Stephen J. Cannell was raised in Pasadena, California. His father ran an interior design firm. From an early age, Stephen suffered from undiagnosed dyslexia, which made it nearly impossible from him to do well in school, he either flunked or was held back many times. Even though one of the courses he had trouble with was English, he wrote in one of his yearbooks that it was his ambition to be an author. After a lot of work, he managed to graduate from high school and attend the University of Oregon. He worked for his father's design firm while he wrote television scripts and story ideas after work. He sold his first story ideas to "Mission: Impossible" (1966) and his first script to "It Takes a Thief" (1968). His first steady job in television was as a story editor on "Adam-12" (1968). He created a character named Jim Rockford for a script he wrote for the series "Toma" (1973), a show he was producing at the time. That script was rejected by ABC, so it was rewritten and eventually became the pilot for the classic NBC series, "The Rockford Files" (1974). From there, it becomes nearly impossible to list all of his work. He has either written or co-written over 300 television scripts, created or co-created over two dozen television series, formed a successful production company, wrote best-selling police novels and even acted in his own and other producers' shows. He has won an Emmy, two Writer's Guild Awards, two Edgar Award Nominations and has a star on the Hollywood Blvd. Walk of Fame. Despite his many accolades, his first love continued to be writing. A co-worker of his on "Rockford", writer and "The Sopranos" (1999) creator David Chase, was once quoted as saying no person he ever met seemed to love writing as much as Stephen J. Cannell.IMDb Mini Biography By: subcity
|Marcia Finch||(8 August 1964 - 30 September 2010) (his death) 4 children|
Action/Adventure shows featuring likable, but flawed, protagonists
During the early 80s, his office was located on the Paramount Lot while his shows were distributed by Universal Studios.
The filmed logo for his production company showed him at a typewriter, typing something onto a piece of paper, then throwing the paper in the air. In the background, we see a shelf containing his awards.
Was a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity.
Last name means "cinnamon" in French.
Had a room in his home where he only allowed other writers to enter.
His wife, Marcia, was his high school sweetheart.
His oldest child, Derek, died at age 15 on April 4, 1982. He was suffocated when a sandcastle he was building collapsed on him.
Whenever something unfortunate happens in my business dealings I never sit there and observe it as a problem... The first thing I do when something goes wrong is say: 'hey, I can use this!...'
Because I was a private company, I always looked long-term. And our meetings at the Cannell company had a theme... It wasn't about doing what was in our best interest, it was about doing what was right. We were one of the first companies to hire an 'assistant location manager' onto our productions with sole purpose of making sure the locations we rented were never 'burnt'. The job description in the ALM manual was simply to make sure the people who owned the property had a good experience with a Cannell project and would welcome us back. And when the television market crashed in the mid-80s and the economics were bad, I was one of few who saw the signs and got out of town. Many of the other television companies went bankrupt...I went to Canada and was able to stay in business.
So I thought, television, my gawd! There's a thousand episodes of this written each year. I otta' be able to get in there, and if I grin -- I was a good salesman -- I otta' be able to pick-off one or two assignments. It was the only way I figured I could afford a family.
...Even though I was flunking English because I couldn't spell; in my high school year book under ambitions I had written 'Author'. When I went off to college I ran into a guy at the University of Oregon named Ralph Salisbury who was my first creative writing instructor and he turned all the lights on for me. He was the first teacher in all my years who actually said I had talent. Some people don't know this, but I have dyslexia.
I'm a very conservative business-man. I don't work on credit. My father was the guy who taught me how to think straight, not to delude myself and think I was larger than I was. I never bought a new car until I was 45-years old...I bought used because my father always said: 'why do you want to buy a car, drive it around the block and lose thirty percent of its value'? ...Don't get me wrong, I had great used cars: XKEs, Jags... But they were all used. All my friends were out leasing new Mercades and other high-end cars...and there I was buying used; and writing a check for it! "There! give me the car"! That was all my dad's thinking and I ran the company that way.
On the Writer's Guild strike 1987: I called up the then President of the Guild and said: 'Listen, I'm a writer and a Producer. How can we make this work'? I told him I'd open the Cannell books to him so he could see there wasn't more money and the Networks were just as stretched... As a Guild member, the Guild didn't want to hear what I had to say and they never took me up on the offer to see the bottom-line. ...I think they were scared of what they might have seen.
The only time I had to get rough with a Network was during production on one of my shows. What had happened, was, the budget we agreed upon wasn't working, so I called the Network chief and said: listen, either increase the budget or I'm delivering a show that looks really cheap... Well, he was upset but told me he'd readjust the numbers - quietly - but he could only do it at the end of the first season ... So I got my team in the meeting room and we agreed there was no reason to distrust this guy and we'd take his word he'd come-through with the increased license fee ... And he did.
"21 Jump Street" (1987) ...Johnny was signed-up to do another season of the show ... But I released him from his contract early so he could go make movies, I wasn't going to hold him back. Because, by then, he was a Star.
Most of my things strike to me the same theme which is not to take yourself so seriously that you can't grow.
But I do know it's easier to think of me simply as the guy who wrote "The A-Team" (1983). So they do.
I'm generally a very happy guy, because I'm doing what I want. I'm willing to tell you that there are people who are much better than I am in writing. I don't have to be the fastest gun in the West.
Culture changed, and as that happened so did our need for a hero. That square jawed good guy began to look like an idiot to us.
I never waited for my Irish Cream coffee to be the right temperature, with a storm happening outside and my fireplace crackling ... I wrote every day, at home, in the office, whether I felt like it or not, I just did it.
Having a support system is huge for writers. My parents were always encouraging and told me they were behind me, whether or not I made it in the business. My wife was always there for my successes and failures. It's easy to find hundreds of reasons to quit writing. Surrounding yourself with people that want you to succeed helps you to write on.
We knew he was going to be a superstar from the beginning. He had a spirit about him that just attracted attention. I'm very happy of the tremendous success Johnny (Depp) has had in his career. He deserves it.
Cable is the way to go in the future. It gives writers a lot more freedom and flexibility to try new things. Channels like HBO, Showtime, USA and TNT, among others, are producing high quality entertainment that never would have hit the screen 20 or so years ago. I think it's a great time to be a writer in the TV industry.
It's flattering in a way that people want to see new versions of The A-Team and 21 Jump Street. I think it's nostalgia of how simple and innocent the shows were. It takes people back to a time when things weren't so complicated.
Novel writing gives me a different satisfaction that I never found with TV writing. Every word, every story, every description, is mine. In TV writing, you have to make sacrifices and compromises to appease the producers and executives. It's much more collaborative. At this point in my career, I want to do things on my own terms and pace.
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