On February 11th, the students in Cohort Four were lucky enough to receive a visit from Jerry Offsay. Mr. Offsay currently serves as the CEO of the production company that he created in 2003. Before that, he served as the president of programming for Showtime Networks. During his ten-year tenure there, the network’s program slate increased tenfold. Some notable projects under his direction include Queer as Folk, Dirty Pictures, Hiroshima, 12 Angry Men, and The Twilight of the Golds. He was also honored by the American Civil Liberties Union for making Showtime the premiere platform for artists interested in exploring topics and issues outside the mainstream.
During his visit, Mr. Offsay explained exactly how he single-handedly made Showtime the successful network that it is today. He chose to focus on TV movies because they were more cost efficient, and chose to make movies that catered towards an underserved genre and demographic, such as Queer as Folk (which premiered at a time where gay-themed programming almost never appeared on television). He also explained that he promoted these movies as packages, so that every month, a subscriber would be guaranteed diversity in the genres of their programming. It was fascinating to hear how this now hugely popular network erupted in success under his leadership.
Most importantly for us writers, however, Mr. Offsay offered us an invaluable piece of advice: write what you know. He explained that the most successfully crafted and mounted writing is almost always based on the personal experience of the writer. This is an observation that rings true when one analyzes some of the most successful modern film and TV scripts in relation to the lives of their authors. He also advised us that perseverance in paramount to success in this industry; we as writers should knock on every door that we can, expect no, and never let ourselves get discouraged. The advice that Mr. Offsay gave us will surely be ringing in all of our heads with every success and more importantly, with every setback that we encounter as our writing careers unfold.
By Alex Martin