2018 ATX Festival
David Simon and His Crew Celebrate 20 Years of Storytelling
By Ashley Morton
Simon and some of his favorite collaborators were at ATX Festival to share insight into the production company behind The Wire, The Deuce and more.
With The Corner, The Wire, Show Me a Hero, Treme, Generation Kill and The Deuce, Blown Deadline producing partners David Simon and Nina K. Noble have been working together to bring unique voices, faces and stories to the screen, ones that critics have been praising for years. At the 2018 ATX Festival actors Dominique Fishback and Chris Coy, casting director Alexa L. Fogel, director Anthony Hemingway, and HBO executive Kary Antholis joined Simon and Noble for a panel moderated by The Hollywood Reporter?s Tim Goodman. Read the highlights below.
No one realized it had been 20 years.
The focus is always on the work: Simon and the rest were happy to realize it had been 20 years since The Corner premiered on HBO, but it?s not like anyone had been counting the days. ?We approach every project singularly, as, this is what we have to shoot now.? Simon remarked. ?I?m glad we did the work we did; it?s all done with the premise that this is the story we?re trying to capture.?
They raised the bar for truthful television.
?From the beginning they knocked over a wall that seemed to have existed,? shared HBO?s Antholis, who recalled the story?s original pitch as something akin to All Quiet on the Western Front for the 20th century. ?If you look at Generation Kill, the number of Marines that come to me to say, ?That defines the Marine experience,? is astonishing.?
They keep it in the family.
?We care a lot about honest details, and working with good people,? Noble stated. Hemingway, who started as a PA on The Corner, graduated to assistant director on the mini-series, and made his directorial debut on The Wire. He also went on to direct episodes of Treme. ?They entrust you, depend on you, encourage and push you,? said Hemingway. ?I cut my teeth on David?s material. It doesn?t compare to much out here. There is a common thread, talking about the human condition; about life and people passion that comes into that material. ? They give so much, and they expect the same. You better bring it and uphold your end.?
The same expectation holds for on-screen talent: Fishback (Show Me a Hero, The Deuce) and Coy (Treme, The Deuce) are just two of the actors long-time casting director Fogel has gone back to. ?You think about people-ing [these shows] with interesting and diverse faces; different kinds of qualities and behaviors,? she said. ?You fall in love with these characters because I think really fine actors bring writing to life in a way that isn?t even on the page, it comes out in a wholly dimensional way.?
?When I got the sides [for Show Me a Hero] I thought, ?I know that girl,?? Fishback commented. ?There?s a wrong way to use slang and a good way. It was authentic.?
?When those pages come in, there?s no need to ad-lib,? added Coy. ?These have been the biggest and best projects I?ve worked on, but also because of the quality, the easiest. The stakes are higher because the topics are important, but for myself at least, the amplified pressure is helpful if you embrace it.?
Simon still has D.C. in his sights.
Simon shared they were currently working on a script about Capitol Hill, but it was proving challenging in today?s political climate. ?We wrote it before the election; we imagined a world where Congress would continue to be over-moneyed and paralyzed. Then Trump was elected. So we threw that out. We rewrote it based on Trump being inept, but then the tax bill was rammed through, so we threw that out. It?s important to address this moment ? but it?s a moving target.?