Michael Berk is an American television screenwriter. He worked with Douglas Schwartz as a writer on the television series Manimal, and many made-for-television movies. He wrote the earlier scripts of the series Baywatch, but is best known as the creator, co-producer, and writer of the television series The Wizard.
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I started writing and producing motorcycle movies for Roger Corman in the 70's, wrote and produced Emmy Award winning movies and created The Wizard for CBS, then Baywatch for NBC in the 80's. When Baywatch was cancelled in the 90's I bought the rights back for $10.00. Everyone passed so I produced it in syndication and according to the Guinness Book Or World Records it became the most watched show in TV history. I started a VOD channel, Vegas On Demand in 2000, wrote Soul Surfer in 2011, and I'm ready to produce Baywatch The Movie starring The Rock as Mitch Buchanon in 2015.
Also have a new digital VOD channel called Weed TV, dedicated to the marijuana lifestyle.
Please ask me anything. Proof!
My friends Jeffrey and Marc, the Drop Stop boys, will be assisting me today.
EDIT: Well I have to wrap this up for now. Hopefully I can come back soon and we can pick up where we left off. Please leave me any last notes or messages on how I did and what I can do to improve next time. Until then,
"I'll be I'll be there,
I'll be ready,
Never your fear,
Now don't you fear,
I'll be there,
Forever and always im always here!"
Whose idea was it do put in the slow mo run?
We'd filmed Olympic sprinters in slow motion, then did the same with lifeguards running to rescues. Never thought it would be the show's signature, or sexy - until Pam Anderson started running in slow motion
on behalf of a million teenage boys, thank you!
If those million teenage boys show up at our movie we'll set world records. Thanks for following me on Reddit today. I didn't come on to promote anything in particular, just to get to know Reddit and let Reddit get to know me a little. Hopefully there'll be a long learning curve for a long time.
What's something I can learn from your life experience that I can't learn from anyone else?
Other's may give the same advice, but never quit! When Baywatch was cancelled everyone told me it was dead. Even my own agent. But I believed in the show and faced huge uphill odds but won!
What are your thoughts on the spoof Son Of The Beach? Did you see it as an homage or a cheap rip off?
It was definitely a cheap ripoff - Howard Stern was behind it. But I love him so it was okay. But not only did they spoof the series, every episode of theirs spoofed a specific episode of our, including many I wrote. I thought I should have been compensated.
Can you promote the movie better by saying who the female leads are going to be?
Have you put any thought into having a joke in the new movie with The Rock being so completely drunk that he can't get get off of his floor while eating cheeseburgers?
Don't have the female leads cast yet. Looking for a CJ and Summer and Stephanie (even though she died in the series). I like Kate Upton as CJ. Please, any suggestions. Love to hear them from Reddit.
The Hoff will do some sort of cameo in the film. While it will be action packed, it's also a comedy, so maybe he can be scooping up crabs on the sand and eating them. Any suggestions for what the Hoff should do in this cameo?
How could one be a drowing victim in the new baywatch movie? Really though thanks for doing this AMA. Have so many questions I would like to ask, but I don't want to take up all your time. So here are a few more.
What advice would you give someone wanting to break into the industry as a writer?
What is the programming of WeedTV like? Following workers, users, illegally, or legally?
What is one of your most memorable moments working on Baywatch?
WeedTv uses what we learned from Vegas On Demand capturing the Vegas Lifestyle, to capturing the week lifestyle. We just launched so it's not fully populated with content yet, so submit your "High Times" videos, or your Medical Marijuana stories.
You could wait until we're filming and try to drown yourself. The cameras will be rolling. Who know? If you survive you could end up in the movie, pr at least a video trending on the Internet.
Have you ever given up on a dream?
No, actually I never have. Many are almost as old as me, but they're still possible. As a Buddhist I believe in the mystic law of cause and effect. So as long as I keep making causes my dreams can come true as the effect.
I am legitimately reading a book on Roger Corman right now! Very curious what your experience working with him was like. Any fun or wild stories?
I worked for Roger at the same time Jack Nicholson was writing and directing films for him/ He gave you the ability to make movies. He was amazing in that way. You didn't make much money, buy you learned your craft. Did every job.
Kaley Cuoco for Summer or maybe Elizabeth Banks.
Also, I can think of at least two good reasons Kate U. should be CJ. Good call.
Great idea! Really. She's innocent and sexy at the same time, and funny. I really like her. We also need the guys. A Matt, and Newmie, a Garner (the black beach cop)
What do you think of Craig Robinson?
Looking back on the 11 year run, were there any episodes that you wrote or any ideas you came up with that you were surprised to be actually shot?
Not surprised. We had to shoot a new episode every 5 days so everything I wrote got made. But there were some I had to fight for. Like the fantasy Gilligan's Island and Charlie's Angel's episodes.
You know those logos on curbs by drains with a picture of a dolphin that says "No Dumping, Drains Directly to Ocean"? I invented those in a Baywatch script called "Heal The Bay" where the lifeguards go out and paint them by drains. Who know they would become real. I also invented "Spray Tanning" for Baywatch - to quickly tan the cast all the extras on the beach. Wish I'd patented that.
Did any of the cast need to take swimming lessons? It would be strange to see someone playing a lifeguard that looked like they needed more help than the victim.
The original actress we cast in the pilot told us she could swim, but lied. We never tested her. We replaced her the first day of filming. From then on everyone had to swim. And run carrying the rescue can. Pam was a stud.
Did you ever think that Baywatch would run for 11 seasons?
We were actually picked up for two more seasons but Fremantle would have to have paid us millions and decided to same the money. I was pissed.
What gave you the courage to stop selling sea she'll necklaces and pursue your aspirations?
I was pursuing them all along. I was just broke. My wife left me saying "I love you too much to be around when your dreams fall through. My uncle was selling puka shell necklaces to stores and said here, go to a swap meet. Make some money. But I went to Venice Beach instead. Was the first person selling stuff on the strand. It was 1976, the summer of the Puka Shell. I made so much money I could write all week and sell puka on the weekends. By the end of summer I had a movie development deal with Sandy Howard and opened a store on the strand. I invited my ex to the opening. It was sweet.
What's your best Hoff story?
I can't tell the best Hoff story but it involved an investor in a Baywatch Nightclubs deal I was putting together ripping up a million dollar check and throwing the pieces in my face.
Whatever he does, make sure he drive away in a black Trans-Am when he's done.
Just finished a movie with the Hoff called Celebrity Death Pool - Killing Hasselhoff starring Ken Jeong. The Trans Am is in the movie. The voice of Kitt is played by Justin Bieber. His day on the set generated a ton of publicity. It's a dark comedy that will be out in 2015.
Try to get that Jennifer Lawrence in there. She's so hot right now.
Love Jennifer. She'd Only cost half the budget. Maybe we should get Hansel instead. He's so hot right now. Hansel
Will edit these as I think of it. For Matt you could do Matthew Lawrence, Chace Crawford or (Its a stretch maybe) Scott Caan.
Garner - Blair Underwood or Taye Diggs?
Jon Hamm - Newmie
We're thinking of someone like Zac Efron for Matt. Thoughts?
Alright thats all the ideas I have for now. Thanks again for doing the AMA.
Serious note, if you need PA's let me know.
Send me a private message on Reddit and who knows. We will be hiring PA's
I will play any character. You can pay me in weed... I mean weed killer. My lawn is not looking so great or something.
I think the SAG minimum for playing a character is one ounce, unless you have dialogue, then it's an ounce per line of dialogue. Or they'll replace your lawn.
I just can't believe you were selling puka shell necklaces at the beach, and then suddenly BAM, that inspirational thought came to mind. Its just insane how life works. My question is not related to your work, but did you ever imagine you'd be where you are now? Growing up was there ever a time you said, "I'm going to be a writer/producer for the movie and tv industry"?
Actually, at 13 my uncle Sherwood gave me and my cousin an 8mm movie camera and we used it to make a war movie called The Lost Battalion featuring all kids. We showed it in the backyard and sold tickets, popcorn, candy. Everyone thought, how cute. But a neighbor who came worked at CBS and bought the movie for $5,000 to air on CBS on Saturday morning.
Our parents wanted us to put it away for college, but we invested it in our next movie for the next summer called Journey Through Time where I snuck into my father's time machine and went back to warn Custer not to go. CBS bought that one too for 10K.
When I was sixteen my cousin and I started a movie company made up entirely of kids. We got all the kids apprenticeships are Desilu studios to learn different crew jobs. There are still dozens of people in the industry who started with us as kids.
When my cousin and I were standing on the set of Baywatch on the first day of the pilot, we looked at each other. We were still doing what we loved doing as kids, only on a much bigger scale.
Efron will def pull in a crowd. He has the looks and is pretty funny. Channing Tatum would be along the same line as him for me. Both have a fairly comedic side and the looks.
Edit: Cam Gigandet could also work for you.
Channing Tatum would make a great Baywatch Lifeguard. But with The Rock it will strain the budget a lot to get Channing. We could probably afford Cam though. Rather make a star than pay one. That's a lesson we learned on the Baywatch series. Baywatch indeed made international stars. Even today everyone referenced in the press it's still like "Baywatch Pam"
Pretty much everything about this response made me wonder if someone had dosed me with LSD.
I know, trippy isn't it? But it's not an hallucination. It's real. Well maybe surreal, but still mind boggling. Hope your come down is smooth and it's a good, not a bad trip.
Were there any large-breasted lifeguards on patrol that fateful day?
There really weren't many real ones - lifeguards with big breasts I mean, not the breasts themselves.
There are so many dark shows on TV these days. Baywatch is bright, colorful, blue skies, escapist. I think people need to escape to the Baywatch Beach especially these days. What do you think? But the movie is first anyway. If it does well then the question will be, sequels or a new series. I should only be that lucky.
David Hasselhoff these days seems like a cartoon version of a real person. What was he like pre fame and pre middle age delusion?
He was great in the early years, and in many ways he's still great today. I don't think David is deluded about anything. He understands, accepts and smartly exploits his "character" of "The Hoff" today. He's probably making more money being a caricature of himself today than he made on Baywatch.
Can you comment on how the TV landscape is different now than in the 90s? What would you have to do differently in today's climate to get Baywatch on the air?
SUBQUESTION: where did you learn to write for television and what is the most important thing to remember when writing a pilot?
It's a lot tougher today. We started doing TV Movies - there aren't a lot of those these day. And this is the era of the superstar producers you have to attach to get network attention.
I was a reader and read a lot of bad scripts. That really helped me recognize when my script was going bad and correcting course. Read as many bad scripts as possible, and the good ones too.
There's a book by Lagos Egri called "The art of Dramatic Writing" that was very helpful, especially with creating interesting characters.
Wait a minute, are you pulling my leg? Are there any other things in our everyday lives or popular lexicon attributed to Baywatch?
Not pulling your leg about these. Probably the biggest catchphrase is adding "Watch" to everything - Kind of like adding Gate to scandals.
Oh, and bigger - saving lives for real! We were awarded the first ever Red Cross Spirit Award for saving many lives by accurately portraying CPR on the show. A six year old boy saved his drowning baby brother by giving him CPR. When they asked how he knew how to do it he said from watching Baywatch. Baywatch has saved dozens of lives. What other TV show can say that?
What is your favourite tv show, besides your own?
I like Homeland, Ray Donavan, House of Cards and a lot of the new dramas. I love a show I did create that only ran one year on CBS because it was opposite the Cosby Show. It was called The Wizard starring David Rappaport who starred in Time Bandits. Everyone thought I was crazy to have a dwarf starring in my first TV series. But the script was picked up to pilot, and the pilot was picked up to series. The theme of the whole series was Never Give Up.
Woah. That's amazing! Now I need to watch these two movies, hahaha. Thank you for answering my question, I do look forward to the Baywatch The Movie. I'll make to get to the theater half-hour before the movie starts, that way I can run and get my ticket in slow-motion.
Better start running now. It won't be out till next summer.
Do you have any other films that you are writing or working on that you hope to get into production over the next few years? (outside of Baywatch)
Well, just finished Killing Hasselhoff and working on doing a film version of the Michael Cera web series Bad Dads. Also working on a new Beach Volleyball series and a couple of other passion products.
I want to thank Reddit for allowing me to procrastinate writing today, although I think I'm doing more here than I'd have been doing on my scripts.
Awesome! Will have to keep an eye out for those. Keep up the good work!
Thank you. It's good to be working creatively. I've been so fortunate to make my living using my creativity. Everyone should pursue that path, whatever it is you're creative at.
I love the theme song to Baywatch. It is one of the greatest songs of all time.
I'll be ready is always in my head. Did you choose the song? Have you ever heard someone cover that song?
Our composer Cory Lerios wrote it and we got Jimmy Jameson to sing it. I have it on my phone as a ring tone. Every time someone calls me people around me start running in slow motion. We switched out the main title theme sone from the one we used on NBC to this one.
I told my partner I wanted to write the song lyrics. Our uncle Sherwood made a fortune writing the lyrics for the Gilligan's Island and Brady Bunch theme songs. But he said we were too busy getting the show back on in syndication, so I didn't write the lyrics. Cory and Jimmie probably made more money from the song than I made writing and directing the show. We'll probably be doing a new, hot undated version for the movie.
Holy shit did you grow up in a different time.
The 60's and 70's. It was a very different time. The 60's was the best decade in history. Well, for those who can remember it.
How did you go from puka necklaces to Baywatch was it just a eureka moment or a gradual build up to the idea?
It was eureka, then another ten years before my career had gotten strong enough that I could convince people that a series about lifeguards would work. Brandon Tartikoff, a brilliant executive at NBC got it, but didn't think it could be a series. How could we come up with 22 storylines for a season. How many CPR's could we do? So he picked it up for a movie of the week. Our title was Baywatch He retitled the movie Baywatch, Panic at Malibu Pier. It was the highest rated movie of the week, and in the top ten of all shows for the week. He finally picked up the series for NBC.
It was on one year on Friday nights and then cancelled. But my partner and I still didn't quit. We convinced the studio to sell us the rights back for $10.00, then took the next 14 months selling the show to individual stations and station groups in First Run Syndication. No studio would back us so we found a small distribution company named Fremantle. Many of you know it today as a multi-billion dollar company that produces American Idol and America's Got Talent etc. Well that was all built on the success of Baywatch. We came up with 387 episodic stories in 13 seasons (including two seasons of Baywatch Nights (which is a whole other story). The Baywatch Movie aired in 1989. Now here it is, 25 years later, and it's still going strong with the Movie for Paramount studios and Montecito Productions (Ivan Reitman's company), and a Baywatch Musical I'm developing for the West End of London. I guess good things happen to those who wait… that is as long as they keep fighting for their vision.
What's your favorite ride in Disney?
I was in the original Mickey Mouse Club magazine getting on the Jungle Boat ride on Opening day. Yes, I was at Disneyland opening day, and on the first boat on the jungle boat ride. So it's my sentimental favorite. But I also loved Tom Sawyer's Island. Wasn't a ride, but a place to use your imagination. Loved that.
Do you showcase SnoopDogg's youtube show on Weed TV?
If not, you should definitely get in contact with him, cause that show is amazing.
Great idea. Thank you. I created a game show format called "Cheech and Chong's Drug test" They haven't agreed to do it yet, so whatever lobbying you can do, please help us land C&C. it'll be an hysterically funny show.
what lasting impact do you think 'Miami Vice' had on television programming?
Without a doubt style and music. Especially music. Baywatch used a ton of it for our montages. Problem is they're so expensive when you try to put the episodes on DVD.
Favourite TV Show aside your own?
Friends - especially the shows where Joey and Chandler are watching Baywatch. My uncle Sherwood created Gillian's Island and Brady Bunch, so I love those too.
Did you personally "cast" any of the lifeguards?
I personally cast all the lifeguards. Pam kept missing auditions. We almost cast Kathy Ireland. But our female casting directors kept saying you have to wait for this girl Pam. So we did. And they were right. When Michael Bergin came in to audition every woman in our office insisted we cast him cause he was so hot. So we did. There are many other casting stores. Did you know Hobie girlfriend was played by Michelle Williams?
If you look in IMDB you'll see a whole bunch of stars who were on Baywatch.
My last question got deleted because of format, but the guy at the bar next to me is wondering, how did you come up with the name Hobie?
I was thinking of something nautical that Mitch would name his son that his wife probably hated. I thought of the Hobie Cat catamaran, and came up with Hobie.
There's always a chance. I wrote earlier about chasing your dream. Wait! We should run a contest where people submit videos saying why they want to get mouth to mouth from a Baywatch girl, or Baywatch guy. People would vote. The best answer would get to be a drowning victim in the movie getting CPR. What do you think?
What's next after (or in addition to) Weed TV and Baywatch The Movie?
Also, do you ever work with other writers, or do you prefer to do everything yourself?
My history has been to do everything myself. I've run writing staffs and it's great to have other talented writers do the heavy lifting, then just come in and do a polish. I have worked with many writers as a consultant helping them break stories. Integrating strong characters with solid story structure is my sweet spot. When writing a comedy, collaboration with a writing partner is much more important. It's hard to be funny alone.
Yeah, but what was your favorite episode of Saved by the Bell? Why no crossover show?
Actually Elizabeth Berkley was in a Baywatch Episode called Malibu Beach High that was filmed as a spinoff for CBS. It featured Nicole Eggert as Summer, David Charvet as Matt, Pam as CJ as a gym teacher, and Kelly Slater as a surfer on the Malibu Beach High surf team. Needless to say they won a lot. Unfortunately it didn't get picked up as a separate series, but was a really good episode.
In your opinion is location still a big factor in getting your foot in the door to the creative arts?
I live in Michigan...do I have to move to California to create an opportunity for myself?
No, you don't have to move. Today, with the internet, anyone with talent can be discovered if they create and produce something original and compelling - a web series or a short movie. With inexpensive high def cameras and editing programs movies can be made and submitted to film festivals. If you're more of a writer than a film-maker, you can go to a university film school and try to hook up with a young filmmaker to work with. There are legitimate script submission websites like inktip.com that has had success selling scripts for non-professionals. Hope this helps.
Holy shit, I've been unwittingly lying to people for decades about that being Hasselhoff's voice. I have a LOT of apologies to make tonight.
Hasselhoff sang a song that was used over the end credits on many episodes.
When do you think Baywatch will begin production?
It all depends on when The Rock has an availability in his schedule. We're hoping that will be spring or early summer next year. Fingers crossed. The man is very busy.
Do you have anything cool in the works?
I think so. In addition to the Baywatch Movie and Baywatch Musical, I've written another faith-based movie as a follow up to Soul Surfer, and am writing a teenage comedy along the lines of The Breakfast Club to be directed by artist Alex Israel.
Any advice for a 17 year old?
I see that you've asked that exact same question to a lot of other Reddit IAMA people. If you want a real answer, please ask me a real question, an original question, not a cut and pasted question.
It is a real question I assure you. The reason I ask that question to different people is I enjoy advice that people have for some young and experienced like me. So to me it's like a learning expirence. Also. Do not copy and paste them, I type every single one out. So I ask my question again if that's alright. what advice do you have for a 17 year old?
Give me a specific area. Career? Personal life? Are you male or female? In high school? Going to college? Have a job? You get it. Give me something to go on.
So can you plan a Hulk Hogan movie renaissance comeback film? Because the world needs one.
I just worked with Hulk again on Celebrity Death Pool - Killing Hasselhoff. I have to tell you, he is a true hero of mine. When his wife screwed him over after he gave her everything he took the high road and started again. Now his club in Florida is a huge success and he deserves it. I pitched him a concept for a new series we can shoot in Florida and he loves it. So we'll see.
Was this in between Saved by the Bell and Showgirls?
Yes it was, definitely before showgirls. I liked Elizabeth and felt bad that Showgirls derailed her career. Nothing in that film was her fault and she deserved better. But she was hot, especially licking that stripper pole, wasn't she?
Who do I have to kill to get bluray sets with that glorious, glorious theme song?
Not on Bluray yet because the show, although shot in 35mm we transferred to standard def video and the time it was distributed, and need to be uprezzed to 4K High Def, which I'm working on getting done. Until then the song is on iTunes. I use it as my ringtone. It gets an awesome reaction when people hear it. We'll be recorded a hot, new version for the Baywatch Movie.
My father and i used to watch Baywatch. Anything you want to say to a wannabe movie director?
Just drop the wannabe as soon as possible. And be nice to your crew.
What's it like having the most viking last name in the world?
Berk? Is that a Viking last name?
Good to know!
As a follow-up: How would one go about submitting themselves to be your writing partner (or team member) on something?
That's tricky. There are so many lawsuits where people say, you read my script and stole this scene or that concept. So you can't just accept unsolicited scripts. But there are release forms. I just got one to sign for a script I submitted to Legendary. The document is a little intimidating, but totally necessary. You have to have a level of trust that it's easier for real professionals to do a deal with you and acquire that material rather than rip you off. The best thing is if the material is submitted by a reputable agent or manager so there's some accountability and credibility.
As for collaborating, unless it's a close friend, I do that as a work for hire. People and businesses hire me as a creative consultant to work with them on scripts, or consult on their business projects, both conceptually and to come up with a creative marketing campaign.
This is my first time on Reddit, so I want to make it clear, I'm not selling anything or soliciting work or anything like that. I'm just trying to be open and honest and becomes a trusted member of the Reddit community.
You might want to educate yourself about copyright law and parody.
Trust me, I'm very aware of it. Parody is protected free speech. Without it there would be no Saturday Night Live. But sometimes there is a fine line between parody and plagiarism.