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Interviews
 
Richard Hatem
Saturday, Feb 16, 2013
Author: Will Plyler
 
Richard Hatem has a B.A in Film Production from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema and Television. He has written numerous screenplays including “Under Siege 2: Dark Territory” and “The Mothman Prophecies,” which he also co-produced. He created the ABC/Touchstone television series “Miracles” starring Skeet Ulrich and Angus MacFadyen, as well as the ABC series “The Gates.” He has written and produced episodes of Fox’s “Tru Calling” and “The Inside,” USA’s “The Dead Zone” and CW’s “Supernatural.” He also executive produced the 2006 Sci-Fi Channel mini-series event “The Lost Room.” Most recently, Richard was executive producer on CW’s “The Secret Circle” and currently serves as co-executive producer on NBC’s “Grimm.” Richard Hatem lives in Pasadena, California with his family. He is repped by WME.


You were born in Burbank, CA and grew up in Monterey Park. How interested were you as a child and then teen in the film & TV industry? I know you mentioned at the ATX Television Festival that the 1974-75 series “Kolchak” changed your life. How so?

As a child, I had no concept of what the TV/Film business was or what it entailed. None of my relatives were involved in it, so I didn’t grow up with any firsthand or even secondhand knowledge of what the business was like. Like most kids, I assumed it was really fun and exciting because the product was fun and exciting.

I’ve talked about “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” a lot, and I’ll happily talk about it some more because I think a lot of writers have a certain show or movie that hits them at a certain age and sets a future course of development.

But first, some context. When I was a kid I was pretty unhappy, and I’ve come to understand that it just had a lot to do with who I was. I had a good home, I was loved, so I’m not blaming anyone for this, my parents or anyone else. But something in my brain was amped up. I worried a lot, all the time. I felt like I had to take care of and regulate the emotions of the people in my life. So I became the kid who was always trying to make people laugh. This was a way I had of controlling people, or making me feel in control of people and their moods. If I could keep everyone laughing, then they weren’t crying, or angry, or depressed. If the adults around me were unhappy, then I felt unsafe, and that was the worst feeling in the world.

So I walked around feeling scared all the time. Scared in general. Just always worried that something was going to come out of nowhere and knock me off my feet. It was like I had post-traumatic stress disorder. “Okay, that’s very interesting Rich, but would mind talking about the fucking 'Night Stalker' already?” Well, okay, sure...

“The Night Stalker” was a show about a reporter who faced down a different, scary, deadly monster every week. He was the only one who knew or believed that the monster existed. He figured out their secret weak spot -- “the only way to kill a vampire, werewolf, Spanish Moss Monster, headless motorcycle ghost is...” And then he would go out in the middle of the night to some dark scary place, all alone, and face down the monster. AND THEN HE WOULD FUCKING KILL IT. He didn’t reason with it or arrest it. He didn’t worry about being brought down to the monster’s level by using murder as a solution. He was always scared, but he always won.

For a while, as an eight year-old, I wanted to be a monster hunter when I grew up. But even then, I felt on some deeper level that it would ultimately be more satisfying to invent stories about killing monsters. I thought about it all the time. You know how when you’re a teenager and you fall in love for the first time, and it’s kind of literally all you think about, day and night? This is how I was from early childhood. Just always thinking about something else that made me feel better then whatever my default feelings were. Because my default feelings were awful, so my brain just whistled really loud and thought about something else so I could keep myself out of the cold, gritty sewer-pit of my fear. And the thing that worked the best was to think about episodes of “The Night Stalker” and imagine being in them, or melding them with elements of my own life, and pretending I was Kolchak, or Kolchak-esque, and imagining myself defeating the monsters. It was mental masturbation. It calmed me down and took the edge off. At least for a while. Then I’d have to do it again.

You were interested, at one time, in doing stand-up comedy. I assume it’s all connected with wanting to feel “safe” as you mentioned. So what did you do to pursue being a comic?

I was fascinated with people, like stand up comics, who could control entire roomfuls of strangers with comedy. They were lion tamers, and comedy was their whip and chair. I don’t think any other art form is more concerned with the absolute control of the consumer than comedy. As a genre, I think horror would be second, in whatever form: books, stories, TV or film. They both seek to elicit a very specific, visceral reaction from their audiences. Third is porn.

You also taught comedy traffic school for a few years. How did that (possibly) affect your writing and/or help even later with pitching & presentations? Or your approach to entertain an audience?

Performing comedy in nightclubs, and then later teaching comedy traffic school (where I actually got paid) was another way to face down a fear. For many years I sort of forced myself to do things that scared me, specifically things that involved my biggest goals: performing comedy or writing. Performing in any context was a challenge because I desperately wanted the attention, but the risk was huge because I also felt I needed to absolutely control the outcome, and when you’re onstage, you obviously can’t always do that. And losing control on such a scale was horrifying to me. Bombing at a comedy club would have felt like a public stoning, incredibly shaming. But I knew this was something I had to get past or get over – or at least come to terms with. So I forced myself to perform at every opportunity, and with each success I could further convince myself of my ability to control situations and thus be safe. What I didn’t realize was that with each failure I was learning something too – that it wasn’t the end of the world, and that I could survive.

You went to USC’s film school. What was your degree/major specifically and what was your experience like?

My first two years at USC were spent doing the general classes for a BA degree. Anthropology, journalism, English, that kind of stuff. I wasn’t accepted into the school of Cinema-Television (as it was then called) until my junior year. I majored in film production. Without going into a rant about USC Film School, let me just say this: I was required to take three different writing classes AND WAS NEVER TAUGHT SCREENPLAY STRUCTURE IN ANY OF THEM. That was knowledge they apparently felt only graduate students were entitled to. I know it sounds pathetic now, but in 1988, there weren’t 10,000 websites and books and blogs explaining how to write for movies and television. This was still secret knowledge. And even after devoting thousands of hours and tens of thousands of dollars to USC I was never taught the most basic elements of the craft. I hear it’s gotten better. I don’t see how it could have gotten much worse.

The only plus – and it’s a huge plus – is that I met Susan, my wife. And that never would have happened without USC, so for that – thank you.

I also met a lot of future friends. But to answer the unasked questioned – has my USC background ever led to a job? No. Not even close. No one in Hollywood cares where you went to school, or even if you went to school. It’s conversational fodder, but it never comes down to, “Well, we like them both, but one guy went to USC, so hire him.” Never.

In 1995, you and Matt Reeves co-wrote “Under Siege 2.” How did you guys get the job? What did you have to go through? What was the experience like and what did you take away from it in the end?

Just to be clear up front, we didn’t “get the job.” Nobody hired us to write “Under Siege 2: Dark Territory.” We wrote a spec action movie called “Dark Territory” that later sold to Warner Bros. and was then turned into “Under Siege 2.”

This goes back to 1989. Matt and I wanted to write a movie together but we didn’t have an idea. So we did what they tell you NEVER to do at places like USC film school: we went to Blockbuster and looked through the movies and used that to spark ideas. We are both huge fans of “Die Hard” and we were wishing we could write something as good. I think it was Matt who came up with the notion of “Die Hard on a Train.” Again, I can’t stress enough how much this sort of approach would be vilified and disavowed by every film school and writing class in existence. You’re supposed to “find your voice” and “tell a story only you can tell.” But we didn’t do that. Instead, we taught ourselves how to write a commercial Hollywood action-thriller, and I can’t overstate how much we learned and how crucial that education was to our future successes. It was not a cynical undertaking. We did it because we wanted to write a movie every bit as good as “Die Hard.” So we rented “Die Hard” on VHS and watched it and paused after every single scene and wrote down what happened in that scene. We then a reversed engineered an outline of the movie, and created a sort of template against which to compare our own story. We spent a year crafting the best, most loving “Die Hard”-style action script we possibly could. And when we finally sent it out, the reaction was great. Absolutely no one took us to task. A lot of studios were looking for “Die Hard”-style scripts. Warner Bros. did “Under Siege” which was “Die Hard on a Battleship.” Our script was briefly considered for “Die Hard 3,” but ultimately was purchased as a spec. Ultimately, Matt and I were glad the script sold and were extremely grateful for the money and the recognition. The real joke was, we always said that the movie was about a regular guy holding his ground against a team of terrorists (just like “Die Hard”), and that it was NOT about “twelve terrorists who pick the wrong train to hi-jack.” In other words, we saw it as a Harrison Ford movie, not a Steven Seagal movie. But that’s okay. Steven Seagal is still a big star all over the world and I still make a few dollars every year from that movie. So thank you, Steven.

In 2001, you were sent a feature script called “Miracles” written by Michael Petroni and Spyglass Entertainment was producing. The producers were looking to turn this into a TV series. You wrote the pilot and it got produced. Matt Reeves, a friend and fellow USC film student, came into to direct. Can you tell us a little bit about the experience of seeing your script get produced and what your experience was like on the show? What did you learn from doing this?

The development of “Miracles” and the experience of doing the show is something I’ve talked about a lot, most specifically in an interview included in the DVD set (available now at Amazon.com!). I’ll try to be brief and simply say it was one of the greatest experiences of my professional career. And the fact that Matt came on to direct the pilot was like winning some crazy double-jackpot. People talk about that pilot to this day as being one of the best ever made. He did an absolutely incredible job, and elevated the material to a ridiculous level, certainly more than it deserved. The series that followed, produced by me and David Greenwalt, is something that I’m incredibly proud of, and it holds up beautifully because it’s all about mystery and emotion. ABC, both the network and the studio, gave us a ton of support and let us do whatever we wanted and there isn’t a thing I’d change. The term “beginner’s luck” was invented for the experience I had on “Miracles.”

You wrote the 2002 feature film “The Mothman Prophecies,” which was based on the book by John Keel. How did this project come about? What were the challenges in adapting the book? And overall, what was your experience like?

I had just finished my first actual studio assignment, “The A-Team.” This was early 1997. (This was the first of many, many “A-Team” scripts, and my version bears no resemblance to the movie that came out in 2010.) Anyway, my agent was sending me various action scripts to possibly rewrite, or other TV adaptations to pitch, and I was burned-out on action and I really wanted to do something different.

I’ve always been into the paranormal and my favorite thing to do is read books about people who have had strange experiences: haunted houses, UFOs, etc. What I noticed was that the vast majority of people who have paranormal experiences never really come away with any answers. They just have this one odd occurrence that doesn’t really fit with anything else in their lives, and they get no closure or resolution or explanation. But in movies, they ALWAYS get an answer. They figure out that the ghost is a dead child who was murdered in the basement and they have to solve the mystery and set the spirit free, or whatever. Or they learn the legend of the monster and kill it (like “The Night Stalker”).

But I became obsessed with telling a story that explored what really happens when a person starts experiencing things they can’t explain. And, as so often happens, the universe helped out by shoving a newly re-printed edition of “The Mothman Prophecies” in front of me. I’d never read it, so I bought it, and I gotta say, it’s one of the scariest, funniest most fascinating things I’ve ever read. Most books about the paranormal are unbelievably dull reads. It’s like the authors deliberately write in a pseudo-scholarly fashion so that they’ll be taken seriously. Not John Keel. He’s the Hunter S. Thompson of paranormal reportage. And he’s ridiculously smart and well-read, so he just jumps from one story and odd fact or unknown bit of history to the next, and in the middle of it all is the story of his investigation into the strange events at Point Pleasant, WV in 1966-67. These events involved everything from UFO sightings to poltergeist activity to phantom phone calls to Men In Black. Everything up-to-and-including sightings of a flying red-eyed monster that became known as Mothman. Here’s what I found most fascinating about his book, and it’s the center of the adaptation I wrote: John Keel found that the harder he tried to figure out the “answer” to the all the phenomena he was hearing about and experiencing, the more elusive it became. It was as if the phenomena knew he was investigating it and began a sort of playful, seductive dance, luring him on but always staying just out of reach. In the end, it almost drove him crazy, and he felt afterwards that he had learned a key truth about the nature of paranormal phenomena: that it has a kind of awareness, and that our interest in it feeds it and gives it life. And I think it informed his decision to never take any of it too seriously ever again. (Keel had business cards printed up that said only, “John A. Keel: Expert on Absolutely Nothing.”)

I told my agent I was interested in optioning the book, which at the time was over 20 years old. I ended up spending $2,500.00 of my own money to get the book for one year. This meant I had 12 months to do whatever I could to “sell” the project as a feature film. At first, the plan was to pitch it to studios. But in preparing for the pitch, I ended up writing a thirty page outline. At that point my agent said, “How long would it take you to just write the script?” I said, “About a month.” He said, “Do it.” (This was October 1997.) So I did, and about six months later the script sold to Lakeshore Entertainment and was ultimately directed by Mark Pellington and released in January 2002. I’m happy with the finished product. I think it successfully conveys that sense of unease and surreal dread that was so central to the story. I obviously wish it had been more commercially successful. (It only made about $35 million domestically.) But it does have a sort of minor cult following, and there are a lot of people who really love the film, and for that I’m very grateful.

From 2003 to 2007 you worked on various shows from “Tru Calling” to “Supernatural” to even “Dead Zone.” You wrote anywhere from a couple of episodes to over 20 for the various series. In general, what was different about each writing staff and how the episodes were developed? What major differences did you notice between the shows? What were your experiences like overall and along those lines what was it like working on so many different shows? Did you have to make a lot of adjustments in how you worked for each one? Were the writers room dramatically different?

My career in television has been a little backwards because the first pilot I ever wrote (“Miracles”) was picked up to series. So I kind of started at the top. David Greenwalt (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel”) was brought on as show-runner. We got along great, and he really understood the heart of the show, so we had a great time, and we got really lucky with all our writers, so the production ran very smoothly. I made the erroneous assumption that all TV shows ran like “Miracles.” I was wrong.

Since then I’ve had the experience of running or co-running shows (“The Lost Room,” “The Gates,” “The Secret Circle”) and I’ve also worked for show-runners on shows like “Tru Calling,” “The Inside,” “Supernatural,” “The Dead Zone” and now “Grimm.” These experiences have run the gamut from good to great to awful, but the fact of the matter is that when you’re working on someone else’s show, your job isn’t to write the best episode of the show that’s ever been written. Your job is to give the show-runner what they want. Writing a script isn’t hard. Coming up with ideas and breaking stories isn’t hard. But getting in step with your show-runner can be very hard. Figuring out what your show-runner wants is most difficult when they’re not sure what they want, or if they’re not skilled at communicating what they want to their staff. This disconnect accounts for 90 percent of the misery experienced by any staff on any show in television.

So – why the disconnect? I think it’s because most show-runners are, first and foremost, writers. And they have spent most of their careers developing a very personal, interior, non-verbal sensibility of what works for them on the page and what doesn’t. So when they are reading drafts of their show written by other writers (or even seeing stories broken on the white-board in the writer’s room), they may have a general sense of dissatisfaction they can’t quite articulate. And this can lead to massive rewrites in which the show runner has to almost literally retell the story in their own words just to get a handle on what that story is. It’s almost as if they can’t really see it until they feel they have written it. When this happens, it eventually results in staffs who feel unappreciated and show-runners who feel over-worked and resentful. Welcome to the magical world of television writing!

You and Grant Scharbo created “The Gates” in 2010, which landed on ABC. How did you guys come up with the idea? What was it like writing the pilot? How tough of a sell was the project? What was development like? And how did you deal with the show being cancelled after twelve episodes?

Grant Scharbo and his wife Gina Matthews are a writer-producer team who develop shows under their company banner, Little Engine. They approached me in the summer of 2008 with the idea of a doing show set in a gated-community, and the hook was that this particular gated-community had a very dark secret: not everyone living there was human. The idea spawned from the feelings and questions people have when they see these private communities: what’s so special about them? What’s really going on in there? And why the gates? Usually when you get an idea, you manage to talk yourself out of it in about an hour as you realize all the roadblocks and logic problems, etc. But this was the opposite. The more we talked about it, the more fun we had and every idea seemed to give birth to another one. So we decided that instead of pitching it, Grant and I would write the pilot on spec. The writing process was very smooth and all three of us we’re really happy with the result, and we sold it to ABC in September. But when January rolled around, ABC didn’t pick us up to pilot, and for the time being the project seemed completely dead.

Then, in the fall of 2009, Fox Television Studios acquired the script and began a process of developing the show as a summer series for ABC under a financial model that involved securing foreign sales upfront, thereby skipping the “pilot” process and allowing us to go straight to a series order of thirteen episodes. And this is ultimately what happened.

“The Gates” was produced in Shreveport, Louisiana for about 75 percent of a typical network drama budget. Because we had a big cast and the show was set in an upscale gated-community, producing the show within our limited budget was always a severe challenge. Then, when you layer-in the supernatural elements (make-up, special effects, stunts, CGI and animals) it became almost impossible. These challenges took a toll on everyone. But, in spite of everything, we produced what I think is a great show which still has a world-wide following. I get e-mails and tweets everyday from all over the world asking if there will be another season, but the show just never got the ratings it needed for ABC to renew it. We knew after the third or fourth airing that our days were numbered, and by the time we wrapped and were airing our eighth or ninth episode, no one expected the show to come back. It’s very difficult to be producing the final episodes of a show you know is certain to be cancelled. You don’t stop caring because the show is still a living, breathing thing, and you’re working with the cast and crew everyday, and everyone is still doing their best. But every week the ratings come in, and the news isn’t good, and bit-by-bit people stop talking about buying a house near the set or changing vacation plans to accommodate a second season. And pretty soon people are taking meeting on other projects and you have to face the fact that this experience, for better or worse, is coming to end. It’s tough, but in my career, it’s been the rule, not the exception.

You are currently working on “Grimm” as a writer and consulting producer. What is your role like as consulting producer versus say executive producer? How big is the writing staff? How are episodes assigned to writers? How stories broken? Is there wiggle room for changing the storylines and going in a different direction as the season progresses?

“Grimm” is the exception. I didn’t create the show, and I was brought on halfway through the first year. But it’s been a hit for NBC pretty much from day one, and at the time of this writing is poised to be picked up for a third season. I’ve been here for 13 months, making it the longest time I’ve been continuously employed on one show in my entire career. Again, this is not necessarily common. Many TV writers land on a long-running show and stay there for years, rising through the ranks. I’ve either been on short-lived shows, or in the case of “Supernatural,” just not asked back.

“Grimm” is a great example of a well-run show. The show-runners, Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt, have a clear idea of what the show is and where it’s going. The writers I work with every day (Alan DiFiore, Dan Fesman, Akela Cooper, Spiro Skentzos and Sean Calder) are all fun, talented people, and we have a blast coming up with the stories. Our writer’s room is very traditional in form and function. We all break the episodes scene-by-scene as a group. Script assignments go in descending order of title. We work our way through the batting order, then start at the top again. Jim and David write a few more than everyone else, usually doing two-part episodes and the beginning and end of the season, and a handful throughout the middle. And to specifically answer your question – yes – there is definitely wiggle room throughout the season to make adjustments in terms of storylines, etc. In fact, this year we’ve had to write around cast availabilities due to pregnancy and a few ill-timed injuries.

What’s a typical writing day like for you on your own or even on staff for a series? Do you write on a strict schedule? Is there a time frame you try to fill each day? Or page count you try to reach?

My daily workload is totally dependent upon the demands of the particular job I’m doing at the time. For instance, at “Grimm,” if I’m writing an episode, I’ll be actually writing everyday for maybe three weeks – doing the outline and then the actual script. But in between my own episodes, I’ll either be helping out the room putting story beats on the board for whatever episode is being broken, or I might be doing rewrites on scripts written by freelancers, or I might be doing not much of anything once the season starts to wind down.

When I’m working on a pilot and I’m setting my own pace I’ll typically “work” for four to five hours a day, usually from around 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. I’m not a late-night writer, and I’m also not an obsessive 10-12 hour a day writer. I tend to write fast and not agonize too much over it. I’m not saying I’m lazy or I don’t care. But there is often a dynamic that writers get into where they get stuck on a scene or a line or even a word and they will spend hours going back and forth over it and somewhere deep in their soul a voice is telling them that this scene or line or word is going to make the difference between the show getting picked up or not. I used to be like this. And over time I learned that this simply is never the case.

Writing for television is collaborative, even if you’re writing your own pilot. The producer has ideas, the studio has ideas, the network has ideas, and all of these have to be listened to and considered and in most cases incorporated to some degree. If you refuse all input on principle simply because it’s coming from outside your own head, you shouldn’t be writing for television. The most successful way to write for television is to truly understand that the studio and network are your partners and have as much at stake in the show getting picked up and being successful as you do. That doesn’t mean you should take every note unconditionally, but you have to get good at hearing what we call “the note behind the note.” For instance, if the network says they want the script to have more action, they may actually be responding to an overall lack of tension in the script, which might really be more of a character problem or even a structural problem. In any case, you need to be open to the fact that a problem of some kind likely exists, and it’s up to you to fix it. If you just write off “more action” as a “stupid network note” you miss the whole point and – unlike fussing over that scene or line or word – here, you actually do reduce your chances of getting your show on the air.

I’ve talked with screenwriters over the years and they usually note talking with their agent fairly regularly about meetings, pitches, assignments, etc. Since feature assignments might typically last for just a few months or even a few weeks (on a rewrite or polish) and they are quickly looking for work once again, my question is, what is your relationship like with your agent since you are on TV shows for longer periods of time than typically a screenwriter is on a film? And what things would a TV agent negotiate for you that say a feature agent wouldn’t be dealing with? What does your agent fight for so to speak?

Communicating with an agent (or manager) is -- in my opinion -- mostly based on the personality of the writer. For the vast majority of writers, the breadth of what an agent can really do for you is somewhat narrow. They can't "get you on a show." You can't call your agent and say "get me staffed on Mad Men” and honestly expect that to happen unless there's already a 90 percent likelihood that it would have happened anyway. Along the same lines, you can't write a feature spec and then tell your agent "sell this for a million dollars." An agent can't "make" a network buy your pilot. Agents aren't genies, and they're not some kind of Hollywood ninjas, sneaking around and making the impossible happen. When you see giants like J.J. Abrams, David E. Kelly or Joss Whedon get their shows cancelled (or not even picked up), you have to ask yourself -- how did that happen? Couldn't their agent do something about it? I mean, for God sake, it's J.J.! And the answer ultimately is, “No.” There have been cases where a personal phone call from a top guy at an agency to a top guy at a network has made a difference. But those are the exceptions, not the rule. Studios buy and make the TV shows and movies they want to, and -- especially nowadays -- agents aren't in the driver's seat when those decisions get made.

I'm taking a long time to say a fairly simple thing: there's only so much an agent can do. With that in mind, does anyone really need to talk to their agent every day? No. Not for business. If you're talking to them every day, it's because you need a level of reassurance that those conversations give you. Or maybe you and your agent are genuine buddies and you're talking about sports or wives or kids or whatever. Business-wise, communication with agents tends to be cyclical, especially in the world of television. There's "staffing season" in the spring (March through May) when a lot of shows meet with writers in anticipation of building a staff for a new show, or adding new writers to an existing show. During this time, you might need to be on the phone with your agent every day -- or every few days -- depending on how many meetings you're having. It's typical to check in and report how you think the meeting went. And the agent will always follow up with whoever you met with to get a read on the likelihood of you getting that particular job. If you're lucky enough to have two or three shows that want to hire you, your agent becomes even more crucial in both advising you on which show you should choose and then negotiating your deal. Once you're on a show, you really don't need a ton of conversations with your agent about that show, unless there's trouble.

Some people use their agents as an envoy, a sort of intermediary between themselves and their employers. But really, to me that's like sitting at the dinner table and telling your kid, "Ask your mother to pass the salt." You should strive for a relationship of openness and honestly with your show runner or studio executive or creative development executive or whatever. But hey -- dysfunctional relationships and people abound in Hollywood, and openness and honesty isn't always what you get. So if you smell smoke and think there's fire, sometimes it's best to call your agent and say, "Find out if my boss likes me or not." It's kind of like being the 7th grade and asking your friend, "Find out if that girl likes me." It's not ideal, but sometimes it's the only way.

In addition to your writing you also teach a TV writing class at UCLA for their extension program. Can you tell us what the class is like? What is the goal for students? And what are the topics you cover?

The class I teach through UCLA Extension is called “The Anatomy of a Pilot” and it is a very introductory, beginner-level class in learning about the business of television and the basics of TV storytelling. Each student pitches two ideas and the class as a group selects the one they like the best, and that is the one the student pursues. The student then writes what I call a concept document, just a short three-page breakdown of their show: the main concept, the characters and how it might progress as a series. Along the way we discuss the basic building blocks of pilot scripts in particular; the business of television and trends that have influenced the last few decades of shows, the differences between cable and network, plus a million other things.

My favorite thing about the class is discovering that every student has their own “Night Stalker.” Every student has a show that saved their life, and it’s that experience that has directly or indirectly led them to my class and eventually perhaps a career in writing for television. The emotional connection these people feel to the shows that impacted them as viewers is very strong, and it’s this that fuels writers through all those difficult years of learning the craft and facing rejection. But it’s the thing that binds us together. And really, there’s nothing better than meeting the students on the first night of class and suddenly one guy is singing the entire opening theme song to “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” -- and then ten others start to join in. And suddenly you understand why television is the most powerful and popular entertainment medium in the world.

 


 

 

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