Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tuesday Talkback: They did what?

So this week I'm trying to put the focus on some of the more humble beginnings of many people in the industry. Like I said yesterday, often a writer will be so focused on doing something monumental with their work that they bite off more than they can chew. A lot of writers, directors and actors cut their teeth on less groundbreaking work before delivering something with more substantial impact.

Of course, this means that sometimes if you run across some of these people "on the way up," it's always distracting when they later become acclaimed. For instance, before she was one of the major female box-office draws in the late 90s, Ashley Judd had a recurring role on Star Trek: The Next Generation as an engineering ensign. Even when her career was hot and she was "movie star Ashley Judd," I couldn't keep from thinking "Hey! It's Ensign Lefler!"

So for today's Talkback I was trying to come up with some writer-related examples of the same - an instance where I judged a writer on their early work and was pleasantly surprised by a later creation. The problem is that I'm coming up rather short. It's the advantage writers have of being mostly invisible. When you notice them, it's usually because they're doing something really good (unless you're Akiva Goldsman) and THAT becomes your impression of them - even if you later find inferior works.

But maybe some of you guys are more plugged in than I am. Has there ever been a time that a movie or TV show so blew you away that you were shocked to learn the writer behind it? And please share which early work of theirs set the bar so low.


  1. I'm not sure if this counts, but I used to rent/go see Christopher Nolan films because I wanted something "different." I am so, so, so proud of him today, but I always think back to the days when I used to rent his movies on VHS.

  2. David S. Goyer first script was the Van Damme movie DEATH WARRANT. Then over the course of the next 7 years in his career he wrote a slew of B-movies for Full Moon Entertainment.

    Then, of course, he went on to write: BLADE, BATMAN BEGINS, JUMPER... maybe not all are great, but better then B-movies.

  3. I was surprised that John Patrick Shanley (he of "Doubt") had written the supremely awful "January Man" back in the '80s, but after looking him up, I saw that he had written the well-received "Moonstruck" prior to "January Man", so I guess it wasn't really a "before they were famous" kind of thing.

  4. I don't know who else watched the ill-fated Dana Carvey Show back in '96, canceled after a mere seven episodes, but it featured the early works of a ridiculous writing dream team. Charlie Kaufman, Dave Chappelle, Steve Carell, Louis C.K., Stephen Colbert, Robert Smigel, Jon Glaser, Dino Stamatopoulos, Bill Chott, not to mention Dana Carvey.

    You couldn't afford any three of these writers on the same show nowadays.

  5. I think most people already know about these examples, but Shawn Ryan worked on NASH BRIDGES before he went on to create THE SHIELD. And Damon Lindelof worked on NASH BRIDGES and CROSSING JORDAN before LOST.