Tuesday, July 21, 2009

TALA (Tel Aviv/LA Federation Partnership) Master Class - Day 1

My roommate Daniel is asleep. I should be too.

I got to bed last night at 4am. Up at 7.
Up same time tomorrow, but it’s only 1:40.

We had our first full day of classes.


Highlights: Nina Tassler, Darren Star, The Ambassador’s Home.

First, Center Hotel is adequate. Not bad, but...FAR from luxury. They don’t even give you soap. Luckily, I bought some last night when I couldn’t sleep. Motel 6 towels, but at least there’s good water pressure. It’s hot and humid here, so showers are key. AND there’s A/C. There’s also a weird ass human statue on our balcony which I keep thinking is an intruder, which would be odd since we’re on the 4th fl.

It was a slow beginning to the morning, walking over to the BEAUTIFUL Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv at 8:15am. There we were in a conference room where we had a perfect view of the beach, but couldn’t go outside. Oh, to hit those waves or just watch the Israeli girls go by,

We mingled for an hour over coffee, meeting our Israeli counterparts and trying to remember their names. Jesse had pneumonics for everyone. I did things more by intuition, but I’m lousy at remembering people’s names, I just try to compensate other ways. Like trying to be charming. Or at least memorable.

Shortly after we began, Ruth the TALA program leader here in Israel whom we’d never met said, well after the introductions of the masters, “Let’s have everyone introduce yourselves. Of course, we’ve reminded you about this twice already, so let’s keep it just to one minute each.”

The US participants looked at each other in panic. We were never told to prepare something like this. Not “hard”, but good to know to prepare a short intro. Everyone did fine, but it was just one more thing we didn’t know about going in.

I feel like I spoke well. Hit recent Asst. gigs on HawthoRNe and Swingtown. 2 films in development. “Crackwhore Pornstar Love” (Laugh) It’s an autobiography (more laughter). No really. (confused tapering of laughter). Then Bernstein in Palestine. RIPFest and my life as a composer/writer/performer for a decade. Nailed it.

I’ve been recording the heck out of the masterclass so far with the little Flip videocams David Israel at the Fed gave us, but I have no idea when I’ll have time to edit any of this.

Then Nina Tassler spoke about the CBS 2009 Fall line up. Some good, some horrible. "Arranged Marriage" makes me want to puke, but "Undercover Boss" could be great. Both reality TV - and they represented the best and the worst of the programming. The drama and comedy stuff, well, it was expected. CBS has a brand to uphold, so they can't be to surprising. Or interesting. Nina said something realistic which I’ll probably get in trouble for posting, but…just deal people. She said not everything CBS had programmed was her taste. Shocker. Next thing you know Nikki Finke will be listing me as a source with a “TOLDJA” headline.

But let’s be real. It doesn’t matter that she’s the president of CBS. She talked at length about the top 4 ‘deciders’ at CBS and their 19 year relationship and how they think about programming. She talked about audience and the need for writers to create from personal inspiration, but for the universal at the same time. And while that’s partially true, the other part is that for CBS, you need to write a show that fits their audience, because we’re still working in a world of branding and there is a specific demographic that watches most shows on CBS. THEY like and expect certain things from CBS, so Nina can’t just choose what SHE likes. She needs to select shows that work on CBS. And she talked briefly about how difficult it was to watch a show that she championed and really felt passionate about – like Swingtown, which I worked on – die an untimely death. I would say it went down that way partially because it just never belonged there in the first place. Showtime would have give it greater freedom and created much lower ratings expectations such that it could have really grown into its own. That said, I truly appreciated the candor of everything Nina talked about.

Next was Darren Star. He also talked about why some shows worked and some didn’t. Deciphering the meaning behind “Brilliant but Cancelled” is a tricky one and it’s instructive if depressing to see that even when you’re Darren Star, creator of 90210, Melrose Place and Sex and The City, that history guarantees you nothing in the future of TV.

Both Darren and Nina were very accessible and real and I look forward to talking with them more as the week goes on.

After that I grabbed a 1 hour power nap and dressed up to head to the American ambassador’s to Israel where we were being received as a group. There I met State Dept career man Ambassador James Cunningham, his lovely daughters Emma (P’11!) and Abby (Cornell’12) as well as the American cultural attaché Bonnie Gutman who was also delightful. Bonnie said she’d hook me up with the American cultural attachés in S. Africa and Namibia when I get there in a few weeks. Sweet.

I feel like I’m in the ‘Tones again. Seriously, I haven’t drunk copious amounts of wine, traveled round the world, slept so little and hob-nobbed at an Embassy since I toured Europe with the Princeton Tigertones in ’89 & ’91. Harn.

Those were good days with Brothers in Song. (ToSco!). Never in my life have I felt so free, self-expressed, proud, protected, blessed, privileged and so very very loved – by stranger and brother alike. We brought more joy to the world in 4 years than I have since I “died". And again I say (in the voice of Roo) “HARN.”

We went out afterwards for a salad and a nightcap - on a sweaty Tel Aviv streetside cafe - and continued all the lively talk. And now..

Well, it's just after 2am, so I should head to sleep and get my 5 hours. My wonderful 5 hours.

It’s a great group of people from our most enthusiastic leader Danny Sussman to the US participants to the Israelis, all. I hope to get to know them all intimately in the next 10 days.

‘Til tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. sign me up...I am loving the pictures! Thanks for sharing Dave. LA-Kenny