes include an interview with Maureen Bharoocha (COM’07), a segment director on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and producer Sabrina Wind (COM’90) of Desperate Housewives fame.
Ouellette says the podcasts help interns in the BU in LA program learn that their careers might not move in a straight line toward a goal, and that many successful people follow a winding professional path.
“When you’re in school, you can get all this advice from teachers like me, but it doesn’t sink in the same way as when you hear it from someone who actually went through the process and has had every job in the book and got really lucky or took advantage of an opportunity that could have been a disaster,” Ouellette says. “You really learn in these podcasts that just about everyone has a different path.”
Brotter says producing Hollywood Terriers has allowed him to explore his more serious side. Known for his stand-up comedy as an undergrad, he was also a writer and actor in the BUTV10 Telly Award–winning show Welcome Back, Brotter, a Seinfeld-inspired sitcom.
During his junior year at BU, he and Nick Peine (CAS’13) caught the attention of MTV executives, who invited them to appear on mtvU, an online channel aimed at college students.
Although he no longer does stand-up, Brotter still uses comedy writing to pay his bills. He is a story consultant on the show Comedy Knockout as well as a script reader for a variety of agencies in LA.
But the veteran funnyman says he’s come to enjoy the earnestness of podcasting more than he’d ever expected, noting that it has made him a better listener.
“Throughout the experience of doing these podcast interviews, there’s also been the journey of me figuring out what I want to do, or who I want to end up like, and I’m getting to see all these paths,” he says. “That wasn’t the intention of this, and I try not to use these as therapy sessions. I’m just a very curious person.”
Megan Woolhouse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.