THE WRITER’S ROOM: The Center Of Crazy

First in a behind-the-scenes series on writing for TV.

There’s something insane at the heart of every TV show.  I’ve worked on a lot of them.  Some were commercial hits (MY WIFE AND KIDS), some were critical hits (ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT), some were admired but died an early death (413 HOPE STREET) and some were not admired and survived longer than anyone thought possible (‘TIL DEATH).

I recently was talking with a fellow writer in the TV salt mines, bitching about how impossibly difficult a show was (which is something all TV writers are great at, by the way — bitching) and I realized that I’ve never worked on a show that didn’t have something loony about it.  I call it the center of crazy.

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The question I get asked most often (right after “where do you get your ideas?”) is “how did you break into the business?” For me, it started with a little zombie named Johnny Dingle.

I went to NYU film school from 1985 to 1989. While I was there, I wrote a comedy about a high school kid who’s so in love with a girl that, even after getting shot and killed in a convenience store robbery, he comes back from the dead to take her to the prom. Unfortunately, being a zombie, he now has a terrible craving to eat the flesh of the living (which he finds morally and ethically reprehensible). To make matters worse, he’s beginning to decay — in fact, body parts that might otherwise have come in handy on prom night are starting to fall off. On top of all this, everyone in town hates him — he is, after all, one of the undead.

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I ended up writing FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 9: JASON GOES TO HELL (hereafter referred to as JGTH) because I was friends with the friend of the son of the guy who directed the first one.  Yeah, I know.  But you have to believe me when I tell you that those kinds of loopy coincidences are how most people end up getting their start in the movie business.

My friend was Adam Marcus and I knew him from New York University where we were both film majors.

His friend was Noel Cunningham, the son of Sean Cunningham, the director and producer of the original FRIDAY THE 13TH (and many other horror movies.)  Adam brought Sean a script I had written in college called JOHNNY ZOMBIE (later made into the movie MY BOYFRIEND’S BACK, which you can read about HERE.)

Adam was hoping to get a job directing MY BOYFRIEND’S BACK.  He didn’t.  What he got instead was a job directing JGTH — sort of a consolation prize.  Didn’t matter, he was just as excited to be working on it.


Been working on this new site for a while.  While NIGHTMARE ACADEMY is a big part of my life, the first trilogy is finished and lately I’ve been focusing on my movie and TV work.  There’s a lot of exciting news on that front — and I’ll be sharing it soon — but I wanted this destination to reflect more of what I was actually up to now, so here it is.  Hope you like.  If you’re here for NIGHTMARE ACADEMY, you can still get to the site dedicated to that series from the link on the right.  We’ve also included a non-flash version for those folks (like me) who are in love with their iPads/iPhones.

Over time, I plan to add behind-the-scenes sections on the making of various TV shows and movies I’ve worked on.  Several are done:  ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, FRIDAY THE 13th PART 9: JASON GOES TO HELL and MY BOYFRIEND’S BACK.  I’ll be posting those soon, starting in the next few days — so check back!  Others are in the works and I’m going to try to get them up sooner rather than later.  I’m also going to be putting up some blogs on tips and tricks of the trade for screen and television writing.  In the next few weeks, be on the lookout for THE CENTER OF CRAZY and THE WRITER’S ROOM.