Friday, May 24, 2013

Interview with J. Michael Straczynski

J. Michael Straczynski is a man of many firsts. Back when the Internet was unknown to everyone except a tiny number of techies, geeks, wealthy dilettantes and nerds, he was the first showrunner (Hollywood-speak for a television show’s executive producer who handles day-to-day operations) to go online and interact with fans.

He was the first – and will likely ever be the only — scriptwriter to write 92 out of 110 episodes of a show, his brilliant creation “Babylon 5.” B5 was the first television show meant to run a certain number of seasons, five, with a definite beginning, middle, and end, and included dynamic storylines the characters and multiple, overlapping story arcs. Long form television writing is now common thanks to Straczynski.  He did it first.

He is probably the first journalist to cross over into a successful television career, likely the first journalist and television writer to cross over into mainstream comic book writing, and absolutely the first television and comic-writing journalist ever to become a major Hollywood screenwriter.

Other “firsts” include developing his own comic book line (Joe’s Comics), his own multimedia studio (Studio JMS), directing his first movie and creating an original series for Netflix.

The word “first” applies to Straczynski in many ways, including as a fiery, intelligent defender of the First Amendment.

From 2009 to 2010, students, faculty members, Sun journalists, and concerned citizens fought with a corrupt Southwestern College administration and governing board to keep the First Amendment Freedoms of Speech, Assembly, and the Press alive on the campus. In 2010, when the administration attempted to strangle the newspaper by tying its purse strings around its throat, Straczynski responded by undermining the administration the best way possible – financially.

It was definitely the first time that had happened.

And now, for the first time, an unbridled, warp speed first person Q&A interview with the 2013 Southwestern College Honorary Degree recipient:



First Amendment Warrior

In September 2010 Straczynski personally funded an issue of The Sun after former superintendent Raj Chopra and his vice presidents attempted to block publication. The issue broke the story of construction contract corruption involving college board members and administrators.

Sun: In the fall of 2010, the Chopra administration dug up a never-used print bidding policy to force the Southwestern College Sun to prevent printing a controversial issue. You stepped in and paid for the entire issue. Why did you feel this was necessary?