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So You Want to Write for Pictures?

From movies to TV and comedy to animation, here is a small sampling of U of T alumni who wrote their way to success south of the border

Before he began his decades-long domination of Saturday’s late-night airwaves with Saturday Night Live, Lorne Michaels (BA 1966 UC) produced and directed the student-run University College Follies. Some of Michaels’ earliest gigs included writing for Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In and The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show. He and Hart Pomerantz (BA 1962 UC, LLB 1965) also wrote and performed in their own CBC variety show, The Hart & Lorne Terrific Hour, in 1970. Then, in 1975, Michaels created his oft-imitated, never-duplicated SNL, which has provided a hip launching pad for generations of comedians. Michaels is also executive producer of Late Night With Conan O’Brien, and has produced a multitude of movies associated with SNLers, including Mean Girls, Wayne’s World and Tommy Boy.

Graham Yost (BA 1980 TRIN), who has written for both the big and small screens, comes by his love of movies honestly: his father is Elwy Yost (BA 1948), who hosted TVOntario’s Saturday Night at the Movies for a quarter century. (Elwy once sent his son to school with the note: “Graham is late for school because I had him stay up late to watch Citizen Kane.”) Yost is creator, executive producer and writer of Raines – the police drama featuring Jeff Goldblum as an LAPD homicide detective with an eccentric manner of solving murders (chiefly, having imagined conversations with dead victims). Yost was the creator and executive producer of the TV show Boomtown, and a writer on the miniseries Band of Brothers and the Sandra Bullock/Keanu Reeves flick Speed. He is now a writer and co-executive producer on the HBO miniseries The Pacific.

It’s hard to mention David Hoselton (LLB 1982), a co-producer on House, without mentioning screenwriter Lorne Cameron (LLB 1982), given their extensive collaboration. The gig that started it all? The inaugural Law Follies in 1979 – which was emceed by their friend David Shore. More illustrious jobs were in their future: they wrote First Knight, featuring Sean Connery as King Arthur, the Disney-animated feature Brother Bear and the DreamWorks Animation film Over the Hedge.

As a writer at The Varsity student newspaper, Tim Long (BA 1992 UC) recognized he had a “knack for making fun of people,” he told U of T Magazine in 2001. He parlayed that dubious gift into the kind of career not listed in guidance counsellors’ handbooks: professional lampoonist. Long interned at Spy Magazine, and has been a staff writer at Politically Incorrect and head writer at The Late Show with David Letterman. He has now spent nearly a decade putting words in the cartoon mouths of the buffoonish brood The Simpsons. Long is a supervising producer on the show, and was also a consulting writer on The Simpsons Movie.

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