The Phil Klemmer Interview

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"Mr. And Mrs. Smith Meets The Office"

CB: So when you say you would write for Michel, would he be pitching something to a studio?

PK: It would be pitching to an ad agency -- they bid these commercials out to multiple directors. Michel wouldn't be the best example, because he would be able to write a totally unintelligible paragraph and land the job just because his name did all the heavy lifting for him. Younger directors, or guys who are trying to get that Super Bowl spot, will spend five hundred or a thousand bucks to get a ghost writer to come in and sex it up for them.

CB: So what do you consider your first big break?

PK: Well, it sort of came out of that -- one of the guys that I'd been writing for wanted to adapt a screenplay -- he had this story about these kids in Cuba, like on a Guantanamo Bay base, who joined up with Che and did a little revolutionary action in the sixties. So he had bought the rights to this and wanted somebody to adapt it, and I was able to get a couple grand out of this guy to adapt something under the table. And I spent, like, two weeks doing it -- it was the second screenplay I'd ever done. I had done one feature on my own before that, and didn't have an agent.

CB: So how did you get your agent?

PK: I got my agent when I got Veronica Mars, because I had given Rob Thomas the Cuba script when he was pretty into running Playmakers. I was burning out on doing freelance stuff -- I was approaching thirty or whatever and not feeling good. So he read that, and getting work on Playmakers didn't work out, but then the next year, I think I ran into him at an Academy Awards party -- I'd known him first as a friend of a friend. And we'd run into each other at his annual crazy Halloween party, and so we started hanging out, and at one point he was like, "Have you ever considered writing television?" He remembered thinking that the Cuba thing was decent, and he told me about Veronica Mars, which was then a theoretical possibility. And my wife was getting pretty pregnant at the time [laughs], so I decided to do a Six Feet Under spec, in like, a week, because he was getting ready to go to upfronts, and then he was going on a tour of the world or whatever, so there was a tiny window -- you know, my wife was nine months pregnant, so it was sort of a Hail Mary thing. So I did the spec, and…I guess he was on his tour of the world first, he was in Istanbul or something, and he had brought the script with him and I guess he read it poolside, and he was very relieved that he hadn't sort of gone down an awkward path with a friend and a guy who was extremely desperate. So he called and was very excited, and was like, "All right! I'm gonna pitch you to Warner Brothers!" And that worked, and literally in the next week, my wife was having a baby and I was getting calls from the upfronts, from like, agents that I didn't know -- it was just one of those crazy Hollywood stories of your last chance to take a stab at a career there working out.

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