Photo: Courtesy of Jere Silber
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I am an accomplished writer, producer, and director with over forty-five years of experience working on radio, television, and theatrical productions. I was an award-winning camera operator on the show News Counterpoint on cable television. I won a Monty Award in 2001 on cable for writing, producing, and directing “Tree Story”. “Tree Story” was my first published children’s book. The audio book version of “Tree Story” was a nominee in the Spoken Word category of the 2001 Grammy Awards. “Up in the Sky” was my second children’s book. I wrote “Up in the Sky” to commemorate the birth of my first granddaughter. I have most recently published my third children’s book, entitled “Sycamore Says”. I studied Radio/Television Broadcasting at Montgomery College and screenwriting through the American Film Institute.
What inspired you to become a writer and producer?
The year was 1973, my girlfriend, at that time was scheduled to move with her family out of state on the day that I was to graduate from high school. Originally it was our intention to continue the relationship even after her move, but it came to an abrupt and bittersweet ending on the day that I received my first ever “Dear John” letter in the mail. As much as I was saddened and in pain, it turned out to be the driving force that would lead me into a phenomenal creative revolution.
It was the end of that relationship that catapulted me into an entirely new direction. I was on a mission when I discovered a new-found passion that came to light as I sat in a movie theater watching the worst movie that I had ever seen. Suddenly, it was at that place and at that time that my true calling came clearly into view. When I walked out of that movie theater on that evening, I knew precisely what I needed to do because I knew exactly what I wanted to be. I realized that I wanted to be a writer. A real genuine storyteller.
When and where do you work? Do you have a writing routine?
I begin each day with the intention to create something inspiring. The goal is to always produce something that will not only stimulate me personally but will also possess a degree of social value as well!
Where do you take your inspiration from?
Many times, my inspiration comes from the events that are reported in the news. I have discovered that the top news stories give me the opportunity and the incentive to offer my views and insert my values into each story.
What projects are you currently working on?
My latest project is a documentary entitled “Sheingorn”. It is currently in Pre-Production.
The story follows an online diary that Dr. Larry Sheingorn had kept and updated almost daily up until the very day that he died. The documentary will be interlaced with the best footage from the thousands of hours of the various television shows and other projects that Dr. Larry Sheingorn created and produced. Larry Sheingorn was a genius. Not only was he an incredible eye surgeon, he also earned a great deal of respect for his contributions to a local community cable television station. He produced a wide range of television productions that aired both locally and nationally. He was not only acknowledged for the productions that he produced but was also recognized for the innovations that he introduced.
I will always be personally grateful to Dr. Larry Sheingorn because he was instrumental in getting me involved in television production. When Larry Sheingorn first discovered that he was sick he had never led on that he was keeping an online diary documenting his daily battle with esophageal cancer. It was not until after he had died that late one night while I was surfing on the internet that I happened to stumble across his online diary. I cried as I sat there and read every entry and stared at each picture that documented each day. When I had finished reading his online diary, I interpreted my finding it as a sign from Larry Sheingorn. To me, it was a clear indication of Larry saying, “Hey, I have already done all the work, now all you need to do is do what I taught you to do… get this thing produced”.
Which project have you enjoyed working on the most so far?
I began writing in 1974. My first screenplay was based on the song “Taxi” by Harry Chapin. I wrote my first children’s book in 1997. My daughter Morgan was the driving force. She gave me the inspiration and motivation to write, Tree Story, which was originally titled The Family Tree. Before that I had never dreamed that I would ever write anything for children. I was divorced at the time and it was my weekend to spend with Morgan. I was just coming out of a long-drawn-out annoying bout with writer’s block and I was eagerly working on a screenplay that I had been writing when my thought process had unexpectedly decided to go on an extended vacation! Out of desperation I was trying to keep Morgan both happy and entertained. I was feeding my VCR with what seemed to be an endless supply of videos for her to watch. When I thought that I had finally gotten her attention directed entirely on Barney the Purple Dinosaur she got mad at me for leaving her out there stranded all alone on that “Barney Island”. It was at that point that she let me know exactly how disappointed she really was, “How come you never write anything that I can read?” She asked.
I was taken by surprise and I did not know quite how to respond. “Well” I asked. “What should I write?” It was obvious to me that she had planned her response for quite a while because she fired right back with, “You can write about trees. You should make them family trees in a forest!” I quickly realized that I had just been put on notice by my five-year-old daughter. She had just challenged me to write my very first children’s book. I knew that I could not ignore what I had perceived to be a dare of sorts. Even still my first inclination was to somehow slither far away from her request. Fortunately my voice of reason kicked in and I decided that I would write a very quick, short story about a tree or two in the forest just to appease Morgan enough so that I could then hurriedly get back to working on the screenplay that I had been writing prior to my daughter’s attempts to redirect my career.
As I began to work on the story, I clearly remember that my intention was to only dedicate an hour or so working on the project. As I was writing the story it became clear that I could not stop it from growing from my original one or two trees in the forest scenario. It kept getting bigger and better as I continued to work on it. It was very strange because I felt this unbelievable sense of power every time that I would put my fingers back onto the keyboard. I had never experienced a sensation quite like that one before. When the first draft of the story was complete the forest scenario had transformed into a multitude of family trees accompanied by a wide array of wildlife that were all living harmoniously inside of the boundaries of this forest. And in the end the story had grown to be bigger than anything that I could have ever imagined when I first began the process of writing it.
Tree Story is geared for elementary school-aged children and it follows a family of trees that are harvested, taken to a lumber mill, and made into new wood products. Throughout the story the family members continually face the possibility of being separated forever… or did they?
Another project that comes to mind that I feel compelled to mention. I had the distinct honor to produce a series of children’s television projects called Mister Word Wizard starring Richie Havens. The show was written and directed by my longtime friend, the late Kyle Morris. I am forever grateful for having the opportunity to have been afforded the opportunity to work with Kyle Morris and Richie Havens on the incredible productions. The Mister Word Wizard television productions were a special labor of love that I will forever treasure.
What does writing and producing mean to you?
Writing and producing gives me the availability to create the characters that I can relate to. In the world of creativity nothing is ever written in stone. It allows you the freedom to give your characters your voice. You are in control of everything that they say and all that you wish for them to do.
Which authors can we find in your library?
Stephen King, George Orwell, H.G. Wells, John Grisham, Robert Louis Stevenson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edgar Alan Poe
What do you want to achieve with your work and what are your wishes for the future?
My hope is that in the end my two companies, Morgan’s Magical Media and United Front Outerwear will each receive the recognition that they deserve based on the social values that they offer, as well as for the moral fiber that each delivers.
What advice would you give an aspiring writer and producer?
When your dreams and aspirations lead you into a certain direction, your goal is to see your ambitions all the way through. Dedication, determination, and a persistence that will never allow you to fall short of your desires is what you will need to deliver you to where you would like to be. It is important to realize early on that the concept of an “Overnight Success” is not truly a realistic one.
Where can our readers find out more about your work?
Photos: Courtesy of Jere Silber