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Alan Ball

Alan Ball: Conversations

Edited by Thomas Fahy
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Alan Ball
    Book Description:

    Alan Ball: Conversations features interviews that span Alan Ball's entire career and include detailed observations and insights into his Academy Award-winning film American Beauty and Emmy Award-winning television shows Six Feet Under and True Blood. Ball began his career as a playwright in New York, and his work soon caught the attention of Hollywood television producers. After writing for the sitcoms Grace Under Fire and Cybill, Ball turned his attention to the screenplay that would become American Beauty. The critical success of this film opened up exciting possibilities for him in the realm of television. He created the critically acclaimed show Six Feet Under, and after the series finale, he decided to explore the issue of American bigotry toward the Middle East in his 2007 play All That I Will Ever Be and the film Towelhead, which he adapted and directed in the same year. Ball returned to television once again with the series True Blood--an adaptation of the humorous, entertaining, and erotic world of Charlaine Harris's vampire novels. In 2012 Ball announced that he would step down as executive producer of True Blood, in part, to produce both a new television series and his latest screenplay, What's the Matter with Margie?

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-973-0
    Subjects: History, Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
    (pp. VII-XI)

    Alan Ball never intended to write for television. He majored in theater at Florida State University and in the early 1980s moved to New York to become an actor and playwright. While living in a Brooklyn brownstone with three other guys and a dog named Mom, he soon discovered that waiting around for auditions wouldn’t pay the rent (Brough). He started looking for a job and eventually landed a position as an art director for a trade publication. The nine-to-five routine of corporate America, however, felt stifling for Ball. He longed to be part of an artistic community in the...

    (pp. XII-XIII)
    (pp. XIV-2)
  6. American Beauty: An Interview with Alan Ball
    (pp. 3-13)
    PETER N. CHUMO II and Alan Ball

    Alan Ball was born and raised around Atlanta, Georgia. He majored in theater with an emphasis in acting and playwriting at Florida State University and then moved to New York, where he worked as an art director for Adweek and Inside PR magazines. While he did some acting and directing, he found his calling as a writer. His 1993 off-Broadway production, Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, attracted the attention of TV producers, who offered him a job in Los Angeles writing for the sitcom Grace Under Fire, which led to other work in television. He wrote Cybill for three...

  7. American Beauty Screenwriter Alan Ball Conducts Case Study at the IFP/West Screenwriters Conference
    (pp. 14-36)
    SUSAN ROYAL and Alan Ball

    IFP/West presented its annual screenwriting conference at the Writers Guild in Los Angeles on March 18–19. The keynote speaker, director David O. Russell (Flirting With Disaster, Three Kings), presented a preview of his hilarious “Indie Scale”—a numerical formula for evaluating the economic potential of an indie film—which he went on to deliver a week later to an appreciative audience of independent filmmakers at the IFP Independent Spirit Awards. Among the many panel topics that weekend were: “Low Budget on the Page,” “Surviving Development,” “Selling Your Script Without an Agent” and “Structure: Using It, Violating It.”

    The panels...

  8. Gaywatch: Alan Ball Goes Six Feet Under
    (pp. 37-40)

    Alan Ball, the openly gay Oscar-winning writer of the 1999 film American Beauty, brings his talents to television as the creator of HBO’s new series Six Feet Under. Actually, Ball is hardly a stranger to television. He spent years as a producer and writer on diva-driven sitcoms like Grace Under Fire, starring Brett Butler, and Cybill Shepherd’s Cybill, and he created Oh, Grow Up, a 1999 sitcom that featured a prominent gay character.

    Six Feet Under also includes a gay character, the decidedly uptight and in-the-closet David Fisher (played by Michael C. Hall, whose credits include the Broadway show Cabaret)....

  9. Big Mind, Small Screen: Six Feet Under’s Alan Ball
    (pp. 41-45)
    JEFF GREENWALD and Alan Ball

    “Of all footprints, that of the elephant is supreme,” declared the Buddha in the Great Nirvana Sutra. “And of all mindfulness meditation, that on death is supreme.”

    Likewise: Of all situation comedies, I Love Lucy was the greatest; but of all prime-time series about impermanence, Six Feet Under is without peer. Nothing that has appeared on the small screen can compare with this quirky meditation on attachment, mortality, and—as series creator and executive producer Alan Ball puts it—“life, in the constant presence of death.”

    Though it makes no claims, Six Feet Under is a great example of how...

  10. Alan Ball: Six Feet Under
    (pp. 46-49)
    ANNA CARUGATI and Alan Ball

    Alan Ball started his career writing plays in New York and then went on to Hollywood to work on network sitcoms. He hit it big writing the screenplay for the feature film American Beauty, which won the Academy Award for best movie and best original screenplay. The success of that movie caught the attention of HBO, which was looking for a series about how people deal with death. The result has been Six Feet Under, about a family-run funeral home, and people coping with loss and with each other.

    Carugati: What creative freedom have you found at HBO?

    Ball: There...

  11. Considering Alan Ball: An Interview
    (pp. 50-54)
    THOMAS FAHY and Alan Ball

    After attending Florida State University, Alan Ball moved to New York to pursue a career in the theater. With the help of several friends, he started Alarm Dog Repertory—a small theater company that produced many of his early plays, including Bachelor Holiday. But it wasn’t until the successful production of Five Women Wearing the Same Dress that Ball’s work caught the attention of Hollywood. In 1994, he was offered a job as a writer and executive producer for Grace Under Fire (1994–1995) and, one year later, for Cybill (1995–1998). Disillusioned by his experiences on these shows, Ball...

  12. Fresh Air Interview with Alan Ball: A Six Feet Under Postmortem
    (pp. 55-61)
    TERRY GROSS and Alan Ball

    Gross: This is Fresh Air. I’m Terry Gross. I’m one of the fans of HBO’s Six Feet Under who really miss the characters now that the series has ended. We invited back the creator of the series, Alan Ball, to talk with us about bringing the series to a close. He wrote and directed the final episode. He also wrote the screenplay for American Beauty.

    Before we go any further, a couple of disclaimers. If you’re waiting to watch a tape of the final episode and don’t want to know what happens, you might want to tape this interview and...

  13. Sexual Politics and Awakenings in Towelhead
    (pp. 62-73)
    CYNTHIA LUCIA and Alan Ball

    Sexual abuse in adolescence, the received wisdom has it, will permanently scar, or destroy, the victim. While the psychologically damaging effects are undeniable, not every instance of abuse results in the permanent debilitation that our “victim culture”—as fueled by TV talk shows and their investment in “dramatic” revelation—would condition us to believe. The complexities and gray areas surrounding sexuality and human desire present multiple variations and outcomes, a subject Alicia Erian explores in her 2005 novel Towelhead, recently adapted for screen and directed by Alan Ball. Although Towelhead represents his directorial debut, Ball has an already-established and impressive...

  14. A Big Messy Place: Alan Ball on Towelhead
    (pp. 74-83)
    K. J. DOUGHTON and Alan Ball

    Towelhead, the complex and audacious film from director Alan Ball, is already inciting anger, winning over enthusiasts, and prompting debate—even prior to its release. The Council on American-Islam Relations (CAIR) recently asked Warner Bros. and Warner Independent Pictures to change its volatile title. The film’s creators and studio refused. Ball and author Alicia Erian, who wrote the 2005 novel on which Towelhead is based, released thoughtful yet assertive statements explaining why they stand by the controversial name.

    The title, however, is but one aspect of the heated hullabaloo surrounding Towelhead. The tolerant folks at Fox News declared it the...

  15. Fresh Air Interview with Alan Ball: Talking True Blood and Towelhead
    (pp. 84-96)
    TERRY GROSS and Alan Ball

    Gross: This is Fresh Air. I’m Terry Gross. After creating the HBO series Six Feet Under about a family that runs a funeral home and is steeped in death, Alan Ball has created a new HBO series about the undead. True Blood, which premiered on Sunday, is about vampires who have returned from the grave and live on a newly developed synthetic blood called TruBlood. Their presence is so new no one knows what to make of these vampires. Some people find them sexy; many people fear them. Some are just curious. The vampires have formed their own lobby group,...

  16. Life and Death, Drama and Humor, Join Hands
    (pp. 97-104)

    Depicting the dark ironies of contemporary American life—that’s what Alan Ball does best. An acclaimed writer for film and television since 1994, Ball has never shied from probing the interwoven pain and joy of existence, through complexly written characterizations and subtly shaded dialogue. Ball’s Academy Award–winning screenplay for the 1999 feature film American Beauty was a searing ode to suburban family dysfunction. American Beauty earned lavish critical praise and snagged the Oscar for best motion picture that year. Subsequently, Ball’s seminal HBO series, Six Feet Under (2001–2005), set in a Los Angeles funeral home, captured a whole...

  17. Excerpt from Interview with Alan Ball: True Blood and Beyond
    (pp. 105-114)
    NANCY HARRINGTON and Alan Ball

    Q: So let’s move on to True Blood.

    A: Yes.

    Q: Can you describe how that series came about?

    A: You know I lived in Los Angeles for fifteen years and I still can’t figure out how long it’s going to take me to get from one place to another. I had an appointment with a dentist in the valley for a root canal. It was some dentist I’d never been to, and I showed up thirty minutes early. So I had a half hour to kill and there was a Barnes and Noble across the street. I was walking...

  18. Alan Ball in Conversation with Alan Brough
    (pp. 115-130)
    ALAN BROUGH and Alan Ball

    Q: Welcome, Alan.

    A: Thank you. It’s great to be here.

    Q: Before we start, you are from Georgia originally. I believe that while you were still living in Georgia, someone opened a shop there where you could just go in and shoot things.

    A: Yeah. When I was in high school, I heard about this place where if you were mad at a TV you could take it to this business and you could shoot it. I remember thinking, why can’t you just shoot it in your own backyard? Wow, that is pretty indicative of the Georgia mentality. “Oh,...

  19. INDEX
    (pp. 131-137)