Saturday, September 23, 2006

INTERVIEW - MICHAEL HEMMINGSON

Michael Hemmingson just turned 40. He’s published 40 books; that’s one per year, so it was a very good thing that he started penning his thoughts at a very young age. He and his stable of alter egos have achieved that ambitious publishing goal together with a mixed bag of genres that include anything from erotica to crime noir to academia. His next challenge and goal: to write five studio movies and five TV shows by the age of 50. He’s been a director, writer and producer of various theatrical works and now he’s ready to tackle...H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D. Let’s here it from Michael in an interview I conducted at my residence over the Labor Day weekend.

Cuauhtémoc Q. Kish (CQK): You’re a native San Diegan?

Michael Hemmingson (MG): Born and raised; Spring Valley. My family includes my mother, father and brother.

CQK: Can you recall your first writing experience?

MH: I wrote a Star Wars novel—in pencil—at the age of 10.

CQK: That’s impressive; you must have entered college at 12?

MH: I never went to college. I went directly into the exciting world of part-time employment: pizza delivery, TOYS-R-US, et al. I even had a rock band for awhile.

CQK: When did you start to make your living as a writer?

MH: In the last 10 years. I report on crime and music (bands) for the Reader.

CQK: You seem to be extremely prolific; where do you get your inspiration?

MH: It just comes to me. I’m a multi-tasker; I like working on several projects at one and the same time.

CQK: You seem very disciplined as a writer.

MH: I am usually; however, I’ve developed a writer’s block this summer. It must be from the heat. So I’m viewing and studying several seasons of TV shows to see what other successful writers have done. It’s the best teacher.

CQK: Do you have representation?

MH: I have an agent for books but I believe a manager is the person who may open the doors for me as a TV writer.

CQK: You’ve recently applied for several fellowships at studios like ABC/Disney. How might this assist your career?

MH: A fellowship will open a door and provide you with about $50,000 a year in salary. It also gives you access to the studio lot and a mentor.

CQK: How many writers are usually assigned the task of writing a weekly show?

MH: Somewhere in the neighborhood of five to ten writers.

CQK: What can a writer assigned to a show expect to earn?

MH: From three to five thousand weekly, along with a script bonus.

CQK: I take it your goal is to be a writer for a successful weekly program?

MH: My goal is to have my production company on the studio and network lot. That gives you the best advantage for someone to green light your ideas. The studios buy about 100 potential programs for development of pilots where they might spend about $50,000 each, filming with non-equity actors to keep it all within budget.

CQK: Have you had any additional success with any of your novels, such as selling them for movie rights?

MH: One of my novels, The Dress, has had some interest along those lines.

CQK: You wrote End of the Line, a horror movie, with Brandon Riker and another called Scalpers, with Liv Kellgren. Have these collaborative efforts been successful?

MH: To some extent. With Liv, I asked her to look closely at the female voice more than anything else.

CQK: You have submitted a few ideas for Reality Shows?

MH: It’s usually a one-page concept idea. I have several making the rounds.

CQK: You have managed to get some interest in a script called Watermelon.

MH: It should be shot in the first part of next year. As an independent the budget should be restricted to about $150,000.

CQK: Do you feel that your future is in Los Aneles?

MH: Yes; I plan to move there in the spring of 2007.

CQK: Do you have any films presently making the rounds of Hollywood?

MH: Several: Mom Vs. the Evil Bank Robbers (family action), The Next Wedding and How to Win a Diamond Ring (both Romantic comedies). One has been optioned.

CQK: You’ve written a few specs; what’s their value?

MH: You write specs like the one I did for My Name is Earl so that interested parties can get an idea of your writing style.

CQK: What’s the secret of getting your product produced?

MH: Getting it into the hands of the right person; networking, like the Beverly Hills Film Festival. That’s why I enter a lot of competitions, so that I can connect with individuals who may open a door or two.

CQK: As somebody with 40 books under their belt, you are obviously financially secure, right?

MH: There is some royalty money coming in, but a good many of these books are out of print. At this moment I’m waiting for a couple of checks so I can pay this month’s rent.

CQK: Was your childhood ambition to be a writer?

MH: I wanted to be an astronaut.

CQK: Describe yourself in three words.

MH: Ambitious, devious and loyal.

CQK: Describe the state of LA cinema.

MH: Fear of losing money.

CQK: Who are some of the people who have influenced your career in a positive way?

MH: Harlan Ellison and Robert Heinlein.

CQK: Describe any obstacles to your success.

MH: The uncertainty of my talent.

CQK: Where’s your retreat?

MH: Borrego Springs.

CQK: What’s the biggest challenge in your life right now?

MH: Love.

CQK: What’s a perfect day for Michael Hemmingson?

MH: When I don’t wake up with too bad a hangover.

CQK: What’s your biggest indulgence?

MH: Spending money.

CQK: What motivates you?

MH: Fear of failure.

CQK: What does the word accomplishment mean to you?

MH: Being satisfied and proud of my writing, and being paid.

CQK: What’s your most cherished quality?

MH: Loyalty.

CQK: If you could be any famous person, who would that be?

MH: Paris Hilton.

CQK: If you were to give any advice to other writers, what would it be?

MH: Don’t do it! Having said that I believe that writers are born and they must write.

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