Jay Bushman writes for many kinds of media, works at the intersection of traditional and emerging formats, reinterpreting and reimagining classic stories in new ways. He’s won an Emmy for his work as a writer and transmedia producer on the groundbreaking series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, an interactive adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
He was the co-creator and co-showrunner of the sequel interactive series, “Welcome To Sanditon.” As a writer and producer at Fourth Wall Studios, Jay helped to create the Emmy-winning series “Dirty Work,” and wrote and created the show “Airship Dracula.” For his experimental work in social media storytelling — including writing one of the first Twitter novels — he was dubbed as “The Epic Poet of Twitter” by New Scientist Magazine, and as an “Enterprising Fabulist” by Vanity Fair. His first book, “NOVEL ADVICE: Practical Wisdom for Your Favorite Literary Characters” was published in November 2020. You can find out more, and buy his new book, by going to JayBushman.com
Why did you get into the arts?
It made me feel alive in a way that nothing else did
What was the first large artistic project you worked on that you were proud of?
In my senior year of high school, I was cast in a stage production of Little Shop of Horrors. I convinced the director to add back a bunch of scenes from the original Roger Corman movie version. I got a copy of the movie on videotape, and went through it scene by scenes, transcribing the scenes. They got put into the show, and I played several of the characters.
What were your goals when you started?
To find enough success that I could be permitted to keep going.
Did you go to film school?
Yes, I studied theater at George Washington University. It was not what I thought I’d be studying when I decided to go there. But in my freshman year I got cast in a play and discovered I preferred that to any of my classes
Then I went to film school at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I went because I thought you had to go to film school in order to make films. I went there because it was the one place I applied that gave me enough aid that I could afford it. In retrospect, it was not the greatest decision.
I think that at that age, no matter what choice I made I would have been met with a lot of difficulty and struggle.
What advice would you give to a prospective student who is applying to film school?
I’d tell them to skip it and use the money to fund their own projects.
What are the biggest mistakes a film school student can make while in school?
Letting themselves be deified by the institution. Failing to make strong connections, friendships and collaborations with your fellow classmates
What did you do after film school? Did you have trouble finding work when you first got out?
I moved home to New York City, got an office job and worked for free on independent productions to learn how things got made in the real world
What difficulties did you encounter?
It’s hard to be young, try to survive in a bad economy, and still have energy leftover to create the work you want to create.
Do you ever work for free or on spec now? And if so, how do you choose when to work on those terms?
I only work for free if its on something where I own the output.
What are you currently working on, and how did you arrive here?
I’m promoting my new book, and in the early stages of writing another. I’m also working on a number of interactive projects
What are the biggest mistakes a person can make when they first start working as a professional artist?
- Not listening to their collaborators enough
- Listening to their collaborators too much.
- Looking for someone else to define success.
- Falling victim to perfectionism.
Were you ever put in a position that you were asked to compromise your artistic integrity? What did you do?
Frequently. If its a paying job, and I’m working in service of someone else’s visions, then my artistic integrity isn’t really the most important part of the equation.
What’s been the highest point of your career so far?
When The Lizzie Bennet Diaries won an Emmy Award. Not so much for the award itself, so much as a marker of how much the show had connected with so many people.
Did you ever meet someone casually at a club that wound up leading to a great job, or a major step in your career? Or do you find networking is useless?
I have met many people casually who have had major impacts on my career. The key, I think, is to not think of networking as a means to a careerist end. Rather, just look to meet people you enjoy spending time wherever you go. Be yourself, everywhere, at all times.
How would you advise people to network? (places, methods, etc.)
As much was you can stand it, as genuinely as you can behave. It’s always awkward and weird at first, but if you approach it honestly you never know who you might meet and how they might affect your life, not just your career.
If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently?
I would get treatment for my ADHD as soon as possible, and I would skip film school and use that money to support myself while working for free on as many projects as I possibly could.
What motto do you try to live your life by?
Don’t be afraid to be wrong
Where’s your favorite place in Los Angeles?