Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street” is a live-action adventure show for kids 6-11 created by David Anaxagoras, a first-time writer, discovered through Amazon Studios’ open-door submission process. We asked David to share his experience on bringing his project to life with Amazon Studios.
I had quit screenwriting in spring of 2012, just around the time when Amazon Studios opened up to TV pilot submissions. I had written many feature film screenplays (and gotten nowhere) but I had never attempted a TV pilot. So I figured I would have just one more go.
And I had just one idea.
I wrote Gortimer for an audience of one me. I knew it was different from the current crop of standard corporate kidcoms and thus no one would buy it. I wrote it anyway. I wrote it because I wanted to see something with a sense of adventure where ordinary kids ventured into extraordinary circumstances with courage and friendship without a laugh track.
I sent “Gortimer” to Amazon Studios through their open submission process. I had no expectations about the outcome and set to work outlining a novel. Four weeks later, Amazon Studios made the call I had waited for my entire writing career. They wanted to option Gortimer.
I was stunned. Its one thing to have a vision, but another thing entirely for there to be people to receive that vision, to understand it and champion it. Thats really what has made all the difference Amazon Studios didnt just option my pilot, they were and remain huge fans.
After a year of careful development, “Gortimer” was given the greenlight for production. This was a strange new experience for me. For ten years, screenplays were written, made a short trip out into the world, and were then retired placed in the metaphorical trunk. Going into production was like being invited to the cool-kids party when you had only planned to stay home that night and brush the mats out of your cats fur. Getting the greenlight was certainly cause to celebrate. Nobody grudgingly greenlights a pilot. There has to be a lot of energy, support and enthusiasm for it to even have a chance. It really does feel as good as you might imagine.
Not that it isnt effort. There are many moving parts to a production, and they all have to work together. When you think about it, it just seems improbable that anything could be committed to film. Its really a miracle that any movie or TV show gets made.
Our first miracle was finding an Oscar winning director for the pilot. When I saw Luke Mathenys short film God of Love, I knew he was the man. God of Love is a marvel of skillful filmmaking it is boldly and unashamedly whimsical and heartfelt. This is exactly what we needed for the pilot. Lucky for us, Luke was as excited to be involved as we were to have him.
Our second miracle was the cast. I never expected, of course, to find an exact physical match for the core cast in my head thats just not possible. What we did find were four actors who completely embodied the spirit of our characters. Sloan Morgan Siegel gave Gortimer a huge heart. Ashley Boettcher as Mel is sunshine itself. Drew Justice as Ranger is adorably off-the-wall. And Fionnula Flanagan as Miss Hudspith shows tremendous pain and vulnerability hiding deep in her characters hardened heart.
Our third miracle was the shoot itself. People often ask me if being on set was surreal. I have to say no, it wasnt surreal. It was exactly real. It felt normal. It felt like coming home. Every day was amazing. I was literally watching my dream come true how many people get to do that?
Being part of a creative team all working to bring the pilot to life was tremendously satisfying, but the five day shoot was over much too fast. It was like going away to summer camp and by the time you realize that youve made the best friends you will ever have in your life, its time to say goodbye. I had already said goodbye to my characters once when I finished the first draft. For a writer, thats always a somber moment. Saying goodbye to three amazing kids who brought those characters to life was heartbreaking.
The shoot was a profound experience for me. I remember after the last shot, production manager Ken Lipman asked if I was proud and suddenly I was too choked up to talk. I managed to answer him later, when I had regained my composure, and of course that answer remains: I am immensely proud to have been a part such an incredibly talented team and I hope Gortimer becomes a series so we can all continue our adventure together on Normal Street.
Visit the Amazon Studios project page for “Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street.”