My first experience as a film producer. I had done a lot of theater before this one. In the early ’80’s I became co-director of a television and film department at the Mark Taper Forum Theater in Los Angeles. They were experimenting branching out and we were charged with developing projects from plays or from more serious subjects in our culture. In 1985, tensions on high school campuses were showing class divisions in addition to racism. Margot Winchester, Peter Brosius and I had “developed’ a story for a tv movie (Peter and I were working from the Taper), imagining this new twist from the research we’d done into the various news stories. As we were ready to pitch – we had developed it as a TV movie, a huge news story broke out of Texas where an upper-class ‘gang’ lead by the son of the head of the ACLU there, had used serious violence to rid their school of those students whom they designated as bad for ’their school”. We were at ABC practically the next day with an amazingly similar but fictional story ready to pitch. ABC bought it immediately. They wanted ‘the’ story and they didn’t have to fight to buy the rights in Texas. That was going to be a litigious mess. Ours was a prior, existing story. They assigned writers with a lot of tv experience who had worked with ABC, we followed their lead and casting began. Casting directors Mike Fenton, Jane Feinberg and Judy Taylor came up with a young cast of just-on-the-radar actors: Keanu Reeves, Keifer Sutherland,Lori Loughlin, Don Michael Paul and Billy Zane to mention a few. The script, though ABC gave one of their writers story credit, primarily came from our synopsis. We were just along for the ride.. It was definitely a television movie by which I mean any gaps were filled in with commonly accepted reactions and rationales. Not deep but a learning experience.
Writers: sometime you’ll find yourself in the right place at the right time. Even if you aren’t offered the writing gig itself, go along for the ride. Learn.