The 2004 Interview with Glenn Caron
By Rebeca Gomez
RG: Are there any pictures in the works that are wholly and entirely written by Glenn Caron?
RG: How come you never directed any episodes of Moonlighting?
GC: Because at that time, there was a perception that if you directed television, it was highly unlikely that you would direct movies. It was almost like a ghetto. People who directed television didn't make the move to movies. It was not like it is now where television is thought of as a training ground for movies. Back then there were movie directors and there were television directors, and the two didn't cross over. And I was told by many people not to put my name on an episode of television because it would make it impossible for me to get a job as a movie director. So, although I was very involved in the directing of Moonlighting, I never took credit as a director.
RG: Sort of the same thing that happened with the writing of Clean And Sober?
GC: Except the difference there was with writing I elected not to take credit because again, I believe that the person who comes in and stares at a blank page is the one that does the heavy lifting. The person who comes in and looks at a page that is already filled with type and says "oh, I can move this around" or "I can make this better and I can punch this up," that's a different skill and I'm not sure that that person has the right to usurp the credit of the original writer. The not taking credit for directing in my early days in television was completely selfish. I was trying to protect myself (laughs) for future employment in the hopes that I would ultimately get to direct movies.
RG: What was your involvement in Condorman? I saw a few websites where you received a writing credit for this film.
GC: It's funny. When I first came to California, one of my first jobs was to do a re-write. I had done an episode of Taxi and I got a call from the people at Disney. They were doing this movie called Condorman, and they asked me to do a re-write and I was thrilled. I very much wanted to be in the movie business and I thought "Wow, this will put me in the movie business". They said they wanted it "hip" like Taxi (laughs) and I had done Taxi. So I said okay and I did what I thought was sort of a hip version of this movie. This was, of course, the old Disney between Walt Disney and Michael Eisner, before Michael and after Walt. I handed in the script and they hated everything about it that, at that time, would have been considered hip. There isn't much of me in that movie except that I did do a re-write at one point. And it does show up on those websites.
RG: Can you talk about your writing process? Do you work character into story or story into character? And how much back-story do you create for each character that you write?
GC: Boy, I don't know if I am going to be able to give you a very satisfactory answer. First of all, I let the characters sort of tell me what the story is. And for me it all begins with character and the characters tend to emerge fairly fully fleshed. I mean you discover things along the way, but I have an impression of them usually when I start. I have sense of who they are and what makes them tick. Again, I may get surprised along the way, but I fundamentally know who they are. When we were doing Moonlighting, I used to do this thing that drove a lot of people crazy. You talk about story and a lot of people will sit in a room and come up with a plot and then follow that plot and fill it in with characters. My approach is always the exact opposite. I come up with characters and I wait for the truth of the characters to tell me what the story is. And that can take a while (laughs). Sometimes it can take a while and some people find that maddening. But anyway (laughs) that is sort of my process, and I don't fully understand it myself. I know that it umm…it works best when you just get up every morning and sort of do it. You don't think about it. You sit down for three of four uninterrupted hours and you just write. You write, you write, you write, you try to push the snowball up the mountain a little bit. That's what works best for me. Also, what is best for me is when I come to it with as few preconceived ideas of what it is going to be as possible. That leaves my mind open to all the possibilities.
RG: That's why you work without bibles when you do television series?
RG: My professor was actually really interested in finding out how you convinced the network to let you do Moonlighting without a bible, since it was your first television show.
GC: I didn't really convince them to let me do it without a bible so much as I didn't know that such a thing was required. (laughs). Ignorance is bliss, so I just sort of charged ahead. I had done a show for ABC at that time called Breaking Away that was based on the movie. And the show was, I think, very highly thought of but not a very big hit. And I was young at the time. I might have been probably twenty-four, I think. So ABC thought, "Wow here's this young guy. Let's put him under contract," and they did and the contract that they gave me was to create three television shows. I did the first two pilots and, although I am quite proud of them, ABC thought that they weren't terribly commercial. And so they came to me and said that they wanted the third show to be a Hart To Hart kind of show. And I said, "Gosh I really hate those kind of shows". But they were aware that I had spent about half a season writing for Remington Steele and that is really what they wanted. They wanted what they called a boy-girl detective show. And then they heard me whining and crying and pleading and saying 'please don't make me do that' and then to quiet me down they said that I could do whatever I wanted with it, but that's what you have to do. And I really clung to the 'you can do whatever you want with it' part of the equation. And that's really how Moonlighting was born.
RG: How many screenplays, pilots, etc. have you written that never got produced?
GC: Wow. Not all that many. I've worked on movies that ultimately I didn't make or other people made. Pilots: Very, very few. Actually I wrote one pilot that didn't go to film, that wasn't filmed. And I believe that I've only done two pilots that went to film and didn't go to series. Which is a pretty good track record actually. But I also have the distinction of having done a show, a couple of years ago, that we filmed seven episodes of and then they pulled the plug. So you know, (laughs) everything's relative I suppose. I did a show for Fox in anticipation of the writer's strike which, when I sold it, was called What I Want To Be When I Grow Up. Ultimately the title was changed to Fling, and we did I think it was seven episodes in total. We had an order for thirteen but after the seventh episode the writer's strike was settled and Fox decided that they didn't want the show anymore and they never did air it.
RG: What happens with a show like that? Do you think it will ever be released on DVD?
GC: : Possibly, you know. Maybe it will show up on Trio, you know. Beyond that you don't know. I have copies of it.
RG: I'd be very interested in seeing it. I did read a little about it, and it sounded really interesting. It sounded romantic comedyesque. That is genre that I really enjoy.
GC: It is very much a romantic comedy, very uhh…slightly perverse and I am quite proud of it. But, you know, at the end of the day, you know, we work at the pleasure of other people.
RG: How many drafts do you typically write of a script before you turn it into a producer or before you go to production with it?
GC: Usually, luckily, fortunately for me, I've been producing my own things since, oh I don't know, certainly since Moonlighting. There will be other producers involved, but I am a producer as well so normally the person that I am turning it into is either the network or the studio. And how many drafts? What a great question. Umm...countless in that what I usually do is I try each day to start at the beginning again. So, whether I'm on page six or sixty-six I usually start at page one. So that by time someone gets the script it has probably been written and re-written, you know, thirty-five or forty times, although it might actually be called a first draft. I guess typically you re-write something it will be four, five or six drafts. It depends. It varies from project to project.
RG: About how long does it take you to get through the first draft of something?
GC: Well it depends on what the something is, if it is a pilot or a film. A film is a much tougher thing. A film might take three months and a pilot might take a month or a month and a half. All depends.
RG: At BU, we are taught that the three-act structure is limiting when you're writing. I was wondering if your screenplays follow the three-act structure and do you feel that this is crucial?
GC: No they don't. I mean, I'm aware of it and when I was in college I studied theatre for a while and they taught us the Greek unities which is really where the whole theory of the three-act structure derives from and I thought "Oh yeah, there is a certain soundness to that thinking given a certain type of story," but I tend to resist anything that smacks of being formulaic or suggests that there is a method to doing something. In fact, I'm suspicious (laughs) of anyone who tells you that they can teach you how to tell a story. I think one of the reasons that stories work is that they are, fundamentally, mysterious and as soon as you say "No this is the way it must be" someone will come along and write one that just knocks you out that doesn't do that thing, you know. I'm certainly aware of the three-act structure and I think there is some merit to it as an architectural idea for some stories. I don't adhere to it in a strict way and I certainly don't set out with that in mind.
RG: How would you, do you have a word or phrase or anything that you would use to classify your writing style?
GC: English (laughs). As opposed to side-saddle or western. No. I try and morph myself into whatever it is that I am working on. Whether it is Evita, which is an opera, or Moonlighting, which is a romantic comedy or a farce, or Clean and Sober, which is, I suppose, a tragedy. I think, you know, that the people I admire most are the old timers like John Huston and you look and it's the breadth of the work that is so compelling. You know he did so many different things. Actually, I was thinking about it yesterday and people used to ask me 'Who do you admire?' I've always admired Capra and people like that, but I've got to say too, that you look at Spielberg, put aside how extraordinarily popular his stuff is, it also extraordinarily ambitious. And his failures actually in some ways are more interesting than his successes. But I would love to be able to say that I had that breadth in my work. I mean, you look at AI and then you look at Raiders and it's the same guy. That's kind of stunning. Anyway, I didn't mean to digress, but I'm kind of all over the place stylistically and very happy being all over the place.
RG: Is there any particular quality that draws you to a project? Are there any themes or concerns that you are particularly interested in addressing?
GC: I think at the end of the day, I am fascinated with this business of being a human being. It tends to be that kind of stuff that fascinates me the most, and the stuff that falls outside the margins of that that is of the least interest to me. But I certainly wouldn't exclude anything. I think when I look at my own stuff there is hopefully a connecting thread of humanism that runs through all of it. I love trying to understand what being a human being is all about. That's kind of the…I mean people say 'How can you do Moonlighting and Clean And Sober?' To me they are weirdly similar and weirdly different. They are all about the crevices of character and character flaws. Blah, blah, blah, you know, to me there is a real similarity there.
RG: I think there is a similarity between David Addison and Daryl Poynter also.
GC: Yeah, they were certainly both men of that moment in time (laughs). Stylistically too, I think there is a very real similarity. I probably was thinking quite a bit of Michael Keaton when I originally wrote David Addison. I was thrilled when Michael agreed to do Clean And Sober. I happen to think that he is one of the most amazing actors that we have. Bruce and I have a very special collaboration. Bruce really honed that part of David Addison and ironically came to me when I was doing Clean And Sober and said, "Let me play that part" (laughs). There is a sort of shared commonality between the guys. Yeah, I think that is true.
Back to DavidandMaddie.com Index
This is not meant to violate or infringe on any copyrights.
It is just a labor of love and is for entertainment purposes only.
© 2002-2004. All rights reserved. CYber SYtes, Inc.