Further proof that animation of any kind no longer is a kiddy format. And surprising news that somebody who could get this made in, you know, “Hollywood” actually understands mature relationships, Timothy Reckart’s HEAD OVER HEELS makes this a smiley, optimistic day.
Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are
George R.R. Martin (GAME OF THRONES) has signed an overall deal with HBO to continue on THRONES and also develop and produce new series. (We admit it. We love this guy. Everything he writes perfectly justifies our, you know, paranoia worldview.)
Want to write an animated TV series based on FarmVille? (We didn’t think so, but if you do, have your peeps get in touch with Brett Ratner’s peeps cuz he’s all gung-ho about such a project and doesn’t have a writer – or network – for it yet.)
Justin Herber & Adam Hoff (no credits, which is cool) are writing the pilot for THE EDGE, a thriller type drama about dark goings-on at a hot financial institution for USA. (Music legend John Legend looks like the guy who made the deal…but he doesn’t have any TV credits either, does he?)
Frank Spotnitz (THE X-FILES) is adapting Philip K. Dick’s muy heavy novel The Man in the High Castle into a Syfy TV film. (We know Frank’s a Big Writing Gun, but how do you get good science fiction past the Syfy Gateskeepers of Crap? Even with Ridley Scott on board to produce?)
I moved to L.A. in the spring of 1968. I was 23 years old, had had half a dozen short stories published in various science fiction and fantasy magazines, a deal with Ace Books for a science fiction novel, and so many hopes and dreams that my heart pounded excitedly all day and all night, no matter what my body was – or wasn’t – doing.
My first deal in L.A. was with a production company headquartered at MGM. The late and legendary Sam Katzman (he may not have been great, but he sure as hell was fascinating), read the only spec script I’ve ever written in my life and promptly optioned a TV series idea I’d written up. Even better, the same deal made me the co-writer of a feature film he was planning. I would be working with the writer-director, Arthur Dreifuss, on the script.
I’d been in sunny Southern California for all of 3 months.
Arthur already had written a detailed outline. I did all the writing on the screenplay. It took 3 weeks, after which I joined the WGAw, sat back, and said, “Now what?”
“Now you go to work in television,” my agent, Silvia Hirsch (of the William Morris Agency) told me, and she set up a shitload of meetings with television people who never would have looked in my direction if I hadn’t already had the film under my belt.
The first of the TV people to hire me (although far from the first to meet with me) was Bill Blinn. Bill was 7 years older than I was and at the time was the entire writing staff of a series called HERE COME THE BRIDES. He wasn’t the only writer for the show, just the only one who got a weekly salary. Everyone else was freelance, chosen by the producers and Bill.
And, that summer, Bill and the producers chose me. My first assignment never made it into teleplay. I was cut off at story, for which I was paid 1/3 of the total fee. My second assignment went better. I wrote the story and 2 drafts, and it went on the air to great applause at the then quite small Brody household.
I stopped clapping pretty early on, though, and when the show was over I barely recognized it. The shape of the tale was the same, but not one line of dialog was mine. It was all Bill’s. If I said I despaired, I’d be lying. Larry Brody didn’t work that way in those days. Instead I was just plain pissed off. Hated the show. Hated my agent for putting me together with it.
Most of all I hated Bill Blinn. Hell, why not? He must have hated me too, right? Or my work, which to me in those days was the same thing. Why else would he have rewritten it?
For the next week I stayed awake nights engineering gruesome deaths for Mr. Blinn.
And then he called me and asked me to write another episode. Actually, he said, “you’ll be rewriting it. We bought it from our production supervisor. He’s a good production supervisor, but he’s not a writer. You are, though, so what do you say?”
What could I say? Bill was asking me to rewrite someone else because he didn’t have the time to himself. He loved my work after all! He loved me! Of course I took the gig…
And when I was done, Bill told me how much he liked the rewrite. And then instead of rewriting all of my version, he rewrote most of it and put it on the air.
Over the years, Bill went on to create, write, story edit, or produce a ton of television, including THE INTERNS, THE NEW LAND, THE ROOKIES, STARSKY AND HUTCH, EIGHT IS ENOUGH, FAME, and PENNSACOLA. He also wrote and supervised the writing of a little miniseries called ROOTS, and wrote the original version of BRIAN’S SONG. Oh, and the Prince film, PURPLE RAIN. Along the way, he won the Humanitas Prize for ROOTS, the Writers Guild Award for THE BOYS NEXT DOOR, Emmys for BRIAN’S SONG and ROOTS, the Peabody Award for BRIAN’S SONG, and the Laurel Award for TV Writing Achievement for his whole damn career.
I worked on several of the above projects with my distinguished friend, but then I started getting my own story editor and producer gigs and moved on, to a place not quite as distinguished as his, but hell, I liked where I was…and knew I wouldn’t have been there without him.
See, the way Bill taught me was by not even trying to teach me. By treating me the way he would treat any other “good writer.” The way he saw it, he could fix mistake another good writer made, and as soon as I realized that I was able to learn from what he did. I’d see the changes he had made, character, dialog, and storywise, in my work, in each script. And I’d look closer and think and think and think until I figured out why he made those changes.
And the next time I wrote anything for him I’d make sure he wouldn’t have to make any of the same kinds of changes again. It became a kind of game (a death match, maybe, because he still pissed me off) for me to anticipate what Bill would do in any one scene and head him off by going that way by myself. After a few years, I didn’t have to deliberately second-guess him anymore. Thinking the way he did just became natural. It became the way I thought as well.
I really enjoyed working with him toward the end there, before I started producing. Because it felt so good to no longer be angry. To be able to relax and let what I’d learned flow out my fingers to the keys.
Which brings us to the main part of this post, all the above merely being an introduction to the following video interview in which a fine writer and even finer man gives us some insight into both those elements of his being.