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Chat & Chow: Jeff Greenstein

Welcome to CHAT & CHOW: a Q&A series.

In honor of the Season Two Premiere of HUSBANDS… Today’s guest: writer/producer/director: Jeff Greenstein.

Check out his IMDB page.

While ideally we would’ve caught up at a foodtruck or for some boba, when Jeff suggested we get together at his wife’s bakery, Big Sugar Bakeshop, my first thought was, “Your wife owns a bakery?!” then, “Yes, for the love of all things sweet and delicious, yes.”

Bliss. Pure, sugary, delectable bliss.

So the two of us met at Big Sugar Bakeshop back in June, right before Jeff was about to starting shooting season two of the successful web series, HUSBANDS - as of now, the only online series to earn acknowledgment and praise from The New Yorker. HUSBANDS was created by Jane Espenson and Brad Bell; Jeff is the director as well as one of the executive producers.

To see what all the excitement’s about, and why TV Line called it “one of the 5 top webseries worth watching," check out HUSBANDS here.

THE Q & A

1. When do you like to write?

I don’t like to write.

2. When do you actually get to write?

Between 2-10 pm.

I wrote with a partner for the first half of my career, so there was always someone to motivate me. When I started writing by myself, I would sit down to work at 9 am and then loathe myself for five hours. Finally around 2 pm I’d write something decent.

At some juncture in my career, I readjusted, and decided to try starting work at 2. That limited the self-loathing to 5-10 minutes.

Mornings are now set aside for what Wallace Shawn called “the errands of our trade” - phone calls, bill-paying and so forth. After lunch I close the door, turn off my Wi-Fi connection and write. I have to work in a sensory deprivation chamber. No, really - it’s the smallest, most squalid room in the house. It’s like a closet.

3. Not including the show/project you’re working on now, name a series you would love to write for:

M*A*S*H

4. What skills as a writer were you surprised came in handy as a director?

More than anything else, allowing myself to play. When I write, I always have two windows open on my screen. One is a miscellaneous window and one is the script. In the first window, I’m free to experiment without worrying too much. Then, when stuff is polished, I paste it into the second window.

So: not to self-censor, to feel free to experiment, that was the most important lesson I took to directing.

5. Every person has a unique breaking in story. Can you single out a sliding doors moment you feel would’ve taken your career in a different direction had it happened the other way?

After two years on Dream On, my partner and I were offered an upper level job on Empty Nest, which at the time was a Top 5 comedy with a lot more visibilty and money. We turned it down to stay on Dream On. We would’ve had an entirely differeent career.

We made the decision to stay because we loved David (Crane) and Marta (Kauffman). Two years later, we were running Dream On and when David and Marta created Friends, we were brought on board.

6. When reading someone’s script, what’s the main thing that turns you off or keeps you from finishing it?

If the first line is voiceover. I’ll give anything a chance, but when I see that, my heart sinks.

7. What’s the biggest DON’T you would tell a new writer working in a room?

Never say “no.” You always have to say “yes, and—” Don’t be the no-bird. You have to be respectful, because everyone is taking a risk when they pitch something. You never want to make someone feel bad. I believe the writers’ room should be a safe place to play.

8. Your advice to writers in 3 words.

You must write.

9. Multiple Choice Question: Sneakers, loafers or sandals?

Sneakers.

Jeff is 6’7”. But all I can see is that cake.

Follow Jeff on Twitter: @blue439

Why Blue439? Bonus points to those who tell me why in the comments section. No Googling!

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