Leo Chu and Eric Garcia at SDAFF

Who are you and what do you write?

We’re Leo Chu and Eric S. Garcia, and we mostly write television. We are currently the creators, executive producers, and showrunners of Nickelodeon’s live-action, single-camera, action-comedy series Supah Ninjas. It’s the #1 show in its time period for boys, and earlier this year, we won the WGA Award for Outstanding Writing in Children’s Episodic & Specials. We just finished shooting the second season, which premieres early next year.

Although we have been working in live-action for the past three years, our roots are in animation. Previously, we were the executive producers and showrunners of the animé series Afro Samurai, which aired on Spike TV and starred Samuel L. Jackson. The follow-up, Afro Samurai: Resurrection, made history when it became the first animé to ever win a Primetime Emmy Award.

Where and when do you write?

workspaceIf we are lucky, we get to write in our home office. We start our day at 10am and don’t change out of our pajamas. But when the show is in production, we have to wear pants.

We write anywhere to get the job done: the production office in LA, the one in Pittsburgh, on the plane, or in the hotel. So, in total, that’s five places. We do not write in cafés. That’s where we draw the line. If we are going to meander, we do real meandering — like driving out to Monterey Park for some delicious bing or cashing in reward points at fancy stores like Banana Republic.

Bling

The weirdest thing about being a writer lucky enough to create and run their own show is that there is precious little time to write. When we write, we tend to be really focused. We find that we do our best work in intense bursts — which is often during nights and weekends if we are in the midst of our Monday-Friday shooting schedule.

For us, the most important part of the writing process is having a clear plan about what we’re going to do. If we don’t have a plan, we always make sure we take the time to clear our heads and come up with one. To us, there is nothing worse than diving into a script with only a vague notion of what we want to accomplish. (It’s a great way to screw up what’s working.) If we need some true creative time to come up with new breakthrough ideas, we would rather remove a tree stump or clean out the closets. Creative thoughts are always running through our heads, so we make sure to nurture those ideas until it is time to give them form.

What software do you use?

Final Draft, which is what everyone uses. We know, boring. But since there’s two of us, we frequently need to be working on the same document at the same time. So, rather than hovering and fighting over the keyboard, we use this neat little thing called iChat on our Macs. Under iChat, there’s a function called Bonjour. Provided you’re on the same network, it allows us to share screens –- and both of us can type! How cool is that?!

When we are not on the same network, we use GoToMeeting. It’s kind of like Skype with screen sharing. We can see the script from anywhere we have an internet connection and hear the other person via computer or conference line. (The phone line typically works better for audio.) The catch is only one of us can type, which is useful when we want to shut down ideas from our writing partner. Simply refuse to type them.

What hardware do you use?

We both have two computers: iMacs for home and MacBook Airs when we’re on the road. In the writers’ room, we use white boards to break stories and a large cork board with index cards to track character arcs and season storylines.

Leo Chu and Eric Garcia work face-to-face

But let’s get really low-tech for a moment and talk about another type of hardware that is inexplicably overlooked – chairs! In our home office, we have these amazing LifeForm chairs from Relax the Back. We don’t care that they look ridiculous. The entire chair is made out of memory foam and contours to your butt and supports your back like crazy. We’ve tried Eames and Aerons and other ergo brands, but these are the Cadillac of Chairs. (For the record, we do not own stock in Relax the Back, but they should seriously send us coupons for how much we go on about these chairs, chairs, chairs.)

And while we’re at it – desks! We arrange them face-to-face like detectives. (Hey, if it works for solving murders, it works for writing!) We’ve tried other configurations, but we find this works the best. The computer screens have the added benefit of providing privacy so we don’t have to stare at each other all day. This set up also comes in handy when pitching jokes because Leo can’t see Eric when he rolls his eyes… and Eric can’t see Leo’s tears.

What (if anything) would you change?

Eric would write in a little cabin nestled in a deciduous wood with a burbling stream running by. And he would go out and take more walks. Leo would like more massages, an architecturally significant home, and a white butler (like Woodhouse on Archer) who brings him pie.