An Interview with Writer and Former Showrunner Bob McCullough

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Bob McCullough wrote the book, Where Hollywood Hides: Santa Barbara along with his wife Suzanne Herrera McCullough. Bob and Suzanne also host the podcast, Where Hollywood Hides; here is a link to the website:

http://wherehollywoodhides.com/

 

Q:  What is Where Hollywood Hides about?

A: Where Hollywood Hides: Santa Barbara – Celebrities in Paradise is about how Santa Barbara has always attracted internationally famous Hollywood personalities who have somehow responded to its allure as the ideal place to live, work, and play.  The book presents classic images of Santa Barbara’s movie-making past set against  engaging contemporary portraits and career highlights of many of the area’s renowned celebrities who have discovered Santa Barbara and made it their home.  It’s truly a hard-cover collectible and an informative, engaging read!  (And you can buy it directly athttp://wherehollywoodhides.com or from Amazon.com.)

Q:  What inspired you to write the book?

A: When we moved to Santa Barbara in the Eighties, we were intrigued to find so many celebrity neighbors just going about their daily lives: dropping kids off at school, standing in line at the market, walking the beach…all without fawning fans or hoards of paparazzi nipping at their heels.  They were “hiding” in plain sight…and we wanted to celebrate that aspect of Santa Barbara, that it’s a place where everyone is allowed to simply be themselves.  We were also interested in how these celebrities built their careers, which we learned was simple: through hard work.

Q:  Why do you think Santa Barbara is so popular with celebrities?

A: As above, simply because they can live a “normal” life without always worrying about being “on” for fans and media. Santa Barbara also happens to be unique in that it’s just an hour’s drive from L.A., the weather is 24/7/365 unbeatable, the city has great schools, a major university, innumerable cultural opportunities, pristine beaches, a vibrant arts-technology-business environment, and everywhere you go…free parking!

Q: You were the showrunner for Falcon Crest, what did your duties entail?

A: It all started with the writing. I was given the rare opportunity to create full-season storylines and then to craft each and every script that went before the cameras.  Once the (very impressive and talented) cast came to trust my writing, my job was really to allow everyone to contribute to the finished product.  From a personal “task” perspective, I was involved in casting, working with the directors and editors to develop a consistent “look and feel” of the show, and then to work with outside writers to bring as many fresh ideas into the mix as possible.  In all respects, my three seasons on the show were creatively among the most rewarding I’ve ever enjoyed.

Q:
What are some common mistakes aspiring screenwriters make when trying to break into the business?
A: Well…it can be a long list, but I’d say the top three are: 1) not writing enough and just “talking” about writing all the time. 2) thinking everything they write is perfect; nothing is perfect and everything can always be improved (usually by removing the boring stuff!). 3) ignoring the most important part of the whole process: REWRITING.

Q: What is your strangest on set story?

A: On Falcon Crest, Lana Turner was guest starring in her first episode.  Remember, she was a MAJOR movie star at one time.  But then, so was Jane Wyman (an Oscar winner, for goodness’ sakes).  They had their first scene to do together on this particular day, and Lana would NOT come out of her dressing room and go onto the set until she knew that Jane was already there and waiting for her.  I went to Jane and—first of all, she was never what we could call “fond” of Ms. Turner from personal stuff years before—she she refused to come onto the set until she knew that Lana was there waiting for her.  What to do?  The rest of the cast and the entire crew are assembled, waiting to shoot the scene, and neither of the principal actresses will come out until the other one is out there.  There was only one thing I could do: I lied to both of them, told Jane that Lana was waiting patiently for her on the set…and then rushed over to Lana’s dressing room and told her that Jane was waiting patiently for her.  They both walked onto the set at exactly the same time…and they both thought the other had been waiting for her!  Only the other actors and the crew knew about my little “fib”, and when they applauded at the sight of both of them, both of these great ladies beamed and eventually pulled off some great stuff together on film.  Whew.
Q: Who are some of the celebrity guest you have featured on podcast?

A: We’ve been blessed with some wonderful guests including David Selby (Dark Shadows, Falcon Crest), Tab Hunter, Paul Peterson (The Donna Reed Show), Jimmy Hawkins (It’s a Wonderful Life, Evil Knievel), Hawk Koch (Academy President), Greg Evigan (Broadway & TV), Barry Katz (talent manager), Diane McBain, Ana Alicia, Shelley Fabares, Director Jerry London (Shogun), Producer Lloyd Schwartz (The Brady Bunch), Ron Friedman (writer of Transformer movies)…and a host of other writers, producers, actors, and some very enlightening “behind-the-scenes” Hollywood professionals.

Q:  How did you and your wife meet?

A: I was a Location Manager at Universal Studios (struggling to write scripts).  She was a production secretary who walked through my office hallway.  One look. I was done.  It took me five years to reel her in, but when I finally did, I knew she was a “keeper”.

Q:  You are really well connected and have interviewed some very successful folks on your podcast. Do you have to agree to ask or not ask them about certain subjects in order to get them on your show?

A: Never. Perhaps because Suzanne and I are fairly private people (outside of our writing and podcasting), guests realize that we respect their private lives as well.  But there are absolutely no “pre-conditions” or “guarantees” of any kind when guests agree to chat with us.  Nothing is off-limits, so our conversations can become quite revealing and highly illuminating…particularly for listeners who have their own Hollywood career ambitions. If someone wants to know the reality of working in the business, there’s no better place to hear about it that on the Where Hollywood Hides iTunes podcast series.

Q:  What are some of the defining characteristics of 1970’s television?

A:
Everybody watched it, and there were only 3-4 major broadcasting networks.  ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS were all vying for the same viewers, but each network programmed distinctly.  You knew that an ABC show was going to be action-packed and “high concept” entertainment (remember “Charlie’s Angels”?).  NBC played more to sitcoms and star-driven personalities (“Laugh-In” was a huge hit at the time).  CBS tended toward some serious police procedurals and “deeper” dramatic stuff, along with being the premier news network (Walter Cronkite).  The audiences in the 1970s knew when their favorite shows were on during the week, and they made it a point to be in front of the tube at that time.  Then, with the advent of the VCR, “time-shifting” became possible, and network schedules were often shuffled around to combat the competition without regard to where the audience might be.  And today, the world is tilting on its axis.  The networks are faced with competition from multiple directions and from an expanding media universe.  The future belongs to those who can capture the attention amid all of today’s myriad viewing choices.  It’s exciting…and it’s challenging.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

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