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Bricks of Breaking In: 'The Flash' Writer Eric Wallace on Adaptability

May 3, 2024
10 min read time

Known as a go-to writer for genre, showrunner Eric Wallace’s journey into television started as a 6-year-old really into horror movies, Godzilla and Frankenstein. That passion has taken him from fun childhood filmmaking to show running. Wallace recalled, “I started to obsessively study horror movies and when I was twelve I co-wrote my first screenplay on notebook paper.”

TV writing was a pursuit that almost didn’t happen as even though Wallace enjoyed digging into horror and creating short films, writing wasn’t something he took seriously. He revealed, “I just kept doing this, not really thinking much about it. Like oh, this is fun.”

Wallace was studying music in college when a strong outside influence finally got him to see what many already knew. Wallace explained,“My best friend said to me, ‘Dude, what’s wrong with you? You know more about movies than any of us. You study them constantly. You write them in your notebook. You should study screenwriting and be a filmmaker.’” 

He continued, “I went no. That’s outrageous.”

Wallace gave screenwriting a chance, taking an accelerated summer session screenwriting class at the University of Texas in Austin. Five days a week for six weeks Wallace would go home from class, write five pages, and turn it in.

According to Wallace, “By the end of that week, I said to myself, there’s something to this and by the end of the summer, the bug had officially bitten me.”

Read More: Dune Screenwriter Eric Roth on Mastering Any Genre lk;,.m

Breaking In

Once in Los Angeles, Wallace worked as an assistant and PA for low-budget filmmakers and films including Roger Corman. After exclusively writing screenplays in college, Wallace found himself writing outlines and treatments for non-existent episodes of shows he wanted to write for.

FD Eric Wallace Photo(1)

It was a long time writing and working behind the scenes before Wallace got his first break as a writer. He detailed, “It took seven years of writing non-stop to get to the place where I finally sold something. I had written probably eight screenplays on spec before then.”

Being open to opportunity had Wallace ready to jump when that first professional writing gig did arrive via a friend.

Wallace offered, “He said, ‘Hey, are you interested in writing a horror/vampire,’ and before he even got the word vampire out, I had already raised my hand. So I ended up writing a vampire movie for my friends who had finally gotten their first movie made and had formed a small production company. They paid me to do it. I couldn’t believe it. I was off to the races after seven years.”


Entertainment is an industry where a person can feel like they’ve broken in only to find themselves having to do so all over again. That was true for Wallace. He had sold a screenplay, but then years passed without selling anything else. He’d continued writing but hadn’t gotten any traction.

He noted, “Finally it looked like I was about to sell another script. When that fell apart I was so depressed. Again somebody in my life said to me, well, I’m working in television, and you’ve got an X-Files spec and a Doctor Who, why don’t you write a pilot and some spec scripts and try and get out there? So I did that.”

In the switch from features to TV, Wallace applied for writing programs. He got pretty far in all of them with the same material. He related, “I got the call from Warner Bros. and they sat down and were like hey, we like your material. Right at the same time, I got a job as an assistant on Eureka, all that happened all in six months after having been in LA for ten years at that point.”

After months of getting coffee and taking notes, Wallace’s boss at Eureka recognized his hard work and inquired about what Wallace wanted to do in the industry. Did he want to write?

Wallace shared, “I said, ‘Yes, I do.’ He was like, do you have any spec, and before he could finish the word spec scripts I had 3 or 4 to show to him and he read my spec pilot. He was like, oh my God, this is fantastic. We want you to write and produce the webisodes for us.” 

The cast of 'Eureka' looking at a watch in a promo photo; Finding Your Lane With 'The Flash' Showrunner Eric Wallace


Those webisodes landed Wallace an opportunity to write an episode in season two of Eureka. The episode went over well. Everyone doubted the show would return for another season, so it seemed to be one and done, earning him a great recommendation, but no longevity. That was until they got lucky. The show got a season three and Wallace was promoted to staff writer.

He declared, “I was just happy to have my first staff writing gig. Then somehow the show kept going and they kept bringing me back. We ended up running five seasons. I started as a writers’ assistant and I left as an executive story editor. It’s what you dream of, getting lucky enough to learn the process on a show that allows you to grow, but also a show that runs long enough that you have the opportunity to grow.” 

Now as a showrunner himself, Wallace has certain things he looks for when hiring for his room

He asserted, "It’s two things. The page and the person. On the page, I’m not expecting a staff writing sample or a lower-level staffer sample to have a masterpiece pilot that’s as good as someone who’s been doing it for 30 years. What I’m looking for is, given the level that they are at, is this very good.” 

Read More: FBI: International Writer Kristina Thomas on Trusting the Process

In a sample for a genre show, Wallace is on watch for someone who can write action, mixed with character, but build a world at the same time. He advised writers to stand out by using Jim Cameron's exposition.

He conveyed, “The example I always use is exposition on the run between Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor as they are being chased by the Terminator in the first Terminator movie. As he’s driving his car and they’re on the run for their lives, getting shot at, he is expo dumping all the things Sarah Connor needs to know to stay alive, but it’s so exciting because it’s happening in the middle of a chase scene. That’s one of the biggest things I specifically look for in everybody’s script.”

Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) sitting next to a dog in a jeep in 'Terminator'

Support System

The decision to pursue a writing career can mean opening the door to a challenging path. Wallace pointed out, “The biggest obstacle is the people in your life who don’t believe in you and support your dream.”

He added, “When you make this decision to go full force into I’m going to be a writer, I’m going to spend the next several years trying to break through, you’re immediately going to have allies and adversaries. You need to identify which ones are which. The allies, you embrace them fully and surround you with their love and support. The adversaries, you must remove from your life cold turkey.” 

Toxic relationships can get you questioning your pursuits. Is it worth it? Am I good enough? Wallace stressed, “You have to clear your head and get into a headspace that protects the artist within you. That is the hardest thing, I think, to learn. Especially when you’re trying to eat and you’re not making ends meet. You have to find a way and that’s when your support network comes in to help you. The people who say, it’s okay. We got your back on this.”

He emphasized, “Nobody succeeds alone. That is this myth that needs to be torn down. Everybody succeeds because of the people around them who support them.”

Barry Allen/The Flash (Grant Gustin) in the season finale of 'The Flash,' Finding Your Lane With 'The Flash' Showrunner Eric Wallace

Being Adaptable

As Wallace was first coming up, a writer could get away with just doing one style of writing, like being a short story writer.

When mediums all went digital, that all changed. Wallace highly recommended, “Know two forms of writing inside-out. If you’re primarily a TV writer then it’s TV writing plus blank. And you can fill in the blank. It doesn’t matter, video games, short stories, audio dramas, features.”

Wallace credited this flexibility as what helped him survive lean times in his writing career. In between TV gigs, he wrote animation and video games and did an outline for a documentary for an IMAX movie. He encouraged, “Pick a lane, but pick a side lane. The more you can write in different styles and genres, the more opportunities you have to get paid as a writer when you’re in between gigs that are your true passions.”

Read More: Web Series vs. Traditional TV: Writing for the Digital Age

When you pick a lane, dive into it. Also know that assistant gigs, script coordinator jobs, and all those related jobs, are gold mine opportunities. Be okay with taking one of those jobs because they can lead to bigger things.

In his closing advice, Wallace imparted,"Just write is the main thing. The more you write, the more opportunities seem to just drop in your lap. It’s not a coincidence or anything like that.” 

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