It’s called Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street, but nothing about this story is normal, including how it came to be.
In the spring of 2012, David Anaxagoras was a preschool teacher who had given up on his dream to be a screenwriter. For 10 years, he had tackled feature-length scripts in his spare time and got nowhere, despite getting an MFA from UCLA’s prestigious screenwriting program.
He had decided to redirect his attention when he heard that Amazon Studios was looking for TV pilot scripts and opening the door to writers without agents and managers.
There was one idea in his head for a TV series, but he never thought to pursue it, as it was a “quirky idea” that didn’t resemble anything on the networks. But he thought he should make one last-ditch effort at churning out a script. “I really thought it was the last script I would write.”
His last hurrah became Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street, a live-action kids’ series that is about to make its much-anticipated debut on Amazon Prime November 21st.
It’s the story of a boy named Gortimer, his two best friends, and their life in a peculiar place where nothing is as it seems. There’s a hint of magic underlying all of their adventures.
Ever since he submitted the script, David Anaxagoras’ own story has become something of an enchanted tale. Within a month of uploading Gortimer to the Amazon Studios site, he received a call from an Amazon executive who wanted to give him money to option it.
“It was like a bolt of electricity going through me,” he recalls.
Usually writers get good news in stages, if they’re lucky. A manager’s assistant might agree to look at a script. They might be asked to rewrite the script or come up with another one. Months down the line, a manager might offer to represent them. Rarely does the process begin with an offer of money clear out of the blue.
“The next thing that knocked me over was that in addition to the option money, they offered to pay me to do the rewrite and a polish. I had friends from grad school who’d gotten their scripts optioned, but it was usually for no money, and they were constantly rewriting scripts on spec for producers, who weren’t the end buyers.”
Of course, it was still a multistage process from option through the development process to the pilot shoot to the series production. And as his pilot launched during Amazon Studios’ second public pilot season, David had to wait anxiously as customers rated and reviewed Gortimer. Friends had warned him not to read the reviews (the internet can be a tough place), but he ended up earning over 100 very positive reviews the very first day. They just kept coming after that.
“It was humbling and deeply gratifying to read the many heartfelt customer reviews. Many Tweeted, emailed and messaged to tell me how much they loved the show, how grateful they were to have something the whole family can enjoy together, how much they were rooting for it.”
On Friday, November 21st, the entire first season of Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street will launch on Amazon Prime. In the coming weeks, Hollywonk will share David Anaxagoras’ advice for other writers, as well as the insights he learned about rewriting, casting, shooting and post-production. He’ll also talk about what it was like to be partnered with an Academy Award-winning director and executive producer like Luke Matheny.
“It feels like I’m playing pretend sometimes,” he admitted from the set of Gortimer. “I get to say the kinds of things I imagined I’d get to say some day.”
People often ask him if it feels like he’s living someone else’s life. “It doesn’t,“ he explains. "It feels like I was waiting for my life to start, and it started when I got this show.”
Watch the pilot of Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street today. You can stream the entire first season on November 21st.