Archive for the ‘Genre: Movies and Miniseries’ Category

Archive of American Television interview with producer Robert Halmi, Sr., featured in Emmy magazine

Monday, November 26th, 2007

The latest issue of Emmy magazine (Issue No. 5, 2007, with Cane’s Jimmy Smits on the cover) includes selections from our Archive of American Television interview with producer (nearly 200 television movies and miniseries) and chairman of RHI Entertainment, Robert Halmi, Sr. He was interviewed for two hours in May, 2007.

Halmi’s credits include many of the most acclaimed broadcast and cable productions of the past four decades: Lonesome Dove, The Josephine Baker Story, Gypsy, Gulliver’s Travels, In Cold Blood, The Odyssey, Merlin, Moby Dick, Dinotopia, The Lion in Winter and Human Trafficking. At eighty-three, Halmi maintains a busy schedule. He lives primarily in New York and London and spends the first week of production on location for every one of his films. He runs RHI Entertainment with his son Robert Halmi, Jr., having reacquired the company in 2006 from Hallmark, which bought it in 1994.

Below are some excerpts from the article:

Q: You did some documentaries for television, then moved to features, but quickly returned to TV. Why?
A: I decided that maybe features were not for me. They were too complicated. I wanted to do television, but I didn’t want to go to t do it on my own. So I went to General Foods — they were fully sponsoring television shows then — and said I would like to make a film of the Hemingway short story “My Old Man.” This was to be my very first television movie, 1979. Typical for television — General Foods loved it, but the “problem” was, it was about an old man and a boy. They wanted a girl in the lead because the demographic was female. I had to get permission from the Hemingway estate to change the character to a girl. I hated it, but thehe networks. I thought I couldn I found Kristy McNichol. She was such an incredibly good actress — she made everybody cry. I think the movie got a 46 share.

Q: How did you begin your association with Hallmark Hall of Fame?
A: They saw my movies on CBS and approached me. Hall of Fame at that time was past its real glory — there had been too much competition. They did good, solid dramas, not exploitation stuff. It was family entertainment, and the name pre-sold it — you knew it was going to be good.

Q: Before Hallmark acquired RHI, what was the state of your company?
A:When I started, there were three or four of us. Before the acquisition by Hallmark, we had maybe thirty employees. Now we have 140, because of the Hallmark Channel, which my son [Robert Halmi, Jr.] created. We really grew because Hallmark Channel needed fifteen original movies a year. We opened offices in London and Australia.

Q: What is your philosophy regarding miniseries?
A: Two hours is a very short time, and on television it’s even shorter. In eighty-five minutes, you cannot really develop characters, you can- not go into somebody’s mind or heart, especially when it’s a complex story. You cannot do Captain Ahab [of Moby Dick] in 85 minutes — it’s too much character. [Halmi’s Moby Dick ran as a four-hour miniseries on USA Network in 1998.] These stories need time. I decided I’m not going to do anything but miniseries from now on. I’m finished with the two-hour versions of things.

Q: Why did you decide to reacquire your company from Hallmark?

A: I couldn’t face passing on and not owning my company. I want to leave something to my son and my kids. I want to leave them a library.

Q: What is the key to your success?

A: I don’t know if I’m successful. I like what I’m doing and I would not do anything else. I feel very strongly about the material and the process, actors and directors. It’s nice to be surrounded by these people, and my son gives me great pleasure because he does these things so brilliantly. To have a father-son relationship that works within a business is unique.

Q: There’s an international appeal to your work. How does that figure into your business?

A: Classics are better known in the rest of the world. They’re sought after and looked after. When I did Crime and Punishment for NBC, they didn’t want to put Dostoevsky’s name on it. They said, ‘It’s a deterrent.’ I said, “You’re crazy! In Europe, they would be proud. Dostoevsky comes first, and then Crime and Punishment!” Here, it’s sad.

Q: Have you always felt that way?

A: When I started, I only knew about American audiences, and the movies reflected that. Once we became bigger, we realized half of the income comes from the other parts of the world. On any movie, we have to satisfy that world.

Q: What is your proudest career achievement?
A: Making people sometimes cry, sometimes laugh, sometimes think.

Q: How would you like to be remembered?

A: As a good storyteller.

You can find the issue at some newsstands, or it can be ordered through the Emmy Magazine Webpage.

TV Executive Thomas W. Moore Has Died

Monday, April 2nd, 2007

Archive interviewee Tom Moore, former program chief of ABC (1957-63), ABC president (1963-68) and independent producer (The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, the Body Human series), died at the age of 88 on March 31.

Here are some excerpts from his interview:

On ABC’s Monday Night Football.
We started Monday Night Football in 1970. Pete Rozelle had NBC and CBS, where do we put ABC? Well, it started out with a luncheon, and it was Friday Night Football. That was what we were going to buy. It wasn’t going to be Monday Night at all. I was very strong on Monday at that time and didn’t want to pre-empt programming after nine o’clock for football.

On ABC’s Wide World of Sports.
I believe the first Wide World of Sports event was a Drake Relay and it was terrible. It was a very inexpensive sports program cause we paid very little for rights to anything. But it began to pick up when we saw it had a combination in February of that year of skiing in New Hampshire, and water surfing in Hawaii in the same show. And then we got a big rating on that and it took off.

On bringing The Flintstones to television.
John Mitchell was head of Screen Gems, which was totally owned by Columbia Pictures. John was a terrific salesman. They made a deal with a pair of guys Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. They called us and said, “We would like to show you something and Joe Barbera will be there.”….We went up there and the room is completely filled with storyboard. Joe Barbera started in one corner at the top and went around the room and performed the whole pilot and it was a rip-off almost entirely of Honeymooners. The characters, the relationships, the whole damn thing — it was just Honeymooners all over again. If you can believe it, we agreed to that thing. Now, the commitment on animation is a long time and you have to make it way ahead. We committed to it for next year, eight thirty on Friday night.

On The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.
There was this book called The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman, by Ernest Gaines and we’d, we bought an option on it. ABC gave us the money to do the script. The script was done by Tracy Keenan Wynn whom I had never heard of then, except he was a grandson of Ed Wynn and his father was Keenan Wynn, and Tracy wrote a script that I thought was just the best doggone thing that I’d ever seen. I got to work and was casting the thing when ABC’s Barry Diller, told me it’s fraught with too many dangers and we’re not going to make it. I took it to Bobby Wood at CBS who in the meantime had hired Freddy Silverman as the Head of Programming and Freddy was as enthusiastic about it as I was and CBS cast Cicely Tyson and she was magnificent in it. We made that picture for $1.2 million dollars, and I tried to talk Bobby into letting me go to two hours and a half. Freddy wanted to but Bob didn’t want to; that messed up his schedule. But it, it won great acclaim, it is now still a classic in that it is shown at schools and colleges and everywhere else.

On how he’d like to be remembered.
I would like to be remembered as one of the pioneers in this business who made contributions that were substantial, that I was always square with people even when I lost and I want to be remembered as somebody who never intentionally set out to harm anybody.

Moore was interviewed by the Archive of American Television in January of 2003.

The complete five-and-a-half hour interview, in which he discusses his long and distinguished career, can be viewed at Academy Headquarters in North Hollywood, CA.


Fred Silverman’s Interview is Now Online

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

We’re happy to report that legendary television executive Fred Silverman’s interview is now online. At almost 6-1/2 hours, this amazing interview encompasses over three decades of television history and gives a fascinating inside look at the networks and programming so many of us grew up with (just take a look at the brief interview description below and you’ll see what we mean!). Not one to rest on his many laurels, Silverman is currently ramping up his Fred Silverman Co. to develop scripted and unscripted comedies.

Here’s part 7 of the interview where he describes the programming of the hit miniseries Roots.

Click here to access Fred Silverman’s entire interview.

Interview description:
Network television executive Fred Silverman speaks about his first job in TV, at WGN in Chicago, where he created such programs as Zim-Bomba, Bozo’s Circus and Family Classics. He then explains his move to CBS in New York, where he quickly worked his way up the corporate ladder, first as head of daytime programming, (where he revitalized the Saturday morning lineup, Scooby-Doo being among them), and later as the Vice President of Programming. During this time, he oversaw such programs as All in the Family, The Bob Newhart Show, Kojak, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, M*A*S*H, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour and The Waltons. Next, he talks his appointment as President of ABC Entertainment, where he oversaw such programs as Charlie’s Angels, Donny and Marie, Eight is Enough, Laverne & Shirley, The Love Boat and Three’s Company. He also touches on the development and scheduling of the miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man and Roots. Mr. Silverman talks about his next move, to NBC as President and CEO in 1978. There, he oversaw the development of programs including and Diff’rent Strokes, The Facts of Life, Hill Street Blues. Mr. Silverman also explains the basic tenets of working as a network television executive, and discusses his methods for development, scheduling and promotions. Finally, he talks about his work as an independent producer for such programs as the Perry Mason television movies, Matlock, In the Heat of the Night and Diagnosis Murder. The interview was conducted in two sessions in 2001 by Dan Pasternack.

"I Dream of Jeannie" and "Patty Duke Show" Creator Sidney Sheldon Dies at 89

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

Sidney Sheldon, best-selling author, Oscar®-winner, and writer of classic television series died yesterday.

The Archive of American Television interviewed Sidney Sheldon on March 30, 2000.

Interview description:
Sidney Sheldon was interviewed for two-and-a-half hours in Beverly Hills, CA. Sheldon recalled his early years in Hollywood as a screenwriter for feature films, and the success he achieved in that field, culminating in his win of the Academy Award for The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer. Mr. Sheldon next discussed his creation of The Patty Duke Show, and his fond memories of working with the show’s young star. He recalled how, during his run as writer/producer of Patty Duke, he was approached by Screen Gems to produce another comedy for them, which eventually became I Dream of Jeannie. He talked about how he created the concept for the show, and fondly remembered each of the stars, including Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman and assembling the production staff (including director Hal Cooper). He discussed the effort to hide Eden’s pregnancy in the first season, and how the crew put together the many special effects shots. He also shared his memories of the “navel controversy” that brewed during the time over not revealing Eden’s belly button, and the attempt by the stars of Laugh-In to circumvent that rule. Later, he recalled creating Nancy, the short-lived 1970 sitcom, and Hart to Hart (pilot only), which he produced for Aaron Spelling. Mr. Sheldon next discussed his about-face from television writer to novelist, and shared his delight at the success that he has achieved with the sixteen best-selling books he has written, many of which have been turned into successful television movies.