David Anaxagoras

David Anaxagoras

David Anaxagoras is the creator and co-executive producer of GORTIMER GIBBON'S LIFE ON NORMAL STREET, an Amazon Studios TV series. Dave is a graduate of UCLA's world-renowned MFA screenwriting program.

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DAVID ANAXAGORAS

Writing Adventures

Gortimer Gibbon

My TV pilot at Amazon Studios

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09/01/2014

Probably, if you read this blog, you’ve heard the story of how I had quit screenwriting and that my pilot script for “Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street” was the last script I had ever intended to write. You probably don’t know that about five or six years before that, I quit having birthdays.

Well, I had stopped celebrating birthdays, anyway. And I tried to get others to stop celebrating for me. I didn’t go out for drinks after work, didn’t invite friends over, didn’t let anyone at my job pass a card around or buy me a cake. It’s harder than you think to get people to leave you alone on your birthday — I’ve tried, I know. But slowly, gradually, I summoned the strength of ten curmudgeons and mostly stopped my birthday from happening.

Why? Turning 40 when your dreams are still just dreams is hard. Really hard. And every year, my birthday became a way to mark failure. Every year, I was reminded that my dreams of being a professional writer were just as far away as ever, maybe even farther with each passing year. Who wants to be reminded of that? On a day to day basis, I could manage. I could just lose myself in a routine. I could be a day-job zombie — wake-work-sleep and repeat. I could be numb. But birthdays? Too out of the routine. It invites you take stock of your year, your life. And sometimes it makes you think you are undeserving of a birthday in the first place. So I stopped having them.

And then I sold a pilot, and then the pilot got picked up to series, and I literally watched all my dreams coming true in front of me in the space of a year, and in the process, I gained a whole new family.

And they wanted to celebrate my birthday.

I emailed a friend in a panic. I needed Emergency Birthday Support. The condensed version of the conversation went like this:

“My friends want to throw me a birthday party.”
“Yeah, Dave, friends do that.”
“Well, I don’t know how to have a birthday. I’ve forgotten. I don’t even deserve one.”
“You deserve one. Keep telling yourself that.”

First, I recommend everyone have a friend that, no matter how crazy you are, will talk to you as if you were a sane person.

Second, and this is really important, no matter how underserving you feel of something — I beg you not to wall yourself off from it. Because it is so damned difficult to tear down that wall after you realize what an ass you are, and of course you deserve it. Of course you do.

So I had a birthday this year. The family of one of our fine young actors opened their home to us and hosted the party. Many of my Amazon Studios family gave up part of their Sunday to come and sing Happy Birthday to me. It was all overwhelming and humbling and I was grateful because, not only did my Amazon Studios Family make my dreams come true, they gave me back my birthdays.

 

Henry

08/02/2014

I don’t know if you realize when you are 12 that friendships end.

When I was a boy my best friend was Henry. In my mind, every summer we spent together over the years has melded into one long endless mythical season. Henry had neat black hair. My hair was blah-brown and poorly behaved. Henry was fit and trim. I . . . was not. Henry was at ease with other people, even girls. I was at ease with a very short list of people — namely, Henry. We shared an imagination and sense of adventure. I loved Henry. He was my brother. I would never have said this when I was 12.

I don’t know how, but Henry and I filled every second of long, hot southern California summers with never-ending childhood adventures that involved Marvel comics, Missile Command, the 7-11, Battlestar Galactica, Cherry Slurpees, swimming, make-your-own-rules baseball, Kool-Aid, bologna sandwiches, army men, Stratego, Oingo Boingo, recording ourselves on cassette tapes, vibrating electric football, Otter Pops, James Bond, fireworks, tree-climbing, MPC Star Wars model kits, KROQ, Starlog, and endless games of pretend in which we raced across the galaxy, or fought every WWII battle, or triumphed over KGB agents with clever gadgets disguised as ordinary pens or watches.

The nights were made for Odyssey2 marathons. There is no better feeling in the world than lying on your belly next to your shadow-twin, shoulders leaned together, elbows dug into the shag carpet, eyes dry and itching from staring at the TV screen all night, fingers cramped around the joystick of your favorite video game, and knowing — knowing — that the boy next you will be there forever and the games will never end.

I did the worse thing a boy can ever do to his friend.

I moved away.

Not my choice, of course. In the days before texting, twittering, facebooking, facetiming and skyping, it wasn’t easy to stay in touch. He came to visit my new house once. We tried to call each other. In a surprisingly short amount of time, we were no longer a part of each other’s lives.

It’s a long road to adulthood. Sometimes when you look back down the road, you no longer can see the place where you started.

And neither can you see the face of the friend you left behind.

The Week of the Apartment Hunt

04/11/2014

I may have claimed victory, finally, in the apartment hunt. I live a good 50 or 60 miles south of where I ultimately needed to relocate, which presented certain challenges in finding an apartment that suited my needs and tastes. Mostly, it meant fighting hellacious traffic both ways because this is, after all, southern California.

Attempting to call listing agents and apartment managers was an infuriating experience. On the whole, they do not answer phones, return calls, or, probably, exist in the actual world but are mere fantasy creatures like the Tooth Fairy. Imagine that you did not actually want to rent your property out to anyone — congratulations, you now know how to behave as an LA apartment manager. It’s no surprise that the apartment I rented was shown to me by a very attentive, smart, responsive and professional individual.

I realized on the drive home from what I hope is my last apartment viewing this year that the whole process of looking for an apartment in LA is like being trapped in an Albert Brooks movie — and I don’t mean Finding Nemo. LA has become a living embodiment of Poe’s Law — you can no longer distinguish it from a parody of itself. It’s absurd, sometimes surreal, and laws of physics don’t always apply. Take what may be my new garage, for instance. I’m pretty sure with some maneuvering I can get my car into the garage, and I’m equally certain I would never be able to get it back out — the automotive equivalent of the Chinese finger trap. It might even be a metaphor for the whole city.

LA is a silly place, and I wouldn’t go there if I didn’t have to. Someday I hope I learn to love it, but me and LA — we have a lot of issues to work out.

Anyway, the upshot is, I’ve made a deposit on an incredibly small and expensive apartment. It has most of what I want and some of what I don’t. At the end of the day, I’m lucky to have a place to live at all, let alone most of what I want, which is what I was thinking as I drove past a homeless man arguing with his grocery cart and sporting a flowing, impressive beard of white. Shut up, Dave, is actually what I thought. Shut up and be happy and enjoy this. And for a moment I did and I was. And then the one freeway divided into five separate freeways and I was three lanes away from the freeway I wanted to be on.

De-assholing myself is going to be a process.

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The Week of the Green Light

04/04/2014

Any week you get a green light for a series you created it a pretty good week.

I confess I’ve been sitting on the news for a bit while all the PR stars align and Amazon could make the official announcement.

Oddly it didn’t really feel real to me until everyone knew. Like it was all something I made up in my head. I would have thought seeing your own name and a quote from yourself in Deadline would be surreal — and on some level it is — but the effect was mostly to enforce reality. Which is interesting to me, because once you start looking to your own press to confirm reality, you are just diving with abandon into an echo chamber from which there can be no escape. I guess it should be no surprise why Hollywood is the way it is. Hopefully I’ll have the strength at some point to stop reading about myself. Then again, anyone who has a blog knows a thing or two about being self-absorbed.

The good news is that you can still “tune in” to Amazon and watch the pilot of Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street. That will have to satisfy for a while until we pump out some new episodes. And yes, production is beginning in earnest. Right now. As I type these very words.

Which means I have taken a leave from my day job of nearly nine years and now I’m hunting for apartments in the LA area. Apartment hunting is one of my least favorite activities of all time. Right next to dental appointments and hemorrhoid treatments. So far, apartments have been small and expensive. I understand this is par for the course. I don’t think I’m terribly picky, but a few of my essentials seem hard to come by in combination — ground floor, no towers or sprawling complexes, and off-street parking.

I’ll never understand LA’s contempt of the automobile. It’s no secret a car is essential in LA but that doesn’t mean there’s anywhere to park — even at the place where you live. The only parking ticket I’ve ever been hit with in my life was in South Pasadena. I went to see a play, and came back to my car to find that the front license plate — which had not been on my car for 16 years — was suddenly a ticket-worthy violation. That’s what I get for patronizing business in South Pass. I will never again spend another dime in that city, by the way. Never. If my car runs out of gas in South Pasadena I will push it to the next town to fill up. Not. One. Dime.

In any event, I hope to be saying farewell to Orange County soon. I’ll be having a Goodbye-to-OC shindig of some sort before that happens. Somewhere open and public, so keep an eye out for an announcement soon if you’d like to come by.

Before the series green light I was racing to complete a new pilot script while I still had time to write something that wasn’t Gortimer. I’m really very happy with it. It’s a half-hour, live action “kids” show but maybe skews a little older than Gortimer does. There are ghosts, talking cats, pillars of fire and cursed Twinkies. Also pancakes, but they aren’t cursed. Hopefully the manager won’t think I’ve gone completely nuts.

Speaking of future projects, an old one has come roaring back to life unexpectedly. Years ago — I don’t even want to think how long — I was in a writer’s group and pitched a story that a good friend of mine in the group asked if he could rework. We ended up developing it together with an eye toward collaborating on a feature screenplay. That collaboration never happened and the project went into hibernation as we got busy with our own projects, but that friend recently wrote a brilliant comic script based on our outline and it’s the bomb. It rocks. It’s unbelievably fun. I’m very excited at the potential this project holds. We’re in very early stages still, but that issue-one script — wow.

This weekend I’m looking forward to not thinking about apartments and the season 4 premiere of Game of Thrones. Until next week, I leave you with My Favorite Thing on the Internet This Week:

My Girl the Video Game
You sick, awful people.

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I Have a TV Show – Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street Is a Go!

03/31/2014

Amazon Studios announced today that they have picked up my TV series Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street for 12 episodes.

The show has literally been a dream come true for me. Making the pilot with Amazon Studios was a magical experience and I’m excited to be able to continue that adventure.

Best of all will be the chance to continue working with some incredibly talented people — people who put all their heart into making a groundbreaking pilot.

It has been a humbling and deeply gratifying experience to read the many heartfelt customer reviews on Amazon’s feedback page. Gortimer has connected with audiences on a deep level like nothing I’ve been involved with before. Many have Tweeted, emailed and messaged to tell me how much they love the show, how grateful they are to have something the whole family can enjoy together, how much they are rooting for it. Gortimer would be nowhere without its fans and supporters and I’m so pleased we can all celebrate together.

The creative team at Amazon Studios had the vision and courage to take Gortimer all the way from spec script to polished pilot, and for that I will be forever grateful. I am more certain than ever that something as unique and quirky and magical as Gortimer could only have been realized at Amazon Studios. They have been huge fans of the show from the very start, and their constant nurturing and support ensured that Gortimer reached audiences with uncompromising quality and integrity.

I simply couldn’t be more proud. A year and a half ago, I thought I was reaching the end of my attempted screenwriting career. I’m thrilled that it turned out to be just the beginning.

Official Announcement:

Six More Amazon Original Pilots Receive Greenlight for Full Seasons

More:

Amazon Studios’ Roy Price Reveals Series Orders (Q&A) [Hollywood Reporter]

Amazon Studios Confirms Renewal For ‘Alpha House’, Pickup Of Six New Series [Deadline]

 

AMA: Two questions I get asked a lot

03/17/2014

Hi! I’m a huge fan of your pilot and a hopeful children’s writer too! I was wondering if you know what will happen to the show if Amazon doesn’t pick it up. It’s too good to just be over! Also if it’s not over how do I apply to work on it?
-Pamela

Thanks for the kind words, Pamela.

I get asked these two basic questions a lot right now, so I’m happy to address them.

First, the pickup question. I have no idea when Amazon Studios will announce the pilot pickups. I think it’s a safe bet the news will come sooner rather than later. Believe me, when the news hits, you’ll know. I love that people keep asking.

Pamela goes one step further and wonders what would become of the show if it didn’t get picked up. I’m flattered that anyone would be so concerned. I don’t really want to speculate. Generally speaking, in the age of Kickstarter, self-published ebooks and comics, and your various Hulus and Netflixes, not to mention more traditional channels, I think it’s safe to say nothing will ever disappear if you don’t want it to, not if there is truly an audience for it.

As for the second question — breaking into TV writing is a topic worth researching if that’s really what you want to do. Getting to be a writer on a show isn’t like applying for a job at Target, though. If you have to ask “how do I apply” chances are you aren’t ready for it.

Anyone looking to break into TV right now is incredibly lucky because Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Jose Molina (you should know those names, aspiring TV writers!) have started a podcast on that very topic. You could hardly do better than listen to Children of Tendu as your first step in learning about the biz.

As for getting a job on a series that hasn’t even been picked up yet — and this goes for everyone — I’m afraid I can’t help.

DWA

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My Favorite Scene from “Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street”

03/08/2014

It’s been an amazing month. My TV pilot, Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street debuted on Amazon Instant Video February 6th. The customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and comments have been heartfelt and touching.

This is the last weekend to seer Gortimer Gibbon or any of the current batch of pilots on Amazon, so if you’ve been saving the best for last — now’s the time.

Before Gortimer disappears (but hopefully not for good), I’d like to share my favorite scene with you.

It’s my favorite scene because it is emblematic of what the show is so much about. It is the heart that beats at the center of Normal Street. And it’s my favorite because the scene as filmed was much more powerful than even I had dared to imagine.

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