I’ve had a fairly successful career to date. Over 350 hours of produced television. Over a hundred written. Over a hundred as a showrunner. By now, those who have tuned in to my work are aware of my style, the type of work I produce: character-driven stories with an underlying sense of humor that speak to the bonds of camaraderie and family. It’s something that is readily identifiable in my contributions to the Stargate franchise, my own series, Dark Matter, and will, hopefully, continue to entertain fans in future productions.
Of course, what worked so well on Stargate and Dark Matter may not have proven the right for other productions. So, looking back on the various productions I pitched to over the years, it’s perhaps not that surprising that I didn’t land a script or a staff position with them. And still, there are a few that felt like pretty good fits that, for whatever reason, got away. It’s a part of the business. You win some; you lose some. Sure, they can often warrant considerable frustration given the amount of effort that goes into a pitch or take but, at the end of the day, it’s no something to get upset over. There will always be other opportunities.
I look back at some of the more notable opportunities missed…
My then writing partner, Paul Mullie, and I were just finishing up work on a half hour sitcom called Student Bodies and looking for an opportunity in the one hour world when we received a call from our agent informing us a sci-fi series gearing up for production. We were thrilled at the prospect and eagerly sat down to watch the pilot. It was pretty “out there” and, quite honestly, we didn’t know quite what to make of it – but it was sci-fi and we were game to give it a go. Alas, in the end, we didn’t make the cut – which, in retrospect, worked out for the best because a commitment to this production would have surely taken us out of the running when a staff position on Stargate presented itself shortly thereafter.
THE OUTER LIMITS
Growing up, I was always a big fan of anthologies, especially those that dabbled in science fiction like The Twilight Zone and the original Outer Limits, so when we got word that the new Outer Limits series was entertaining story submissions, Paul and I put together a few and sent them along. Looking back on them today, they’re all really solid ideas that could form the basis for some pretty kick-ass sci-fi movies – but, at the time, they failed to elicit much interest. The feedback we received was nevertheless positive enough to convince us to try again. And, again, we were turned down. I didn’t think of it again until years later when we working with Brad Wright, former EP on The Outer Limits, and we told him about the stories we pitched. Turns out Brad never saw them. Apparently, they never made it past the production’s gatekeeper.
Shortly before Dark Matter got the green light, our agent contacted us regarding a potential showrunnig opportunity on a remake of the Roger Moore series The Saint. I loved the idea, a call was set up, and we were sent the pilot. But upon reading the script, I had some issues – logic bumps mostly, but some pretty stark parallels to another action series we had just worked on. I was brutally honest with the producer on the phone call, outlining my creative concerns. He thanked me and – that was the last I heard from them. To the best of my knowledge, the production ended up falling through.
I learned early in my career that it’s always best to be honest, especially when it comes to production concerns, because if you don’t speak up early, you could get caught short late. So it was that we interviewed for a possible showrunning gig on a mythology-based series called Olympus. It was an ambitious production that aimed to make expansive use of green screen, but I wasn’t convinced the technology was there to achieve their lofty goals. Nevertheless we ended up getting on the phone with the show creator to discuss the pilot script. We had notes. Presumably too much because, halfway through the conversation, the line went dead and that was that.
When I heard that plans were underway to produce a Hellraiser series, I had my agent look into the possibility of pitching a take. I’m a big fan of Clive Barker (his Books of Blood were one of my favorite reads growing up), so I jumped at the chance to possibly oversee a small screen adaptation of one of his most famous works. Sadly, for reasons unknown to me, the series never came to fruition.
Interesting, no? Loved the premise and the mythology. Paul and I had a conversation with the production company very early in the process, but they went with someone else – and we ended up producing Dark Matter instead.
I love Neil Gaiman’s work and loved the novel, so I really appreciated the opportunity to pitch (Paul and) myself for this production but, looking at how things shook out, I can’t imagine a better version of the series than the one presently being produced.
I wasn’t all that familiar with the game going on so, in preparation, I ended up immersing myself in countless hours of game play covering the franchise’s history, from Starcraft through Brood War, Wings of Liberty, Heart of the Swarm, and Legacy of the Void. I spent weeks crafting a pitch that I felt confident would be a slam dunk. It was warmly received and then…nothing. After repeated follow-up emails went unanswered, I had my agent follow up. He confirmed they were going in another direction, but that they appreciated my efforts – although why they couldn’t have simply said as much in a response to one of my original queries remains a mystery.
And there were more – pitches and takes I spent weeks, often months developing – that ultimately went nowhere. But, as I said earlier, it’s all part of the business, and things have a way of working their way out. If we’d landed any of the aforementioned shows, my career trajectory would have certainly been very different. I may not have landed on Stargate. I may not have been able to showrun my own series, Dark Matter. So rather than wallow on missed opportunities, I prefer to see them as destiny redirecting on my fated path – hopefully, in 2020, towards one of my own creations, or an exciting new collaboration.