On this week’s episode of 3rd and Fairfax, the official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, the guest is screenwriter Tracey Scott Wilson whose credits include writing for Fosse/Verdon and the series The Americans. She talks about that and bringing the life and career of Aretha Franklin to the screen for the movie Respect.
On this week’s episode of 3rd and Fairfax, the official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, the guests are the team of screenwriters behind the epic feature film Dune: Jon Spaihts and Denis Villeneuve and Eric Roth. Between them, Spaihts wrote such films as Passengers, and co-wrote Dr. Strange and Prometheus; the film’s director Villeneuve wrote Maelstrom (and got an Oscar nomination for directing Arrival), and among his many credits, Roth won the Oscar for writing Forrest Gump, and has screenwriting Oscar nominations for co-writing A Star is Born (2019), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Munich, and The Insider. And got an Oscar nomination for Best Picture as one of the producers of Mank.
On this week’s episode of 3rd and Fairfax, the official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, the guest is Emmy-nominated Hacks co-creator/co-showrunner Jen Statsky, whose credits include The Good Place and Broad City. She talks about HBO Max’s breakout comedy series Hacks which received 15 Emmy nominations, including Best Comedy Series, as well as one for Best Writing to Ms. Statsky.
On this week’s episode of 3rd and Fairfax, the official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, the guest is the Emmy-nominated writer Steve Yockey, who developed the HBO Max series The Flight Attendant for which he is also the showrunner. He talks about the show and more, including the series Supernatural.
I saw someone refer to themselves as being "provaccination." That gave me the thought of a new word.
Someone who supports getting vaccinated -- a provaccateur.
On this week’s episode of 3rd and Fairfax, the official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, the guest is author and actress Justine Bateman who talks about making her screenwriting and directing feature debut with her new film Violet, which opened this past Friday. The movie explores the difference between a person’s private thoughts and public face.
On a personal note, I’m very pleased to know about his for an odd reason. Back in 2007, when I was writing two or three articles a week for my column on the Huffington Post, I devoted one of them to the Writers Guild strike. In the midst of all that, the Writers Guild magazine Written By was publishes articles as well from other voices on the strike, and a few of them were written by Justine Bateman. (I’m near-certain they were in Written By, but can’t swear to it under oath.) And they were excellent – smart, serious and insightful. I believe that I wrote to the editor of the magazine, who I knew pretty well, and asked him to pass along how impressed I was by her writing. She ended up writing back, and our brief exchange was terrific – she’d been reading my own articles, and was looking forward so much to one day getting into the Writers Guild, and so she was pleased to have some validation from a Guild member. While I understand her reaction, the reality was that her writing was really smart and terrific, period. She said she was going back to college at UCLA to get some further education to expand her work opportunities. That was the extent of our communication, but she ended up graduating with a degree in computer science and digital management. She kept writing, though, completing a couple of books and also making short films. That she’s gotten to this point both writing and directing a feature film – and getting into the Writers Guild – is just wonderful to know, and I hope it only builds from there.
On this week’s episode of 3rd and Fairfax, the official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, the guests are developers-showrunners Dan Dworkin & Jay Beattie (whose works include The Crossing and Matador. They talk about about bringing Dan Brown’s novel The Lost Symbol to the TV screen for Peacock’s new action-adventure series.
This was the third in the series of Brown’s novels featuring Robert Langdon that began with The Da Vinci Code. On a totally personal note, I have a few comments about the book. (To repeat, this is about the book, not the mini-series adaptation.)
As it happens, I accidentally read the book out of order, and instead read Inferno (which was subsequently made into a movie) before this. That’s just as well, because The Lost Symbol was the first of his Langdon books that I totally hated. To be clear, there’s much of the story that I thought was terrific and wonderfully adventurous, full of fun puzzles. But it veers off in certain directions that were, for me, so head-numbingly unbelievable – even in a Dan Brown World where you suspend disbelief for the pure fun of it – that they had me rolling my eyes, gritting my teeth and snarling. So much so that I lost interest in the book series, and didn’t read the latest, Origins. In fact, had I read them in order, I suspect that I wouldn’t have read Inferno. Actually, it was lucky I read Inferno out of order because, while I generally enjoyed it a lot throughout, I hated the ending – indeed I hated the ending so much that I only saw the movie after being assured by a friend who saw it that the filmmakers showed great wisdom and changed the end. In this podcast Dworkin & Beattie say they did make changes for The Lost Symbol, as well, throughout the production, though I don’t know about what, whether it's the things I thought were so awful or just others things for structural reasons. To be fair, and to acknowledge that this is all personal taste, the interviewer on the podcast enthuses that The Lost Symbol is his favorite book in the series. (Go figure…) I look forward to hearing from others who watch the series how this adaptation is different from the book. Though even if they fixed every one of the problems (to me), I still haven’t decided if I’ll watch. (For those specifically interested in conversation about the adaptation, that begins around the 24-minute mark.)
I know this is tangential to the podcast here, but…well, I hated the book so much I thought it worth adding.
On this week’s episode of 3rd and Fairfax, the official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, the guests are showrunners Gemma Baker & Nick Bakay (who together previously wrote for Two and a Half Men). They talk about overseeing the final season of the CBS sitcom Mom, for which she is one of the co-creators.
Point of personal privilege.
I have a friend Lynn Roth who is a quite-wonderful filmmaker. She’s best-known as a writer, having worked on numerous series, and written such TV movies as Chance of a Lifetime with Leslie Nielsen and Betty White, and The Portrait starring Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall (now that’s quite a cast…), as well as The Patron Saint of Liars with Dana Delany and Sada Thompson. She also co-wrote the 6-hour TV fictional/documentary A Century of Women for TBS. She produced many of these and other productions, too. However, Lynn came to my attention long before I met her when she wrote and was the executive producer/showrunner of the TV series The Paper Chase, when it was revived on Showtime.
(You may recall that The Paper Chase had been an excellent CBS series that ran for one season with John Houseman recreating his Oscar-winning role as Professor Kingfield. It was so highly-acclaimed though that a few years after being cancelled, some PBS stations began running the series and then Showtime brought the series back, with Houseman and James Stephens reprising their roles. I’d loved the CBS show, but the Showtime incarnation was even better, since they were able to deal with subject matter that was more substantive and could handle it in a richer way, and it ran for another five years. This new Showtime series was the one that Lynn was in charge of. I remember meeting her for the first time at a lunch of Writers Guild members. When I heard her name mentioned, I asked if she was the Lynn Roth who did The Paper Chase, and then went into detail how much I absolutely loved the show. It will not shock you to learn she was pleased…)
Lynn also directed several episodes of The Paper Chase, and wanted to break into directing feature films, which is alas a big hurdle, especially for women. But eventually, her determination broke through, and she got her chance and eventually directed two movies. The first of them, Changing Habits, had a terrific cast starring Moira Kelly, Christopher Lloyd, Teri Garr and Shelley Duvall, among others. She didn’t write this one – the comedy/drama turned out to be written by another friend of mine, Scott Davis Jones – but directed it wonderfully. Her next feature film, though, she did both write and direct, The Little Traitor, based on a novel about the bond that develops between a British soldier (played by Alfred Molina) and a young boy set against the birth of the State of Israel, with a co-starring performance by Theodore Bikel. It’s terrific.
Changing Habits is a lot of fun -- vibrant and rambunctious -- but unfortunately difficult to find, though this is the trailer, to at least give you a sense of it.
The Little Traitor, however, is available for free to subscribers of Amazon Prime, streaming online. (You can add it to your Watch List here.) It’s really beautifully done.
And this is the trailer –
I mention all of this because after six years trying to get it made, Lynn has a new movie she’s directed and written. It has the unlikely title of Shepherd: The Story of a Jewish Dog. (For anyone who may be reading this overseas, in England it’s playing there as Shepherd: Hero Dog). Based on the novel by Asher Kravitz, it's the story of a dog taken from his Jewish family in Germany under the Nuremberg Laws before WWII. He is adopted by an SS Officer who trains him to round up Jews at a Nazi work camp and, soon after, the boy is sent there himself, where the dog and he cross paths.
Here’s the trailer.
The film was released in late May – hardly the ideal time to put out a movie, though it's done nicely. I don’t know its further national schedule , or what if any streaming service it might be on. At the moment, however, for those in Los Angeles, it’s playing at the Lumiere Cinema at the Music Hall (which used to be the Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills, a more familiar name to residents).
It will run at the Lumiere Cinema through October 14. If you live in the area and are thinking of going, know that the theater has an odd schedule, where they play a variety of movies throughout the day, each at their own time. For Shepherd, it plays every day at 2:20 PM.
Lynn is a high quality filmmaker, and has had an impressive career. But I’ve always felt she’s deserved far more, because she’s that talented. Every step moves towards that.
We’ll end with Lynn herself. This is an interview and Q&A with the audience that was done after a screening last year at the Sedona International Film Festival. The interviewer is Lynn’s longtime friend, actress-singer Lainie Kazan. And even if you only watch part of it (it's half an hour), you’ll get a nice view of Lynn and what went into making the film.
This is one of my favorite things I’ve ever written, covering works from screenplays to novels to non-fiction books to stageplays to songs and all manner of things in between. It is also one of the oddest, which I have to admit is a large part of the reason I have such affection for it. Maybe 15-20 years ago, on a newsgroup BBS for Writers Guild members, someone posted the following challenge --
Okay, here's the deal. A well known and very good eye doctor (MD) -- needs a little help. So I suggested a contest. The winner get a great lunch or an eye exam. Here's the contest: write a poem or song with the following words:
Always up for an offbeat challenge like that, I wrote the following in a couple hours, hoping to get in first and perhaps put off any other comers. After I posted it, all the other WGA writers posted messages that they were waving the white flag and would not even try to top it. While I know that's a bit much to say about one's work, keep in mind that this was a stupid contest with a very small prize on a topic of idiotic meaning -- so others not wanting to jump in is as high a bar to reach as might seem otherwise.
That said, I'm also pleased that my own eye doctor aske for a copy and has it up in his office. Here it is --
What compels the organelles
To be the way they are?
The mighty mitochondria
Are happier by far.
And to cite the cytoplasm,
They never do complain.
So why in hell do organelles
Just drive themselves insane?
You can tell that every cell
Is happy as a clam.
And endoplasmic reticulum
Is thrilled the way it am.
A cell membrane would never deign
To scream or cry or pout.
So someone tell the organelles
To kindly cut it out.
A vesicle's a messicle
But accepts its weary lot.
And the cheery nucleolus smiles
Though it's clearly gone to pot.
The golgi apparatus works
Just one time in a thousand.
Yet the whining shell of organelles
Will kvetch until the cows come.
They're RNA, they're your NA;
They accept that they'll have strife.
And chromosomes feel right at home
With DNA and life.
A nucleus is centered,
With its feet firm on the ground.
But toll the bell for the organelle,
That insists it's lost and frowned.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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