MAY 17, 2012
WRITING THE WAR
As you may know "War of the Worlds: Goliath" was fortunate to have able to retain the services of the extremely talented David Abramowitz to write the movie's script and to serve as a producer on the film.
David has been a working writer in the competitive Hollywood industry for more then twenty-five years. He has written shows ranging from highly inventive detectives to gerbil eating aliens to the life and loves of a certain pony tailed Immortal.
And the guy can sing! A cantor for many years, he has an amazingly deep, clear voice that I’ve had the privilege to hear several times over the course of the last few years.
I first meet David back in 2005. Galen Walker and Tom Gray from the newly formed Imagi Entertainment group had approached Kevin Eastman and I to act as co-producer’s on an anime version of the classic “Highlander” franchise that was to be written in L.A., but directed and animated by Kawajiri and Madhouse Studio in Tokyo.
From the very beginning I found David to be that rare talent: a highly talented writer and creative, who is also willing to collaborate fully with others to make the best possible piece.
Together, he, Kevin and I brainstormed out the plot of “Highlander: the Search for Vengeance” in a little deli on top of Mulholland Drive. After our time together, I knew that I had met a great talent and a big souled human being. ‘Someone that I could work with again in the future.
When funding was secured for “War of the Worlds: Goliath”, David was always my first choice as the man to be trusted to breath life into my firstborn.
And I couldn’t have been happier.
David currently resides in a hillside neighborhood in the lovely land of Sherman Oaks, in a large, graceful home where he has raised a big and beautiful family with the help of his lovely wife, Randi.
Well, enough of my commentary, let’s let Mr. Abramowitz speak for himself.
David, you’ve led a long a colorful career as a successful writer in Hollywood for both T.V. and movies.
How did it all start?
I originally came to L.A. on a recording contract over 30 years ago…I sent a demo and the company liked my singing and the songs…I got here and they saw me and asked how old I was…I told them 29…they said that I was too old to start. So I got a job playing music at a Holiday Inn in Brentwood off the San Diego Freeway. While I was there, I went on a TV game show called “Tic Tac Dough” Won 26 thousand dollars and quit the saloons and started writing.
So you could really sing and play. What was your instrument of choice? Do you miss performing and
do you still play?
I had an act with another piano player….He played a grand…I played a fender Rhodes. I wasn’t much of a piano player, but I could sing…Do I miss it…Sometimes, but I never miss the drunks in the bars.
Have you always wanted to write?
No I didn’t…I didn’t know I could write until a professional grant writer saw something I wrote and told me that I was a writer. I thought that everyone could write and do the logical extensions necessary to create stories.
That’s an amazing odyssey, David. So without formal training how did you prepare for a career as a writer?
Living…Traveling…talking to people…I was always a pretty good story teller and could do logical extensions fairly well.
What was your educational background?
I have a BA in economics…. I lasted working as an economist for 3 days and discovered that it wasn’t for me.
Accounting’s loss, but our gain!
So, did you do any kind writing before you got that bit of encouragement from the grant writer?
I started writing songs and musical fairy tales for kids… That turned into a short series for kids for public broadcasting….which lead to meeting a lawyer who introduced me to an executive at Warner Brothers who introduced me to a producer at Warner Bros. I became his assistant and researcher…His name was John Wilder. John gave me my first opportunity on a show called “The Yellow Rose”
Over the decades, since you broke into the business, you’ve written for a wide variety of series and projects.
What was your favorite series and character?
Hard to say there have been many…I think Highlander was my favorite because it really was mine....And I loved working the people on it…Actors…Crew…producers etc…
Okay, aside from “Highlander”, what was your favorite?
Cagney and Lacy….It had a great writing staff and I loved the way the writing room was run…It was truly material based rather then vanity based.
Who do you really respect as a fellow T.V. writer?
As a writer….Aaron Sorkin….David Kelly….John Milch…Bochco….Alan Ball….Tina Fey…anyone who wrote Frazier. JJ Abrahms.
Who do you respect as a feature writer?
Anyone who can get something made…
I’ll second that one!
“War Stories”. Everyone in this town has some, David. Tell us some good anecdotes. Some “Hollywood tales”.
Sorry….just too long…and most of the anecdotes deal with people who are still alive…Okay, I’ll tell you one…I was once watching dailies on a show that I worked on staff for. It was my script…The dialogue in the scene was changed and it really made no sense. I shouted out…Who wrote that shit? I did was the response from behind me. It was the executive producer…oops…Later I was on line at the studio commissary and one of the other writers suggested I apologize. I said...No….The scene sucked…Behind me on line was the executive producer. Needless to say, I never worked for him again.
Well, I guess you can say that there’s a lesson there, for sure.
I’ve had to learn to keep my yap shut the hard way as well. Sometimes “honesty” is best kept on the Q.T. when you’re in a no-win situation.
You’ve written a lot of SF. “Highlander” and “V” come to mind. Do you consider yourself a fan? Who do you read in the genre?
Yes I am a fan…I read mythology…Norse especially. I like Heinlein, Zelazny, Asimov, Bradbury, Tolkein…etc…and many others.
It’s fascinating that you mention classic mythology. I was a huge mythology freak as a kid. I spent my 10th summer reading anything I could on the topic—Norse, Roman, but especially Greek. “Tanglewood Tales”. Anything.
I’m guessing that for the both of us, it was the spark that lit the flame our our mutual interest in the fantasy/SF genre?
I was more of a fan of Norse mythology…the rest seemed rather tame to me…
When did you first read WOTW?
I think the first time I read it, it was in a Classic Comic.
Me too! It’s an amazing adaptation. It was drawn by the brilliant Lou Cameron whose sensual rendition of the Martian technology has never been bested.
I still have my original newsstand copy. It’s dog-eared, but still intact.
What did you like about writing the movie?
First, I love that you gave me so much of the story…It made my life incredibly easier. Secondly, I liked that you and Leon liked what I wrote. Of course, I loved the concept.
I think the thing you brought most to the script was the vivid characterization and “voice” you gave Eric and the crew.
They had fully developed personalities which you showed through a natural flow of dialogue, not through information dumping.
And you added some great new action sequences. Especially the canyon and power plant sequence where our heroes get up close and personal with the Martians.
It was your and Leon’s idea to a lot more of the mid-story action on the ground. Expand the New Mexican canyon sequence from the treatment.
Actually, the power plant sequence was all Leon’s idea. And it did open things up for more personal action as opposed to the big mecha just bashing it out. We really get to see the Martian bastards at “work” up close and personal.
It was great idea…
But you introduced one of the movie’s most memorable characters, Wilson, the crazed militiamen into the canyon/powerplant sequence. What was his inspiration?
I wanted someone a little bent…not so earnest.
Well, he’s certainly “bent”. And Adam Baldwin’s voice work was the icing on the cake. And it all came together to make a terrific set of sequences. Collaboration at it’s best, right?
Aside from “Highlander: Search for Vengeance” this is your only other foray into an animated film as opposed to live action.
I am writing a couple things now for the Al Jezeera Children’s Channel.
How do you like the process?
Pretty much, writing is writing to me.
What is better about it then live action?
The action sequences.
Why is that?
Bigger…I’ve just written a sequence where a dragon completely destroys a junk in the China Sea, To do that in live action would cost a fortune…and then you’d have to find a dragon who was willing to work for scale…
Heh, What is worse about it then live action?
You don’t get to do multiple takes.
Seeing the footage come in over the last few years on “War of the Worlds: Goliath” must be an interesting experience for someone used to the immediacy of live action TV series work?
I’ve learned patience (not really).
If we are fortunate enough to get to do more “War of the Worlds: Goliath” movies or a TV series, do you have any ideas or insights on where you’d like to take our storyline?
The only thing won was the battle not the war. The political issues that surrounded WWl have yet to be dealt with.
When we cast (at your suggestion) the key Highlander TV series actor’s as characters in WOTW: Goliath, were there any surprises for you at what they brought to their characters during the recording?
How good they were and how quickly they adapted to be voice actors.
Now that we’ve seen how each actor brings their individual character to life, would you write any of them any differently now?
It must have felt good working with the gang again.
I’ve had the pleasure of sitting around the table at the Abramowitz compound and watching you and them all interact with each other. You all seem pretty tight.
We spent 6 years together…Many of us are still friends.
You brought (and are still bringing) a lot of knowledge and experience to our production in your role as one of our producer’s on this movie. And on the Highlander TV series you were really the key creative producer/show runner on that work.
How do you like the Producer’s role/job as compared to simply being the Writer?
I like the producer’s job because it gives me a voice in creative choices. This works especially well when you are dealing with sane and decent people….However on a occasion I have worked with people who were less than sane…That was a bitch….During those moments I’d rather be a writer in a cage.
I can’t wait for WOTW to be completed…And I’d love to write the sequel.