What is the one piece of advice that Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan would give to writers and drama execs looking to emulate the success of his hit show?
“Don’t set out to create a big hit.”
Speaking with Televisual ahead of his masterclass today at the Edinburgh TV festival on his acclaimed TV drama, Gilligan said: “I think my best advice would be to write about stories that grip you as a writer personally, and characters that intrigue you. And not to think too far ahead about if they will sell, or if they will resonate with others. The truth is no-one knows what will resonate with others.”
Gilligan says he was immediately intrigued by his lead character of Walter White –a middle-aged chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with cancer and produces top quality crystal meth to pay for his treatment.
“When I came up with the character Walter White I was just intrigued by him as a character – I felt him interesting and fascinating. He was somebody I could sink my teeth into as a writer.”
“Great stories of success, whether in storytelling or creating a company like Amazon or Google – I have to believe that they come up with those success stories because they had a personal passion for the idea and weren’t thinking too far ahead in terms of, ‘I really think this is going to resonate.’ Some of the biggest successes seem to me in hindsight to feel somewhat accidental. This feels that way.”
Breaking Bad, produced and distributed by Sony Pictures Television, is airing its concluding fifth series on US cable channel AMC and on streaming service Netflix in the UK.
Gilligan said: “I did not stop to think how crazy the pitch for Breaking Bad was and, in fact, it only really dawned on me the first time I was pitching the show to a couple of Sony executives, my bosses, in 2005 or maybe 2006. I saw the deer in the headlights looks in their eyes as they realised that this is not necessarily going to be a show for everybody. Luckily they ended up buying it.”
Gilligan is now working with Breaking Bad co-writer and producer Peter Gould to create a spin-off from the show, based around the Saul Goodman character.
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