Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Year End Blur...

Lewis Black and five different government projects really kept me moving as 2006 comes to a close. Just when you think it's getting easier, the phone rings again!

Not that I'm complaining...the chance to work on a new series with History has really been beyond what I thought I could ever do in production. Working with a live audience is like going home for me, only now I get to add in all the stuff I learned from DECLASSIFIED.

And speaking of DECLASSIFIED, I've added an RSS feed to the blog since the show has been back in rotation on THC...and has been on History International as well. In fact, we were asked to do a little re-writing on one of the shows due to changes regarding one of our subjects. I'm not at liberty to reveal what the alterations were at the moment, but when the time is ripe...

And then there's all that other stuff I've been playing with: cutting half a dozen projects for various clients on Sony's Vegas platform has been great. I only regret that I didn't have enough time to finish a special holiday collaboration with my old pal Bill Rue of Vinylhaven. Next year look for the return of the Yule Log with amazing tunes by Bill...and this time let's make it Hi-Def!

I've done an awful lot of work in wikis in the last couple of months, too. The Cornerstone and DMHOMA sites are coming together well, I'm working on the launch of a massive new IT system called IBHIS for LA County, and we FINALLY got the Integrated System off the ground (IS = LA's 2 million+ record database for mental health providers). My end of that was a lot of writing, a lot of Captivate, and more than a little webmastering.

I guess I could do a little more work on the wiki this weekend...but perhaps it's time for a long winter's nap....

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Eyes Have it!

Too much work going on this month! Here's something fun in the midst of four contracts and planning for several seasons of TLLB!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

I Stole This Article...

...I'd just publish the link, but the Los Angeles Times has the worst website of any major newspaper in the entire world. It's downright embarassing when you stack it up against the amazing NY Times site. Whoever you are, I like you too much to send you to

This is a brief piece about theft and Hollywood...I have long espoused what I call the theory of Plus One. It's not enough to have a good have to have financing, or a star, or the connection, or...some "Plus One" advantage. I think Gurvitz is one the same trail...


If You Think Your Idea Was Stolen, Think Again
By Ian Gurvitz

Ian Gurvitz is the author of "'Hello,' Lied the Agent: And Other Bullshit You Hear as a Hollywood TV Writer," which was published last month and from which his essay is adapted.

October 1, 2006

About 15 years ago I wrote a pilot for Fox, based on thoughts rattling around in my head at the time. I spent months on the script, hacking my way through the gauntlet of studio and network notes hellbent on improving the script to death.

The show eventually made it onto the schedule, but I was later sued by a total stranger who claimed I'd stolen his idea. I forget whether he alleged to have pitched something similar, or was driving past the Fox lot as its giant idea-stealing antennae picked up his brain waves. Either way, the suit never amounted to anything. Nor did the show, which was canceled after seven episodes.

There have been many similar cases over the years—Art Buchwald's "Coming to America" suit being among the most memorable—but they all underscore one of the most prevalent myths about show business: Hollywood steals your ideas.

This is nonsense. Hollywood does not steal. Hollywood copies, imitates, panders and plagiarizes, rips off and robs, but Hollywood does not steal ideas for one reason and one reason only—it's not ethical. (Sorry, couldn't resist that.) Unless someone rips the title page off your script and puts his name on it (which has happened), Hollywood usually does not steal ideas because, in Hollywood, ideas are worthless. Even if someone snapped a cellphone picture of your computer screen at Starbucks, they couldn't steal your idea because ideas, by themselves, mean nothing.

Execution is everything—how a TV show or movie is written, cast, directed, edited, scored, even marketed. It's not the idea; it's how you do it. Or when you do it. Or when it's pitched. Or who's pitching it. Every year there are thousands of ideas developed and scripts written. There is bound to be some concept overlap.

A couple of years ago, I worked with friends on a pilot. We pitched to four networks. Four passes. Then one of those networks did the identical show, with the star we'd suggested but with another writer.

After that, I pitched another show I was passionate about. Passes all around. So I wrote it on spec and pitched it with a script attached. Pass. Soon after that, I read that the same network was developing the identical show. With another writer.

Last year, while writing two more pilots and a book about TV development, I went online to get a sense of what shows were in the works. Including my two little scripts, there were 352 projects among 34 networks—138 comedies and 148 dramas—including 37 cop/PI shows, four doctor shows, eight lawyer shows, several "X-Files" "Alias" or "24"-style shows, a reality show with the son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, a motivational show starring Mr. T and one called "America's Cutest Puppies." Did someone rip off someone else's idea? Doubtful.

I've been working in TV for about 20 years. I've had some good runs on successful shows, had three of my own shows crash and burn, written some scripts for love and others for money, usually while dealing with a never-ending series of infuriating network notes. But in all that time I've never seen an idea actually get stolen. I've seen them killed. Just not stolen.

So to anyone who feels like their idea has been ripped off, chances are it hasn't. If you think Hollywood stole your idea, maybe what you need to think about is having another idea. And if you just came to town with the one, then maybe your next idea should involve changing occupations until you come up with another one.

Hollywood cannot steal your idea. It can only steal your soul.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Tales from the Public Domain

I've been meaning to add this little treatise to the blog ever since Michael Grossman sent it my way months ago...Duke University has a site about Public Domain wherein they've published this superb little graphic novel.

Give it a read: Bound By Law!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

My Face Still Hurts

Last night's taping of the pilot episode of TRUTH, LIES AND LEWIS BLACK was an absolute barn burner. I've got to admit that my experience with live-to-tape is pretty limited, and this is the first time I've ever written and produced anything in that mode. I started out in the theater, and so last night's taping was a little like going home...and completely out of control at the same time.

Lucky for us we were in the care of Dennis Rosenblatt and an excellent team. It was funny to have done a show that has Mission Control as its centerpiece, and then to spend some time watching the amped-out controled chaos of the control room on TLLB. Truly, Dennis Rosenblatt is now "Flight" in my book.

And then there was Lewis Black. I've written for a lot of people, and it's always fun to see it come to life. This was different: he has such a great way of owning the material that it just made me proud to have written it. It's a little like dancing: when you write something for someone and they're so smart and so good that they hit all the corners inside of it and a few more...that's really something.

And of course he had the audience with him: he was just having such a good time. One thing that's not an expected part of the Lewis Black profile is charm, but he is an immensely charming man. We shot two interview segments in front of the audience last night, and he was terrifically engaging and gracious.

And (starting with John Bowman's great opening)...we laughed like hell. Man, I can't wait to see the final on this one.

Looks like we'll be delivering in a couple of weeks, but no air date yet. You'll see it here when we've got it.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Rolling x 3

I'm rolling on three projects this week...I'm just not getting a vacation this year. Too busy making hay because man, the sun is shining.

The main shoot is Wednesday's with Ten Worlds and Lewis Black! Woo hoo! If you're one of Lew's Legionnaires and you've got your reservations...see you there! It's going to be an awesome evening...John Bowman's going to say a few words before we roll, so you get two amazingly funny guys for the price of one.

And just this past week I've secured two more contracts with the wonderful folks at LA County...not only am I shooting a couple of pieces for them this Thursday with a couple of different crews, but I'm building Wikis for them. Now that is some fun stuff. Speaking of which, my really great tech finds of the past couple of weeks...

Sony's Vegas 6
Flickr as augmented by FlickrStorm

Vegas 6 is a stunning reminder of the veractiy of Moore's Law. Having bought an AVID 8 or so years back for almost $100k, it's amazing to see all that power packed onto my $1k homebrew machine by $70 worth of software.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Now out on DVD...

The entire DECLASSIFIED collection is now available on DVD...for example, check out


...and many more!
Just search for DECLASSIFED in the THC Shop.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Truth, Lies and Lewis Black

Well, we have a title!

TRUTH, LIES AND LEWIS BLACK is shooting in Burbank on August 15-16 ... woo hoo!

We've got our first cut coming out today, and we're looking to have this puppy ready for a screening sometime in the fall. Meantime, Lew has movies and a tour and all sorts of madness coming up...and I'm working on two new projects for History with the amazing folks at Ten Worlds.

I'll be posting info about the shoot when we're ready to invite folks...or you can go to Lewis' site and sign up to get his emails.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

July Reruns Continue

THC is re-running three of our shows now...just got the new schedule...




...and since the Apollo script has gone to the editors, I am finally getting some work done on the Cornerstone 20th Anniversary video.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Scripted...and back in reruns!

DECLASSIFIED is back in reruns...Monday will see the return of THE AYATOLLAH. It's fun to see them pop up on TiVo when you least expect it.

I've finished revisions on the script for our Apollo show, and it's also been handed to the very funny and very talented John Bowman for some juice. It was tough because I had to work hard to get that DECLASSIFIED guy out of my head. I had to make way for the guy who's going to be laying down our Deathless Prose for the ages...In a little less than a month we'll be taping with the amazing LEWIS BLACK. Again, lucky for us we've got the help of John Bowman.

I'm working on the live segments again this's going to be a blast. The only problem now is that we've got way too much stuff coming in...there's all sorts of other pots bubbling, and not enough hours in the day.

Friday, June 23, 2006

We're wrapped on the interviews!

Here's the view from the back row at Johnson Space Center last Wednesday. This is one of two Flight Control rooms...the one accross the hall is running the International Space Station, this one is for the Shuttle. In fact, the staff on duty here is debriefing after a simulation for the upcoming July 1 launch.

And now, we are WRAPPED on the interviews for our next program...the title of which is still under debate. The subject is the Apollo project, and the contention by some conspiracy theorists that they were faked. More than that I can't say, but this one will be a real part because of our host. He will remain anonymous for a bit longer, but I can say that I've had a great time talking to "Hoaxists," scientists, engineers, Flight Directors, and even an astronaut.

The final transcripts landed in my box this more excuses! First draft is due in a couple of days! Woo hoo! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

On the road for our new pilot...

We're back out on the road again...feels like it has been ages, and it has been almost a year since we shot the last DECLASSIFIED interview.

Here's Kosh and Mike Balog on the streets of Portland for our latest excursion. We're still messing about with the title...all I can say at this point is that it's about the moon landings. We've also lined up an amazing on-camera host...more on him soon. In this shot, Kosh and Mike are getting ready to shoot exteriors for a place called Dante's.

I also had a chance to see my old friend Dr. Mead Hunter, who is now Literary Manager up at Portland Center Stage ... he showed me the new space they're building at the amazing old Portland Armory. I can't wait to go back.

All in all...what a great town! I didn't have a bad meal outside of the airport, and the hotel that our genius Line Producer Jennifer Knott lined up for us... Fifth Avenue Suites ... absolutely spectacular.

Next stop: Louisville... Posted by Picasa

Monday, May 01, 2006

May Day in Mid-Wilshire

I had a ringside seat at the enormous rally was quite an amazing site. I was working in Koreatown that day and I know I only saw a fraction of the march. By the time I left I doubt more than a quarter of the half million had passed my corner.

From Wilshire & Vermont...I call this photo "Hollywood Gets it Wrong...Again," since the date should have been 5/1/06. Still, for those who paid attenion, The Signs Were All Around...

Of all the signs I saw, I think this was the Touching? In Pico Union and fact, in a lot of downtown and east L.A. you'll see these vendors selling hot dogs wrapped in a strip of bacon and fried on little pushcart griddles: it's the L.A. rejoinder to the great street junk food of the east.

Well, they had a banner...the Organization of Hot Dog Vendors in Solidarity. Right on!

The office building I was in was pretty much empty by 4:00PM...the guard was a little tired of having to get up to let me in and out of the 5, we were all gone, but the march was still going. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Back in Rotation...

I've just gotten my hand on a series of re-broadcasts for DECLASSIFIED...and our last premiere!

Here's what's coming up...all these times are Eastern. Check your local listings: different cable and satellite providers run shows at different times...

Declassified: Godfathers of Havana. Monday, May 01 @ 10am ET
Declassified: Godfathers of Havana. Monday, May 01 @ 4pm ET

(And this is the Premiere...)
Declassified: Secrets of World War I. Thursday, May 04 @ 10pm ET
Declassified: Secrets of World War I. Friday, May 05 @ 2am ET

Declassified: The Taliban. Thursday, May 11 @ 10pm ET
Declassified: The Taliban. Friday, May 12 @ 2am ET

Monday, April 17, 2006

Premiere #12, Show #1

This Thursday will see the premiere of the first regular episode of DECLASSIFIED that we created: THE TET OFFENSIVE. It's an important show because it was the one on which we created the template for everything that came afterwards.

We were very lucky in terms of our interview subjects: it was really pretty stunning (as it always it) to hear from the troops who took the time to talk with us. It was a frightening story to work on because those guys really give you a sense of how bloody and desperate Hue and Khe Sanh were. We also had the luck to talk to Allan Wendt, who was actually in the US Embassy when the attack began: now that is a story. Two journalists, Jack Languuth and Don Oberdorfer, were tremendously helpful on this episode and our program about the Viet Cong.

Perhaps the most dizzying interview I got to do all year is the one that closes out this show: Daniel Ellsberg. My one regret about the series is that I never found the answer to his challenge: find out who leaked LBJ's troop increases to the NY Times.

This one was our first baby: I'm looking forward to sitting down and watching it with fresh eyes this Thursday, April 20.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Change is in the air...

In recent weeks I've been shooting more material for the new Cornerstone video, working on a few other proposals, and prepping the next "DE-" series while the lawyers work out the details. It's been quite a whirl.

One rather interesting island was the Wende Museum, which I've visited the last couple of Fridays. I wish I'd known about this collection when we started DECLASSIFIED. It's a private archive/museum consisting of about 50,000 items from the USSR and GDR: socialist realist art, Checkpoint Charlie artifacts, uniforms, books, medals, photos, banners, plates, and on and on.

What's wild is that it's all in an office park in Culver City, just around the hill from my house. A recreation of a section of Eric Hoenneker's office right here in Mayberry, L.A.

I've had a chance to talk to the Wende's curator Kelly Ann Kolar a couple of times, and I'm hoping we can work with her on our next couple of programs. What she and her colleagues have put together is really a treasure.

Friday, March 17, 2006

What's really new this weekend is...

...the stuff I'm working on in my other blog! I'm traveling to a few spots in the storied past of Cornerstone Theater company, creating a new film about them. Here's the scoop...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

New Premiere Schedule

OK...another change from is the current list of premieres...

3/23: Godfathers of Havana
3/30: Chairman Mao
4/20: Tet Offensive
5/4: Secrets of WWI

There are obviously going to be repeats on the schedule, starting with John Lennon this week.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

New Listing of Premieres!

Good news from scheduling...although you're going to have to wait for it. We're now going into a cycle of repeats punctuated by premieres. We're still on THC on Thursdays...this week is the re-scheduled AYATOLLAH, but after that comes a repeat of John Lennon. Here's the list of premieres...

3/9: Ayatollah
3/23: Godfathers of Havana
4/20: Tet Offensive
5/4: WWI
6/1: Chairman Mao

...and in between, we'll have repeats and the occasional pre-emption for a THC special event. I'll post more when I get them!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Schedule Changes: More Rebroadcasts!

Last night our show about the Ayatollah was pre-empted for a special, and THC has used that as an excuse to rebroadcast some of our more popular episodes and stretch out our schedule! Yay! Here's a look at the next couple of weeks...check you local listings for correct times!

Declassified: Tiananmen Square. Saturday, March 11 @ 1pm ET
Declassified: Ayatollah Khomeini. Thursday, March 09 @ 10pm ET
Declassified: Ayatollah Khomeini. Friday, March 10 @ 2am ET
Declassified: Ayatollah Khomeini. Saturday, March 11 @ 2pm ET
Declassified: Joseph Stalin. Saturday, March 11 @ 3pm ET
Declassified: Viet Cong. Monday, March 13 @ 12pm ET
Declassified: Viet Cong.Monday, March 13 @ 6pm ET
Declassified: John Lennon. Thursday, March 16 @ 10pm ET
Declassified: John Lennon. Friday, March 17 @ 2am ET

Monday, February 27, 2006

DAM (fine) TV (satire)

Jeff Strong over at Discovery sent me an email to let me know that he was one of the three guys behind Ms. I Don’t Know How to View a Roughcut Lady, the very funny little Real Marketing Genius MP3 I posted a couple of days ago.

Jeff, along with his fellow artistes J.R. Soldano and Tyler Korba, produced that for an internal presentation for something called DAM TV -- which stands for Discovery Advertising and Marketing TV. " We can’t believe that they’ve found their way on the net...totally hilarious," Jeff wrote, "There are 6 of them in total..." And then he sent them to me...they're great!

Half of them apply to pretty much any corporate setting...and half are cable-specific...Enjoy! And again--thanks Jeff & JR & Tyler!

Regular bureaucracy according to DAM TV...
Mr. Waiting For the Conference Room Guy
Miss Small Talk in the Elevator Lady
Mr. Asking Us To Think Outside the Box Guy

Life in TV, according to DAM TV...
Ms. I Don’t Know How to View a Roughcut Lady
Mr. Cutting a Promo for a Lame Show Guy
Mr. Impossible Approval Man

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Wrap Party & What's Next...

Yay! DECLASSIFIED Season 1 is history (although there are still 6 episodes coming, and then reruns) Wrap Party photos below...what a great time. 10 Worlds knows how to throw a hell of a party. Two bands, fire dancing by Jennifer, belly dancing, electric ukes, an Endless Margarita Fountain, all at the foot of the revolving Crossroads of the World. A fabulous end to a fabulous year: here's hoping S2 is on its way (gotta wait for those numbers, of course....)
Susan, Kosh & Me
That's Jennifer doing her Fire Dance magic...

Michael and Susie D

Next up? Another DE- project, and it's a pilot, and it's still CLASSIFIED although it's not DECLASSIFIED. More soon! Woo hoo!

And that's Hilary, Jeanna and Jon (researchers extraordinaire), Koshmeister, and Oz (editor extraordinaire).

Monday, February 20, 2006

Rough Cut Lady...

This one's for all you who've worked in television...Miss I Don't Know How to View A Rough Cut Lady -- the MP3.

I want to say that NONE of the broadcasters I have ever worked with fit this profile...NONE! Still, I wish I knew who created this first...I'd gladly give them credit. Thanks to Carl for this had us all in stiches for quite some time!

Sing along! Woo Hoo!

We've been Wiki-ed

Hey! We've been Wiki-ed!

There's a Declassified post on Wikipedia now...check it out...

I also hear that the numbers were great for our program on the Viet Cong. Looks like we're picking up some steam!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Premiere Party Animals

We're right around the halfway mark, and the reviews have been terrific so far. Some great numbers, particularly in terms of the age of the audience: it's gratifying to know that we are getting to a younger segement than THC usually does.

I've forgotten to post these for the longest are a few snaps from the Premiere Party...gotta get them up because the Wrap Party's just around the corner.

There's Shirley Jahad (of KPCC, author of CASTRO), Kosh, Me, Jennifer, Oz, Kareema and Tom

And this other one is Susan and I ... I expect we'll have more soon, including Jennifer doing amazing things with fire...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

LAC DMH renews Story Tactics contract...again!

I was very pleased to find a renewed contract from LA County in the mail this week...I've had the best time working with these folks. For the past couple of years I've been helping them implement a complex project created by Sierra Systems: the Integrated System, the Department of Mental Health's HIPAA-compliant MIS system.

I first worked with DMH in the early 90's on LA's disasters: I was one of the people who helped create Project REBOUND, the nation's first large-scale crisis counseling project funded by FEMA (back when they were run by people who knew what they were doing, like James Lee Witt).

This current project has let me play around with all sorts of design stuff, starting with Dreamweaver and leading to Macromedia's Captivate. In between I've done tons of content, loads of training, and all sorts of interesting stuff (like managing online listservs, etc.).

I know it sounds a little crazy, but somehow between this and DECLASSIFIED I feel a little more balanced. Yin = insanity of TV production, Yang = insanity of massive bureaucracy.

Funny how these things even out...thanks again, DMH! Looks like I will be around (at least part time) through July.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Thank you, LA TIMES

I think this makes six in a row--we're a highlight again in the LA Times.

Even more remarkable is the spot THC has been running for us this's THE VIET CONG this Thursday, and the ad they have up makes the comparison between the "insurgency then, and the insurgency now."

I've said it all along: each and every episode of this season is absolutely about today. Thanks to THC for highlighting it in this important instance.

Looks like the Wrap Party is FINALLY in sight! Woo hoo!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Real Screen sees a DECLASSIFIED Screening

Damn! I knew I should have gone to Real Screen this year!

One of our field producers was in a session featuring Carl Lindhal, our most excellent exec. producer from The History Channel...he reports that Carl showed a segment of the pilot (THE RISE AND FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL), and then said nice things about the show. Thanks for the props, Carl!

Can we do it again next year? I promise, I'll be there! :)

I understand that one audience member said she thought her 70-year old dad would be a bit flummoxed by our style...but my unofficial motto for DECLASSIFIED has always been...


DECLASSIFIED goes International...

Woo hoo! We've landed in the UK!

Declassified is set to start showing in Great can check the UK History Website...

Also, Uncle Joe did great for us this past week. Another banner night for the numbers. This week: Fidel!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

On the Boards at

Not only are the numbers good, but DECLASSIFIED's generating some discussion about style and content. Nice to be working on a show that's got some depth.

Check out the chatter at THC's Declassified Discussion Thread

"The only thing worse than being talked about, is NOT being talked about."

Oscar Wilde, right?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Even Better Graphics..

I like this one better...a little higher res than the one I published earlier...

New graphics...

Koshmeister-san came up with a cool new graphic for the season...another piece of design genius from the 10 Worlds studios...

See below for the schedule!

DECLASSIFIED Rebroadcasts this Weekend!

Hey...Did you miss the premieres of the first few Declassified episodes on The History Channel? Don't miss your chance to see them as they air again this Saturday, January 28, 2006.

Please check your local listings!


Monday, January 16, 2006

Rebroadcasts and More Rebroadcasts!

THC is showing JOHN LENNON: DECLASSIFIED twice tonight (Monday) after their new tentpole show about Abe Lincoln. I can't help but be thrilled and grateful...they've been spending a lot of time and energy promoting what I hear is a great piece about Abe, and JOHN LENNON will benefit from a little reflected glory.

All of which is to say that quite often THC will rebroadcast our shows shortly after an intial showing. I think JOHN LENNON was on either 5 or 6 times between last Thursday and tonight.

Next up...TIANANMEN SQUARE! See you Thursday!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Broadcast Schedule for DECLASSIFIED

This week I got a copy of the planned schedule for DECLASSFIED...looks exciting!

So far I hear the numbers have been great...exceeding goals and expectations.

Declassified Show Order -- check local listings for times (the show usually airs twice in a day)

1/5: Taliban
1/12: John Lennon
1/19: Tiananmen Square
1/26: Lindbergh
2/2: Joseph Stalin
2/9: Castro The Survivor
2/16: Viet Cong
2/23: Radical America
3/2: Ayatollah Khomenini
3/9: The Tet Offensive
3/16: Secrets of WWI
3/23: Godfathers of Havana
3/30: Chairman Mao

Those are all Thursdays, but we've learned from JOHN LENNON that they are also sprinkling rebroadcasts around the schedule if it makes sense...JL was on twice Thursday, then late on Friday, Saturday and Monday.