Screenwriter Gary Kott addresses film industry hopefuls

BY CHRISTYANNE SAN JUAN

STAFF REPORTER

Photo courtesy of The Chaparral. Gary Kott speaking to the broadcast writing class.

College of the Desert’s broadcast writing students were met with a special treat on Oct. 23 when distinguished television and advertising writer and artist Gary Kott stopped by the KCOD building classroom on Park View to tell them an especially interesting story: his own.

Kott began his address by explaining to the students his history as a writer prior to even entering the entertainment industry. Writing was a talent that Kott embraced early in his life; beginning as a reporter for his college newspaper and later earning a position as an editor. It was a bright spot on his otherwise ‘abysmal transcript,’  and allowed Kott to amass a considerable portfolio of articles. It was this proficiency in writing that allowed Kott to further his career when few believed in his ability to prosper.

Photo courtesy of The Chaparral. Film instructor, Kevin Lyons poses with screenwriter, Gary Kott after speaking to broadcast writing students.

His aspirations eventually brought him to New York City, where he landed a job writing advertisements for a department store named J.J. Newbury Co. Though the job was monotonous and difficult, Kott began to hone his ability to capture the attention of a consumer with only a few words — a skill that would eventually lead to the beginning of his future in screenwriting.

A friend advised Kott that life as a writer was better in an advertising agency, and with this in mind, he gained a new drive to break into the field. Kott began to spend his free time constantly writing, taking pictures of family and friends, acting out his scripts and improvising a visual storyboard of the advertisements that he had in mind. Later, a 23-year-old Kott reaped the benefits of his tenacity, and he soon found himself working for Ogilvy & Mather, a British pre-eminent advertising, marketing and public relations agency based in New York.

“I just had a knack for writing television commercials,” Kott divulged. “They kept giving me these big assignments, and by the time I was in my mid-twenties, I was traveling all over the place shooting national TV commercials.”

At this time, Kott began immersing himself in the world of film production. Having spent so much time on professional sets filming commercials, Kott soon realized that he had been accumulating knowledge from set technicians, directors and producers. This knowledge later became vital to his career, as an ill-fated movie offer for a novel Kott had written had inadvertently caused him to break into screenwriting for television and film.

This happy accident of sorts led to an extensive lineup of work for Kott. From writing for comedies such as Angie to creating drama in the crime fiction show Remington Steele, eventually ending up in a five-year stint as a supervising producer and writer of the wildly successful The Cosby Show. During this time, Kott worked on 126 episodes and had writing credits on 55 scripts for the show. Kott even appeared on the show, albeit in small roles.

Kott’s success continued for years after his initial breakthrough into the television industry. He subsequently cited his extensive achievements as a writer to his dedication to his craft. “Part of the secret to writing well is to just keep writing. I was constantly up early and staying awake late at night just creating,” he said.

Gary Kott’s work gained the writer several accolades throughout his career, including a Peabody Award, a Writers Guild of America Award, a People’s Choice Award, an NACCP Image Award, a pair of Humanitas nominations, and one Emmy Award nomination. In addition to his writing career, Kott is also an artist; with his work having been featured in both the Smith Vargas Fine Art Gallery as well as the Rancho Mirage Artists Studio Tour.

Kott continues to create and produce written works for audiences. His latest work, ‘Art In Heaven,’ will be performed Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at Gary Kott’s Creative Warehouse in Cathedral City. Entry fee is $10. To make a reservation, contact 760-902-4242. To find out more about this event, visit http://garykottscreativewarehouse.com.

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