January 27, 2009

Dan Zembrosky

I met Dan Zembrosky when I joined the MQ, the satire paper where I first learned that the purpose of my life is to write. I soon came to recognize him as a kindred spirit; he romanticized the spit-balling and mugging of the writer’s room as much as I did; he too had found his direction in that tiny, noisy cubicle around the thick, ancient conference table.

Dan Zembrosky is the reason I carry around a little black notebook to write ideas in. I’ve never met anyone so full of ideas, and so in love with their ideas and with the ideas of others. He would open up that notebook and riff off hundreds of article premises, sketch ideas, concepts for sitcoms and movies and kids’ shows, and light up as if the characters and images were appearing in the air before his eyes. I had to have one of my own.

When Dan finished his first (genuinely funny, and well-structured, and human) screenplay, he sent it to me to read. I took it as a tremendous honor. In fact, Dan is one of only two people in the world whose opinions on my writing actually make me stop, and think, and rewrite, without questioning, without arguing. Not that there wasn’t arguing. With Dan I reached the depths of frustration and the heights of exalted creation.

And when Dan asked if I’d be interested in collaborating on a film, I jumped at the chance. It was my first serious filmmaking experience, and it was torture. Together we wrote ten drafts and filmed hours of footage in a rented on-campus soundstage filled with sod we had to haul into a futuristic apartment we nail gunned together ourselves out of sheets of plywood. It was such a wonderful, miserable experience I’ve been making films ever since.

And the killer is, we never did get that thing edited. Which is a fucking shame.

When I moved to Los Angeles, Dan was waiting for me with a writing job and a finely grilled steak. Again, I had the privilege of helping bring one of the escapees from his little black notebook to life. And when the pilot we wrote got ear-marked by the higher-ups for studio pitching a few weeks ago, I was thrilled to get a call from Dan asking if I wanted to come on board as a story editor if the show made it to air.

He was my editor. He was a colleague. He was a writer, a thinker, an idea man. He’d rather talk about a project than eat, something he proved to me over many unfinished Wahoo’s fish tacos. He was a kindred spirit. He was and always will be an influence. He was the life of the party; the size of his spirit was matched only by the size of his jewfro.

He was someone who made me want to write, to make comedy, to make film. He was someone who made me do the things I do, helped make me the person I hope I’ll be.

He was someone who made me laugh.

He was my friend.

He was 24.

Thank you for everything Dan. Thank you so much. Your little black notebook was still too full for this to happen. I love you.
2009 Those Aren't Muskets!