While at Duke University, I wrote a short story about my infatuation with a waitress I met while working as a bellhop at the St. Elmo Hotel in Chautauqua, New York. I mailed it to her (today they call this stalking) and instead of calling the cops, she encouraged me to pursue a writing career. That short story, "St. Elmo's Fire" inspired my first screenplay of the same name which became the movie
St. Elmo's Fire which I co-wrote with director Joel Schumacher. After that, I ended up writing screenplays for most studios and writing and producing TV shows for most of the networks for NBC's "Saved By the Bell" franchise including Malibu, CA for which I was the showrunner which was ironic as I hardly went to the beach in most of my time at California. .
Despite a couple of decades working as a screenwriter and TV writer/producer, I was living above the Sunset Strip and felt a bit like Holden Caulfield who wrote one good short story and sold out when I got a serendipitous offer to move back to my hometown to teach screenwriting at the University of Pittsburgh....
So, like reverse pioneers, my wife Natalie and I put our young daughter in our SUV with a U-Haul to move what I thought would be a one year Hollywood sabbatical to teach at the University of Pittsburgh.
Instead, the journey led to an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show for of all things moving to Pittsburgh; a feature documentary My Tale of Two Cities about coming home and the comeback of a great American city which played in 26 cities including on Capitol Hill; and the co-founding of a non-profit Steeltown Entertainment Project inspired by an op-ed I wrote "Pittsburgh's Next Industrial Revolution: Entertainment" which has helped build Western Pennsylvania into a leading regional production hub.
I continue to teach at Pitt, and while there, have produced a few projects including The Shot Felt Round The World, a movie on the Salk polio vaccine which ended up on the Smithsonian Channel as A Shot To Save The World, and the BBC as The Polio Story: The Vaccine That Changed The World; the Starz TV series, The Chair which won the 2015 Television Critics Award; and a few others you can find on imdb.com
My latest film, Burden of Genius is about the life and work of transplant pioneer Dr. Tom Starzl, who made what was science fiction when he was born-- the idea of transferring an organ from one body to another-- into a "routine miracle" which has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and changed modern medicine. The film which I produced with Laura Davis and which was directed by Tjardus Greidanus has won Best Documentary prizes at the Cleveland Film Festival and at L.A's Raw Science Film Festival and is currently screening around the world. Watch a sneak preview here or learn more about the film at www.burdenofgeniusfilm.com.
I was also the producer of The Rehabilitation of the Hill, with director Demetrius Wren, a film about the wealthy Livingston family with roots in Pittsburgh's Hill District who discover redeveloping a neighborhood also involves their own rehabilitation. The film was produced as a community teaching film lab involving film professionals working alongside members of the community and Pitt students. "Rehab" won Best Narrative at the Jacksonville Film Festival. See http://www.post-gazette.com/ae/movies/2017/04/16/Pittsburgh-film-Hill-District-The-Rehabilitation-of-the-Hill-trains-new-actors-tradespeople-Demetrius-Wren/stories/201704160032