Last Friday Questions of the year. I hope I do them justice.
Brian starts us off:
Ken - what do you think of Homeland and The Last Resort? I heard that Homeland was renewed up for another season, but that Last Resort was cancelled.
I love HOMELAND. Absolutely riveting television. And Claire Danes & Damian Lewis are extraordinary together. That’s not a surprise. What is is Mandy Patinkin. Usually I can do about five minutes. He makes Al Pacino seem understated. But in this show he’s so controlled. You can’t take your eyes off him. He’s finally learned that less is more, and I hope the result is an Emmy (although I worry about his acceptance speech).
Also, HOMELAND has one of my favorite writers on its excellent staff – Meredith Stiehm.
As for LAST RESORT, I loved the pilot, but the series never lived up to it. In fairness, I don’t know how you sustain that premise. But as I’ve said here before, they should rethink it as a movie.
Lou H wonders:
When NBC bought your pilot and then killed the project, were you allowed to shop it to anyone else?
Usually you can. And ironically, that particular pilot was first sold to Fox. They ultimately passed saying it felt too much like an NBC show. When one of the Fox executives moved over to NBC she remembered and liked the project and bought it again. Thank you, Jane!
Have you ever been given notes (from anyone) that make perfect sense and would likely improve the screenplay/teleplay/book but are not necessarily in line with the current tone nor do they fit in directly with your writing style? What happens in such a situation?
Yes, that has happened on numerous occasions. I just politely tell the person those are great notes but that’s not the story we’re telling. And sometimes their story is equally valid but we’re just as happy with the one we chose. Often we've already considered their story path and decided for whatever reason to discard it. If their story is considerably better however, we generally change it. Our motto has always been: Best idea wins.
The Comic Scholar queries:
When a writer in television uses a pseudonym, do people usually address them by their real name or the pseudonym? Also, on contracts which name do they sign?
They’re addressed by their real names and sign all legal contracts with their real names. Writers take pseudonyms if they hate the final product but still want to receive the royalties they’re entitled to.
My two favorite pseudonym stories: Larry Gelbart hated what Blake Edwards did to his script of ROUGH CUT. When he turned in his draft I asked what Blake thought and he said, "Blake loved it up to and including the title page." So Larry took the pseudonym Francis Burns. In other words -- Frank Burns.
My other favorite is from Paul Rudnick. He came up with the idea for SISTER ACT and wrote the first nine or twenty drafts. After he left, every writer in Hollywood took a stab at it. He was ultimately not pleased with the result. As this was a Disney movie he wanted his pseudonym to be “Goofy.” The studio balked for some reason.
A common pseudonym for some reason is Alan Smithee. If you see that guy wrote or directed anything you might want to think about seeing something else. Anything else.
What’s your question? Please leave it in the comments section. As always, many thanks, and I’ll try to get to as many as I can.