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.