An Interview with Steven Fisher
   by Michael Neff

Steven Fisher began his career in television journalism in New York City. He worked as the Head of the Research Department at World News Tonight with Peter Jennings for several years. Among the stories he worked on were the adult illiteracy series, GM brake failure expose, and the FAA near miss mid-air collision pieces. He left to work in entertainment news at CNN, writing anchor copy, and field producing. Moving to Los Angeles in the late eighties, Steve worked at ICM, Innovative Artists, and H.N.Swanson before that firm was acquired by The Renaissance Agency. He represents screenwriters, television writers, and novelists in the film and TV arena.

Steven's client list includes Dorothy Allison (National Book Award nominee for "Bastard Out of Carolina"); Robert Stone (National book Award winner); Arthur C. Clarke; Patrick O'Brian ("Master and Commander" series); G.D. Gearino (Hallmark Hall of Fame's "What the Deaf Man Heard'-highest rated Hallmark telefilm ever); Stephen Frey ("The Takeover", "Vulture Fund"); and screenwriters Jere Cunningham ("Rockwood"/Universal; "The Fugitive"), Gloria Norris ("Homer & Eddie"), Jon Bernstein ( "Beautiful" with Minnie Driver and Sallie Field), Patrick Cirillo who wrote the Bruce Willis/Antoine Fuqua film "Tears of the Sun" for Revolution, and others. He is currently with Agency for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles.

Neff: What prompted you to move from what must have been a pretty damn exciting career in television journalism with Peter Jennings to represent screenwriters and novelists in Hollywood? Can you tell us about the transition?

Fisher: The transition was difficult but I wanted to tell stories with a bigger canvas; at least bigger than the standard two and a half minute network spot; and not to be bound by a just the facts treatment.

Neff: Some of your work with Peter Jennings had a distinct social consciousness to it. Did you find it difficult coming to Hollywood where things are a bit more bottom line?

Fisher: Not really; while this town is bottom line there still are enough people interested in working with material of quality that has something to say.

Neff: Can you tell us a little about the past and recent history of APA?

Fisher: APA began in the early 60s as primarily a music agency and then branched out in the 70s and 80s as a talent house with Steve Martin and Rick Moranis and John Candy, and others. It also began to develop a real literary presence with many studio writers and directors. It is now considered a mid sized agency with an impressive literary list.

Neff: What made you decide to settle down with APA after working for other agencies such as ICM? What do you consider distinctive about APA and how would you compare it with such agencies CAA, William Morris, and ICM?

Fisher: Some of the bigger agencies have a very cutthroat atmosphere with competition between the agents intense and have the feel of a number of fiefdoms rather than a cohesive whole. I didn't want that, and this agency has none of that.

Neff: You've worked with some amazing and talented writers, such as Dorothy Allison, Robert Stone, Arthur C. Clarke, and Jere Cunningham. What kind of process do you go through to create a relationship with an established writer?

Fisher: You try to be upfront about what you think about material and about how you do business and hope and trust that they are on board for that philosophy.

Neff: SolPix is particularly interested in the "film and fiction fusion." What is your favorite literature to film adaptation of late?

Fisher: I thought THE HOURS was an impressive translation to film, and I'm very curious to see how my project MASTER AND COMMANDER looks on screen.

Neff: Do you think a good novelist can make a good screenwriter?

Fisher: I think very few novelists make good screenwriters and from my experience very few are even interested. It's a completely different craft and requires a different discipline.

Neff: What is APA's process for considering a new, unknown writer as a client? Or do you generally only work with already established artists?

Fisher: I've worked with both established and novice writers. Talent comes to you in different ways and since careers can be launched quickly you shouldn't be a snob about a lack of a track record.

Neff: How do you define what you believe will be a successful script? Do you rank according to specific criteria?

Fisher: A successful script is one that moves me....either comedically, dramatically, etc. and also had a sense of structure.

Neff: What are some of the projects you're currently working on?

Fisher: I'm currently introducing Robert Stone's new book BAY OF SOULS to producers and directors. That's a priority.

Neff: Once you have a suitable script in hand, what is the next step? Does APA then move forward to find talent within its ranks, put together a package before approaching the studio?

Fisher: Generally I go to established producers with new material; occasionally I look to package with material that can be challenging but I do it out of house. There are too many elements out there that can be helpful to limit yourself.

Neff: Thanks, Steven. Look forward to "Bay of Souls" on film!

Copyright Web del Sol, 2003

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