Wednesday, January 9, 2019

10 Years of Bitter Posts - Dan Callahan and Robert Levine interviews

Over the years I've done a number of interviews (all of them conveniently linked on the side of the blog,) but the first two deep-dive interviews I did will always remain closest to my heart. Part of this is because it was nice to have these interview subjects indulge me for what often came out to an hour and a half chat. The result of that longer talk was an ability to go further in depth about topics that often get skimmed past in shorter interviews.

With Dan Callahan, I knew I had a compelling opportunity. In 2008, Dan saw his first produced feature script hit theaters, a late summer arrival entitled COLLEGE. If you remember this movie you might not remember it fondly - it only scored a 6% on Rotten Tomatoes and opened at #15 in the box office. Its entire domestic gross was less than $5M.

I spoke to Dan nearly a year after this, so he was under no illusions about the film or its reputation. One pre-interview request I had was that I wanted to read the draft that sold so that I could compare it to the film. Would it be possible to see where this film went so wrong? Or was it a case of every failing of the film already being deep in its DNA?

To spare you the suspense, the script - written with Dan's co-writer Adam Ellison - was quite a bit better. Had it been shot as is, it probably would have been a decent film. Not a monster hit, but one that its target audience would probably remember fondly. And so with Dan, I tried to trace all the ways that bad choices turned his earnest teen comedy into... something less.

Part 1 - The Writing Process
Part 2 - Getting an Agent and Selling the Script
Part 3 - Notes, Rewriting, Casting, and SUPERBAD
Part 4 - More Rewrites
Part 5 - Release and Reaction

Some time after that, I interviewed Robert Levine, then an Executive Story Editor and writer on HUMAN TARGET. Since our interview, Robert has become the creator and showrunner of the successful Starz series BLACK SAILS. At the time, I was interested in talking to Robert because he was a writer who came up through the assistant ranks.

There are a lot of writers who break into TV via means that seem less achievable - they had a couple unproduced feature sales and then someone bought their pilot, they sold their novel for adaptation, they had a career as a doctor and became a writer/consultant on a medical show. Robert's path seemed more achievable - get in as an assistant and figure out how to make yourself valuable to the show. In our chat we covered that, as well as some specific questions about JERICHO, which was his first show as a staff writer.

Part 1 - Climbing the ladder as a writers' assistant
Part 2 - Working on JERICHO's first season
Part 3 - Writing season two of JERICHO
Part 4 - Writing the JERICHO comic book and getting an agent
Part 5 - Writing for HUMAN TARGET

Please give these a look. I sometimes worry that since they're so far back in the archives, newer readers haven't seen them.

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