October 17, 2013
Dennis Leoni. He’s my coach — he’s a guy’s guy, with Mexican roots and a universal face. He looks Hapa-Japanese. His story into showbiz?
Stuntman. True baller status. Dennis started falling off roofs and engaging in gunfights outside “Alamo-esque” settings in America’s Southwest. He had no writer’s programs, no internship.
After working on the original Hawaii Five-O on the production team, Dennis got his chance to move to Second Assistant Director after the Director left, and the First Assistant Director took his place. The rest, well, is history.
The other guys (and yes, all guys — you know the kind of Hollywood conversations we had) had projects varying from a fast-paced thriller, an hour long “The Wire”-esque drama pilot, and an epic ancient Hawaii feature. Here I was with a sitcom pilot.
Dennis gave me great tips — it was especially nerve-wracking watching him read a couple pages and not seeing him laugh. Or smile. Or do anything.But he gave me good pointers on raising the stakes for my characters, ultimately making it stronger by having the reader actually care.
The thing is, my sensibility of comedy is pretty different than Dennis’. That’s the challenging thing. I tend to gravitate towards more cable-ish type of comedy, not really finding funny in the always on, never-ending joke machine that are staples of network sitcoms.
But, I did the work he wanted me to do, and I really like the direction that my (seemingly infinite) rewrites are going. At the end of the writer’s program, I’m glad that he actually looked at the script and really forced me to challenge my plot and characters.
Just as important as the writing itself, he gave not just me, but all of us in the group tips on the business of writing for film/television.
What a cool guy .