You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Mad Men’ Creator Matt Weiner on Turning Early Critics’ Barbs Into Success

As AMC prepares to air the “Mad Men” finale May 17, the show’s creator, Matt Weiner, harks back to his debut, 1996 microbudget film “What Do You Do All Day?” that he wrote, produced, directed and starred in. A Variety critic slammed the picture, but Weiner talked about how that whole experience fueled his subsequent work.

Talk about your early career.

I made an independent film before I started my life in television, and it actually helped me get my career started. It was a $12,000 movie. I’m in it, my wife’s in it, my car’s in it. It’s a strung-together, black-and-white movie. We sent it off to some film festivals, it premiered at Santa Barbara, and Variety ran a review.

Did you read Variety in those days?

I grew up in Los Angeles, and Variety has this sort of iconic quality. To be in Variety seemed to be part of whatever show business is. You imagine Groucho Marx sitting there reading Variety and getting angry.

Did you read the review?

This was before the Internet. I found out Variety would be delivered to the 7-Eleven at 5:30 in the morning. I threw on sweatpants and drove down to pick it up, and get in this long line of people buying coffee and everything. And it takes me until I get to the front of the line to finish the review, which is awful. I don’t remember a word of it, I just remember feeling like the blood was leaving my body. It was really harsh, so when I got to the counter, I just put the issue back in the newsstand and walked out.

Was there any upside to this?

Criticism stings, but it doesn’t really change my opinion of the work. That’s the key. The process of making the film was the most valuable thing. That changed me. I would not have had the confidence to pitch a joke in a room full of professional writers if I had not made my film a few weeks before that. It motivated me to write “Mad Men” while I had a job where I was still somehow unsatisfied, and then pushing “Mad Men” for years and years. It got me my job on “The Sopranos” and then that turned into AMC being impressed enough to give me a series and then what happened with the series. … None of that could be predicted.

So that film was a turning point?

From the minute I put myself out there, when I put my neck on the chopping block, my entire life changed. Because I was actively pursuing, and I wasn’t waiting to win the lottery or for something to fall into my lap. Now, as someone who hires people, I can see that’s a much better attitude.

More Film

  • Black Panther

    'Black Panther,' 'Crazy Rich Asians,' 'Westworld' Among Costume Designers Guild Winners

    “Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Favourite” and “Black Panther” walked away with top honors at the 21st annual Costume Designers Guild Awards Tuesday night, the final industry guild show before the Oscars on Feb. 24. “The Favourite” and “Black Panther” are up for the Oscar this year, along with “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” “Mary Poppins [...]

  • WGA Writers Contract Talks

    Talent Agents, WGA Achieve Progress in Second Round of Talks

    Hollywood talent agents and the Writers Guild of America have achieved some progress at their second negotiating session over agency regulations, according to sources close to the talks. The two sides met Tuesday, two weeks after their first meeting resulted in both sides criticizing each other, followed by the WGA holding a trio of spirited [...]

  • Aaron Paul

    Film News Roundup: Aaron Paul Honored by Sun Valley Film Festival

    In today’s film news roundup, Aaron Paul is honored, Bruce Berman is re-upped at Village Roadshow, and Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher get a book deal. FESTIVAL HONORS The Sun Valley Film Festival has selected Idaho native and three-time Emmy winner Aaron Paul as the winner of its Pioneer Award, presented by Variety for his [...]

  • Olivia Munn]EMILY'S List Pre-Oscars Brunch, Inside,

    Olivia Munn Says Brett Ratner Called Her Before His 'Howard Stern' Apology

    Olivia Munn is setting the record straight about standing up to “Rush Hour” director Brett Ratner, whom she alleges sexually harassed her over a decade ago. During a panel discussion at the Emily’s List pre-Oscars brunch at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills Tuesday morning, Munn revealed that Ratner called her in 2011 after he denied [...]

  • Flesh Out review

    Berlin Film Review: 'Flesh Out'

    Ignore the awful English-language title: “Flesh Out” is an emotionally rich, sensitively made film about a young woman in Mauritania forced to gain weight in order to conform to traditional concepts of well-rounded beauty before her impending marriage. Strikingly registering the sensations of a protagonist living between the dutiful traditions of her class and the [...]

  • Marighella review

    Berlin Film Review: 'Marighella'

    Does Brazil need a film that openly advocates armed confrontation against its far-right government? That’s the first question that needs to be asked when discussing “Marighella,” actor Wagner Moura’s directorial debut focused on the final year in the life of left-wing insurrectionist Carlos Marighella during Brazil’s ruthless military dictatorship. For whatever one might think of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content