David Weddle is the author of two books:
“If They Move, Kill ‘Em!” The Life and Times of Sam Peckinpah — a comprehensive study of one of America’s most controversial and brilliant filmmakers. To learn more about this book, click on the following link: “If They Move…”
Among the Mansions of Eden — Tales of Love, Lust, and Land in Beverly Hills — a best selling study of America’s material madness before the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center, the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the stock market crash of 2008 brought an end to the fevered illusions that drove America to the brink of self-destruction. To learn more about this book, click on the following link: Mansions
Weddle also served as a writer/producer on The Strain — a television series created by the acclaimed writer/director Guillermo del Toro, based on his series of best selling novels, co-written with Chuck Hogan. To learn how Weddle came to work on The Strain click on: Peak Experiences.
David is currently a writer/co-executive producer on For All Mankind, a new show created by Ron Moore, Matt Wolpert, and Ben Nedivi for Apple TV.
For the past 19 years, Weddle has collaborated in television with his partner, Bradley Thompson. The two have worked as writer-producers on such series as: the critically acclaimed Battlestar Galactica (which won a Peabody Award), CSI (an episode that they wrote won an Environmental Media Award), Falling Skies, and Star Trek Deep Space Nine. For a complete list of Weddle’s television credits click on the following link: IMDB
And for further biographical information, click on Weddle’s wikipedia page: wikipedia
BEWARE: Weddle’s Wickipedia entry sometimes contains hostile misinformation written by resentful film theorists. Why are they resentful? This will become clear when you read Weddle’s infamous and most controversial magazine article: What My Daughter Learned in Film School.
To read the article click on: Film Theory Sucks
Or you can read the online version by clicking on this link: Film Theory Sucks
Before writing for television, Weddle worked as a journalist, writing for such publications as: Rolling Stone, Los Angeles Times Magazine, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, L.A. Weekly, Sight & Sound, Film Comment, and Variety.
Many of these articles will be archived on this site in the near future.
How did Weddle become a writer? Read on:
The Lasting Impact of Our Work
By David Weddle
Those of us laboring in television often feel our “product” is disposable. It airs, and if we’re lucky, reruns a few times, and then vanishes into the ether, perhaps resurfacing in the back pages of video catalogues amid box sets of other long forgotten television programs. We try to be philosophical about it, consoling ourselves with the fact that we were well paid, managed to keep current on our mortgages and health insurance, and bulked up our pensions so we will not face homelessness in our old age. But did we make an indelible mark on our culture, and influence the hearts and minds of millions the way the best stage plays, novels, or movies do? We don’t dare to hope for that. The most we have managed to do – as Arthur Miller would say – is inscribe our name on a cake of ice on a hot July day… Or so it too often seems.
But whenever I am haunted by such doubts, I remind myself of one particular television program that profoundly altered the trajectory of my life.
The year was 1968. I was twelve and living in Louisville, Kentucky, which had only three television stations at the time — one of them a UHF channel that focused exclusively on agricultural news.
I had always been a terrible student, earning mostly D’s and C’s, and even a number of F’s on my report cards. I got in terrible trouble in third grade when my teacher found all of my homework for the year stuffed inside my desk. I never brought it home because I didn’t want my parents to see my dismal marks. I vividly remember the parent/teacher conference following this archeological discovery. It was the only one my father ever attended, but he made up for his many absences by bringing a special intensity to this one. “You know why you’re not getting good grades?” he said, shoving his huge craggy face within an inch of mine, spraying me with minute droplets of spit. “Because you’re daydreaming all the time! Looking out the windows at the birds in the trees instead of concentrating on your work.”
He was right. I could not see how school was in any way relevant to my life and found it nearly impossible to concentrate my mind on the tedious exercises my teachers scrawled upon the dusty blackboards. The same third grade teacher who discovered my cache of homework wrote on my report card that year: “David does not have an adequate mastery of the English language. This will be a severe hindrance to his academic development.” She was also right. I was in the slow reading group in her class and remained in the slow reading group all the way up to the seventh grade. Books — reeking of dust, dried ink, and decaying paper — held no allure to me. Reading assignments loomed before me like prison sentences.
No teacher, no matter how sympathetic or charismatic, could break through to me. I’m sure if I were growing up today I would be labeled with ADD, or some other learning impaired classification, and would be fed an officially sanctioned narcotic to help me overcome my disabilities. Fortunately, they had no such classifications in the 1960s and I was left to flounder on my own. Until one fall night in Louisville when I tuned our GE Porta-Color Television into a special live production entitled, Of Mice and Men. If I had grown up in this age of hundreds of cable channels I never would have watched it. But there were only three channels, so it was a choice between hog reports, a hillbilly hoedown, or this adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novel, written by John Hopkins, directed by Ted Kotcheff, and starring George Segal as George, and Nicol Williamson as Lenny.
From the opening moments, the production grabbed me by the throat. I identified immediately with the child-man, Lenny, trapped in a cruel world that he couldn’t fathom. The horrifying scene in which Curly picks on Lenny re-enacted my encounters with bullies in the halls, locker rooms, and gyms of my junior high school. And Lenny’s sudden burst of rage mirrored my own fits of anger, with the added fantasy fulfillment of watching this huge child-man crush the bully’s fist and reduce him to tears.
But it was the ending that catalyzed me, and changed my life forever. The friendship between George and Lenny spoke to something I knew innately even at 12: that friends and loved ones provide our only insulation from a cold, savage world. I had never seen an ending so dark and yet strangely uplifting. As a future mentor of mine, Ken Kesey, was fond of saying: Art is a work of imagination that can take you to the very darkest corners of human experience and yet leave you feeling somehow ennobled. The climactic moment when George shoots Lenny so that he will not have to be tortured by a sadistic lynch mob cut me to the core. Even at 12, I understood that George did this out of love and tenderness, and yet this act of mercy would leave an indelible scar that he would carry with him for the remainder of his days. Before shooting Lenny, he distracts him by asking him to gaze across the pond while he describes the little farm they dreamed of living on one day. Just before the bullet splits his skull, Lenny cries out ecstatically that he can see the farm. This chilling moment helped me grasp the redemptive power of imagination, it’s ability to heal our deepest wounds, and even alleviate the stark horror of death itself.
When the program ended I sat in the dark of our living room, bathed in the glow of the TV, trying to understand what had just happened to me. It felt like a spear had been driven through my heart, and yet I felt strangely exhilarated. It was as if I hadn’t watched this show, but it had watched me, bearing witness to my deepest fears, resentments, and yearnings.
The next week I went to the library and checked out Steinbeck’s novel. I devoured it, experiencing all of the same emotions the television show had provoked, but on an even more profound level. In the months that followed I became a voracious reader, consuming novels on the bus rides to and from school, in the precious minutes before the class bell rang, on the playground, in my room at night – in every spare moment of every day. Soon I was writing short stories and making my own movies with my father’s Super Eight Camera — eager to create for myself the same experience that Of Mice and Men had given me.
Forty years later I was working as a writer/supervising producer on a critically acclaimed television series called Battlestar Galactica. The show had a legion of passionate fans who showed up at public screenings or corresponded with me. One of them was Kim Kennedy, an assistant director working on Law & Order SVU. (Kim currently works on the Emmy Award winning series, Homeland.) Kim was sharp, articulate, and wildly enthusiastic about Battlestar, and soon became a close friend. In the course of our many conversations, Kim mentioned she worked with a director/producer on SVU named Ted Kotcheff, who was now in his late 70s. My eyes popped out of their sockets. I told her the story about seeing Of Mice and Men, and about how it had changed my life, and begged Kim to arrange a telephone call with Kotcheff.
A soft, courtly voice purred over the receiver. “Mr. Weddle, I’ve been watching Battlestar Galactica. It’s a terrific show. I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to tell you so.”
“We’ve met before, Mr. Kotcheff.”
“Yes, in my living room in Louisville, Kentucky when I was twelve.”
I proceeded to describe the experience watching Of Mice and Men, and how it had affected me. Kotcheff graciously thanked me and admitted he had not seen the show since it aired in 1968. I told him he could view it at the Paley Center For Media in Beverly Hills. He said he would make an effort to see it again and circled back to the subject of Battlestar Galactica. “I’ve watched a number of your episodes and I must commend you. It’s outstanding work.’
“Well, I never would have done any of it if it wasn’t for you,” I answered. “Your show set me on the path to become a writer.”
Kotcheff’s voice choked with emotion as he murmured some words of gratitude and we bid each other farewell. For hours afterward I glowed with the satisfaction a debt repaid.
All of this is a long way of saying our work in television is not ephemeral. The best of it has the ability to alter attitudes on big social and political issues. But beyond the reviews, the ratings, and medial hoopla, we should never lose sight of millions of people out there sitting in the dark of their living rooms and bedrooms absorbing what we have created. We will never know how many lives we’ve changed, how many minds we’ve expanded, or how many individuals feel just a little less lonely because of a show we have written, directed or produced.
I know television played a big part in my life.
Hello David: just a brief note to tell you that I read, probably for the 5th time, your July, 2001 LA Times magazine piece on your father and the adjustment problems of some WWII veterans and their families. I’ve kept that issue for all these years because, as the son of a “good war” veteran, I was spared the trauma discussed in your article. My father died when I was 9 (I’m 62) from lung cancer, the victim of incessant smoking.. As a recently retired high school history teacher, I have to admit though that hearing the war stories from several family members, as well as those I remember from my dad, shaped my love of history and teaching it to young people (a career I loved and still do). I had numerous friends and some colleagues though who had experiences similar to those of which you wrote. I have a lot of time now to reflect on these. We would often have veterans come and talk to our students (I was at Paramount High School, near Long Beach, California) and their talks to the kids were genuinely reflective and indicative of men who’d successfully readjusted. I often think of these guys when I read your article and the comparisons are interesting. As we lose more of these veterans each day, I still think about them in an individualistic manner, that is did this guy suffer or keep things in that maybe needed to be brought “out in the open”. I don’t think we’ll ever know. William Manchester and Paul Fussell both said that each soldier dealt with war in their own way. I’m glad your piece showed a perspective of this that the general public might not have been aware. I wanted to belatedly thank you for your efforts and disclosing your family’s experiences. Thanks for reading and best of luck in your future projects.
Lynn Robert Fairbanks
DIamond Bar, California
Thank you, Lynn. I am very proud of that article. I count it as one of my finest achievements. You made my day!
I think about you and the things we’ve done together a lot old friend. I have survived multiple surgeries and heart problems but like a Timex, “I take a licking and keep on ticking!” LOL Everything in this article you told me at Squaw Valley or at other times and it rings true. It is really well done. Please send me a snail mail address so I can send you copy of my latest book Highway 61: Heart of the Delta, with Forward by Morgan Freeman and 85 of JP’s fabulous pictures. You can check out both books in a little video with music on the website. I can’t tell you how proud I am of your accomplishments! Pretty good for a boy from Louisville they thought couldn’t read ha! I have continued to work on social justice projects (took 20 years to write Highway 61) so I don’t get a lot done, but I work as hard at it as we did at Squaw Valley. I went through the Highway 61 book 400 or 500 times cover to cover. It has no mistakes that I know of of any kind LOL Please send snail mail address and I’ll send you some stuff to look at. Just purely for your pleasure. I don’t want to do anything with or in Hollywood LOL so my package will be one of the few you get where I am not asking for anything. LOL Working on three books for UT Press and one, hopefully, Southern Illinois Press. Chris Lamb, who did the program with us at Sauk, has now written six books, the last one on Jackie Robinson. So you may seem him on TV talking about it because of the movie 42. Take care. Please send snail mail and email, that way I can send stuff and we can stay in touch. Also, that picture looks great! You have aged well. I haven’t LOL Your Pal, Randy Norris PS–If you want any of the pictures in the book just tell me and I will send them to you any size suitable for framing. Morgan Freeman has the picture on the cover of the book hanging over his kitchen table in Charleston, Mississippi. Everybody likes that shot. Bye for now. Keep at it. Hope your wife and daughter are fine. Tell them I said hello. I am still married to Linda and live in Rock Falls. I keep trying to run her off but she won’t leave
Good to hear from you Randy. My snail mail address is what it has always been. You should have it.
I have many fond memories of our times in Squaw Valley, and of speaking at your college.
I am glad you are working and still happily married. I would love to get a copy of your book!
Dear Mr. Weddle,
I am in the process of interviewing all the living co-author’s of Caverns. One of them sent me to your Rolling Stone piece which I read with interest here. I was wondering if you have any photos from that assignment to which you own the rights that you’d be willing to share. If so, I would certainly credit you and link to your stuff.
I do not have any photos other than the ones that appear in the magazine, and they would be owned by the estate of Brian Lanker or the students who provided them. My only photo of Ken is of him at the San Francisco Opera house performing the Cuckoo’s Nest nursery rhyme that his grandmother taught him. It was taken the night I first me him.
Dear Mr. Weddle, Can you please get in touch with me regarding a film doc on JERRY LEWIS?
I sent Mr. Weddle an email yesterday about Jerry Lewis. Can you please have him get in touch with me?
JERRY LEWIS: “He Makes Me Laugh”
I have sent two emails to your email address. Reply to them and you are in touch with me.
I watched the Deep Space Nine episode “Extreme Measures”, which you co-wrote with Bradley Thompson. In this episode, Bashir and O’Brien extract the cure to the Founder plague from the mind of Sloan, the Federation agent who designed it.
So Section 31 designed a pathogen that doomed the Founder race. Bashir was disgusted with this because it was genocide, but I think Section 31 had the right idea. I don’t support genocide of humans because humans are not driven by a collective will.
For instance, when the Red Army invaded Germany during WW2, Russian soldiers went on a rampage killing and raping German citizens in revenge for the suffering the German army inflicted on Russia. This wasn’t right, because you couldn’t really blame 70-year-old grandmothers or bumpkin farmers for the decisions of their government. Remember that Nazi Germany was a dictatorship that suppressed free speech, banned rival parties, and routinely lied to its people.
By contrast, the Founders have this Great Link through which they share thoughts and emotions. They are remarkably conformist in thought and motivation. Maybe not as much as the Borg, but nonetheless I can’t recall any hint of factionalism or dissension among their race except for Odo, and he was thought a freak for this. So I think every Founder really is guilty for everything the Dominion did, because the war was a decision they made collectively.
What did you think of this when you wrote the episode? In Star Trek, the Federation likes to treat everyone equally, but treating everyone the same means ignoring their differences, and the Founders are very different from humans.
We did not think of these specific historical events. But we created Section 31 — along with Ira Behr, Ron Moore and the DS9 writing staff — for the episode “Inquisition,” which preceded “Extreme Measures.” The conceit was that the Federation with all of its high humanistic values could only survive in a hostile universe by maintaining a covert organization that was willing to do the nasty work of eliminating its most dangerous enemies — just as the United States has relied on the FBI, the OSS, the CIA and Navy SEALS to carry out covert missions against our most deadly enemies around the globe. This of course continues today with SEALS taking out terrorist cells in countries around the world on secret missions that the American public has no knowledge about.
This of course creates a dilemma because covert organizations that avoid the scrutiny of the public and the press have ample opportunity to abuse their power. Those were the themes we explored in “Inquisition” and “Extreme Measures.”
Thank you for your interest!
We say “We provide a place for people to speak whose voices might not otherwise be heard.” We really mean that. Also including two page piece of woman I met in Postville, Iowa while I was there with Tony Kahn, NPR, Morning Stories.