In Hollywood people are ready to hustle and bursting with innovation. At times, it can be difficult to get your foot in the door and creative voice noticed. The writing duo, “Berg and Harberts,” is a writing team that has found success in the Hollywood realm. Berg and Harberts is the engine behind some of TVs biggest hits including Beverly Hills 90210, Rosewell, Pushing Daisies, Revenge, Mercy, and the original showrunners for Star Trek: Discovery. Their work has earned them recognition including the Peabody Award Nomination, Saturn Award, Logo’s NewNowNext Award, and a GLAAD Award Nomination.
Berg and Harberts know the challenges of breaking into Hollywood’s writing industry and are willing to help the next generation of upcoming talent glean insight from their own experience.
The writing duo did a workshop with students at the University of California School of Cinematic Arts Graduate program. For students pursuing careers as writers, directors, and producers, Berg and Harberts focused on encouraging them to network, and be open and flexible because you never know what can come of a chance encounter or brief conversation. Berg and Harberts originally met during a creative writing course during college. When both set out to take on Hollywood, they had a serendipitous housing situation that reconnected them. From their experience, it seems like timing, people, and the ‘click’ factor have been key ingredients to their success. The writing duo has put in a lot of work over the years for each show they take on. Research is a huge part of the writing process to help them set the framework for each project. The creative side of their job truly is a process that takes time and doesn’t happen overnight. They also spend a large portion of their days coordinating with the different teams across production.
As far as the writing process, both Berg and Harberts offer good advice. Gretchen Berg encourages those hoping to make a name in the industry to get into the habit of writing every day. She says, “If you write every day, you get to call yourself a writer. And discipline is important when you’re starting out. Depending on your style, it can be beneficial to write at a certain time every day– implementing a routine that helps you sit down and put words to paper. Everyone’s process is different, but you just need something that is going to get you in that headspace.”
Aaron Harberts says, “Get comfortable with re-writing. This is a collaborative medium and your first draft is just a first draft, so be as enthusiastic writing the second draft as you are writing the first one. It can take a few swings before you hit the ball just right, so know that it is part of the process and each draft is an improvement from the previous.”
Because their jobs are truly a process, and not a check-list of items that will clearly get you from point A to point B, it’s important to recognize what keeps them motivated. In any profession, it’s easy to get bogged down by minutia, but when you are working for something bigger, knowing your motivation can keep you energized and on track to the finish line. Harberts says “When we’re working on a series, I’m motivated by getting to tell stories that touch people. And that hopefully allows people to recognize parts of themselves in those stories.” Harberts has said that television shows he watched as a child were pivotal in his experience of seeing the world in a more diverse and complex way while he was being raised in rural Iowa. Harberts also has said “I love the people. I find that the industry gets a bad rap for being populated with divas and egomaniacs. I enjoy the people that we work with.” In the same vein, Gretchen Berg also had a positive and uplifting comment about working in the industry that often gets a bad rap. Berg said, “I’m blown away by the fact that you get paid for using your imagination and collaborating with other people who are using their imagination.”
Berg and Harberts bring a tone of gratefulness, connectedness, and creativity when they talk about their jobs and experiences in the industry. While they are clear this is a process, there is a lot of shared joy out of watching something be born out of your own imagination and come to life on screen.