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Winnie Holzman speaks !

From the So-Called Mailing List
May 17, 1995

Winnie Holzman speaks!

Telephone interview with Winnie Holzman

by Brent Cohen

As I read the messages pouring in to this list over the last couple of days, I was genuinely touched by the depth of emotion people were sharing with total "cyber-strangers" about what My So-Called Life had meant to them. I am an advertising producer for a small ad firm outside of Washington, DC, and I love to read reviews of my ads... even if the reviewer hated what I did. So, all of a sudden as I was reading the words you kind people had committed to the ether, I picked up the phone and tracked down Winnie Holzman's office in LA. My intent was to offer to forward to her via fax or e-mail the "what MSCL means to me" postings from this newsgroup. I mean, heck, these were characters she created... and they have obviously touched so many of us in profound ways. I just wanted Winnie to know that we care about what she has done and are thankful for her efforts... even if ABC is not.

Anyway, so I dialed the number and got an answering machine. I left a detailed message thanking Winnie for her writing, telling her how much it meant to me, and offering to send her our postings if she was interested. And then I hung up feeling a little better just knowing that the simple act of saying "thank you" at a time when ABC was saying "no thanks" might cheer her up.

That was yesterday. This morning, around 11:00am EDT (8:00am in LA), my receptionist buzzed me to say that "Winnie Holzman is on line 1." Huh? "Hello?" said I. "Hello, this is Winnie Holzman," said she. "You're kidding, right?" "No, I think it's really me." Whoa! So many questions! Don't sound like a goober! Where do I start?

We talked for almost an hour. I wish I had taped the call because I know you all would want a transcript. Here's the gist of what she had to say.

She's really touched by the love and support she has received from the fans of MSCL. She knew from the beginning that this was going to be a very special television show. So did the other key players involved (Zwick, Herskovitz and Scott Winant). "Even the crew, the people in the make-up trailer and everyone... we knew this was something unique that we were bringing to television." All she wanted to accomplish (and this is true for any writer, I believe) is to have her audience identify with and care for the characters that she created. I told her that I believed she had accomplished that goal in spades as evidenced by the postings to this mailing list.

She believes that ABC *never* believed that the show was commercially successful and that they wrote it off a long time ago... Ted Harbert's mouthings notwithstanding. She and the others involved with the show knew that it wasn't an 8pm timeslot show but there was obviously nothing they could do about that. She said that the final demise of MSCL is "too strange for words" and that Claire wanting to leave the show had "little to do with anything by the time a final decision was made by ABC."

I asked her about the so-called 6 scripts that had been ordered. "Not true. They were never written. They don't exist." Apparently, someone from ABC had called and asked her if she could prepare 6 scripts that would be used *if* ABC brought the show back as a mid-summer replacement. She had been told by ABC when the series ended in February that no decision on renewal could possibly be made before May. So, being a writer who needs to actually *work* for a living, she took a job re-writing a movie script. By the time ABC called with their "6 script" offer, she was already working on another job and couldn't possibly stop just to create some fantasy scripts that may or may not ever be produced.

What about a MSCL movie? Not a chance. Everyone (cast, crew, producers and writers) have moved on with their lives. Most importantly for Winnie, she felt like she did with the show what she had set out to do. "It's over for me." She said that when she wrote the last episode she had tried to tie up a lot of loose ends but knew that she had to leave some storylines dangling... just in case. "I honestly don't know where I would go" with these plot points left hanging.

I asked if she was aware of the support for the show on the Internet. "You bet!" Someone on her staff regularly culled postings from Vireny's original list while the show was still on the air. These were left for her on her desk. And SHE READ THEM! She was so happy to see that you great people were picking up on the subtleties she had buried in the scripts. She repeated that she was really trying to create characters with which others could identify and stated that our notes proved that she had been successful.

Did what we said influence the way she wrote? YES! She said that part of her wanted to remain true to her inner vision of what each character would do or so. But some of our comments inevitably penetrated her subconciousness and affected what she wrote. She said that when she worked on "Thirtysomething" she had received a lot of mail, but that it came in long after the show was gone. The immediacy of our e-mail, the fact that people were posting there thoughts about episodes the same night they aired, really had an impact on her that was completely unexpected. Talk about your interactive media! I encouraged her to write an article for the trades about the impact of this new medium (the Internet) on her old medium (TV).

I must have asked her several times, practically begged in fact, to post a letter to our mailing list telling us how much *we* meant to *her*. I told her that there are a lot of hurt and angry fans out there and that we're looking for anything that will make us feel a little better. In my opinion, I said, the healing has already begun as some of our postings have turned inward as we speak about what MSCL has meant to us. I don't know if she will follow through and send us some e-mail, especially since she said that she doesn't know how to get on the Internet, etc. I suggested that there must be some smart person in LA that could help her out. I didn't get a firm commitment from her.

Realizing how long we had been talking, and I'm sure I've left out many of the things we discussed, our conversation reached an end. I thanked her again, told her that this show was something I will always treasure and wished her continued success.

Whew! I'm wiped out just typing this... I was shaking by the time I got off the phone... and it takes a lot to rattle me! Funny, a "once-in-a-lifetime" show led to a once-in-a-lifetime telephone call. Now I *do* feel a little better.


“Lately, I can't even look at my mother without wanting to stab her repeatedly.”

Angela Chase, Episode 1: "My So-Called Life (Pilot)"