To Sir With Love

The third Writers Room "showrunner" seminar got off the ground yesterday here in Lohr, Germany, taught by me and my friend Matt Witten.  The way we teach together, it’s less of a lecture and more of a day-long discussion about various aspects of writing and producing episodic television shows. Lots of anecdotes and experiences are shared along the way between us and the students.  It was fascinating for me to learn more about the differences between the German television industry and ours — and discovering common ground. Things that are second-nature to us — like the four-act structure —  are new concepts to the writer/producers here and it’s exciting to see them embrace it with genuine enthusiasm. We’ve watched and analyzed both good and bad episodes of US television shows, some times stopping after every scene to discuss it.  I am having a great time…but it’s also very exhausting to be "on" from breakfast clear through drinks in the bar late at night (in fact, it’s often during the those casual conversations outside of class where the real progress is made). And before crawling into bed, I try to make some progress on my other work. (Thank God they’ve got Diet Coke here!) It will be very interesting to compare and contrast this experience with the one I’m going to have  in two weeks when Bill Rabkin and I teach the course in Sweden.

Snow White

Greetings from the Franziskushohe, my friend Hermann’s cozy hotel on a snowy hillside overlooking Lohr, Germany…an idyllic little village where Snow White supposedly lived. My wife tells me that Snow White is a French fable, not German, but apparently the people of Lohr think otherwise. The town doesn’t seem real to me, but you can blame years of movie-going for that.  Lohr  looks like a Hollywood version of what a German village is supposed to look like.  Writer/producer  Matt Witten, who is teaching here with me this week, had exactly the same impression.0011franziskushoehe_1

Right now it’s about 11 am here (2 am back home in LA) and I am sitting in the dining room at a table  by the window, watching the snow fall,  working on my fifth Monk book and sipping hot Earl Grey tea. (Jet-lagged must have wallopped Matt, because he still hasn’t emerged from his room). If you’d told me a year ago that I would be here right now, I wouldn’t have believed it.   I’m trying to get in as much uninterrupted writing as I can before tomorrow when the  "students" (professional writer/producers, screenwriters, directors, and at least one actor) start arriving from all over Germany and the real work begins.

The Business Traveler

In the last six months, I think I’ve traveled more than I have in the last six years. Tomorrow I am off to Germany again…this time, with my friend Matt Witten (LAW AND ORDER, HOUSE, etc) to teach writer-producers there how we develop, write  and produce TV series here. Then it’s off to Sweden with William Rabkin to conduct the same course for their writer/producers. While all that is going on, I will be spending every free moment writing the next MONK novel and awaiting word on my two pilots…

I’ll try to check in here, too.

Dueling Marlowes

Last week, ABC announced they were "updating" Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe as the basis for a possible TV series set in present-day Los Angeles. Now Universal Pictures has announced  that they are developing a new Marlowe movie, a period-piece that will star Brit Clive Owen.

Strike has made a deal with Phil Clymer at U.K.-based Chorion to get
rights to a Chandler mystery series that includes "The Big Sleep" and
"Farewell My Lovely." Strike’s Marc Abraham and Eric Newman will
produce the film, with Owen exec producing. The project is in a nascent
stage — they are courting writers and filmmakers — and they haven’t
decided which title to adapt.

But they sparked to having Owen
narrate the dramas in Chandler’s testosterone-laced prose, something
Owen did well in "Sin City." The plan is to keep the noir spirit of the
Chandler books, and keep the mysteries set in the 1940s in Los Angeles,
with Marlowe continuing to be the hard-drinking, wisecracking gumshoe.

The irony is that the last Marlowe movie starred Robert Mitchum and was set in London. This is sort of the reverse of what Universal has in mind this time.  What I don’t understand is how it’s possible for these dueling projects to exist…has Marlowe slipped into the public domain? If not, there’s probably a very interesting (and very complicated) rights story behind this…

Barbara…gone too soon

My friend Barbara Seranella passed away today. She was 50 years old and  had been in ill health for some time. I knew her for years and admired her talent, her humor, her tenacity, and her kindness. I will particularly remember a long night playing poker with her in El Paso…she beat us all. I wish she could have beaten this, too.

Links A-Go-Go

I’ve been away in New York for a few days at the Mystery Writers  of America board meeting and am just now catching up on my favorite blogs. Ordinarily, I’d build whole posts around some of the stuff I’ve found…but I’m too lazy. So you will have to see for yourself what Emmy Award-winning writer Ken Levine has to say about Aaron Sorkin’s dig that he wasn’t a "real" comedy writer.  And you’ll have to experience for yourself the utterly bizarre "Galactica-A Team-V" crossover fanfic that my brother Tod stumbled upon.