Monday, December 27, 2010


As I review the BEST OF 2010 lists, I cringe at the some of the names the blogosphere is giving season three of Sons of Anarchy.  "Uneven" "Problematic" "Counter-intuitive".  It's fucking hard to watch your child being bullied and yet I've realized that one must live and die by buzz. 

The truth is a lot of bloggers and critics are too fucking lazy to actually watch the show and form an original opinion, so they'll let a few other critics determine what the show is.  In season two, a few critics tagged Sons as one of the best shows on television.  That buzz was picked up and so season two was labeled "brilliant".  This season, a few critics struggled with the Ireland/Baby narrative and labeled those middle episodes as confusing and off-point.  That buzz was also picked up and so season three is being labeled "not-so-brilliant".  The reality is that neither assessment is true.  It's just that one is easier to accept that the other.

I, of course, did not see a problem with season three.  Obviously.  In my mind, it was the most complex and in-depth storytelling we've ever done on the show.  Perhaps that's the problem.  I do know that anything I say in defense of the show will land as sour grapes and desperate, so I'll let a critic describe my feelings.  Tim Goodman, former critic for the SF Chronicle, now head TV critic for the Hollywood Reporter listed SOA as one of the top 18 shows of the year (#13).  This was his follow up assessment --

Sons of Anarchy
Of all the excellent dramas here, fan reaction to SOA in Season 3 is the most interesting, and baffling. This outlaw biker-club series from Kurt Sutter embraces its heightened gangster mentality, its Hamlet-on-a-Harley agenda. You’ll find few series whose fans are as rabid and outspoken. The story line that took the club from the fictional Northern California town of Charming to Northern Ireland had a lot of viewers and critics claiming it meandered and that the skillfully riveting first and last episodes held together a soft middle. It’s too tough on Sutter; any creator/writer/showrunner ought to take chances — that’s essential to greatness. Had he kept SOA in Charming for a third year, playing the same tune, the backlash would rightly have been more fierce. Fans ultimately might look back at this ambitious season as instrumental in the series achieving brilliance.

Besides, who wants a show that resists change and shies from a creative leap? If you want that, turn on broadcast TV. Now that these shows are gone, you’ll get plenty of settling.

Friday, December 17, 2010


This started out as a holiday message, then the pressure of gifts, money and moving to a new house inspired something else.  So I share this piece of kurtness for your holiday enjoyment -- 

Even on medication, my first response to any challenge (fear) is never, "Let me understand" (reason).  It's always, "Let me cut your fucking heart out" (anger).  I've done quite a bit of work on myself in the last twenty years and I've come to realize that some of that response is just my humanity -- primal survival instincts.  Some of it is my obsessive personality.  Some of it was being raised in an unpredictable (alcoholic) household.  But mostly, it's because anger is my friend.  Rage, not so much, but anger feels so fucking good.  It's the sauce that makes the bland noodles taste like God's been cooking.  It gets my dick hard, my confidence up, my creativity ticking and focuses my mind like a bloody, gleaming straight razor.  I've discovered that I seek out opportunities, consciously and unconsciously, that trigger my favorite emotion.  I stir up trouble, then open wide to receive the backlash, using it to feed my beautiful hostile machine.  (Wasn't there an alien on Star Trek that did that?)

I am aware that this is probably not the healthiest trait.  It's created more than a few uncomfortable work experiences (Fox lawsuits) and garnered at least two or three death threats per season.  FYI: I don't carry a gun.  That would be bad.  

Well, that's it.  Merry Christmas, happy holidays.  Me, I'm hoping for a stocking full of coal.  Just a little something to spin me into the new year.  

Peace be with you.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


I look at some of my showrunner peers with awe.  The men and women who create and run more than one show at a time.  It's amazing to me.  I just don't understand how they can spread themselves over several projects and run them successfully... but some do.  I would imagine the only way to do it is to extensively delegate.  To surround yourself with a staff that can expedite your exact vision without a degradation in quality.  In essence, the writer becomes a writing corporation whose primary product is content.  That content is then mass produced by a proven formula and process.

I'm not sure that I could do that.  It's just not how I'm wired.  The inability speaks to my obsessive nature.  I joke about my control issues but the truth is, I am so proprietary over my show, I couldn't imagine not devoting 100% of my energy to it.  It's not that I can't delegate or don't trust my staff, I do, it's just that I am so compulsive about details that I doubt I could obsessively focus on more than one thing at a time.

I'll always do something over my hiatus.  I need to creatively cleanse my palate.  This year I'm selling a reality project and I'm writing a movie which will overlap with the beginning of my SOA season a bit, but will be finished before I have to really dig into the show.  I guess if I had to model my career after someone it would be the three Davids -- Simon, Chase and Milch.  These guys are my creative heroes.  Visionaries.  Guys who plugged into one show, made them brilliantly and stayed with them to the end.  Then found the next passion story and began all over again.  In Simon's case, man, to have The Wire and Treme on your resume... fuck, how extraordinary is that?  That's the career I want.  

As much as my ego and competitive nature would love to setup and produce a dozen shows at several networks, it's just antithetical to my process.  I didn't become a writer to make money.  I know that sounds like bullshit, but it's the truth.  I spent almost twenty years figuring out who I was as a man and an artist.  It was a painful, circuitous path filled with lethargic hopelessness, self-loathing, addiction and hundreds of broken relationships.  When the bleeding stopped and the black smoke cleared, the path pointed to writing.  Becoming a writer wasn't a career choice, it was a survival choice.  It's all I have.  It defines me.  It's why I hate downtime.  I don't know who I am without a script at my keyboard.  That probably just sounds like heady bullshit... and I don't know, maybe it is, but it's what I believe today.  Which is why the thought of writing enmasse for power and profit just seems counter-intuitive to me.  

I think some writers get lured in by the money.  Some are misguided by greedy agents and managers.  Some get caught in the wake of their own success and can't stop the tide.  And some really love the game of winning.  More money, more power, more headlines, more, more, more... I just wonder how many feel fulfilled.  Truly, creatively satisfied.  That sense that they're doing something that really matters.  Something that honors the profession of writing.  Maybe they all do.  This is not a judgment, it's a query.  A fascination, really.  Probably driven by envy, perhaps pity.  I'm not sure.  Like all my posts, this is my stream of consciousness today.  Tomorrow I may have a completely different opinion.  

Anyway, what I come away with -- which wasn't the purpose of this entry, but nonetheless true -- I come away with gratitude.  Beyond all my conjecture and bombastic opinions, I am so fucking grateful to have found my voice.  A voice I get to share with others.  A voice that affords me a comfortable life for myself and my family.  A voice of one writer.

I thank fucking god... I am not SutterInk. 

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


I want to thank the fans of SOA for another terrific season.  Even with the Dish debacle, y'all showed up for the club.  We ultimately retained our high numbers and throwing in the Live +7 (DVRs) data, we actually had a healthy upward tick in viewers from season two.  

This was a very important season for me, both creatively and personally.  I knew I was going to do this Belfast arc back at the conception of the show.  It's a crucial arc for the evolution of Jax and for the evolution of the series.  To pull it off it would mean structuring the narrative differently and taking Sam Crow out of their native environment.  It's always a creative risk to try a different approach in an established show.  What I learned is that sometimes folks don't like change (and some of you just hated that fucking baby).  The great thing is that critics and fans are completely invested in Sons of Anarchy, they take a lot of ownership in the show.  With that investment comes a great deal of scrutiny.  Man, it's intense, the good and the bad, people really give a shit about what happens to these characters.  And they let me know it. 

For me, it's all about challenging the process.  My mantra in the writers room is -- What is the audience expecting and then let's never do that.  How can we organically move toward the darkest and most absurd choice?  Honoring our nod to the Bard, what Shakespearean device can we exploit to move our tale of blood and woe forward?  In short, how do we avoid derivative storytelling and shake up the viewing experience.  That's who I am as an artist, that's what SOA is as a show.  That doesn't mean I'm writing in a vacuum.  Yes, I have a clear vision of what, how and where Sons of Anarchy is heading.  But that vision is always expedited with an audience in mind.  Meaning, I give a shit that it's a satisfying hour for folks.  That's my commitment to myself, FX, and most importantly, to the viewers.

I'm very satisfied with this season.  It played out as I envisioned and I think the writing, acting and directing was top notch.  Everyone involved generated thirteen hours of quality television.  This cast gets better with every episode, and for me, Charlie Hunnam broke out this season.  He went places he's never been on this show.  He broke my heart and chilled my soul.  I have little faith that there will be awards or accolades coming his way, so I want to thank him for his tremendous work and his tireless effort.  Charlie is a consummate professional and his love of this work inspires me to keep raising the bar.

I also learned a lot about "why and how" people watch Sons; information that won't go unheeded.  When folks look back on season three, I imagine it will be with a squinted, perhaps contentious eye.  Cool with me, as long as they're looking.  I'd much rather have a controversial reaction than a complacent one.  After all, it is a show about fucking outlaws.

Anyway, I'm sure this post will get spun against me in some "bombastic" way, but I just want to thank everyone for staying on the ride.  Until season four, I'm wishing everyone all the anarchy their little hearts can handle.   



Friday, November 26, 2010


Join us for the 90 minute conclusion to season 3's tale of blood and woe.  Promo below --

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I had the pleasure of working with Paris Barclay on two of my episodes of The Shield, "Scar Tissue" and "Grave". I had been a fan of his work on NYPD Blue and West Wing.  I found him to be an extraordinarily gifted director and a pretty great human being.  He was on my short list of directors when SOA got picked up to series.  After his thoughtful and deft execution of "Balm" last season, I approached Paris about taking a permanent position on Sons.  I wanted him to be my directing producer, a role that the late, great Scott Brazil handled on The Shield. Most shows have directing producers. They are essentially the director-in-residence. He or she directs a lion's share of the episodes, oversees production and acts as a interface between the writers and the cast and crew. I never hired anyone else because there was no one other than Paris I trusted handling the position. Paris was intrigued by the offer. He loves the show, loves the world and bonded with the cast and crew. But ultimately, Paris was more committed to In Treatment, a show he helped launch as a directing producer.

I'm not a quitter.  We approached Paris again a few months back and I am happy to say that he has decided to leave the couch and jump on a Harley. Mr. Barclay will join us for season four of Sons of Anarchy.

I want to thank my partners at FX, Fox 21 and 20th for making this happen.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


In the spring, maybe summer of 2001, I read this in-depth article about television and film writers in one of the trades or maybe the LA Times.  I'm not sure what the focus of the piece was, but what I remember was the palpable bitterness and disillusionment of the writers interviewed.  At the time I was living a hand-to-mouth existence; a starving writer, working on spec scripts and living off of the charity of my friend at Bravo who got me a gig writing one-minute bumpers.  The article made a deep impression on me.  I was stunned by the level of discontent experienced by these very successful men and women.  From what I recall the core of their anger was about creative control and respect.  They were pissed off because the studio system always put commerce before creative integrity; they saw their work being compromised and dumbed-down time and time again.  They wanted more power, more respect, more recognition.  They were the A-listers and they all sounded fucking miserable.  And I remember thinking -- What the fuck?  Really?  You have these amazing gigs, you get paid a shitload of money to do the thing you love and all you can do is bitch about what you don't have?  They're behavior seemed completely irrational and I have a very vivid memory of saying to myself -- "Man, if I ever get a gig like that, I'm never gonna be that fucking ungrateful."

Over the past few months I’ve been experiencing a growing sense of disconnect from my creative passion.  More and more the thing that I love to do is becoming just “a job”.  Without knowing it, I’m turning into one of those writers who I swore I’d never be -- I have it all and I hate it all.  I’m a fairly self-aware cat, so when I get to these places, I am forced to ask myself, “How the fuck did I get here?”  In my inventory process I was surprised by how little I had to dig to reveal the truth.  It’s quite obvious what turns passion into dissatisfaction - money.  

Every writer has their own process, but for me, creating an imaginary world, characters, conflict, mythology is almost a spiritual exercise.  I know that sounds goofy, but it’s the only way I know how to describe it.  You see, I didn’t become a writer -- ten years ago, I was given the opportunity to realize that I have always been a writer.  Telling story is my gift, it’s the thing the universe demands that I do.  That discovery was a grueling and painful process for me.  But that’s why I love to write, it’s why I’m driven to obsessive perfection -- I’m making up for a decade of lost time.  I see every word on the page as divine direction.  Really, I do.  Hence, the Messiah Complex.

Which leads me back to the path of disillusionment...

Good writers begin with a deeply personal process that generates inspiration that we hope ultimately lands on the pages of a script.  After that experience, we take that work to market, with the desire to impress and engage others with our art.  If so, that body of work is purchased and transformed into a commodity.  In that instant, our creation is no longer a personal extension of ourselves, it is now a tool of commerce that serves a greater entity.  Here in lies the painful paradox as I see it -- from that point on we are still expected to generate deeply inspired work even though our baby is enslaved to a different master.  So we sweat, bleed and toil for the thing we love without nearly the same level of gratification.  It doesn’t matter who you work for or the nature of your project, the guy in the suit can tell you he’s all about the creative process, he understands artists, this is a safe forum... it’s ultimately all slick shit.  Once you generate something that has commercial value, creativity falls low on the list.  You are owned and money will always be the directive.  Yes, that’s an extreme generalization, but the point is, especially with TV, the medium was solely created to generate income.  The stuff that happens in-between commercials is secondary.  Always was, always will be.

I guess that inevitability is catching up to me on Sons.  I was under the false impression that the more successful the show became, the more room I would get to do it.  But the opposite has occurred, the better the show becomes, the more corporate scrutiny I experience.  This reality is chipping away at my spirit.  At the end of my 80 and 90 hour weeks I start to ask myself, “Why am I doing this?”  Lately, my answers aren’t that convincing.  And when “money” is my only response, it’s time to walk away.  

The solution?  I’m not sure.  I’m not a quitter and my ego is too big to entrust the show to anyone else.  I’ve contemplated setting myself on fire at Pico and Motor, but that seemed a bit extreme, even for me.  So I guess I press on and continue to make the emotional and creative adjustments.  In recovery, we talk about how expectations are future resentments.  That’s very true in this case.  I guess I need to stop going to the butcher shop for candy.  I show up wanting something sweet and tasty and always end up with a slab of bloody entrails.  

I love what I do and need to find a way to bring back that love.  My life is always about finding the balance between
love and fear.  Perhaps that’s the bigger lesson here -- learning to stay focused on the love while I'm being bombarded with everyone else's fear.  Easier wished than employed.  Guess I have some tuning up to do this hiatus.  I know I didn't work this hard to be miserable.  

Friday, September 24, 2010


After three episodes, the response form critics and fans has been incredibly positive.  We're at an 84 at Metacritic, Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire are the only dramas scoring higher.  I think some folks are curious about how we are going to play out the season, but so far they are along for the ride.  

My initial impression from the social networks is that this season seems to be dividing the brains from the brawn.  Fans that come to show for character, relationship, emotional arcs and the mythology are relishing the twists, turns and reveals of season three.  The viewers who show up for some sort of cathartic testosterone rush seem to be a little disappointed in the direction we are going in.  They're comments suggest a desire for the exact same thing we did in the first two seasons --  same story dynamics, same character tensions, same results.  I understand that and I guess it's a risk to push the boundaries of the show.  But I have a very specific narrative vision for Sons of Anarchy and if I am lucky enough to get seven seasons, the events in season three are crucial to that overall arc.  I hope those viewers stick around.  Season three continues to ramp up the stakes and I think most folks will find the payoff very gratifying.

Last night at the wrap party, I looked around the room at my cast and crew and felt an enormous sense of pride.  These men and women love this gig, love the show; it's so clearly more than just a job.  Honestly, a showrunner couldn't ask for more.  I am enormously proud of this season and the tireless efforts of my SOA family.  The anger, anxiety, bad press, death threats, hostile work environment claims and bogus law suits now seem like insignificant tufts of fog rising from the moors.  I can now see Yorkshire Manor, and it is fucking grand, formidable and evermore.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


The original title for this post was:
but in the spirit of trying to improve my "foul-mouth, hotheaded, bombastic" reputation, I changed it.  It feels good to grow. 

In case you don't know this already, I am a very sensitive man.  My big feelings get hurt very easily.  I cry a lot.  I internalize.  I react.  I never hit humans or pets, but I often take out walls, doors and the occasional window.  Windows are bad.  I don't recommend putting your fist through one unless you have six hours to kill at the ER.  I'm currently looking at swollen bloody knuckles as I peck at my Macbook.  I found out my sound man bailed before the season finished yesterday and had a very big reaction.  There's a hole in the clubhouse set wall. 

I preface this blog with that insight to explain why I chose NOT to read reviews this season.  When I'm working 70 and 80 hour weeks, under-nourished, over-tired, and those opinions start rolling in, it's very difficult for me to detach.  In that state-of-mind, I tend to puff myself up with every positive comment and second guess myself with every negative one.  It's unhealthy for any creative, especially for a guy like me.

I managed to duck all reviews for almost two weeks.  It was incredibly liberating.  I highly suggest it to my fellow showrunners.  Then FX sent me the positive press excerpts (all the great quotes from critics that go on ads, etc).  Of course I read them.  Completely out of context, SOA was the greatest piece of dramatic literature ever conceived, acted and produced.  We were TV gods.  And of course, it was all bullshit.  Then, two days ago, literally in the course of a few hours, several people (in the spirit of commiseration, I'm sure) felt compelled to share the highlights of the negative reviews.  Some in conversation, some in emails.  I should've walked away and deleted, but I couldn't.  I guess on some unconscious level I needed the yang to keep me in check.  Again, it was all bullshit.

I'm not delusional about the reach of Sons; this is a very specific show about a very specific section of our culture.  I completely understand that it is not for everyone.  I shared about the insight I got from my lunch with Brian Lowry last year.  I came away from that meeting with the realization that a critic's review is ultimately about that individual's taste.  No matter how good or bad something is conceived and produced, the decision about its worth is always decided in the moment, by the watcher. That is not bullshit.  Beauty and every other opinion, is truly in the eye of the beholder.

In the past, I've read some scathing reviews about Sons that were thoughtful, well-constructed and very accurate... in the mind of that watcher.  Although they can be difficult to read, I appreciate and respect folks who put the time and energy into their negative analysis.  That's what a good critic does.  Critical analysis.  That is their art-form, that is their craft.  But of course, not all TV reviewers exhibit a mastery of their craft.  In fact, most wouldn't know good critical analysis if it sliced open their heads and shit a pile of knowledge where their brains should be.  The blogosphere is full of angry wannabes who couldn't make the cut as a real writer or journalist.  In my limited exposure, I'd say there are probably ten good TV critics working today.  I won't say who they are or aren't (my balls aren't that big).  The inspiration for this post came from several of the bad reviews I read the other day.  I was truly stunned by how ignorant and simple they were.  Unfortunately one of those critics writes for a nationwide newspaper.  His column was like reading the text feed of a fourteen-year-old high school girl.  All the piece needed was a handful of emoticons and like, totally, OMG!  

There is very little gray area with Sons.  It's a love it or hate it kind of show (not unlike its creator).  I know this is easy to say, but bear with me -- I believe the folks who like Sons of Anarchy, truly understand it conceptually.  Those who don't like it, simply can't (or can't be bothered) to wrap their brains around what we are trying to do.  By example, I have friends who despise Madmen.  They think it's a pretentious, overly-acted, slow, self-indulgent study of characters no one gives a shit about.  They compare it to my show.  They're idiots.  They can't see the point of Madmen and the vision that Matt Wiener and his writers are trying to communicate.  They are viewing apples through an orange lens.  You can't show up and watch True Blood with the same criteria you'd show up to watch The Shield.  Style, theme, pace, rhythm, all those things are never arbitrary in good shows.  To judge all shows by the same set of expectations is ridiculous.  Right now, Madmen and True Blood are my favorite dramas.  I watch them for completely different reasons.  I need a clear head and energy to watch Don Draper.  I know Matt is going to make me think beyond the screen.  True Blood on the other hand, is pure campy delight.  Sookie and crew will shock, titillate and entertain the fuck out of me.  I never leave that show with residual interrogatories.  

It's one thing if you're the audience.  If you don't like something, you simply turn the channel, but if you're a critic, don't you get paid for thoughtful analysis?  Aren't you supposed to roll up your sleeves and try to understand the material in the context of the world in which it is meant to live?  To throw all shows into a big bucket-o-tube is just fucking lazy.  Look, I don't mind getting fucked in the ass as long as the thing penetrating me takes a little bit of time to get to know the ins and outs of my crack (okay, that analogy even made me shiver).

So here's my memo to the unenlightened penetrators.  And again, I'm not disagreeing with the notion that Sons doesn't deserve a bad review.  It probably deserves plenty.  I am not saying the show is any better or worse than anything else on television, this is just a little tidbit for you to digest as you sit down to your keyboards with malice in your heart and a deadline to meet -- 

Sons of Anarchy is not The Shield, it's not the Sopranos, it certainly is not Madmen.  If I had to compare it to any other contemporary drama, I'd say it's most like Battlestar Galactica (again, not saying it is as good as Ron Moore's show, just using it as a comparison).  SOA, like BSG, is bigger than life.  It's steeped in a rich, thematic, costumed mythology, that can barley be contained in its naturalistic setting.  It is pulp, it is melodrama.  Forgive the pretentious Shakespearean nod, but it is a family tragedy in the spirit of Hamlet and King Lear.  It's Leone, not Renoir.  Although the characters and relationships are all very real, the circumstances are epic.  And I do my best to nail down those players into a very detailed, organic world so the drama can play out in a relatable way.

As a writer, I've always been fascinated with bending genre, pushing it beyond it's limits.  That's what I try to do on Sons.  I promise our viewers that I will not be influenced by the opinions of others.  I will continue to pursue my vision for this show.  I will take risks.  I will challenge your capacity for violence, tragedy and the absurd.  And hopefully, on occasion, I'll make you giggle like a fourteen-year-old teenage girl.

Saturday, September 04, 2010


I know for most of you it feels like an eternity since you last saw the boys of Samcro, but for me it's been a spastic blink since we premiered season two.  I can't believe we are here again. No wonder I'm aging so quickly. As I slide closer to the half-century mark, I often wonder, "Am I really this old? I was like 32 a year and a half ago. What the fuck happened?" I know this has nothing to do with this post, but I just caught a glimpse of myself in my window and saw my father. That's a whole different couch visit. 


As I said in a recent post, if the season three premier retains all the viewers we picked up between seasons one and two, I will be very pleased. I'm very excited about this season of Sons. It will be a different viewing experience for fans and I hope a very satisfying one. Creatively, I feel sometimes shows fall into a trap in season three. Writers and producers often figure out what works in season one, expand on that in season two, then try to do it again in season three. Unless you're working from source material like True Blood (whose third season was fucking awesome), repeating what works, ultimately generates storylines that feel derivative and familiar. It would be very easy for me to repeat what worked in season two -- create some internal beef that provided intensity and tension within the club (Jax and Clay), bring in another big nemesis (Zobelle), throw those two conflicts at each other (Gemma's rape) and watch the blood flow. Yes, I'm sure it would be okay and people would like it. But ultimately, I would be cheating my own creative process and your dedication as well. I've learned that devoted fans are very sophisticated viewers. They know when they are being fed leftovers. Yeah, they may eat them for awhile, but eventually, they'll get bored and leave to feed on something more tasty.

As an artist, I try to stay tasty. I constantly challenge my process. To do that, you must take risks.  You must be willing to move away from anything that feels like formula.  That approach is in complete contrast to the way many networks think.  They want familiar, they want you to repeat what worked.  The adage, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, fuels the network development process.  Unfortunately that philosophy is creative death and counterintuitive to generating compelling television.  My favorite shows never felt derivative. The Sopranos, The Wire, Homicide, Hill Street Blues; those shows took huge risks. Some worked, some didn't, but they all expanded the scope of the show and in the long run made them better. That's my hope for Sons -- to continue to push the boundaries of the narrative, the absurdity of the world and the emotionality of the characters.  I have no delusions that SOA will ever fall into the category of the above mentioned dramas, I only hope that the series never be called, "lazy".

So on this season of Sons of Anarchy, we expand beyond the emotional/geographical boundaries of Charming and our primary beefs, to divulge deeper mythological conflicts. The mythology revealed this season will serve as gasoline for the familial fires that will ultimately set our antiheroes ablaze.  I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I've enjoyed making it.

Please spread the word and join us on September 7th. As always, I deeply appreciate all your support.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I can't believe we are two weeks away from the premier.  Time, in the throes of this process, becomes such an odd phenomenon.  Everything seems to be moving at a normal rhythm until about script number four.  Then it slips into this warped speed-hole, where one episode just dovetails into another and it feels like one big move.  All of a sudden, I'm staring at my white board in my home office and I see beats for 313.  Really?  I guess that's a good sign.  If we were agonizing over story, scripts and cuts, time would be passing much more slowly.

I've given a few interviews about season three and I'll be doing a few more before we air.  I'll tell you what I've told the press.  At least this way I know the story will get to you in it's intended construct, unlike those douche-bags who fucked with Mo Ryan's story to make Charlie sound disgruntled, then baited me into a reaction before I was bright enough to do the due diligence.  Those hit-whore motherfuckers should all die.  But I digress...  Season three is a bit different for us.  I felt like after two seasons of serialized character development, fans would be open to learn more about the history of the club.  This season we delve into the mythology of the Sons connection to the IRA and John Teller's relationship with Belfast.  It's a huge season for Jax.  In fact, it's all about the three generations of Tellers -- John, Jax and Abel.

Folks keep asking me about numbers -- will the premier be as big as last year, bigger, what do I expect?  To me, the growth of Sons of Anarchy between season one and season two was an extraordinary anomaly.  It was a result of the show's season one premier getting sideswiped by the RNC Palin speech and the steady increase of fans we added as season one continued.  We had like a 90% increase between the season one and season two premiers (something close to that).  Unfortunately, this season, anything less than another huge increase will most likely be labeled a failure.  Look at Mad Men -- they retained their big season three growth and even added a few percentage points this season, but the press tagged it a disappointment.  I would gladly accept that disappointment.  I will be very happy if all the fans we had last year show up again this year.  Yes, it would be awesome to grow, but in this TV landscape, retaining that huge growth between season one and two would be very satisfying. 

I really dig the season.  It's an important one for me.  There are a lot of deeply personal themes weaved throughout this mythology and this season we experience a chunk of them.  I hope the fans embrace it.  I also want to say on-the-record that everyone involved in this show brought their A-game to the court.  It was a brutal production this year.  We had two big story-lines running simultaneously -- Charming and Belfast.  A two-week second unit in Ireland.  A huge guest cast.  Actors and crew have been on overdrive since episode three.  And if I haven't said it lately, I'll repeat myself now -- I have the most talented cast working in television and the hardest-working, most dedicated fucking crew in Hollywood.  

With the bigness of this season, my producers and I have been working hard to figure out a way to make our pattern (budget) and even though we've been struggling to do so,  the studio and the network has been awesome this year.  They've really given me room and support to tell these expansive stories.  I'm still responsible for my bottom-line, but everyone has been extremely diplomatic in the way they've put my feet to the fire.  As a guy who easily rants my gripes, it's equally important that I share my gratitude.  FX, Fox 21 and Twentieth have been great creative partners this season.  And I thank them for that.

I'll try to post a couple more updates before we premier.  Again, thanks for all the support and I hope you all spread the word about SOA.  September 7th.  Aye.

Monday, August 09, 2010


I thought I'd take a moment from my bombastic walk down the dark, rocky road I travel upon to update fans as to the current status of the show.  

All 13 episodes are broken.
A writer's draft of 313 is being written.
I am currently working on my draft of 312.
Adam Arkin is prepping 311.
Gwyneth H-Payton is directing/shooting 310.
Stephen Kay is working on his director's cut of 309.
I'm working on my producer's cut of 308.  This will be a 90 minute episode. 
Craig Yahata, my post producer, is working on the pre-mix for 307.
306 is mixed and in layback.
305 is getting final post touches and is ready for final mix and layback.
304 is done and out to critics.
303 is mixed and waiting for a re-shoot to drop in.  A temp version is out to critics.
302 is done and out to critics.
301 is done and out to critics.  The name of the premier episode is "SO".

The SOA iPhone app should hit the week that episode 308 airs.  It'll make sense why.  

Thanks for checking in.  More to come as we get closer to the premier date.

Friday, July 16, 2010


The creative process of promoting a show is an entirely different animal than the creative process of making the show.  One is based on a need to engagingly communicate story, the other on the need to entice and stimulate an audience's desire for that story.  

I am fascinated by both processes.  

My background is in mass media and advertising.  As an undergraduate at Rutgers, I had my sites set on being a copywriter and a marketing creative.  My senior project was a 50 page thesis on Frequency vs. Reach - The Most Effective Use of Advertising Dollars.  Even though my career went in a different direction, I am still very plugged into the phenomenon of audience and fan awareness.  It's one of the reasons I blog; and the only reason I use Twitter and Facebook.

I'm not sure how other showrunners react when they see trailers for their new seasons.  But my reaction is always mixed.  It's the thrill of seeing those first on-air glimpses of the show, the excitement of the cool song, the sexy, slick presentation.  It gets my heart racing.  Then there's the part of me that sees the first six episodes manipulated into a marketing tool, where narrative arcs and revelatory moments get dispensed like Raisinettes.  It gets my heart sinking.  I fear that the impact, surprise and relevance of the season will be compromised.  I worry, a lot.  It's what a parent does when they think their three-year old is in potential danger.

But when I put on my marketing hat (which is about twenty years old and ill-fitting), I need a completely different point-of-view and a whole different set of worries.  If I'm spending millions and millions of dollars to promote a show, what is the most effective use of those advertising dollars?  You have to excite and entice existing fans, as well as intrigue and draw in new viewers.  To do that you must tap into story arcs, character relationships and in the case of this show, kick-ass action.  You have to reveal enough information to satisfy a very hungry audience.  They want to know what's gonna happen without really knowing what's gonna happen.  So how do you do milk that cow without ripping its teats off?  

It's a very delicate sucking. 

I'm sure other writer/producers reading this may ultimately utter the phrase, It doesn't matter what I think, marketing is a suit job.  Alas, that is true.  Many networks outsource the promotion of a show so the writers and producers are completely in the dark.  They see the promos when the audience does.  Thankfully, that is not the case with FX.  The marketing and promotions are all done in-house.  So I am lucky enough to be kept in the loop.  I see the print and on-air promotions before they are released.  Doesn't mean I can change them, but at least I'm not blindsided.  Truth is, I am in awe of the job Stephanie Gibbons and her team does at FX.  I make it a point to publicly acknowledge her enormous contribution to the success of this show.  Last month we did a seminar together on this very subject -- the relationship between marketing and the showrunner.  We discussed in detail the challenges of all those things I worry about juxtaposed against all the things she worries about.  It was an eye-opening hour. 

But let's look at the target, Kurt, the audience member.  When I watch a TV or a movie teaser, what entices me?  What draws me to tune in or spend ten bucks?  I know from experience that when I watch a movie trailer I'm pretty much seeing ALL the best moments from the film.  In fact, most movies only get greenlit when someone can "see the trailer".  And one could make the argument that studio movies have simply become extended trailers.  It must work, because they've been promoting movies the same way as far back as I can remember.  And I confess, I'm guilty of anxiously waiting to see those trailer moments when I sit in my Arclight seat.  

But what of television?  Do I really want ALL the best moments revealed to me?  I say no, but I'm not sure if that's the truth or just my job knowledge seeping in.  My relationship with a television show is much deeper than my relationship with a film.  When I buy a movie ticket I'm making a two hour investment, when I watch a serialized show, I'm making a 13-22 week commitment (coincidentally, the length of most of my relationships before I married Katey).  I'm investing in the world, the characters and the story.  Yes, I want to be teased and aroused, but I don't want to cum.  Or do I?  I mean, who wants to wait a week to get off.  Who the fuck am I, Sting? 

It's a chicken-egg conundrum.  Not unlike sex, it will continue to confuse and frustrate me.  Ultimately, as with most things in my life, it comes down to trust.  If I do my job well, share my truth as best as I can, and do the next right thing in front of me -- I have to trust that I will be heard and that others, who know more than me, will do their jobs as well.  

FYI: Trust is the ultimate challenge for big personalities with control issues.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I wrote this blog some sixteen months ago.  In light of her continuous spiral downward, I thought I'd post it again.  To no end, I'm sure.  Maybe it's just to relieve my guilt for not being more proactive in my own recovery.  Mostly it's my innate sense that very soon, Lindsay Lohan will be dead.  And that makes me sad.

Dear Lindsay,

I do not know you.  I could never imagine what it's like being in your shoes.  Your childhood, your career, your relationships, your alleged dysfunction -- I do not know the truth.  All I have is the information reported to me by the media.  The bulk of that media are despicable whores who prey on the indiscretions and weaknesses of celebrity vulnerability.  If I could slice their fucking heads off and not be incarcerated, I'd be sharpening the blade right now.  I have immense compassion for your plight.  The scrutiny, the unrelenting exposé that has become your life is inconceivable.  The readers of those rags have no idea who you are and the depth of your struggle.  They soak up the hype, the sound bites and the titillating j-pegs like fat junkie cows.  As Louis C.K. says in one of his routines -- I have to stop doing everything because I need my whole fucking body to hate them.  

Slicing through the media fiction, I try to find the truth behind the noise.  This is what I see -- a young woman who has perhaps lost sight of her gift and it's purpose.  You are a very talented girl.  As a child, you revealed a skill that few achieve at any age.  It's no wonder that all those around you exploited that opportunity.  You shined, you were/are a star.  I'm not sure what happened.  Maybe you never got an opportunity to be a child.  The Hollywood landscape is littered with ex-child stars who have crashed and burned.  I know that's why Katey and I have a very firm rule: None of our kids can work professionally until AFTER they finish college.  Children need the real world to create real perspective.  You need life to develop life skills.

If you are reading this, perhaps this is where you'll stop, because now I speak to your part in all of this.  The truth is, it doesn't matter what happened in the past.  Today, you are an adult.  With that comes the responsibility of not only your personal life but of your career as well.  Talent is a rare commodity.  We are paid a lot of money to share that gift.  Sometimes we lose perspective, I know I do.  I become covetous of my gift, it spins me inward and I feel like everyone is trying to rip it out of my hands.  I grow angry and discontent.  I want them to just leave me the fuck alone.  That usually means I need sleep and to share the noise in my head with like-minded folks.  Ultimately, when my head clears, I am brought to a place of gratitude.  I think it was Warren Beatty who said that success is when you get paid lots of money for something you would gladly do for free.  That's how I feel.  I'm guessing, there is a part of you that feels the same way.  That in the moment, when you are connected in a scene with another actor, there is an indescribable joy that happens.  It's called being an artist and with it comes responsibility. 

It may not feel like it now, but the jail time you are about to serve is a blessing.  It's concrete proof that you are a member of a real community, of something bigger than the insular fucked-up Hollywood bubble you've been living in.  You have a chance to use this time for reflection and growth.  When I see that you or members of your "team" are selling TV rights to your pre and post jail time, I fear that you have lost sight of the opportunity that lies before you.  

If you do indeed have a compulsive relationship with drugs and alcohol, this is time to address it.  This is the time to look at the potential of the wonderful life that lies ahead.  There is only one thing I know for sure.  I promise you that this is the truth -- if you stay on the path you are now, if you don't experience some kind of psychic shift, if you don't dig deep and tap into some humility, you will die.  Very soon.  That may sound dramatic and like a bad PSA, but sadly, it's the truth, darling.  You will be dead before you turn 30.  And it will be ugly and sordid and it will line the pockets of the sycophants that plague you.

I look at Robert Downey, whom many thought would never pull himself out of the bottomless crack he fell into.  His incarceration became the event that allowed him to find his humility.  Like you, his talent was immense and when he showed up to play, clean, sober, grateful, he was embraced and gladly given another chance.  His star has been on an upward trajectory ever since.  

I realize this post has turned into a bit of lecture and I apologize for that.  I'm sure I'll get bitch-slapped by the blogosphere for my arrogance.  But Lindsay, just know that I speak from experience.  I'm very candid about my own sobriety.  Not using drugs and alcohol a day at a time is the only fucking perfect thing I've done in the last 18 years.  Every good thing in my life -- let me say that again -- every good thing in my life -- is a result of working a program of recovery. 

I wish you well.  I wish you life.


Kurt Sutter

Monday, July 12, 2010


I enjoy blogging.  

It was an experiment I began in October of 2007 when FX picked up my show.  If I had a gripe, a revelation, some info about the show, I shared it with my seven readers.  I've been keeping current with SutterInk blog for almost three years.  Since then, my readers grew in numbers and so did the scope of my subject matter.  In that time, I've never apologized or rarely even questioned the content of my posts.  

Until recently.  

Since September of 2009, I've found that I've had to qualify, defend, explain and even edit many of my entries.  As I stated in my last post, I feel like perhaps my outspokenness is biting back.  So what the fuck happened?

A few things.  

Sons of Anarchy became a hit.  The show grew in notoriety and therefore everyone associated with it became more newsworthy.  And with the popularity of Lost's, team Darlton, the role of the showrunner moved out front.  Writers were becoming celebrities.  I admit, I embraced that love.  Suddenly, the attention I so desperately craved was at my fingertips -- literally.

Truth is, the bulk of my blogging is about my process as an artist and intel about the show.  The angry rants, although they get more attention, are not the core of my online sharing.  When I look at my recent posts, the ones I've had to qualify (Zito, the Emmy's, how the rags are spinning me), all of them were perfect examples of how I blog.  Pretty much an unedited, instantaneous, stream of consciousness.  This is my experience, this is my truth, this is how I feel.  So if these posts were no different than the others, why did they bite me in the ass?  Why did I double back and question their validity?  In other words, why did they make me feel so bad? 

What I've realized over the past few days of obsessive reflection is this -- I'm not on the outside looking in.  I'm not a professional blogger, journalist or critic observing the process from an objective distance.
I'm inside it, I'm part of it, I am wholly subjective.  

Everything I say about television or Hollywood or an actor or a show or a network is connected to my relationships in that arena.  So it doesn't matter if the LA Times or TV Guide or THZ puts a spin on a post.  If I'm commenting about showbiz, it's not from Kurt, the man, it's from Sutter, the writer/producer.  I have to own those words and every direction they may fly.  I have no right to judge others for their "interpretation".  If I have free speech, everyone has free speech.  

The reason I am feeling undone about some of my posts lately is because the blowback is effecting more than me.    

I've had strong reactions to perceived slights against Sons of Anarchy.  The problem is that because I am now a public person, my opinions of those incidents are not independent of the show.  When I speak out about anything to do with SOA, I am speaking as its showrunner.  Therefore I expose everyone associated with my show to the fallout of my re/actions.  It's never, Kurt Sutter Calls TV Academy Lazy Sheep.  It's Sons of Anarchy Creator Calls TV Academy Lazy Sheep.  

Not that anyone is going to hold a personal grudge against my cast or crew because they're pissed off at me, but they can hurt them indirectly by taking it out on the show.  For example, their are a few critics out there whom I've lambasted because of their scathing reviews.  I'm not saying that every review deserves to be positive, but since my retaliation, one critic in particular has gone out of her way to humiliate members of my cast in her reviews.  I'm pretty certain if I hadn't antagonized that relationship, the critiques would be a bit less personal.

But, I ain't gonna stop blogging.  I need it.

I look at my desk and see a Macbook, a shotgun and a bible.  I've got very few friends and so much shit I've gotta work out.  My words are my give and my take.  This blog is selfish expression as well as a cosmic contribution.  I need my virtual family to share that process.  The key for me is to distance my strong opinions (rants) from the specific work in progress.  For now, that would be Sons.  I can go off about Zucker and NBC because the only one who gets hurt there is me.  But if I piss off the TV Academy with a a thinly-veiled fuck you, there's a possibility I hurt my show (and everyone involved)'s chances for recognition.  

Note to self: 

If I fire the shotgun, I better be ready to take some retaliatory buckshot in the ass.  I just need to make sure that I'm the only ass in the line of fire.  

Thanks for reading.  

I don't know you, that's why I like you.

And if I do know you and I don't like you... that's not gonna change -- 

So, go fuck yourself and the small-minded, parasitic whores you rode in on.

Oh, I lifted the title from some spam I received yesterday.  Somehow, it just seemed right...

Friday, July 09, 2010


So my response to the Emmy's has somehow been spun into an angry rant.  I don't know, maybe it was.  But you should have seen the one I deleted.  Anyway, for those of you who only read the snippets pirated by some of the showbiz-rag-blogs, I want to assure you that no disrespect was pointed at any of the nominees.  As I have said many times in this blog, I am a huge Glee and Madmen fan.  I was one of the flock who voted for them.  And I regret my frustrated comment about Mariska.  She is a fine actress on a very popular show.  It was just hard to contain my frustration about Katey.  She's my wife and best friend and I was pissed and hurt that she was overlooked.

The bigger issue is this -- I've realized that I've carved out an unintentional niche for myself.  I'm the hot-headed, irrational, arrogant showrunner.  I'm becoming to the blogosphere what Sean Penn was to photographers in the 80's.  Provoke, stand back and watch the fireworks.  As we all know, bloggers earn their coin by gathering "hits" at their sites, and like the tabloids, the more sensational the headline, the more money they make.   

It's clear that my instantaneous and forthright approach to blogging is being spit back in my face.  I guess it's the blessing and curse of notoriety.  This mea culpa will probably be spun into something ugly as well.  I'm not certain what the solution is or how I'm going to navigate around this problem.  I don't give a shit who/how many people read my blog.  It's not a pay site, I have no ads, I make no money.  It's always been just a creative outlet and a tool to keep fans informed about my show.  I'd probably be better off pulling the plug before I get myself into deeper shit.  It seems I've already alienated a chunk of Hollywood... or at least the members of the Television Academy.

I won't be taking any comments to this post.  I'm not looking for attaboys or suggestions.  I'm gonna pull back, reassess and figure out the right thing to do... for a change. 

Thursday, July 08, 2010


Let's face it, kids, we are the dirty-faced outlaws who no one wants in their clean white town.  We are too loud, too violent, too brash.  We don't sing, have pretty sets, or wear retro suits.  They admire us from afar, wish they could do what we do, then they pull the shades and settle for the familiar and safe.  They are lazy sheep.

Thanks for the kind words and all your support, Katey and I appreciate your venom.  But know this, I thrive on living outside the love circle.  I've been here for ten years now.  It fuels my bitterness, my over-inflated sense of self-righteousness and it makes me a more relevant artist. 

It's too easy and lazy to be angry (Mariska Hargitay are you fucking kidding me? ).  So today, I choose gratitude.  I am enormously proud of everyone associated with Sons of Anarchy and truly excited about the stories we get to tell.  Yes, accolades are wonderful, (and if we were nominated I'd be calling the Academy geniuses) but at the end of the day, I'm simply grateful that I get paid a lot of money to do something I love.  And so, I go back to work, on the wrong side of the tracks.  Ride safe.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


I was having a conversation last week with a good friend who is in the life that I write about.  We were talking about the danger of impulsive behavior on the street (a theme we often deal with on the show).  In the heat of the moment, it's difficult to distinguish between bravery and bravado.  One is lead by an innate sense of strength and righteousness (higher-self), the other by a childish need for attention (ire-self).  The first leads to growth and influence, the latter, jail and death. 

The conversation struck me.  It's very relevant at this time in my career and life.  I'm not dodging bullets on Ventura (not yet anyhow), but I do struggle with my higher and ire-self.  My default in most fear-inducing circumstances is rage.  It rarely manifests into anything physical these days, but the anger is right there, under the skin, crawling, looking for an open wound to bleed out of.  

The psychological stems of my discontent are very transparent.  I was a morbidly obese kid, with parents who were too checked out and ashamed to assuage my compulsivity.  I had two defenses, my wit and my fists.  When I couldn't make them laugh, I'd make them bleed.  That tactic worked -- until it didn't.  As a result, I've developed some deep-rooted "injustice buttons".  The ones in my face lately -- duplicitous behavior.  Whenever I sense someone is insincere or driven by hidden motives, I have a very visceral response.  Deep.  Like, rip-your-fucking-heart-out, deep.  Which means my default with most human beings is not to trust anyone until they prove themselves loyal.  Ah, loyalty, the other well-oiled button.  It seems once I let people in, I take them hostage.  I treat them well, sort of like the Somali pirates, but ultimately, I own them.  I expect undying devotion to the cause (the cause is usually my well-being).  And if, or rather when, someone jumps ship, they are completely, utterly and totally dead to me.  I have a very small Rolodex.

I look back at my time on The Shield.  My peers, the writers, most of them are not really friends.  At best they are polite acquaintances, and few view me with complete disdain.  Some of that is on them, jealousy perhaps, but most of it is on me.  My behavior scorched a lot of Farmington.  For the record, I do consider Shawn Ryan a mentor and a friend and I love Skeeter Rosenbaum.  The rest, well, quite honestly, I don't blame them for their distance.  I was a motherfucker.  Unfortunately, I didn't know it at the time.  I LOVED going to work on The Shield.  I loved the world, loved the characters and I took a deep sense of ownership in that show.  I gave it 125% and fucking hated it when other people treated it like it was just a job (which of course, it was).  I didn't have the self-awareness or maturity to separate myself from my process.  I couldn't take in other people's point of view.  If it wasn't what I KNEW to be best, it wasn't worth hearing.  Thank God, I wasn't running that show.  It would have sucked.

But I am running this one.  And on Sons of Anarchy, I am challenged every day to rise above my self-destructive defaults.  I will say, that the last three years has been a series of professional and personal life lessons.  I've grown a lot as a writer/producer and as a man.  I'm not the same person I was five or even two years ago.  I'm growing up, but clearly I've got a fuckload of growing left to do.  

What's becoming painfully aware to me this season is that my behavior is no longer confined to a writers room, set or office.  Because of the notoriety of the show, my blog, my social sites, my opinions are being consumed on a public level.  So when I lead with my ire, I suffer the consequences.  This became very apparent to me last week at at the Promax conference.  Prior to my panel, some THR hack told my media person she wanted to discuss "showrunner twittering" with me.  She rolled her video camera and immediately launched in with inflammatory questions about the pending lawsuit against FX.  Yes, I know it's pathetic that our legitimate trade papers are now employing paparazzi tactics to get blog hits (thank god for DHD), but afterwards, I had to look at my part in that scenario.  Clearly, in my blog against the lawsuit, I lead with self-righteous anger.  Lots of it.  And the blog was picked up everywhere.  So that's what people expect and I guess, in the case of the little twat with the Flip camera, that's what her readers desired.  

So who's really the twat?

Not sure where this post is going.  It's just one of those public inventories I tend to do.  Yes, they are self-indulgent, but along with my rants, it's important for me to claim some accountability and to cop to the flaws behind the claws.  My goal is to be a creator not a destroyer.  But it's challenging when I open my arms to embrace the world and feel the shotgun strapped across my chest.