I went to a networking breakfast yesterday morning sponsored by Changing Images in America that featured guest speaker James Duff, executive producer, creator and writer of TNT network's "The Closer." Duff is an eloquent speaker who offered great insights into the business of television as well as theater, where his career began. He's a successful actor, playwright, producer, director and screenwriter and he's got another TV series in the works. "The Fixer" will follow the exploits of a Hollywood producer who employs the services of a private detective of questionable moral integrity, reminiscent of the Anthony Pellicano scandal that rocked Hollywood in 2006.
A model of persistence, Duff wrote 17 television pilots before achieving success with "The Closer." His chief advice to actors and writers trying to make it in show business: Get professional representation, but he also warns to be careful of who you go into business with. "Make sure you're on the same page," he said.
Of new media, including the Internet and it many social networking and video serving sites, such as YouTube, Duff said that new media is not just a new delivery system but a new form, like the square becoming the cube.
"In the day of three networks we were all watching the same thing and talking about the same thing, like 'Star Trek' and 'Bonanza.' People want communities and the Internet is having an impact by building communities around these shows."
Duff revealed that he does indeed consult with LAPD detectives to make sure "The Closer" is accurate, and he opined that a good story is something that grabs him. "I'm so wrapped up in it I don't have time to think. I'm not even aware that I'm watching a story."
Duff, who was diagnosed HIV-positive in 1982, says that the uncertainty brought about by that diagnosis has helped inform his professional career. "I've never done anything I didn't want to do," he said.