THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.
In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.
Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.
by Larry Brody
Age and I went toe to toe a couple of weeks ago.
The battlefield was a writing workshop here at Cloud Creek Ranch. Back in the day, I was a television writer and producer on such series as Star Trek: Voyager; Walker, Texas Ranger; Diagnosis Murder; Mike Hammer; The Fall Guy and many more.
It was a good ride until Hollywood’s refusal to never go below the surface of anything got me so far down that I didn’t even know there was an up anymore.
In the name of leading lives that felt real through and through, my wife Gwen the Beautiful and I moved from the hills of Malibu to the hills of the Ozarks. But I haven’t left showbiz completely behind.
Through Cloud Creek Institute For The Arts I do my best to give back the help I got when I first started by teaching new writers and film and video makers all I know about the craft. And trying to throw in a more humanistic perspective so this new generation will judge itself by more than the size of its houses and the make of its cars.
Although I do most of my teaching online, this year Gwen and I decided to have a workshop right here, in Paradise.
I planned “Secrets of the Writers Room” as a three day weekend that would simulate the hard-driving, stressful, but often wonderfully creative daily activity of writers working in television. The idea was to prepare six new writers so that when they got their chance at the real thing they’d be able to rise to the occasion instead of being overwhelmed.
Demand for the workshop was so great that we ended up with thirteen students, and instead of staying for three days several of them stayed for six. A few spent their nights at the nearby Paradise Motel, but most slept in one of the three beds in the single-wide trailer we call the Annex, or on its living room floor. One student even brought a tent to pitch outside.
Before they got here, I gave the young men and women the basic premise for a Web-TV series and planned on acclimating them to the job by taking them through the twists and turns of meetings, creating bogus crises, and in general being as arbitrary and capricious as possible—just like most of the TV execs I’ve known.
But the students were, in a word, glorious. By the time they arrived they’d already put so much work into the project that I could only gape in awe. They’d shown my concept so much respect that the only way I could respond was by respecting them.
Instead of making a game of the weekend, I picked up on the idealism and dedication I felt all around me, and we knuckled down to the true task—coming up with twelve episodes that would be better than anything we’d ever seen before on the tube.
We worked from breakfast through lunch and dinner to whenever everyone crashed off to sleep. Together we came up with ideas none of us could’ve thought of alone, and by time everyone left the entire show was planned in detail…and the students already had finished five scripts.
When I ran TV shows for a living, twelve hour workdays and seven-day workweeks were my norm. And every morning I awoke bright and ready for more.
This time around, after the last student left I could barely raise my chin off the ground. Instead of talking, I stuttered. Instead of reading, I stared at blurred pages. The clean-up felt like a nightmare. I’m sure I did the whole thing in my sleep.
I’m more aware of my passing years than ever before, and that leaves me only one option. To hurry and schedule another of these monsters before it’s too late.
Because the way I see it, Hollywood and Paradise came together and made the best of all possible worlds. I learned as much as I taught and felt inspired the whole time.
And life wouldn’t be worth living if I couldn’t look forward to doing just that all over again.