AMC

  • Posters for four fall 2016 plays
  • Robert Bresson collage
  • Two photographs from John Thomson exhibit

Jeph Loeb

A Conversation with MARVEL's TV Executive Producer and Writer Jeph Loeb 

Presentation held on 6:30 p.m. Thursday, September 24h, 2015 • Plaza del Sol Performance Hall

Jeph Loeb

Marvel’s Head of TV, Loeb is an Emmy Award-nominated writer/producer. In television, his many credits include SmallvilleLost and Heroes; and in film, Teen Wolf and Commando. Loeb has been a writer on comic book icons including Spider-ManIron Man and Batman. He is currently an executive producer on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Marvel’s Agent Carter for ABC, as well as Marvel’s Daredevil and Marvel’s Jessica Jones for Netflix.

Transcript / Jeph Loeb Interview

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>> Thank you and good evening, it is my pleasure to welcome you to this wonderful event. Before I introduce our special guest, I'd like to bring out my partner in crime who will be co-moderating with me tonight. Charles Hatfield, Professor of English here at CSUN specializes in word and image studies, comics and graphic novels, children's culture, cultural studies, film and media, and popular genres. He's published widely in the theory and criticism of comics, for example he's the author of Hand Fire, the Comic Art of Jack Kirby, which was published by University Press of Mississippi in 2011. Beyond academia Charles has written extensively for comics industry trade magazines most notably The Comics Journal and he's the curator of the current exhibit that you all should go and see at the CSUN Art Gallery, Comic Book Apocalypse, The Graphic World of Jack Kirby. Ladies and gentlemen, Charles Hatfield.
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[ Applause ]
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>> Honor, truth, justice. We are here tonight to converse with a man whose humble beginnings as a comic book collector led to a hook smashing career helming an ever-expanding assemblage of super beings, crime fighters and adventurers. Jeph Loeb's film debit was a collaboration with Matthew Wiseman on the screenplay for the 1985 film Teen Wolf starring Michael J Fox. Shortly thereafter, the duo wrote Commando which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger. Two years later, Loeb would reteam with Wiseman and with Tim Kring to pen Teen Wolf 2, yes you're right it was a sequel to Teen Wold. Almost 20 years later Kring and Loeb would rejoin forces to write and produce the multi-award-winning TV series Heroes. But before then in 1991 Jeff made a little transition he went to work for DC Comics for whom he wrote the first of his many collaborations with Tim Sale. The pair would give birth to such notable comic books as Batman Legends of the Dark Knight, Batman the Long Halloween, and Batman Dark Victory. The Long Halloween in fact is one of the three comics that was a direct influence on the noted 2005 feature film Batman Begins. Jeff also has written a number of popular titles for Marvel comics, as well as for several smaller publications. He segued to television with Smallville, for which he became -- yes, yes for which he became a supervising producer and he won the Jules Vern award for best writing for his work on that show. Jeff blew our minds and kept us clamoring for more with his work on Lost, but perhaps it was that outrageous television moment when a cheerleader jumped to her death from an 80 foot tower for the sixth time and then rose again that caught our breath and our attention. Heroes captured the essence of the nerdish obsession with superheroes that so many are slavishly devoted to. Loeb and Kring received an Emmy nomination in 2007 for outstanding drama series for Heroes, as well as Writers Guild of America nomination for best new series. The show won the People's Choice Award for favorite new TV drama and the Saturn award for best network television series, it also nominated for the Golden Globe award for best dramatic television series. In 2010, Loeb was named head of Marvel television and he's currently in that capacity, executive producer for several shows on the air as we speak. Marvels Agents of Shield and Marvels Agent Carter for ABC and Marvels Daredevil and Marvels Jessica Jones for Netflix, as well as several animated programs scattered throughout the dial. Do you guys say that anymore dial, no you don't. We are thrilled ladies and gentlemen and honored to have him here tonight, so please join me in welcoming the first of this year's commerce of creativity's speakers Mr. Jeff Loeb.
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[ Applause ]
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>> That was an amazing introduction and none of it was true so. Anyone can write anything on their Wikipedia page and it becomes fast.
>> Well we celebrate you for all the fiction then. Given our environment I feel that it's fitting to begin with an academic oriented question. You went to Columbia University, you earned a BA there and an MFA in screenwriting. How, if at all, and I hope it did, how would you say your education prepared you for your professional career?
>> That's a good question. I didn't get -- first of all, it was a long time ago. I started at Columbia largely because I wanted to go to school in New York City and I really felt that getting an education from the city was just as important as getting it from the school. One of the things that Columbia does in their undergraduate program and I don't know your guys' graduate program is that you don't get to pick your elective. So for the first two years you have a variety of different things that you can take and also this is -- we'll show you the fool that I am. I got to my dorm room and as things happened, people came by and they said, what are you going to major in and I said film and they said there is no film major. I said don't be ridiculous and I took out because in those days it was a book it wasn't online, I took out the book and I said look there's all these classes in film and they said yes, in the graduate school of film you're in the college. And I literally I had gone to college for the wrong school, I picked the wrong school. So I immediately on the first day went to the graduate school thinking well I'll just talk my way in and they basically said look, you can awe at these classes, but they're not going to count for anything and so I said well okay. So I went to the film school at the same time as going to the college and then when it came time to actually go to the film school I actually knew everybody there and I think that helped. The Columbia Film School when I was an undergrad was a very different school, it was very much about film criticism, which I guess teaches you how to be a film critic, not something I had any interest in. But if you know Andrew Sarris wrote for the Village Voice and that was like a big deal to be in his class. And then in literally the year that I started Frank Daniel ran -- some of you may know, but he ran the USC Film School in the last 20 years before he died. He took over the school and Frank had a very different who you'll probably know named Milos Forman who Milos at the time had won the Oscar for Cuckoo's Nest had not Amadeus yet he was working on Hair and Ragtime, he was finishing here and that was the first thing I worked on. And then Ragtime was starting. And then they brought in Paul Schrader who had written Raging Bull and Taxi Driver and so he was -- Paul was my screenwriting teacher and Milos was my directing teacher. And so it was like okay, well how can you mess this up. And so but again, I'll give you an example of how being in Los Angeles really makes a difference in terms of what's going on. There I was in New York and really at the time the New York film scene and the LA film scene were two completely different places to be. And so it was just sort of the, you know, the Spike Lee and all the young filmmakers, Scorsese and things like that were in New York and they would never dream of making anything in Los Angeles. So to have Paul Schrader sort of represent LA was a very big deal because even Milos wasn't in the LA scene. And so I went through a year and a half of film school writing scripts and making movies and doing all the things that you do in film school before Paul sat down and said, I've read your script it's really good you need to get an agent.
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And I looked at him and I went I'm not an actor and he said no, you need an agent and I said why I'm not an actor and he said, because writers have agents. This was the first person -- I had been in film school for year and a half and no one had explained to me the thing that I really needed and I hope you guys are getting, which is there is one thing to learn how to be a screenwriter it's another thing to learn the business of screenwriting. And that was what Columbia really laced and so when I taught at USC that's all I thought. I sort of felt like I was not qualified to teach screenwriting being a screenwriter, but what I really knew how to do was teach how do you get an agent, what do you do when you have your first deal, learning that actors are actors and they are acting. So you know those are the things that you can learn as a writer and, you know, the first fundamental thing is that if you work in film as a writer you're the first person hired and the first person fired. And if you work in television, which is something that actually again took me 15 years to figure out, you're the first person hired and you're the boss, so they can't fire you until they do. So it's just they're very different world and I hope I have answered your questions which I don't think I have.
>> You really have. So you got your MFA and made efforts to launch a screenwriting career. Your career overall has been one of transitions and segues and so the question that I'm going to ask the way you answer it perhaps will then be a segue to a question that Charlies will ask. How did you transition from school into a professional career as a screenwriter and then part two, how did the transition to writing comic books come about?
>> Okay, there's a number of parts here because I wouldn't come here tonight unless I was looking for work, so I'm assuming some of you are trying to figure out how to actually work in this business so we'll go that way. I graduated from film school literally I graduated on the 5th I got on the plan on the 6th. And I came out here I didn't know anybody and in the space of literally 48 hours bought a car, found an apartment, moved out here, I was lucky I had a writing partner that I had met in film school so at least I had somebody to talk to. This will give you an idea as to how little money we had. We called the phone company and said that we needed the yellow pages for every area of Los Angeles not realizing that was about 30 phonebooks that were like this big and so we made furniture out of them. Like we put the television set on top of the phonebooks because what else would you do with them. But that's the cute and clever part. I was also a jerk and so I had spoken to -- I had somebody that I knew here who told me that if I was young and single and I was in the Hollywood scene and so you had live in are you ready Marina del Rey. And so I got an apartment on the beach at Marina Del Rey for more money than anyone in this room has made in a year present day. Because when my writing partner said is there any place else in Los Angeles that we could live I actually had the arrogance to say, oh but you don't understand all of Paul Schrader's friends are going to come over and we have to have a nice place. Paul Schrader who never returned my phone call after I got to Los Angeles. So the comedy of what you think is going to happen is what exactly is not going to happen. And so there were so many things I did not know how to do and so it should be no surprise to anybody here that my first job was at TGI Friday's as a bartender. So I moved from New York to Los Angeles with dreams and hopes and aspirations and I could throw a bottle up in the air and catch it that was my skill. This was at the era of when Tom Cruise had made Cocktail and we literally could do that stuff. And so it was great for meeting girls not so much at making a living. And so I have this job where I'm wearing this red stripe referee T-shirt every night and then writing during the day. And my writing partner has a job working, I don't know if any of you remember this but there used to be video arcades, actually you've seen Tron. And he worked at one of those behind bullet proof glass changing dollars into quarters so that people could play video games because they didn't play them in their home then they actually went to arcades. And so the two of us like moved from New York to have excuse my French shitty jobs and when I actually went and again, at some point about that, but I knew a guy who knew a guy who. There was a company that had made a little movie called Valley Girl with Nick Cage for $800 thousand dollars called Atlantic they're gone and took all the money with them. For those of you who wonder whether or not I got rich on Teen Wolf. So I called this guy and he says to me listen, we're looking for a movie that we can make for a million dollars because we had done really well with Nick Cage in this other movie. And so will you come in and will you pitch. And so I came in and I told them this ridiculous story about a high school student who turned into a werewolf who could also play basketball because they also do. And when I got done pitching it the guy that owned the place said this is how it's going to work. We think Michael J. Fox is a movie star. Now everyone in the room is going I saw Back to the Future, well they hadn't made that yet. So Michael J. Fox was on a show called Family Ties, which also had not yet become a big hit, it was a semi-hit. In fact, when I told people Michael J. Fox was in my movie they said, the guy on Silver Spoons I said no that's Rick Schroeder that's a different guy, he'll grow up and be another actor. So Michael J. Fox met with us and it was like one of those meetings where like you sit there and you go okay, so you're a werewolf and you play basketball because you have these meetings all the time. And it really was, I mean to give Michael credit it wasn't like anybody else was offering him a movie and we were really pitching it hard. And so he said let me read the script and he read the script and he committed. And from the time that we pitched the movie until we wrote it and got Michael was three weeks. And then we had to make the movie because Meredith Baxter-Birney who played his mom on the show was going to go on maternity leave and it had to fit in that slot. And so we shot the movie in 24 days for a million dollars. But during the time that we were making the movie Michael J. Fox went from being Michael J Fox to Michael J. Fox. And because of the television show not because of Back to the Future and so when we first started shooting the movie he would just come out and everyone they'd read their lines and we'd do the show and it was great. But as the weeks went by more people were watching Family Ties because they had moved it behind the Cosby Show and the Cosby Show at the time had 60 million people watching that show. So it was about people 1 out of 4 people in America knew who Michael P. Keaton was. [Inaudible] speaking, you're all sitting there going who is that, who Michael J. Fox was. And so there's a scene at the beginning of the movie where Michael is coming out of the school which we shot over on Fairfax and he's coming out and there's sort of a crane shot and there's school buses and he's talking with Booth and Stiles is coming down the street in the Stiles mobile and we're shooting the scene and the moment Michael -- this is now we're two weeks into shooting or three weeks and Michael steps out of the school and the girl extras and they were girls, started screaming like he was a Beetle.
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And the war of Harry Stiles I guess and they were just -- they went out of their minds and we literally had to say like when we say action you can't scream and when we say cut you can scream. And that was the only time when we actually sort of knew this could actually be a hit because they seemed to like him before they've even seen the movie. While we were making the movie they were making Back to the Future and there's this new documentary out called Back in Time that if you haven't seen it you've got to see that's about the making of Back to the Future. And they were shooting with Eric Stoltz in the lead and a lot of people have heard that story what they don't realize is it was a 10 week shoot they had shot with Eric for six weeks. So there's a whole movie there with Eric Stoltz playing Marty McFly. And one night we got a phone call from Steven Spielberg like I'm 23 years old and Steven Spielberg called I thought I went to heaven it was like. And he was like so we're thinking maybe Michael and we need to know whether or not he can -- we know he's a television star we need to know whether or not he's a movie star. And so will you show us your film and we were still shooting and we were like, we can show you some scenes. And so we literally like drove over there like with a cassette the size of a brechen, they dropped it off in some secret compartment and then they hired him. So I'd like to think we had something to do with it, I know we had nothing to do with it Steven Spielberg called. Anyway, that movie we were supposed to open before it. The one smart thing that Atlantic did was they looked at it and went that's going to open on Memorial Day we're going to open on April 8 and that was 30 years ago. And some of you are sitting there going I wasn't born yet. And so the whole reason I told you that story I hope is because what I'm trying to get to and this is really the big message that I hopefully you'll take from tonight is I had a dream, it was a really, really simple dream and that was I would sit and next to my bed I had a little 9 inch black and white Sony television, which I still have and I would watch movies that came on at like, you know, 1 o'clock in the morning and my parents thought I was asleep. And all I did was look at them and go this is what I want to do, I want to make moves. Now I thought I was going to go make the Godfather I didn't think I was going to make Teen Wolf and Commando and that's another lesson. But the message that if you take anything from tonight is don't let people wake you up from your dreams. Let them wake you up from your nightmares. If this is what you want to do and you have people in your life whether they're your parents or whether they're your boyfriend or girlfriend or both, then I'm not asking you to stop seeing those people I'm asking you to say we should probably not talk about this. You know, it's kind of like, you know, there's the old joke which is don't talk about politics and religion at dinner like don't talk about my career ever. So because you need to believe in yourself, you need to believe this is going to happen. And I at the time I had a girlfriend and she said to me when I was moving from New York to LA what happens if it doesn't happen. And I was like well what do you mean and she said, well what happens if you, you know, you go through all this and you can't get a job. And I said well I don't understand I went to film school and she said, what does that mean and I said well if I went to plumbing school you wouldn't be sitting here going you can't be a plumber there's going to be a leak somewhere. So at some point someone's going to need a movie and I'm going to be there to say I can do that.
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[ Applause ]
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And you really have to understand that and own that or for yourself. And the other best piece of advice that I ever got was I was working on a show it's not something that we've talked about a lot, but in the middle of all this madness I went to go work for I guess I couldn't believe that I wasn't going to get a job while I worked at TGI Friday's. And so at one point I was working as an assistant to an executive producer, which is basically making sure that his dry cleaning was picked up and I promised that if I ever had an assistant I would never make them go get my dry-cleaning and I've been good at that. But what I realized was through a series of circumstances there was a show that was the first original programming that was on HBO, which really makes me sound old because most of you are sitting here going Sopranos no, called the Hitchhiker. And the Hitchhiker was basically the twilight zone with boobs that was sort of how we sold it. And because at the time the only thing that made cable different from television was that you could naked peoples and so we wrote one of the pilots for that show. And I remember talking to -- the only person that I knew that worked in this business that I could really talk to was the other writer that worked on this and he had written a movie. And I went to him after we got the offer to write Teen Wolf for which we were paid are you ready, $4,000 and I split with another guy. And so I went to him and I said I don't know if I should do this like I didn't come out here to write teen comedies, I came out to write the Godfather like I don't want to be known as the guy that wrote Teen Wolf. And he gave me this great advice he said to me, no one knows you're alive, so don't worry about it. And but really what it taught me was and this is just a general life philosophy thing, which is, you know, the life that you're building for yourself is a brick wall and that wall is and when you look at a brick wall what's sort of beautiful about it is that it's some of them are really perfect bricks that are cut and they fit right in and some of them are battered and shitty and, you know, you cram in there. But you can't build a wall without all of those pieces. And so yeah, you wind up making a movie like Burglar and apologizing for it for the rest your life, but then you also wind up you never know Teen Wolf became Teen Wolf like nobody, I didn't know that at the time we just wanted to make a good little movie and we made a good little movie. There's, you know, there's people that come up to me that are like large people that oh Commando was the best movie that was ever made and I go it's not but thanks, but I'm glad you enjoyed it. It built a house for me and so I'm very grateful for that part of it and I got a relationship with Arnold Schwarzenegger. All those things are important as you go along and so this is my rather longwinded way of saying because imagine me being longwinded, is that don't turn your nose up at any job, you don't know where it's going to take you. And to get back to what you originally asked me, I started out to come out like I said, I came out to write the Godfather I wound up writing Teen Wolf, Commando came after that. I spent the next 15 years writing movies. I was writing a movie for Warner Bros. based on a character that you now know from television, the Flash and I literally am halfway through working on this project when I realized this guy runs. And then on page 23 he runs some more. So it was not our finest effort, but at the time I then met Jeanette Kahn who was then the president at the DC Comics who said, do you want to write a comic book. And this was to me like Santa pulling up at the house at July and going I missed you last year, but I got a black American Express card and go Toys R Us right now. And so I was like yeah are you kidding let's do that I want to write Batman, I want to write Superman.
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And for a guy that had read comics since I was 10 I knew nothing about how to make comics or who made them. I mean I knew the names I mean Jack Kirby and Stan Lee was awesomeness and I knew Elliott Maggin who went to Brandeis University and who had come to the house for dinner, so I understood that there were actual writers and artists and things like that I just didn't understand that they had jobs. Because I thought they were like okay, well I mean I did understand that Stan and Jack did the first hundred issues of Fantastic Four, but there were annuals, there were all kinds of things. Like I thought I'll just do a fill-in issue that's all they wanted. And I sat with the people at DC with my sort of wish list and they went no, nope. And finally, they showed me a list and even the list scared them because I think at the time the idea of somebody that hadn't come from comics writing comics was a very scary thing. I was really among the very first few Hollywood people to write comics. Kevin Smith hadn't done it yet, there were a lot of people that hadn't done it yet. And I think they thought I was going to like chop off people's heads or something or, you know, oh there's nakedness. You know, I just so worshipped everybody that worked in that business. So they gave me Challenges of the Unknown and they literally it was just like you can't possibly hurt them we haven't published the Challenges of the Unknown in 20 years. I went to the comic book store and I said, I mean I collect comics and I didn't know who they were. And I went and they got and I said, do you have any Challenges of the Unknown and they brought a box of 75 issues of Challenges of the Unknown and I said how much and the guy goes five bucks. And I was like I'm feeling so good about myself now that I'm working on this. But again, like the jerk in me could have said, I'm out like if I don't get to do Batman then what's the point. But here's what happened I wound up working with Tim Sale who I didn't know like I went out, I went to San Diego the comic convention and I had my little [inaudible] and I went to go see guys like Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld whole were also starting out in the business and they would look at me like I'm doing The Punisher man, I'm doing the X-Men. I'm like you guys aren't doing anything, but you could do Challenges of the Unknown with me and they were like forget it. And I found Tim and I loved the way that he drew ugly people because I sort of felt like because I would read Challenges of the Unknown and if the colorist got the hairstyle wrong I couldn't tell the difference between the characters. Because it was just the way they were drawn by that particular artist Jack Kirby created them and then after that they just gave me anybody clearly not Jeff [inaudible]. And so I love that Tim drew skinny people skinny and he drew fat people fat and he drew people with no hair and I said, great this is what we're going to do we're going to make them like different guys and have them look different. And so we did it and it was what we refer to as a critical success, which means we didn't sell [inaudible]. But because of that one of the eight people that read the book was Archie Goodwin and Archie Goodwin will always be my favorite editor and writer of all time. Archie passed and Archie was the editor on Legends of the Dark Knight. And he asked Tim whether or not Tim would draw Batman and so Tim did three issues of Batman with the writer named Jim Robinson and then Tim became the first artist -- the point of that book was to have a different team every single time there was an art. And he became the first artist that got asked back because Archie just really enjoyed working with him and loved the way he drew Batman. And so Tim to his credit said can Jeff write and that's how I got Batman. I didn't get Batman because I was good my artist wanted me. And then we got good I think. And so again, it was one of those things. And after I made I really an answering your question.
>> Yes you are.
>> I made a movie -- sort of picture this. You've done this now for 15 years and the first two movies that you made were really big successes and then you went through a long period of making movies that I wouldn't go see. And finally, a young writer brought me a script called Firestorm that was actually at USC. And I took the script and I had a friend that had a movie deal with Sylvester Stallone and they were looking to make a movie with Stallone after Cliffhanger and this was basically Cliffhanger in forest fires if you need a pitch. And we sent it to Stallone with a fireman's axe and said we'd love for you to do this movie and he calls back and he goes, I really love the script, the script was great -- I'm doing a terrible Stallone. But there's no way you're going to get me in a movie where like I'm on fire like it's not happening. And so like he was the biggest star in the world like he not need to do this movie. And so they went to -- Fox went to Howie Long. And for those of you that ever watched football or watch football on Sundays, you know, he's an incredibly charismatic, lovely guy and they thought he was going to be a movie star. And I thought look at this, this is we're at Fox where we made Commando with Arnold Schwarzenegger and nobody thought Arnold could even speak, at least know that Howie can speak and we're going to make this movie and it's going to be awesome. And I have a big piece like it's not like in the old days like this could be it, I could like retire. And we make the movie and it's, you know, it's a good action movie is what it is. And so that the movie was going to open on October 6th, which means nothing to anybody here except that it was the same day that Commando opened. So I was like this is it like God has said, this is your golden ticket kid, you got this movie, you made this movie, it's going to be great. And there were ads in theaters and I thought I can't go wrong. And I get a phone call and the phone call is we've got good news and we have even better news and whenever anybody says that to you hang up the phone. And so the good news is that we love the movie, its testing great and the even better news is we're moving it. No, yes we're moving it because and here's the truth. And again, hang up the phone. We're making this movie that's going to sink the studio. It's wildly over budget, it's a complete disaster, all the theater owners are saying to us you have better have something to cover our asses because this movie opens Christmas Day and when it gets the middle of January we're going to need a movie. And they were like we got you covered we're going to put Firestorm in on January 16 because we had great success with Under Siege, we'll put an action movie there it's going to be awesome. Don't worry about this other movie no one -- it's an expensive star problem not yours. And the movie that opened on Christmas was Titanic and our movie sat, Firestorm sat in the movie theaters are you ready, for three days. It opened on Friday and on Monday morning theater owners across the country were going can we have five more prints of Titanic please and could you get this Firestorm movie out of our theaters right now. We just love the other thing. So again, you don't know but out of that I thought I'm done, I had so much fun in movies I don't want to do this ever again. And so I went and for a year and a half ran a comic book company, which is a whole another thing and then I came back to the business. And I went to go see my agent and I said, so what do we do and he looked at me and he went well no one knows you're alive. I said no, no, no I'm the guy who made Teen Wolf, yeah that was a long time ago you're now -- you're a complete unknown. I said I didn't go to South Africa, I literally I was just up the street. And they said no, no, no you're going to have to speck a script and people are going to have to see what you can do. And I was like this is ridiculous like I didn't -- just call somebody, go get me a job.
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And they said no speck a script, do your homework and just let me go on pitch I'll sell something new it will be great, it will be fine. They said no, they literally they want to see what you can do that you've been gone. And so I said all right fine and while I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to write I get a phone call from one of the agents at the agency and they said, you do cartoons. No, I write comic books. They said but oh that's the same thing. And I said I like cartoons, I like cartoons a lot. And they said, so we want you to go to a meeting to do a Saturday morning cartoon. Now you got to understand something, I grew up on Saturday morning cartoons, I love Saturday morning cartoons, nothing is better than cartoons. As a writer, it's the ghetto like the only people that work in at the time that work in animation it was like you're either so old nobody will hire you or so young nobody will hire you. I was in the middle, so I was like am I too old or too young I can't, I don't know what I'm going to do. And so I went to this meeting and what I was really surprised by was that the people that work in animation are really smart and really get it and kind of love what they do. And I met this guy John Carls who's partners with Maurice Sendak, who had written Where the Wild Things Are and, you know, In The Night Kitchen and all this like -- I'm like are you guys kidding me this is what you're doing and they're like yeah, we have a commitment to make a series and it was called Seven Little Monsters. And they gave me a bunch of books and I thought it was a waste of time I didn't know to actually read one of them. And I read it and Seven Little Monsters is a counting book. So literally almost the whole book is one goes up and two goes down and three goes marching into town. It goes to seven, it's not much longer than that. And so when they called they said have you read the book and I said yeah and they said well what did you thin and I said well I think it's about seven little monsters and I think the number one is kind of a tomboy and number two has a big long nose and he can sort of sniff out, you know, whether or not something's going to happen. And I went through all of the characters and I said and they live in this house it's like Bugs Bunny's house like you would go down Bugs Bunny hole and there would be furniture down there. And I said it's a little tiny house, but they somehow all fit in and they have a little mom and the mom is kind of Bushka and she sort of talks like in this sort of kind of yiddishy kind of made up language that I'm going to make up. And I'm literally saying all this and the guy goes whoa, whoa, whoa where'd you get all this from and I said what do you mean. And he goes well it's not in the book and I said well the only thing in the book is one goes up and two goes down and three goes marching into town. So you asked me to tell a story I'm telling you a story of who they are. And so I wrote my first animated script and John calls me and he goes you've never written animation have you and I said no, he goes you have two pages where they're talking. And I said yeah and he goes what are they drawing and I went what do you mean. He said they're animators what are they drawing. I said I don't know they're talking to each other. He goes have you ever watched a cartoon, I said yeah of course. He goes well you have to explain everything, you have to explain what the room is and where they're doing it, and by the way it wouldn't be a bad idea if there's movement. And I was like, like what and he goes I don't know put them on roller skates and I was like really and he goes yeah. And I go can I put them in a grocery store and he goes sure. I said they can draw a whole grocery store, he goes have you ever seen a cartoon. And so I set the whole scene they were in a grocery store with a shopping cart and things were falling down and he goes this is welcome to animation. And now I told you that story because when I was doing it I was like going this is ridiculous I came to write the Godfather now I'm writing one goes up and two goes down and three goes into town in a grocery store. I get a phone call while I'm making the show from an agent who says Joss Whedon wants to see you and I'm like why does Joss Whedon want to see me, there's a squeal in the back. And he goes I don't know, but when Joss Whedon wants to see you go see him. So I go in and they say that Joss is on the set he's shooting Buffy at the time. And they say you can sit in his office he'll be up in a few minutes. And I go in his office and there are besides guitars, there are my comics are like all over the floor and I realize this is what I refer to in the business as a pretty girl meeting. Now let me explain to you what that is. Believe it or not there are people in this business and I'm as shocked as some of you, that don't actually have a project but want to meet you because they've seen your Facebook page or your Instagram. And so it's what I call a pretty girl meeting you don't have to be a girl to actually go on a pretty girl meeting you can be a pretty boy too or you can be funny or you can be the son of somebody or you can be a lot of things. And you go to the meeting and halfway through the meeting you go there's no job here, but I'm going to try to be polite. And so that's what I thought it was, I thought oh Joss is a geek and I'm here to talk about comics and that'll be fun for him because I had to drive over through the same traffic that I got here. So he came in and he's everything you want Joss Whedon to be, he's funny and he's mercurial and he's a storyteller. And we're sitting around and literally for like an hour we're just talking about comics. And I'm thinking there's no job here, that's why my agent said I don't know instead of saying because he wants you to write Buffy. And we finally -- he finally sort of gets to the end of it and he goes so I'm thinking about making a Buffy animated series what would you do if you did that? And I went what do you mean and he goes well what would it be about and I went Buffy. And he goes you have the job and I went like I don't understand. And he goes because other people came in and they were like well it could be like we could take Giles and Giles actually has a school in England where they have young wizards. And I said no Joss, we should like Buffy's in college and we were in season five, Buffy's in college now let's go back and we'll do high school stories and it'll be like we'll tell all the stories that are in between the pages of the stories you already know. And that's when it starts and he and I got to be pals and I spent a year and a half of my life trying to get this television series made. And literally as we're ready to go and the entire Buffy staff had written episodes and it was the murderers row of writers with Jane Espenson and Doug Petrie and Steve Knight and Drew Goddard and if you know any of these names it's because they work for me now. And they -- and so we're in there doing this television show, which was going to be on this network called Fox Kids, which was channel 19 and then Fox Kids got bought by Disney, that'll pay off later. And you'll be shocked to find that Disney didn't want a television show about a teenage girl that killed vampires on their network. And instead they wound up making Pretty Little Liars. So we did this whole thing and it never got made. But while I was there working on Buffy and they would answer the phone Buffy they wouldn't answer the phone Buffy Animated that's good, the guys from Smallville had read my graphic novel Superman For All Seasons and really felt like it captured the spirit of what Smallville was and wanted a meeting. And so the guys at Warner Bros. who were making Buffy and were also making Smallville thought oh this guy works on Buffy he can work on Smallville. And so I went to go work on Smallville having never worked in television, but having worked in animation which I never would've done if I hadn't done Seven Little Monsters, which I didn't want to do because I thought it was the ghetto. But it wasn't it was actually like it was the entry point and that's -- I told you that whole longwinded ridiculous story to say to you, you just don't know. Like never take your name off anything because you don't know. And you know I think I have survived the last 30 years, which sounds so old when I'm looking at people that aren't born yet.
^M00:49:59
But I think I have -- you've sort of said in the question that I jumped around, I sort of I zigged when other people zagged. All right, I have so many friends that are writers that stopped working for a while because they were feature writers and that's all they were. They just and I would say to them write for television or they were television writers and they didn't want to write feature. You know or they were guys that didn't want to write comics. Like if anybody asks what I do I tell them I'm a storyteller and I don't care where that story appears. And what's so exciting about the world that you guys live in is we didn't have YouTube, we didn't have the ability to be able to make our own movies and then put them up online. And then like and then have a Facebook page and have a, you know, an Instagram account or a Twitter account and be able to go check out my new and then boom like all of a sudden the whole town is like going you see this thing on the thing. And like you don't even a phone number anymore like it's just like I'm www.me and there you go. And I like just yesterday -- this is my life, somewhere my daughter is embarrassed I'm telling the story is that, you know, I'm on Yahoo yeah, I'm on Yahoo not exactly right just laugh. But that's where I get my news and so there's an article that -- an article, like there's click bait and it's Taylor Swift has a new BFF. And so I of course and suddenly I'm on this guy's page and he's done this guy Todd or something, somebody knows him anybody, somebody whatever. Anyway, he did a mash of him singing like 20 of her songs, it's five minutes long. I can't believe I'm telling you this story. But he did it and he put it up online and she saw it I don't know if that's what happened, but that's the story. And now he's like hanging out with her and he has a music career. Like I had to go to meetings like you guys don't have to do that, you can just and it's the same thing in comics like we had to go to San Diego and try to find work. Like you guys can or you print them we'd make ashcans. There were things called kinkos, we had to go make Xeroxes. Like you guys all you have to do is like scan the thing and put it up online and then, you know, literally send an e-mail to somebody that says hey, check out my new comic book and boom you're suddenly like selling it to like whoever. But that's exciting that's like the greatest thing ever. You just have to understand that everybody in this room now has that idea times a billion and yours just has to be better, that's the cool part. Is there another question?
>> Absolutely, [inaudible]. There are many more, but bravo.
^M00:53:27
[ Applause ]
^M00:53:34
>> You had a new comic book out last week?
>> I did.
>> Captain America White with Tim Sale, the same guy that you did Challenges of the Unknown with. Now how is that, that's almost 25 years and you've done a lot of work with a lot of people [inaudible] Age of Apocalypse, [inaudible], huge things, you've done a lot of work with Tim Sale over that time span. And you mentioned something a moment ago that really intrigued me you talked about how there was a time when having writers, you know, screenwriters, having writers in television and film take, you know, try their hand at comics. But it's really, you know, a different or shocking idea. I mean how is the integration or not of those fields over these last 20 years or so. From your perspective how comics have changed with respect to television or vice versa.
>> Look in the same kind of way that I had to learn animation I had to learn comics. I read comics, I loved comics, I very much see the comics and television and movies are all cousins. In many ways comics are storyboards and so if you've ever written for storyboards you can write comics. It always helps when you have somebody that's as talented as Tim Sale to be able to interpret your words, but every single panel of a comic page is exactly like -- I actually write screenplay style so and I use final draft which frustrates the hell out of the editors because they don't have it. Can you just print it and send it to us or make a PDF file and send it to us. And I mean at the end of the day it's a visual meeting and so, you know, and you are -- some people say you're limited only by your imagination. That and the artist willingness to draw that because you can say 10,000 spaceships are coming over the hill, you're going to get like a big giant spaceship and then a couple of little black lines in the back and a little note down at the bottom from your artist that tells you where you can stick your head. But you know the reality is that, you know, you do what you love and I loved comics and I can't honestly -- I don't understand how I wrote five comics a month while I was on a television series, it doesn't seem possible, but it's what I was doing. May account for the fact that my daughter doesn't remember my ever being home. But you know it's just I do write very old-fashioned, I have a yellow pad and I write on a yellow pad and I then actually have to then type it so that I can send it to somebody. And you know I work with a lot of really talented artists and that really helps. And you know, I've just tried to tell stories. The story of Captain America White was something that we began eight years ago and then just through a series of, you know, personal dramas in both my life and in Tim's life we just never got around to finishing it and I think Marvel never thought we were going to finish it. And once I started doing Marvel Television it became almost impossible to find the time to write, but we finished it. So it just came out last week, people seem to like it, I like that. It's a lot better than when they you should die, haters got to hate man. So, you know, it's another medium, I mean it's a wonderful medium.
>> Also when you've had that one-on-one partnership with someone that you've worked with repeatedly, I mean how does that compare to working with a room full of people or a team full of people, you know, something that's massively collaborative like, you know, guiding the ship of a TV show.
>> They're a lot alike in a weird way that's the part that -- they're all about partnerships. You know, at the end of the day Marvel Television is very different from your typical studio executive. Most of the studio executives I know have really nice offices, I don't. But the reason why they have really nice offices is because that's where they're at like you go to their office and you meet them and they've got a computer and they read your script and then they give you notes and they talk to you on the phone. But I'm in the editing room, I'm casting, I go in the writer's room, I hang out. But Marvel is very unique that way in that we're partners in this that's the way we make it. We find that when we're not involved you wind up with Fantastic Four three times, I'm sorry three times you know. It's not that hard guys, it's a story of a family start there you'll be fine. But look that was my, you know, one of my favorite pretty girl meetings was I got, you know, I went over to go pitch on the Daredevil movie and, you know, I'm literally I'm halfway through the movie and the guy's going and then what wold happen. And I go are you just writing this down and he goes well yeah, I mean you're kind of like the professor and I'm -- it's like no I'm a working writer like if you're not going to hire me you can't just sit here and like steal my ideas. He goes I'm not stealing anything I'm inspired and I was like yeah, you'll get yours and I made Daredevil. And so that's how you, you know, success is the best revenge always remember that. And you know, so we're just trying to tell stories and that's the best thing to do. And again, as I mentioned earlier on like there's a reason why Drew Goddard and Doug Petrie and Steve Knight and Jane Espenson and people like that who I met at Buffy come to work at Marvel because you want to work with your friends, I mean it's just like this. Really you never leave college that's the secret, you don't ever leave and you'll do great.
>> Well I believe we're almost out of time there.
>> That's great.
>> So many more things for us to accomplish.
^M00:59:58
One last minor thing that -- well it's not a minor thing it' s a big thing is that the television business has changed in so many ways over the past several years things like the advent of streaming networks like Netflix. If there's a way to sort of sum up rather succinctly because I'm seeing the flashing lights.
>> They need this room?
>> Are we okay Jim?
>> Is there like a tennis game that's going on later?
>> Are we okay?
>> Five more minutes.
>> We have five more minutes.
>> [Inaudible] of s'mores [inaudible] five minutes.
>> As a TV studio executive or for that matter as a showrunner executive producer or a TV writer, you know, have you found that there's any significant difference between working with a traditional network like ABC and working with, you know, a streaming network like Netflix?
>> Yeah, I mean look I was lucky enough to be at the beginning of HBO and so I remember literally people going you're going to pay for television, that's ridiculous. But then there's the other side of it which is and again, my daughter is going to kill me for telling the story. But in my daughter's bedroom there is a beautiful 32 inch Sony plasma television, I know I paid for it. And it is literally about as far as away there from her bed and yet she watches television on her laptop. And I go that's on that could you -- we spent a lot of time coloring it and putting in music and sound and all kinds of things, could you watch it on something that actually makes a difference and literally I'm waiting for the day where she just goes I'm watching on my phone okay. What has changed is we have to understand the way in which people receive the medium and I think one of the things that helps Marvel out enormously is that if you're going to watch television on your phone and a lot of you do, I cannot think of a more intimate medium. I can't because you take your phone and you put it on your face. So the only things that I want my face besides my phone are intimate things like, you know, my hand. But, you know, nice sweet kiss. But food, but and so if you're going to tell a story you should feel like it's intimate and that's what television does, I actually think does better than movies, that's not to say there aren't movies that do really cool intimate stories. But what movies do better than television is they have big giant sprawling epics and rollercoaster rides and you can go to other planets and it's cool, it's awesome. But television you can actually get away with three people on a stage talking and care and have fun in comedy and break your heart, all do that stuff. And so if you're going to be here you've got to be able to tell that story. And so I think one of the things Marvel does really well is we tell stories about people first and then the fact that they happen to be enhanced or powered or gifted or whatever word we're using this week that that's secondary to what's going on. And so if you can get that much cross and if you're going to write about anything write about emotion start there. If someone says to you what it's about, say it's about sad, it's about blue, it's about, you know, happiness. It's you know find the what it's about first, the plot will find its way around and that's the best way to start. I would be a really bad speaker if I didn't give you one secret and that's actually something that Frank Daniel gave me, he was my screenwriting teacher, and that is if you want to be a writer you need to write every day. The most important thing about being a writer in Hollywood, being paid to be a writer it doesn't matter where you are going to do it is discipline. And it is when you say to somebody that you're going to have a script done on Thursday you should be done on Wednesday because you need time to at least read it. And so for everybody here because you all have the same question which is how do I break into the business and the best way of doing is that is that you need to write every day and you need to write a page every day, at least a page. You can't cheat, you can't write three pages and then go I can take the next two days off because I'm going to Palm Springs, I don't know who that was. But the idea is great you wrote three pages, terrific tomorrow you still got to write another page. And then and here it is guys it's math, which is my favorite subject. At the end of a year you'll have written 365 pages. Let me tell you what 365 pages is, it is three screenplays, it is six pilots, it is hopefully two pilots and a script that you have worked and written and you've written another script and you went this one's not as good as this one. They're not your children when you have children you'll understand what I mean by that, they're just scripts. Some are going to be good, some are not going to be good, you have to be honest, you have to give them to everybody you know, your professors, your friends, anybody read this does it stink, if it stinks it stinks trust me. You have to remember something, if one person has a problem with what you've written it's their problem. If two people have a problem with what you've written, you might want to take a look at it. If three people have a problem with what you've written, you have a problem. They may not have a solution, but there's something in what you're doing. If three people say I think it was funny, it's not funny and you just have to accept. You can say oh well, you'll see I'm going to show the world, no you're not you're not going to show anybody. Because three people all agreed. And the thing to do is just put down it down it's okay, you'll come back to it. But if it at the end of a year and everybody in this room if what you did was instead of saying to yourself I need to get a job by Thursday. No, you need to get a job by October of 2016 and so you start now and you start writing and some time a year from now you then have the three best pieces of writing that you've ever done in your whole life and then you go and you try to get an agent. And how do you do that, you call everybody you've ever met in your whole life and one of them works for an agent. And you say if I give you this will you read it and they will a month and you'll hear back and if you're lucky they'll try to get you to an agent and that's how it starts. Or you'll get a lawyer and the lawyer will try to get you to agent, you have to have an agent. And they will go out and they will show your material around and when that happens it'll start. And Paul Schrader told me something a long time ago, which I have since changed which was if you want to be a writer in Hollywood you have to sell something in three years and you have to be able to be able to make a living at it in five from the date that you start until if you wake up five years later and you're not making a living at it Paul said you have to go home, you have to say I give up on my dream and I go home because it's never going to happen for you. I don't that, that's one of those people that's trying to wake you up from a dream. I believe that if you get three years in and you haven't sold anything you need to take a hard look at what you're doing. If you're writing drama write a comedy. If you're writing for television write a movie. If you're writing comic books write cartoon. If you're -- if you're writing by yourself get a partner, find somebody who's more talented than you are, I've done it for years and work with them, it'll make you a better writer. And that's the secret and the secret is wanting it, you have to understand there's a line. Just like for the lunchroom there's a line and those are the people that are getting in. And I know you all, every one of you has a friend who sold a script for a million dollars or knows somebody who's making -- he's not any more talented than I am and he's directing a movie and he's that's not fair. No, you want fair [inaudible] Pomona they have pigs, it's cute, it's great. But if you want this you have to get online and if you at any moment want to get offline it's okay, there's about a hundred people behind you that want your spot. And you don't know how far you are, you could be third, you could be 3,000 online. But if you write your hundred pages, 60 pages away from changing your life. It changes everything. I started out as an actor and couldn't take the idea if I went in in order to read for an audition and they went no, that was about me that -- like my ego couldn't take that.
^M01:10:03
I sent my script in they didn't like it, it's a script that's not me. So you can actually, you know, you can distance yourself and own it at the same time.
>> So write and don't give up on your dreams. He didn't and look where he is today.
>> Sitting here.
>> You were fantastic, thank you so much.
^M01:10:22
[ Applause ]
^M01:10:36
>> Jeph Loeb, thank so much. This was incredible I think I speak for everybody in that. If you have things that you would like Jeph to sign there's a table that we've set up out front and Jeph we have a little token of our appreciation. But just thank you very much and thank you to John >> Thank you.
>> Jeph Loeb.
^E01:10:56