Friday, March 23, 2012

GQ BLOG: Kurt Sutter's Anarchy Diaries: 501 - The Beginning of a New Season


I always experience this odd disconnect when I come back to the show. It's an out of body experience—where it all feels familiar, yet it all feels very far away. I think the rhythm of my job gets moving so quickly and so intensely that when I slow down and unplug anything other than a chaotic pace feels off. So to "ease back into it" just feels fucking weird.

A little insight into me.
You may have already picked up on this already, but I'm a guy who has problems with moderation. All or nothing. Binge and purge. Kill or be killed. Gray is not a color I wear well. I should be dead. I know that. I should not be successful. I know that too. My daily existence is a toss of the coin—one side, fear, the other side, gratitude. I flip that coin all fucking daylong. As a result, I navigate through the world with the excitement and determination of a child. That's why I'm an artist. I'd die without an outlet for expression. Unfortunately, more often than not, that childlike energy is the maturity level I bring to many circumstances. More on this as we get to know each other better. This is Gentlemen's Quarterly, so I'm not gonna let you fuck me on the first date.

Now, back to the show.
So I just turned in the first draft of the season five premiere of Sons of Anarchy, entitled, Sovereign. The studio and network cancelled the notes call because they had none. That's a message that's music to a showrunner's ears. No notes, is good notes. I will say that both Fox 21 and FX are very respectful of my process and have placed a lot of trust in my ability to deliver this show. Most of my notes are really questions. Not so much, "Don't do that!" but "Why are you doing that?" It's about making sure we're all on the same page. I've said this before, but it's true, I value their input. John Landgraf, the president of FX, is a very story-savvy dude. His notes are usually well thought out and more often than not, help the episode. Sometimes my sense of the violent and the absurd will cross the line. I tell the story of a feature script of mine, Delivering Gen, to illustrate this point. In that script a baby's life is in mortal jeopardy like twenty fucking times. Literally, I almost kill an infant every other page. When we went wide with the script, there were several Parental Advocacy Groups who took exception and pointed that out. I was clueless. Not just to the level of near infanticide, but to the fact that was even a bad thing. Being a father has changed that perspective. Clearly, I'm a guy who needs someone with a better grip of reality looking over his shoulder. My writers and the network provide that service. Considering the level of violence in my show, you can only imagine the shit we didn't do.

So now I'm about six weeks into the season and I'm finally finding the groove. We've broken the first four episodes. Drafts of 503 and 504 are being written and I begin my draft of 502 today. It's like the workload almost has to reach a certain pace for me to recognize my position. 

I'm just a Thurber character.
Although it always feels different every season, my wife informs me that I experience the same thing every year. I'm lost and then suddenly when I'm overburdened, I'm found. I have to believe her. Katey knows me better than I know myself. She refers to me as her "Twisted Walter Mitty." I'm often a million miles away, lost in a daydream, where terrible things are happening to innocent people. 

One time, during a car ride where I was supposed to be paying attention to something important Katey was telling me, she realized I had "gone away." She asked me where I was and what I was thinking about. I deflected and feigned interest in whatever the fuck she was talking about. She called bullshit and after some prodding I told her where my mind had taken me:
I was in the basement of an old house in Jersey, where an obese, mentally challenged teen was vaginally raping the corpse of his dead mother with a forearm he just chewed off his nearly-dead, thin older brother. It wasn't the story as much as my emotional connection to the characters that unnerved her. Katey no longer asks me where I am. She just says, "Let me know when you're back." 

I'm back.