Write Your Screenplay Podcast
From GoodFellas to Breaking Bad with Stephen Molton
From GoodFellas to Breaking Bad with Stephen Molton Jake: Today on the podcast, I have a special guest, Steve Molton. Steve is a mentor here at Jacob Krueger Studio, and he’s also just an extraordinarily amazing human being and writer. He’s a Bloomsbury Press Pulitzer Prize Nominee, he’s a former HBO and Showtime executive, he just did a movie with Frank Pugliese, and he’s a general badass. Today we’re going to be talking about not just how cool Steve is, but also about TV Drama. We’re living in a golden age of television, and Steve comes with vast experience. He teaches our TV Drama Weekend that’s coming up March 30th and 31st, as well as our ProTrack Mentorship program. So, Steve, I’d love for you to start by talking a little bit about how is it different today than it was a few years ago. Where are the opportunities now? Steve: That’s a great question. As you know, we’re in yet another golden age. I guess we could probably describe it as a third golden age, because there was the initial one in the ’50s, and then in the ’70s and ’80s, cable transformed everything. And then, there were suddenly a thousand different platforms, and that has given rise to an immense number of shows at any given moment. It has also given rise to web series, to the short form, which we hadn’t seen before. And that opens up a vista for writers, of a kind that no other form of writing does at this point, partly because the appetite is amazingly large for all these companies. Everybody wants to brand themselves, and the most secure way to brand themselves is to create their own series. There has never been more opportunity for original voices as right now. Jake: Yeah, it’s very exciting. Writing feature-length drama is much different than writing television drama. Steve: There’s the rub! That’s the fascination. And you and I have had experience in both worlds. I always like to position this process as who is the writer in society at this point? And one of the fascinating things, if we go back to our old Greek or Roman heritage, is that we discover pretty quickly this very intimate relationship between the law in a democratic society and the storytellers. And that all began, as you know, you’re sitting there smiling because you know all too well, it began with something that the Greek called the Agon. When the Greeks, 2,500 years ago, they were trying to train people in the system of jurisprudence, they’d bring all these people down to Athens once a year, and they’d talk to them about how you serve in a jury, and what the law was, and why this was a cornerstone of the free society, etc. But then, at night, they’d put on tragedies. And what we now know as, sort of, the origin of sitcoms. Strangely enough, we don’t think of sitcoms as being 2,500 years old, but they were! They are. In the middle of the dramas and tragedies– there are about 22 of them left to us for us to look at– but in the middle of each of these dramas there was something called the Agon, which was really like intermission where the people who had come down to learn about their judicial system would debate the kinds of issues that had been raised in the drama itself. And it was out of the Agon that the idea of the protagonist and the antagonist were born. What we often assume is that the protagonist is inherently the good guy. But the reality, all the way back to the Greeks, as it wasn’t really the good person. It was the moral contestant. It was the person who was sort of caught in between. One of the best evocations of that in older literature is Hamlet.