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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Spotlight on Marc S. Zicree

Last week, I had the pleasure of lunching with one of the most delightful, gracious and wise working writers I have ever had the privilege to meet. There's no way I have room here on the Rouge Wave to jot down Marc Zicree's whole resume but I will tell you that with over 100 script sales to his name, including credits on STAR TREK – THE NEXT GENERATION, SLIDERS, DEEP SPACE NINE and BABYLON 5, plus multiple pilots for NBC, ABC and Showtime, Marc has written for virtually every major studio and network, and his work has been nominated for the Humanitas Prize, Diane Thomas Award, American Book Award and this year’s Nebula and Hugo awards – the top prizes in science fiction. He has also won the prestigious Hamptons Prize and this year’s TV GUIDE Award.

Marc was a commentator for three years on NPR’s MORNING EDITION and is well-known as the author of THE TWILIGHT ZONE COMPANION (named in 2006 by the New York Times as one of ten “science fiction books for the ages”). He has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV shows, including AMERICAN MASTERS, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, WEEKEND EDITION, BIOGRAPHY, ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT, the BBC, THE TODAY SHOW and COAST TO COAST. Phew.

Above and beyond his resume and packed IMDB, Marc is peaceful, wise and kind beyond belief. Plus, he's friends with Ray Bradbury. Wow, right? Marc was kind enough to submit himself to an exclusive Rouge Wave interview - thank you Marc!


So – I heard you actually know a writer I am in awe of - Ray Bradbury.

Yes, in fact, I just visited him yesterday at his home, which was quite wonderful, as always. I gave him a present for his 88th birthday, a book on comic strips from the early part of the 20th Century and the toys and products they spawned. We hung out and laughed and traded stories; he signed copies of his books for me and told me about writing THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES and meeting Marlene Dietrich and Al Jolson and Laurel and Hardy when he was a teenager and young man.

He told me about sign he has on the wall of his office where he writes: "Don't think -- DO!" I think that's great. He asked about the book I just finished and what I'm writing now. I told him my goal in the next year is to create and run my own TV series, write and direct a feature and keep writing books. I related the plot of the new screenplay I'm writing and he loved it to such a degree that he gave me a blurb to put on the cover of the screenplay: "This is it!" signed Ray Bradbury.

What a great friend, amazing writer and inspiration.

You just returned from WorldCon in Denver – was Obama there?

He hadn't arrived yet, so he really missed a good time.

You were nominated for a Hugo Award – that’s huge! Tell us about the experience!

I've gotta tell you, being nominated for the Hugo Award -- science fiction's top prize -- for the STAR TREK episode I co-wrote, directed and executive produced was an incredible thrill. As a kid I remember seeing that award on the mantle of my first writing mentor, Theodore Sturgeon. And of course Rod Serling had three of them in his trophy room, for TWILIGHT ZONE.

So clearly, you’re a big Star Trek fan – have you ever met the original cast?

When I was a kid, I was given a Christmas present of a trip to the STAR TREK set, where they were filming the last episode of the original series, "Turnabout Intruder." It was an incredible thrill for me, to see Shatner and Deforest Kelly and those amazing sets. I actually sat in the Captain's chair.

In later years, I met most of the STAR TREK stars, from the original show and later incarnations. Armin Shimerman (Quark) is a very close friend, and spoke at the class we taught this past weekend. And George Takei was a dream to work with, brilliant and professional and patient and remarkable in every way. I'd work with him in a second.

George said something I treasure about me when we were both interviewed on COAST TO COAST: "Marc Zicree is a tsunami of enthusiasm who just sweeps you up and carries you away."

You have been a working writer in Hollywood for a number of years. What advice do you have for those starting out?

Go for it and don't stop until you get to the finish line. Don't let anyone rob you of your dream. Make a list of those who are doing the work you most admire and find ways to get them to mentor you. Make work you're proud of, that really stands for who you are as a human being. Any time you're stopped, find ways around it. Get help, ask for suggestions, find what you can apply that works. Be happy, be kind, be brave.

Which do you prefer writing, tv or feature film?

I prefer TV, because the write has the power (if he's a producer, too) and can make sure what he writes gets shot the way he envisioned it. But now that I'm a director, too, I intend to do features and make sure I have creative control.

It seems that more and more lately, genres in film and television are smooshing together into hybrids. How do you define the difference between sci-fi and fantasy?

It's science fiction if the fantasy element in the story is given a scientific or pseudo-scientific rationale; it's fantasy, if not.

So what does Ray Bradbury have for lunch?

When I mentioned we teach our class at a Chinese restaurant, Ray mentioned he loves Kung Pao chicken. He also said he'd love to come talk to the class sometime soon, which I'm sure we'll make happen.

What are your favorite shows on TV right now – well, I mean, when the season starts up in September? Which new shows are you looking forward to?

FRINGE looks kind of interesting. And I'm looking forward to the final season of GALACTICA. Everyone's raving about MAD MEN, so I suppose I'll have to get around to watching it. I just saw all five seasons of THE WIRE and thought it was brilliant.

Mainly, though, I don't relax by watching TV series -- it's work for me. I'll watch movies instead, or go out to a nice dinner with Elaine and friends. I think it's important to have a life.

What did you think of one of my favorite movies ever – GALAXY QUEST?

I always say GALAXY QUEST and FORBIDDEN PLANET are my two favorite STAR TREK movies.

I'm so glad you said that. By Grabthar's hammer, by the sons of Worvan, I totally own that movie.

Me too.

You are the author of The Twilight Zone Companion. What got you motivated to write the book?

I grew up watching and loving the show, along with STAR TREK and THE OUTER LIMITS. When I got out of college, having sold one short story and gained an art degree from UCLA, I knew I wanted to be a writer-producer in TV but there were no courses. I wrote THE TWILIGHT ZONE COMPANION to learn from the best, and it worked. I've sold over 100 scripts, and the COMPANION has sold over half a million copies.

Did you meet Rod Serling and more importantly, did his voice sound the way it did on the show for real?

I never met him, he died two years before I began the book, but I uncovered videotapes of him teaching classes on writing. And yes, he did talk like that.

I heard there’s something exciting going on with The Twilight Zone involving a little someone named Leo DiCaprio – spill the goods!!

Leonardo's going to be producing a TWILIGHT ZONE movie. I'm in discussions with his office now to see if we can arrange a meeting with him. I think he's terrifically talented and has great taste in material, so I have high hopes for it being a quality film.

How do you pronounce your last name and where does it come from? I’m going with Hungarian.

It's pronounced ZIK-ree, and it's Moroccan. I didn't know this until a distant relative spotted my name on THE TWILIGHT ZONE COMPANION and showed up with a family tree going back to the 17th Century.

Moroccan, right. That was my next guess. But really – you know Ray Bradbury? For real?!

Yeah, and it's every bit as wonderful as you'd think it would be.


Marc leads a Supermentors class each week in West Hollywood from 7-10pm for writers, actors, directors and producers. Classes are limited to ten students each and fill up fast.

I will be attending a class probably next week to soak up more of that great energy and do some networking over Kung Pao Chicken. To learn more about the class and about Marc, click HERE or call Marc at (323) 363-1259 with any questions.

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Edward said...

What a great interview! Thanks for posting it.

Deb said...

Another GALAXY QUEST fan checking in. Love that movie.

For some reason, I was under the impression that Star Trek fans didn't like it very much. Glad to hear I was wrong about that.

Thanks for posting this terrific interview.

E.C. Henry said...

I second edward's comments, thanks for posting the interview. Wish I could hook-up with a great mentor like Marc Zicree. Maybe someday he'll visit Bonney Lake, WA.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA