Mike Fleiss Explains What His Writing Process Is Like
Sep 09, 2023 00:32
The art of screenwriting is a craft that requires meticulous attention to detail and a steady creative flow. For writer and TV producer Mike Fleiss, it always goes back to one major question when he’s in the process of creating a new show: “Is this something I would want to watch?”
Fleiss confesses he grew up religiously devouring TV fare by legendary producer Aaron Spelling such as Starsky & Hutch, Fantasy Island, and Charlie’s Angels. Fleiss adds that his early days of watching the small screen featured an eclectic array of content. From The Six Million Dollar Man to Family, Mike Fleiss admits he watched everything and anything on TV at the time. “I was voracious with television,” recalls Fleiss, who was also a fan of chat fests Dinah! and The Mike Douglas Show.
When Mike Fleiss sits down in front of his laptop to craft a new show, he reveals that he’s open to ideas just popping into his head — at any hour of the day. He keeps a notepad beside his bed so if inspiration strikes in the middle of the night, he’s prepared to jot down his thoughts.
“I'm always coming up with ideas. I've created dozens of shows that have been on the air,” Mike Fleiss says.
The innovative TV scribe says he recently devised a new idea for a twisted relationship show — but a teaser is all we get right now. “I've been in the business for more than 30 years, basically just peddling my ideas,” he shares. “That was my job. And so I trained my brain, or tried to at least, to generate material and I don't even know if I could shut it off, frankly. Sometimes I try to shut it off, but it still keeps going.”
Mike Fleiss recalls the moment he was prompted to pitch his first show idea in a professional setting. It’s something that came naturally to Fleiss, who reveals he’s been prolific from day one. The nudge came from then-president of Fox Television, Stephen Chao. At Chao’s urging, Fleiss revisited something he remembered from childhood — stars earning a paycheck by appearing in commercials before they were famous. From that idea, the Before They Were Stars series was born. While he admits the plot for a show like this today wouldn’t necessarily be relevant, it was perfect for the early ’90s.
“We were able to sell a show that was just clips of famous, really famous people,” he says of the series, which included old snippets of A-listers such as Tom Cruise and Jodie Foster hawking household items like toothpaste.
Mike Fleiss teases that he’s excited to be working on some new show concepts. “It's just trying to imagine something that has some sort of either controversial edge to it or a universal appeal, and hopefully an intersection of those two things,” he says. “That's really what you’re looking for.”
He reiterates that he wants to put content out there he would enjoy watching himself.
“I just try to imagine something that I haven't seen on television and try to think about something that might interest me, and can I imagine a world where that thing exists and people enjoy it,” he concludes. “And then I try to start with those sort of big macro issues first.”