KSU professor’s new book details how television gets made in Hollywood today

KENNESAW‚ Ga. (May 10‚ 2007) — Only in Hollywood could a kiss be worth $1 billion.

Georgia (May 10, 2007) — KSU professor’s new book details how television gets made in Hollywood today

Jennifer Hafer

Abstract

Director of University Relations
Frances Weyand Harrison
770−423−6203
fharris4@kennesaw.edu

Contact/Writer: Jennifer Hafer‚ 770−423−6711 or jhafer@kennesaw.edu

KENNESAW‚ Ga. (May 10‚ 2007) — Only in Hollywood could a kiss be worth $1 billion.

“Billion−Dollar Kiss: The Kiss that Saved ‘Dawson’s Creek’‚ and Other Adventures in TV Writing” by assistant professor of film & TV writing Jeffrey Stepakoff hits bookstores today. The subject of considerable advance press‚ Stepakoff’s book chronicles an important‚ unreported chapter in the Hollywood story: how the studios’ wild‚ irrational pursuit of new shows in the ‘90s made kid−writers right out of college overnight millionaires‚ nearly bankrupted the entire television industry and ultimately‚ led to the dominance of reality TV.

“Let me be clear: I am not opposed to reality TV; I am opposed to bad TV‚” Stepakoff said. “I enjoy watching ‘The Donald’ fire wannabes just as much as most. I see the entertainment value in ‘Survivor‚’ and I’m willing to confess‚ one of my great guilty pleasures is ‘American Idol.’ But when unscripted shows started to overwhelm quality programming‚ I felt it was time to say something‚ and that’s one of the main reasons I wrote this book.”

Stepakoff‚ whose 18−year career spans shows like “The Wonder Years‚” “Sisters” and “Dawson’s Creek‚” where he was co−executive producer‚ joined KSU’s English department last fall. He has written for 14 different television series and has “written by” or “story by” credits on 36 television episodes. Stepakoff also created pilots for 20th Century‚ Paramount‚ MTM‚ Fox and ABC‚ and developed and wrote major motion pictures‚ including Disney’s “Tarzan” and “Brother Bear.”

“TV is a writer’s medium‚” Stepakoff said‚ “unlike film‚ which is a director’s medium – meaning most screenwriters turn in their screenplay and a couple of years later they’re invited to the premiere. In TV‚ the writer is in control and you can see the fruits of your labor almost immediately. We write‚ cast‚ produce‚ from story room to set‚ from concept to final cut. In TV‚ the writer has constant creative authority.”

It was that creative authority that allowed a writer on “Dawson’s Creek” to dream up a love triangle that created a story engine‚ which Stepakoff and the rest of the show’s writing staff used to propel the struggling series to 128 episodes‚ six seasons and syndication‚ where it had the potential to be worth more than $1 billion.

“During the ‘90s‚ during what I call the ‘Hollywood Gold Rush‚’ syndication revenues rose to unprecedented levels – as did the cost of those of us who could create these products‚” Stepakoff said. “In the ‘90s‚ studio executives were essentially saloon hall gamblers – wheeling‚ dealing and backing prospectors – but by 1999‚ a game show took everyone by surprise: ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire‚’ and created a new business model.”

The old business model for making TV shows required studios to go into great debt on the off−chance of producing a hit show. Reality TV with its cheaper production costs changed all of that. The average one−hour drama today costs about $2.5 million an episode‚ according to Stepakoff‚ compared to the not even half a million dollar per episode price tag of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”

“Many people have said over the last few years that reality TV was just another fad‚ a trend that would quickly fade away. They were wrong‚” Stepakoff said. “Today‚ the sitcom as we knew it is dead‚ and reality is flourishing as evidenced by the unprecedented phenomenon of ‘American Idol.’”


For further information‚ or to schedule an interview with KSU’s Jeffrey Stepakoff‚ please contact the writer.

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A member of the 35−unit University System of Georgia‚ Kennesaw State University is a comprehensive‚ residential institution with a growing student population approaching 20‚000 from 132 countries. The third−largest university in Georgia‚ Kennesaw State offers more than 60 graduate and undergraduate degrees‚ including a new doctorate in education.

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its approximately 38,000 students. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status, and one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.

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