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Alumni Spotlight

By Dale Churchward
Amit Bhalla ’05, showrunner of Hello Tomorrow! on Apple TV+, is grateful for his roots in UCC theatre.
Tell us a bit about yourself.

I presently work as a screenwriter, and had the good fortune to produce my first season of television this past year: Hello Tomorrow! is now available on Apple TV+. American actor Billy Crudup gives an incredible performance as Jack Billings, a lunar-timeshare salesman who believes that everyone deserves a better tomorrow. Jack's story is a wild ride, as the promises he's made begin to catch up with him. 

The experience of working on this project has been the most exhilarating and exhausting of my professional life; and, on the personal front, my wife and I had our first child, a week before we opened up the show's writing room: it's been an amazing year in too many ways. I'm grateful to have had an exceptionally rare opportunity with Hello Tomorrow!

My love of production began in the David Chu Theatre at UCC, hanging lights, and, later, running the lighting board. I began working in that theatre when I was 14. Much of the feeling cultivated by teachers in that space stays with me today. Here we are twenty years later: TV production might be on a comparatively massive scale; but when you have an opportunity to work with people you care about, and who share a vision, it sometimes feels like being backstage in the David Chu Theatre once again.

Could you expand on what it means to work as a co-writer, showrunner and producer for television?

Often, the showrunner is the creator of the show — that is, the person who wrote the pilot. My writing partner and I finished the script more than four years ago and spent a long time pushing our way up the development mountain. Once the show is in production, the showrunner oversees every part of the project, from hiring directors, designers and members of the cast, to running the writers’ room, and overseeing schedules and the editing process.  

Basically, you wake up in the morning to dozens of crises that threaten the whole production and, as you sort through all that, make it through to the next day’s problems. But there’s obviously immense satisfaction in every step.

What are you working on now?

We’re presently working on scripts for the first two episodes of season two; but my writing partner and I are still uncertain about the status of a second season. I’m also editing a feature film, most of which I shot before Hello Tomorrow! was picked up — so that project is on hold, for the moment. It’s still busy.

You left UCC a long time ago: any thoughts almost twenty years out?

It’s all moving a little too quickly, no?  

I understand you’re based in Brooklyn, NY, at present. When you have a chance to step away from TV and film projects — if that ever happens – what do you get up to?

I go to see old movies when I can. I play chess here and there. And I spend as much time as possible with my daughter. I also cook: cooking is the opposite of TV, since the rewards are immediate; the pace of making TV, on the other hand, is glacial.

Back to Hello Tomorrow! Among its qualities, the show has a specific look and a beautiful soundtrack. Anything you might add about aspects of production, or working with the cast?

TV is a deeply collaborative medium. We had the honour of a lifetime working with the actors involved. Billy Crudup led the cast courageously. The designers were brilliant. Mark Mothersbaugh, our composer, was able to find the perfect palette for the familiar, yet otherworldly balance we were always trying to strike. We were deeply involved in all aspects of the production, which is another great gift when you work as a showrunner.  

What’s beautiful about building a world like ours, from scratch, is that all collaborators have a deep, imaginative investment in the work. It’s one big, happy (and sometimes dysfunctional) family. And a TV operation is vast. You rely on every artist and craftsman to bring the best of their abilities: the designers and actors, of course, but also tailors, scenic painters, assistant directors, and accountants. That’s crucial if it’s going to work.
The word experience The UCC Difference