From Harvey Kurek Ovshinsky: On Syfy Channel’s TWILIGHT ZONE Marathon and advice from host Rod serling

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From Harvey Kurek Ovshinsky
Who needs Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen when we can ring in the new year with Syfy Channel’s TWILIGHT ZONE Marathon? I still dream about the last line in episode 24 of season 3. “Mr. Chambers! Don’t get on that (space) ship! The rest of the book, To Serve Man, it’s… it’s a cookbook!”

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The conversation resulting from a recent post of mine about Syfy Channel’s New Year’s TWILIGHT ZONE Marathon was VERY satisfying. And for me, a delicious reminder of my own experience with the series’ creator.

When I was 13 years old, I gave myself my own Bar Mitzvah present by writing to Rod Serling asking him for any career advice that might help accelerate my childhood dream of becoming a professional storyteller like him.

What was his secret? I wanted to know. How did he become a writer? And why? And, most importantly, did he have any trade secrets he could pass along that might guarantee success?

“Dear Harvey,” he wrote back. “Thank you for your letter. I am always reluctant to advise young people on their writing careers because there aren’t any magic rules to follow to ensure success. But I will gladly answer your questions.”

I printed the entirety of his response in Chapter 4 of SCRATCHING THE SURFACE, but it’s the last paragraph that especially rang true, not only for me then, but years later, for my own students.

“The main thing to remember,” my hero cautioned me “is that writing mirrors life which encompasses so many things; therefore, the standard rule to observe when you begin your education is to consider a ‘whole’ education. Don’t limit yourself in the subjects you take. Don’t simply take ‘writing’ per se because you don’t just write about writing; you write about the world and everyone in it. Cram every bit of knowledge into your head, Harvey, and ultimately, it will be grist for your writing mill.

“Much good luck to you, and I hope this has helped you.”

Sincerely,

Rod Serling

About Harvey Kurek Ovshinsky
Harvey Kurek Ovshinsky (born April 9, 1948) is an American writer, story consultant, media producer, and teacher and has been described as “one of this country’s finest storytellers” by the Detroit News.

The Metro Times called Ovshinsky’s career chronicling life in Detroit during the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s “a colorful and fantastic voyage, at times brave and visionary,” spanning the universe of print, broadcast television and radio, and digital storytelling.

Ovshinsky was raised in Detroit, Michigan, and attended Mumford High School. In 1965, at age 17, he founded and edited Fifth Estate, one of the earliest and longest-running underground newspapers. Fifth Estate has been continuously published to this day with the help of staffers like Peter Werbe, who have worked on the paper since its establishment.

Ovshinsky served as editor until 1968 when he was drafted and became a conscientious objector to the war in Vietnam. In 1970 (age 21), he was hired as news director of WABX, Detroit’s alternative FM radio station.

Ovshinsky is a renowned documentary filmmaker whose work has been recognized internationally with prestigious awards such as the Peabody Award, National Emmy Award, and Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Silver Baton.

His filmography includes “Close to Home: The Tammy Boccomino Story,” which earned him an Emmy in 1993, and the critically acclaimed “Last Hit” on youth violence, for which he won several accolades, including a Cine Golden Eagle Film & Video Competition award.

For his outstanding contributions to filmmaking, he was bestowed with Detroit Docs International Film Festival’s Career Achievement Award in 2004, along with 15 Regional Emmys from the Michigan Chapter of NATAS!

Under Ovshinsky’s direction, Detroit Public Television produced several award-winning programs about the city and its citizens. From Oscar-nominated “Who Killed Vincent Chin?” to “A Gift for Serena,”” City Nights,” “The Deerhunters,” and “Santa Claus is Alive & Living in Detroit,” – these projects won him both Peabody and DuPont awards. At the same time, his unique documentary on Tyree Guyton, “The Voodoo Man of Heidelberg Street,” celebrated an iconic artist from Motor City!

Ovshinsky’s “Land Grab: The Taking of Poletown” was the basis for Jeanie Wylie’s book, and portions were featured on CBS Sunday Morning. His follow-up work, “Miracle on Fort Street,” received glowing reviews from The New York Times, which called it a “lovely work” that delicately crossed the line between heartwarming without becoming too sentimental.

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