The wit and wisdom of Pat Faulstich

TV multihyphenate had unique take on biz

Although he had a perfectly respectable career, Pat Faulstich wasn’t a Hollywood titan. His resume included executive stints at CBS in drama and miniseries — shepherding the blockbuster “Lonesome Dove” — and as a producer and literary agent at ICM and Broder Kurland Webb Uffner.

Few people, however, have ever observed the town’s quirks with a more perceptive or amusing eye. And when he died recently — succumbing to complications from brain cancer at 55 — it seemed appropriate to share and celebrate his inordinate wit and wisdom.

Obituaries console family and friends. This is intended for those who didn’t know Faulstich, but probably would have benefited if they had.

Faulstich is one of those people with whom I spent a lot of time chatting, even though his name almost never ended up in the paper. He seemed to envy my forum — a place to address the quirks and inequities in the business — without seeking any publicity or self-aggrandizement. Or maybe he just liked to vent, which he did so cleverly I urged him to put his thoughts into book form.

His most memorable line is a cautionary one I’ve quoted for years — one that addresses the way coveted Hollywood promotions are often fraught with peril: “The best job you’ll ever have,” he said, “is the one that precedes the one you always wanted.”

How many times have we seen people ascend to a top position — heading a network or studio, landing their first directing gig, you name it — only to have the roof suddenly cave in on them?

Mostly, Faulstich reveled in the town’s eccentricities in a way that endeared him to colleagues and contemporaries. He hosted a party called “Crimes Against Television,” in which those who attended had to bring a clip from the worst project with which they were ever associated. Given that Faulstich regularly interacted with TV movie producers and executives — who at that point were churning out multiple Amy Fisher movies and similar fact-based dreck — guests had no shortage of material.

Implicit in the party, though, was actually something significant — an ability to laugh at the worst crap with which you’ve been associated, and by extension, yourself. In roughly a quarter-century covering the business, it’s still remarkable how few people have mastered that sense of self-awareness.

Paul Nagle, a former William Morris agent, recalls Faulstich joking that his career probably would have advanced far more rapidly had he suffered from a drug problem as opposed to an attitude problem.

“He had enormous affection for the business, and a deep appreciation for the history of the business and for the people who preceded him in it,” Nagle said.

Even when he formed his own boutique agency, Faulstich turned it into an inside joke, naming the venture Accurate Representation. When his wife, producer Jennifer Alward, died in 2002, Faulstich wryly asked before the funeral whether it was appropriate to remind her increasingly desperate TV-movie producer brethren that, for the sake of decorum, they should refrain from pitching projects to executives in attendance during the actual service.

“What he had more than anything was a different perspective on things,” said Gerry Abrams, a longtime friend who for a time was Alward’s producing partner. “He almost had more of an academic outlook on the business than a commercial one.”

Faulstich and Alward also hosted the single most competitive charades party one could ever imagine. In subtle recognition of Hollywood’s tribalism, participants were divided into teams by area code, with the invitation stating the night’s theme: “Us vs. Them.”

Despite his sense of humor, Faulstich frequently sounded disappointed when discussing the business. While he could laugh at where the industry fell short in terms of its nobler aspirations, deep down he seemed to wish and hope people would do better and aim higher — even counseling other execs not to rely on research and instead go with their guts.

In all our chats, by the way, I don’t remember ever asking whether Faulstich had ever gotten the job that he really wanted. But based on his theory, I hope he didn’t.

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