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My So-Called Life: Teaching the Next Generation

The "Life of Brian" chapter is finally finished...and what we can learn from it.

Today, after longer than I’d care to admit, I finally finished the chapter on “Life of Brian” – nearly 10,000 words! (Whew.) Of course the chapter’s length is down to just how multi-layered this episode is; even more so when you take into account what was happening behind the scenes. Perhaps one of the most interesting: the ongoing education of future filmmaker Devon Gummersall (Brian).

One side effect of the safe haven created by producers Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz against outside interference was the attraction of people to the production who were excited about what they did, and were willing to share that excitement with others. Chief among those were creator Winnie Holzman and this episode’s writer – story editor Jason Katims. And Gummersall was eager to learn.

“ A lot of times Winnie and Jason Katims would be in Winnie’s office working and polishing up whatever the next episode was going to be, and they would let me hang out in there and be a fly on the wall. That was an amazing experience.
“Winnie and Jason both saw that I was serious about wanting to be a writer and filmmaker and they were very encouraging; they gave me the confidence early in my career that it was a worthy endeavor for me to branch out. So I would go watch them work and, once in a while, I would even convince my studio teacher to let me count that as school time. I honestly learned so much from that – way more than I ever learned from a textbook.”

Gummersall would later go on to direct several movies, including the creepy 2015 thriller Stranger in the House (aka The Inherited)

Many cited this on-set openness as what encouraged them to pursue experiences that they otherwise would have found outside their comfort zone. It’s difficult to understand how different the MSCL culture was without having worked on other projects, adds Devon Odessa (Sharon).

“A lot of times when you’re working on stuff and you’re asking people questions, they’re not always super-jazzed to answer them.
"I remember asking somebody for a recommendation of a camera to buy my boyfriend at the time (he’s my husband now) on a different project, and they were like ‘Well I guess this or this.’ And I remember thinking that if I would’ve asked our camera guy on My So-Called Life, he would’ve given me a list of 5 of the best cameras and explained each one – they were really into their jobs, they loved it. You weren’t just there and clocking out; everybody really wanted to be there.
“Even when we’d go on these long breaks, when we’d pick up again crews would sometimes have other jobs they would leave just to come back to My So-Called Life because it was such a great experience.”

So Beautiful it Hurts: The Making of My So-Called Life’ is neither endorsed by nor affiliated with ABC, The Bedford Falls Co., nor anyone involved with the making or distribution of “My So-Called Life.”

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