chernobyl review

You’ve done the Script Notes podcast for many years. Have you met any successful writers who’ve told you they were listening to your podcast before they got their break?

It’s starting to happen. We’re closing in on our 400th episode which is shocking, so we’re talking about seven plus years of doing this, which is amazing to me. And so now enough time has passed where we are starting to get stories in from people who have grown up on the podcast and have become writers and they’re starting to work. We hear it all the time from also assistants who move on to become creative executives and eventually they’ll all be running the studios and all be doing interesting jobs and I will be very old. We will hopefully enjoy some sort of lovely podcast emeritus status in Hollywood, but yes, it’s starting to happen and it’s incredibly gratifying to me. It’s nice to know that we played some positive role for writers, especially considering that it’s free. So many people are trying to take advantage and I hate that, so I’m glad that we exist as a free resource for everybody.

As you notice trends in the industry, there are obviously more needs for content writers than ever, but is taking advantage of writers trying to get them for free running more rampant than ever? How can writers protect themselves?

Is it more prevalent now than before? I’m not sure. I guess I would say it’s always been there and always been prevalent which is regrettable. It’s hard. There are things that the Guild is doing now that I think are really encouraging. John August spearheaded this move to create a Start Button with the Writer’s Guild. So when you start working, you hit the Start Button so that the Guild can track your progress and check in with you and say, “How’s it going?” So that you have an opportunity to say, “I’m on my third free draft over here.” And then they can get involved. That said, there will always be an element required of individual courage and individual protection of self-interest, and it’s hard because the business is aligned to make writers feel powerless. They intimidate writers so it’s hard to be able to say, “No, I won’t do that.” It’s hard for me but when I say to a producer, “I’m sorry, I don’t do ‘producer drafts.’ I just do the draft I’m paid for.” There’s a shocked silence every time. They just can’t believe it. I just think, “Why are you shocked that my position is that I don’t work for free? It’s strange.” But it’s the way it goes.

I experience that shock too on my level with journalism services.

Yeah, I hear about it all the time from people that freelance. They’re just like, “Holy God, can they not understand it’s my career? It’s my livelihood.”

Do you have other historical, dramatic or television ideas that you’re developing after Chernobyl?

I do. I don’t think I can talk about any of them just yet but I do and they are in their early stages. I’ve been working really hard just to finish Chernobyl. I just got back from the final sound mix in London so we’ve got the Tribeca Film Festival. We’re going to show the first two episodes on Friday, the 26th which is the 35th anniversary of the accident at Chernobyl. Following that, on May 6th we premiere here in the States and May 7th in U.K. Then I’m going to take a week or two off and then I’m going to start the next thing. It will be very different but yes, it will be dramatic and it will be based on real events for sure.

Do you think this will be a new phase for your career?

Yeah, I think so. I think that it’s not necessarily that everything I’m going to do is going to be strictly dramatic or strictly historical or based in reality, but the experience of making Chernobyl was a joy. It was an utter joy for me from start to finish. And while I don’t regret a moment of the work that I’ve done in feature films and comedies and all sorts of movies honestly that I have my name on or don’t have my name on, this process of making television like this was just the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done. I would be mad to not want to continue doing it this way. It was a labor of love. Yes, I think this is how I want to do things for the rest of the time that Hollywood lets me do things.

Have you had to turn down studio gigs to focus on these?

Yup. Lots and that’s okay. That’s part of the challenge of marching to the beat of your own drummer and performing labors of love is that you do have to sometimes just say no to things that might be very lucrative or popular. But, I just feel like I’ve done that for 25 years and I wanted to start doing things that are different, in part because I can, because they’re letting me. I’m hoping that those things are seen and appreciated but for my own creative and mental health, I’m much happier doing this I think than anything else I’ve ever done.

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