Chapman alumna talks writing for ‘Big Mouth,’ ‘Bojack Horseman’

big mouth

Chapman screenwriting alumna Kelly Galuska, left, is a writer for Netflix’s streaming animated shows “Big Mouth” and “Bojack Horseman.”

Kelly Galuska, a 2006 Chapman screenwriting alumna, has lived in both New York and Los Angeles since graduating. Right now, she works as a writer and producer for Netflix’s animated shows “Bojack Horseman” and “Big Mouth.” The Panther sat down with Galuska to talk about what it’s like to work for Netflix, brainstorming script ideas and just how much of coming-of-age comedy “Big Mouth” is drawn from writers’ personal experience.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Q: How did you get into TV production?

A: I knew I wanted to write for television right off the bat. After I graduated from Chapman, I moved to New York. I worked at MTV, “the Late Show with David Letterman,” (and) “the Late Show with Stephen Colbert” – those were my first gigs.

Q: How did you get these jobs?

A: There’s more of a freelancer-turning-into-a real job scenario (in New York City), so I got the MTV job that way. The Letterman job I got from a fellow Chapman graduate who was already working there. When I moved to Los Angeles, another fellow Chapman graduate was telling me I should work at a television agency, which I was nervous about, but I also wanted to make sure I had the thickest skin possible – which you inevitably have to when you work at an agency. From there, I got my first production assistant job at a television show. I shifted into working for television shows near the writers’ room. I did a handful of jobs on a bunch of shows which got cancelled, as they always do.

Q: What is it like working for Netflix?

A: I love it. It’s been a little while since I worked on a network show. My first job was a network show called “Mom” on CBS. Generally, at the network level, you’re servicing a lot of people’s thoughts. You’re doing all your internal writing and getting feedback from everyone at work and from your bosses. And then it has to go to the production company for notes, and then the studio for notes and then the network for notes. It’s a much more tedious process, whereas Netflix, in my experience, has been lovely when it comes to notes.

They’re really in the corner of the creator and they want the show to be what the creator wants it to be. I think that’s part of why they found success so early. A lot of the streaming outlets are this way; they let the writer write what they want to write … the shows are more specific and niche as a result, because they’re not being noted by five different parties that end up watering stuff down.

Q: How do you come up with your ideas, and do they ever end up in the show?

A: In both shows — “Bojack” and “Big Mouth” — we talk a lot about our personal experiences. In “Big Mouth,” it’s pretty obvious that we’re talking about our personal experiences because the show’s content is weird, embarrassing stuff that happened when we were 13. So much of the ideas are straight out of the lives of the people in the room.

It’s the safest space I think I’ve ever worked in. We’re talking about not only embarrassing stuff, but very gross stuff a lot of the time — stuff you wouldn’t just bring up in regular conservations. We all know way too much about each other now. Because of that, we’re able to find these specific stories we tell on the show that our based on our real lives.

(Season three of “Big Mouth”) hasn’t come out yet, so I can’t really say what it is, but there’s a thing that I did when I was 15 that was crazy. I was such a goody-goody in high school, but I did this one crazy thing that we’re putting in an episode that I wrote for season three of Big Mouth.

In the (season two) episode at the golf course, a kid gets pantsed on a zip line, and that’s something that happened to a friend of a writer. So much of it is straight from real life, and that’s what we’re mining the most.

We talk to teenagers and we talk to people who study sexual development and health. It’s very helpful for that show because, while it’s disgusting and filthy, we also want it to be based in reality. We want to talk about things that kids right now talk about and feel and struggle with.

“Bojack” is often the same, but it’s a little more political. We do a lot of stuff that is based on stuff in the news. My first episode I wrote (for “Bojack”) was essentially about Bill Cosby before all of it broke. It broke before the episode came out because animation takes so long, but that one was based on what was essentially an industry secret.

There’s an episode in season four about guns. Part of that came from my personal experience of going to a shooting range a decade ago. I don’t like guns, but I found that when I shot one I was like “Oh, woah, I don’t mind this and I’m also good at this and that feels weird,” and that’s sort of where the Diane story came from. At Bojack, we take a lot of dark things that are happening in the world and try and put our spin on them and make them funny so that we don’t all want to kill ourselves all the time.

It’s really the best part of the job — feeling like you could think you had the most normal life without anything extraordinary to share, but that’s never true. Everyone has had entirely different experiences. Even though (both shows are) both crazy in their own ways, they’re grounded in some reality at the end of the day.

Q: What are working on right now?

A: I’ll be going back to “Big Mouth” in January. Personally, I’m working on a pilot I sold to FX while I’m on a little hiatus. I’m trying to get that done so that I’m not crazy when I go back to work. I love what I do, and it’s nice to exercise your own voice while you’re working on someone else in your day job.