On this edition of the 3rd & Fairfax, the official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, the guest is Rawson Marshall Thurber. He discusses his move from writing and directing comedies like Dodgeball and Central Intelligence (as well as directing We're the Millers) to writing and directing the big-budget action movie, Skyscraper.
Putting all the crassness of the weekend aside, I prefer to honor the memory of Neil Simon who passed away on Sunday at the age of 91. While I understand the wall-to-wall news coverage of John McCain, I find it unfortunate that when I saw Simon's death brought up on MSNBC, they gave it about 45 seconds. I'm absolutely fine with great attention being given to John McCain, and much of his work was far more substantive than a playwright's. But I might suggest that the joy and laughter and thoughtfulness that Neil Simon brought to the American culture over 50 years -- and which will continue for generations -- was no small matter.
I never met him, but I was lucky enough to be in the audience when the Writers Guild of America presented an evening of "Caesar's Writers" -- a panel discussion of the legendary writers on the TV series, Your Show of Shows and Caesar's Hours -- and Neil Simon was among them, along with his brother Danny, Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Larry Gelbart, Mel Tolkien (head writer for All in the Family), Aaron Ruben (who created Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.), Gary Belkin (longtime writer on The Carol Burnett Show and The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson), Sheldon Keller (who co-wrote, Movie, Movie with Larry Gelbart), and Sid Caesar. (Woody Allen was also one of the writers, but he didn't participate in the even in Los Angeles, but was at a similar one held in New York. It was one of the funniest evenings I've had in the theater, in large part because they were all not only trying to live up to one another, but the audience of their fellow-writers in the audience. An edited-down version of the evening is available on DVD here and highly recommended.
I also saw Neil Simon speak when I was UCLA grad school, and they gave him some award -- as if he needed another one, given that he has four Tony Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, the Kennedy Center Honor, four Writers Guild Awards -- along with the WGA Laurel Award for screenwriting -- and the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. And a Broadway theater is named for him. But he was gracious enough to come to UCLA for the award. One thing I recall him saying was how relentlessly he rewrote, and that whenever he saw a production of The Odd Couple, he'd see things that he could fix.
(Side note: The Odd Couple was inspired by the living condition of Simon's brother Danny who moved in with a divorced male friend.)
Simon wrote two autobiographies. The first, Rewrites, goes into his early life growing up, his starting out in TV comedy with his brother Danny, and his earliest and many of his biggest successes on Broadway, up through the death of his first and adored wife, Joan. The book is insightful, funny, open and rich. If you're interested in such things, you can get it here. The sequel, The Play Goes On, picks up with his subsequent plays, his Hollywood years, back to New York and numerous other marriages. It's not that it's bitter -- it's not -- but there's a lot of confusion and dissatisfaction that overwhelm the many positive areas of his life. It's admirably open and thoughtful, but I kept the first book for my shelves, and gave the second away.
Rather than recap his career, this article in the Washington Post does a solid job of it, along with expressing what was substantive and meaningful about it.
And here are 45 seconds when Neil Simon appeared on the TV series of The Odd Couple.
This guest on this week's 3rd and Fairfax podcast from the WGA is Christopher Lloyd -- no, not the actor, but the accomplished TV runner and showrunner whose career includes Modern Family, Frasier, Golden Girls and Wings, as well as co-writing the animated film, Flushed Away.
3rd and Fairfax, the official podcast from the Writers Guild of America, hits 100 today. This is their 100th podcast, and in honor of the occasion, the good folks there do what any top notch series does -- they have a clip show! And so, we have a "favorites" episode. So here, for the next hour-and-a-half (or thereabouts) we have a Best of show with the hosts' favorite moments interviewing TV and screenwriters writers. (They don't do a great job identifying Who's Who all the time, but enough of it is clear -- and the productions they're talking about is certainly clear -- and ultimately, it's the conversation that counts.)
On this week's, 3rd and Fairfax podcast from the Writers Guild, the guest is Aline Brosh McKenna, who wrote The Devil Wore Prada, We Bought a Zoo, 27 Dresses, Morning Glory, and the recent remake of Annie, as well as created the TV series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. So, it would seem that she has a bit to talk about. And somehow they fit it in the allotted time...
The celebrated writer Harlan Ellison passed away the other day at the age of 84. If you jump over to Mark Evanier's site, he has a couple of good pieces on him here and here. (And check back there in a few days, as well, because he's swamped now, but has some other stories he'll be posting.) However, there's also an excellent, long and detailed obituary that's really more of a personal remembrance of Ellison in the Chicago Tribune. You can read that here.
Among other things, I had no idea about him suing the makers of The Terminator (though him suing anybody doesn't remotely surprise me) and winning a settlement, which included adding an acknowledgement to him in the film's credits.
All the articles on his passing have one thing in common -- their conflict between praising a tremendous writer and wonderful man...and his profound curmudgeon who could be brutally harsh. One thing that writers did love him for is his unabashed support for writers against their mistreatment by publishers, studios, executives and pretty much anyone. He could get away with it because, being Harlan Ellison, he couldn't be any other way, but also being such a wonderful writer who worked in many different fields, he had no fear of being confrontational.
I only crossed paths with him a couple times, and he certainly was a unique fellow. One time was at Writers Guild retreat where he was one of the guest speakers. I remember his first line, even though it was from over two decades ago. "I'm a better writer than everyone in this room." (He probably was. But what a way to win over a crowd. He did eventually, but it took a while...)
The first time I came into contact with him was from a two-day seminar he lead when I was at UCLA grad school, getting my MFA in screenwriting. For Day 1, he got three famous sci-fi writers to discuss what a planet society could be like (the climate, landscape, people, politics…), and then that was put into a pamphlet. Then on Day 2, three other famous sci-fi writers discussed what stories could come from that. I recall they named the planet, “Medea: Harlan’s World.” I had the presence of mind to save my pamphlet – though like a fool, didn’t take many dozens – and got all those participants present to sign it. Those who participated in Part 1 but who weren't there were Poul Anderson, Larry Niven, Frederick Pohl, and Hal Clement. But the people who did sign my pamphlet were Ellison, Frank Herbert, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Silverberg, and Thomas Disch. If you don't read science fiction, you likely won't know these names -- though may know Frank Herbert, who wrote Dune. If you do read science fiction, you're likely agog. (What ultimately came from this pamphlet and seminar is a book with those short stories and others. You can read about it here.
Probably a couple decades later, I ran into him when I was working at Universal Pictures, and I had a rare treat – being able to impress Harlan Ellison. I told him that I had a copy of that pamphlet with all those signatures, and he was boggled. “That’s worth a lot of money, you know…” Just impressing Harlan Ellison may have been worth more.
On this week's edition of 3rd & Fairfax, the podcast from the Writers Guild of America, the guest is screenwriter Steven Rogers, who talks about his films which include Hope Floats and Love the Coopers, and whose most-recent movie is iTonya.
This week's 3rd & Fairfax podcast from the Writers Guild is a bit different from the others. I's a panel discussion form the "Sublime Primetime 2017" roundtable the WGA held with Emmy-winning and nominated writers shareing their behind-the-scenes stories. The participants include Steven Davis & Kelvin Yu (Bob’s Burgers), The Duffer Brothers -- Matt & Ross Duffer (Stranger Things), Jo Miller (Full Frontal with Samantha Bee), Gordon Smith (Better Call Saul), and Lena Waithe (Master of None). And the panel is moderated by Guild member Larry Wilmore (Black on the Air).
The guests on this week's 3rd & Fairfax podcast from the Writers Guild of America are screenwriters Liz Hannah and Josh Singer who co-wrote the acclaimed film, The Post. They discuss the script's origin, their uncommon collaboration, and working with Steven Spielberg. The screenplay recently was given the WGA's Paul Selvin Award, for "a script which best embodies the spirit of the constitutional and civil rights and liberties which are indispensable to the survival of free writers everywhere." Last year, Josh Singer won an Oscar for co-writing the screenplay of the Academy Award-winning Best Picture, Spotlight.
On this week's 3rd & Fairfax podcast from the Writers Guild of America, the guests are screenwriters Virgil Williams and writer-director Dee Rees who talk about their collaboration on the acclaimed Mudbound, nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, which currently streaming on Netflix.
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, is a regular columnist for the Writers Guild of America and was for the Huffington Post. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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