The Drool Doesn’t Go Both Ways

Networks and studios always drool over big-name screenwriters and dangle pilot deals in front of them…then, inevitably, pair them with experienced showrunners if the pilot goes to series. Veteran showrunner, and now Oscar-nominee, Paul Haggis is finding the drool doesn’t go both ways. Movie studios don’t clamor for TV writers.

Take the case of "Million Dollar Baby" writer Paul Haggis and his new film "Crash," which debuted in U.S. theaters on Friday.

a veteran television writer, saw his screenplay for "Million Dollar
Baby" turned into Oscar’s best film of 2004 by Clint Eastwood. It
earned three other Oscars: best director for Eastwood, actress for
Hilary Swank and supporting actor for Morgan Freeman.

But when it
came to "Crash" — a film he wrote and directed that looks at race and
class among Americans in Los Angeles — he said no major studio would
give him the money to shoot it because, among other things, Hollywood
saw him as a TV guy.

"The stigma is still there. No matter how
many times someone breaks through, they still think that is the one
exception," Haggis said, referring to studio executives.

I wonder why that is?

Randall Wallace went from moderate success in TV ("Sonny Spoon," "JJ Starbuck," etc.) to much bigger success in film ("Braveheart," "We Were Soldiers," "Pearl Harbor" etc.) And, of course, there are TV writers like Paddy Chayefsky, Reginald Rose, Rod Serling, Alvin Sargent and other folks from TV’s so-called "Golden Age" who went on to big careers in film.  On the other hand, TV heavyweight David E. Kelley’s two forays into film have been big duds. And neither Steve Bochco nor Steve Cannell have been able to get a major studio film off the ground.

Can you think of anyone recently who has been a success in TV and who has earned equal success in film? Some guys, like Terry Winter (Sopranos) and Paul Bernbaum (A-Team) are poised for it with upcoming films…

12 thoughts on “The Drool Doesn’t Go Both Ways”

  1. Michael Mann sees to fit the bill: Screenwriter for Vega$ and Starsky & Hutch, creator of Miami Vice, recently a producer for “The Aviator.”
    I was going to say something snarky about Haggis’ “Crash,” which sounds like a movie I’d chew my leg off to avoid, but it’s getting good reviews at Rotten Tomatoes (76%), so I’d better shut up.

  2. JJ Abrams started in film and was lured to TV…his screen credits include ARMAGEDDON.
    Joss Whedon is another feature guy who came to TV and is now going back to film…ironically, with a movie version of his short-lived TV series FIREFLY.

  3. Do they need to have had big success in TV before switching — that is, success in one translating to the other? If not, I understand Charlie Kaufman had an unremarkable TV career before “Being John Malkovich”.


Leave a Comment