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Taffy Brodesser-Akner on Her New TV Series, Productivity Hacks, Fave Twitter Follows, and More

Including her best productivity hack.
treated photo of Taffy Brodesser-Akner sitting down
November 7, 2022

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The only thing we like more than great TV is great TV based on reallyyyy great books. So we’re extremely excited for the premiere of FX’s “Fleishman Is In Trouble” to hit Hulu on November 17. So excited that we tapped the novel’s author and one of the show's executive producers, Taffy Brodesser-Akner. Read on for her productivity hacks, some (extremely) hot takes, and the other book adaptations she can’t wait to watch…

The tunes I had on repeat when writing “Fleishman Is In Trouble”…

When I was writing the book, I listened to the score from one of my favorite movies, ”Ruby Sparks.” It’s by Nick Urata, and it’s a slow-burn of dramatic and heartrending build that comes to a perfect swell in the track “Inspiration.” There were also a couple of tracks off the “Lost” soundtrack by Michael Giacchino, particularly “Moving On.”

I wrote most of the episodes of the show to the sound of prior episodes getting shot. I sat in a director’s chair on set, writing between takes. By the time I was rewriting, we had Caroline Shaw’s incredible score, which is like nothing I’ve ever heard before. It has supplanted anything I ever listened to in the lead-up to this and is now, I say with tremendous pride, the only sound I associate with “Fleishman Is In Trouble.” 

My favorite Twitter follows…

I love a lot of tweeters for a lot of reasons — people who bring me new information, like Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) and Lisa Lerer (@llerer), Yair Rosenberg (@yair_rosenberg), Reid Epstein (@reidepstein), Astead Herndon (@AsteadWesley), Olivia Nuzzi (@olivianuzzi), Katie Rogers (@katierogers), Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT), Jesse Drucker (@JesseDrucker), and Nick Confessore (@nickconfessore); people who bring me new memes, like Gilbert Cruz (@gilbertcruz) and Anna Dubenko (@AnnaDubenko) and Helen Rosner (@hels). I love critics — Alan Sepinwall (@sepinwall), Helen Shaw (@Helen_E_Shaw), Sam Adams (@SamuelAAdams), Emily St. James (@emilyvdw), and Jim Poniewozik (@poniewozik) come to mind. Some people just make me laugh, like Gabe Roth (@gabrielroth) and Bess Kalb (@bessbell), or simply delight me with a variety of information that I didn’t even know I should be interested in delivered in their very specific way, like Chris Bonanos (@heybonanos) and Brandon Taylor (@blgtylr) and Jason Diamond (@imjasondiamond). 

Mostly, I love the people who are interacting genuinely in the world — and would seem very much like they are or probably are in real life. That’s what makes for my favorite kind of tweeter. That’s Adam Sternbergh (@sternbergh), Erin Somers (@SomersErin), Emily Nussbaum (@emilynussbaum), Reyhan Harmanci (@harmancipants), Isaac Butler (@parabasis), and A.O. Scott (@aoscott) — especially when responding to criticism of his criticism. When people say they hate twitter, I get it, but these people mitigate the horror and bring a joy and intelligence that keep me lingering on that hell-site.

The unpopular opinions I’ll always stand by…

I am a longtime believer that wine is not delicious, but we’ve been pressured into thinking it is. Even that wine. And that one. Yes, I’m sorry. Also, I believe that cottage cheese is the best cheese. 

My best productivity hack for staying on deadline… 

Deadlines require their own spiritual philosophy, and here is mine: The best way to hit a deadline is to truly understand what it does to the people involved in the process when you’re late. It makes your editor annoyed and have to tap dance on your behalf. It makes fact-checkers and copy editors have to stay late at work. It makes designers and photo editors have to cancel weekend plans. If you think of it that way, and you have a normal amount of human need to not be resented or hated, you’ll never be late.  

Other books I can’t wait to see made into a TV show or movie…

I am desperately awaiting the adaptations of “Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walter and “Nothing to See Here” by Kevin Wilson. I hope someone buys the option (or maybe already has?) to “The Netanyahus” by Joshua Cohen. I am counting on all three of these executions to be perfect. 

One thing I’m extra thankful for these days…

I have nothing clever to say here. I am thankful to have lived through a global pandemic (that’s ongoing, but…). I’m thankful that my family and friends still want to talk to me after the years of neglect and missed birthdays I subjected them to while making this TV show. I’m thankful to just be here, honestly, being asked these questions. 

Psst: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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