I met Phil Conserva in the middle of 2007, on the rooftop of a hotel in Los Angeles. He was a TV producer and passionate for biodiesel, and we became fast friends, working on projects together. We had many adventures over the next couple of years, but there was one afternoon in particular that stands out.
I had known Phil for a few months, and we were at a club in Hollywood, middle of the afternoon. Phil was filming an episode of CSi. I was watching the whole process with awe. There was a veteran TV director running the show. At this point, Phil had been involved in the show for years, but still hadn't directed. As we stood there, with Phil standing behind my right ear, Phil proceeded to tell me what should have been going on, what this director should have been doing. Phil's comments were incisive and interesting, and I couldn't help but thinking that HE should be directing the episode instead.
Directing eventually started happening, but after I didn't see Phil as much. Phil, who is just pretty much the coolest guy in the world, always encouraged me to write, and always bonded with me over being a reader in his Hollywood world overrun with people who could read, but didn't. As time went on, he got more into his partnership with another CSI producer and director Louis Milito, who is directing a different show almost every week. Louis, Phil told me, was another reader, a word that Phil held in high esteem. "We're all English majors in a world of business majors," he would say, always bemoaning that. "This business is about story, or should be."
Phil encouraged me to write, which I did anyway, but especially as I wrote Sabotage, I could just see Phil being involved. When The Intern was out and Sabotage was coming, I called Phil and told him all about it.
A few months later, I started telling him about a TV idea that I had, my gritty urban drama, as I liked to call it. I knew I was coming out to LA in March of 2016, and I started sending him the materials I was beginning to write with the encouragement of my agent, Italia Gandolfo. Italia's super cool old school right hand in Hollywood called it my "Heathen" project, and Phil kidded me that he had to take two showers and several medications after reading it for the first time. But they liked it. When a mistake sent it to the desk of one of the top Showtime executives (who is rumored to never like anything) and miraculously he said he LOVED it, I started thinking there might be something to this.
From that first night of meeting Phil at the Hollywood Roosevelt always-cool pool area, to a year and a half of fever dreams and delving ever-deeper into the lives and stories of these people, after a lengthy and revelatory meeting with Louis and Phil in Burbank on Monday night, we have set the stage for a week of pitches to happen in the next few weeks. You can't ever count on anything, but this show has developed from a good, strong idea into a character-driven serial with five seasons of story lines, short stories and podcasts as well as story bibles and scripts, an idea that hasn't really been seen on TV in this way. I think it has a good chance of making the jump.
I'm going to write some about the process here, and I hope it will be interesting. Can't talk about the story itself just yet, but I hope this is enough to wet your whistle.
More to come ...