Wed, 21 June 2023
This week on On Story, we're joined by the comedic genius Stephen Merchant for a conversation on his impressive career in television. Perhaps best known for co-creating (with Ricky Gervais) BBC's The Office, Merchant's work writing and directing the critically acclaimed show attributed to the series earning multiple comedy awards, including three BAFTA awards, two British Comedy awards, two Golden Globe awards, a Primetime Emmy, and a Peabody Award, all before Merchant served as the executive producer on the immensely successful adaptation. The US series was a long-running hit, receiving five Primetime Emmy awards and forty-two nominations of its own during its run on NBC.
Other pillars in Merchant's career include starring, co-creating, co-writing and directing the HBO series Hello Ladies, a sitcom based on Merchant's stand-up show of the same name. Currently, Merchant serves as the co-creator, executive producer, writer, director and star of his newest series, The Outlaws. Co-created with Elgin James, the crime thriller and comedic television show follows seven very different strangers who are sentenced to community service as payback for their various crimes. Yet things certainly take a turn when the group discovers a bag full of money, unaware of its dangerous owners, in this hit co-production from BBC One and Amazon Studios.
A pivotal creative in the world of comedy, AFF was delighted to honor Merchant as the recipient of AFF’s Outstanding Television Writer Award, a distinction awarded annually to recognize excellence in the television industry. Merchant certainly demonstrates excellence, not only from his impressive collection of awards and accolades, but also through his various titles, roles, and hats, including actor, stand-up comedian, writer, director, and producer, thereby cementing his reputation as one of the most versatile talents in TV and film.
Barbara Morgan sat down with Merchant during the 2022 Austin Film Festival for an in-depth conversation on both his creative process and career, eager to hear more on Merchant’s practice of crafting relatable characters, how he found comedic inspiration from drama, and most of all, how he established himself as one of television’s leading comedic voices.
So sit back and have a laugh as we talk all things comedy with Stephen Merchant.
Clips of The Outlaws courtesy of Amazon Studios.
Clips of Hello Ladies courtesy of Home Box Office, Inc.
Clips of The Office courtesy of British Broadcasting Corporation.
Thu, 8 June 2023
This week on On Story, a conversation with acclaimed writer, director, and producer James Gray to discuss not only his artistic process, but how he established himself as one the industry’s most talented writer-directors.
A true visionary, Gray made his directorial debut with his celebrated film Little Odessa, which earned him nominations for both Best First Feature and Best First Screenplay at the 1994 Independent Spirit Awards. Other esteemed features in Gray’s canon include The Yards, starring Joaquin Phoenix, who is in fact a frequent collaborator of Gray’s, and We Own the Night, starring Mark Wahlberg, in addition to his films, Two Lovers, The Immigrant, The Lost City of Z, and Ad Astra, all of which set the bar for both screenwriting and direction.
Gray’s most recent feature, Armageddon Time, is a deeply personal film inspired by Gray’s childhood. A reflection on the strength of family, the complexity of friendship, and the realities of class as seen through the eyes of a young Jewish boy growing up in 1980s Queens, the film’s star-studded cast includes leading actors Anthony Hopkins, Anne Hathaway, and Jeremy Strong.
In addition to speaking with Gray on his process of writing and directing each of his seven critically-acclaimed feature films, AFF was eager to honor Gray with our coveted Bill Wittliff Award for Screenwriting, an annual award presented to leading storytellers within film, television and new media. Gray adds this accolade to his five Palme d’Or nominations, as well as the Silver Lion Award.
During our annual Writers Conference, Barbara Morgan sat down with Gray to discuss how he became a pillar of American filmmaking.
Ad Astra clips courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
Little Odessa clips courtesy of Fine Line Features.
Lost City of Z clips courtesy of Sierra Afinity, LLC.
We Own the Night clips courtesy of Columbia Pictures.