Writers talk about personal projects
Imagine a network series about two female detectives who used to be an item. Or a mainstream film about a football star with two dads. It could happen, insist the GLAAD-nommed scribes Variety asked to share details of their dream projects.
“Drop Dead Diva”
Josh Berman sees a potential hit in a multi-generational half-hour comedy about a gay kid coming out in high school and how that affects the family. Based on his own life, the story would showcase Berman’s grandparents who were considerably more liberal than his parents.
“That provided a lot of comedy,” he recalls. “Especially when the oldest son in a conservative family turns out to be gay. When I was 20, I came out to my grandfather. His response: ‘Oh well. Some people have brown eyes and some people have blue eyes.’ “
According to Berman, the show could only work if at the heart of it all were people who loved each other and were not afraid to be in conflict.
A television series on the life of the American gay teen and his family matters is also a passion of “Easy A’s” Bert Royal.
“I see him as a golden boy, really athletic and attractive,” Royal says of his ideal main character. “I want to focus not so much on the kid coming out but the people around him and how they react to it. This kid is completely secure and he’s ready. He’s not having the issues or the problems. It’s his family and his friends who have the issues.”
Although Fox’s hit “Glee” has opened the door somewhat to such subject matter, Royal’s script is proving to be a tough sell.
“It’s been a weird one to try and put out there because of the teenager,” he laments. “I recently pitched it and was cut off before the second sentence. This studio guy said, ‘No can do. America’s not ready.’ “
“Pretty Little Liars”
A show centering on family matters is a popular theme for Emmy nominee Oliver Goldstick, who is the father of two boys, both conceived through surrogacy.
“I would like to produce a series that explores our journey as a two-dad family,” he says. “For example, a friend of mine wrote a screenplay about the No. 1 NFL draft pick having two fathers. The films I’m really excited about are those that are yet to be made where we’re not dealing with stereotypes in the same-old, same-old.”
For “Nurse Jackie’s” Jennifer Hoppe, the ideal was last year’s hit, “The Kids Are All Right.”
“That film is exactly where I hope we’re going,” she says. “My dream project is based on my family, and the characters just happen to be gay. In my play, a woman who is 10 years sober falls off the wagon. She lives with her partner, and her sister is also gay. We figure out these things as we watch, but it’s never, ‘Well, you know you’re gay.’ It has nothing to do with the outcome of the play, nothing to do with the action. It’s just a marriage.”
Co-writer Nancy Fichman agrees. “We would like to do a series about two gay homicide detectives who were ex-lovers. Nobody knew it. The great thing would be to do something where they just happened to be gay with all the nuances that are inherent in that.”
Patrick Sean Smith
The topic of gay marriage is also a long-held goal for Patrick Sean Smith. He was married before the 2008 elections.
“We were one of the fortunate ones,” Smith points out. “I would love to do a film on gay marriage. I want to show people that we’re not aliens. That we’re not looking to corrupt the world. But I think people are still nervous. The ‘sanctity of marriage’ and the attack on that seems threatening.”
When Smith presents his idea to producers, it goes straight into the indie slot. “They say, ‘It’s not going to be a mainstream film, so you should spec it and sell it off of that. It’s not something a studio is going to get excited about,’ ” he says.
Thankfully, cable television is a proven, more welcoming venue. “TV wants to go there to stay timely,” Smith says. “I grew up in a small town in Texas. My parents had no exposure to the gay lifestyle. It scared them. And then 10 years later they came to my wedding. I’m optimistic. It’s all just a matter of time.”
The project “Howl” writer-director Rob Epstein holds close to his heart is a feature film about Sylvester, the African-American musician who went through many different musical genres, the most famous of which was disco.
“He died of AIDS very early on,” says Epstein. “He was quite androgynous and often performed in semi-drag. He was ahead of his time. He’s kind of a cultural counterpoint to Harvey Milk. With a project like that, you’re told you need a star attached before getting anyone’s attention.”
“Howl” co-writer Jeffrey Friedman adds, “It’s always the same old conundrum of wanting to make films about marginalized people for an industry that’s looking to target the biggest possible audience.”
But showbusiness is still a business.
“If someone can make money, they’re not worried,” Goldstick says. ” ‘Modern Family’ has done a great job, and that will give birth to the next. I’m optimistic because of younger people and how they perceive the marriage act. And that number is growing every year.”
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