Tim Minear is a screenwriter/director who started out as a production assistant on the movie Platoon. Over the years he has written episodes for such iconic television series as X-Files and Lois and Clark. He also wrote, executive produced, and directed episodes for Angel, Strangeworld, Firefly, Wonderfalls, and The Inside. Tim has worked tirelessly to entertain the masses with his delightfully dark style of writing. Most recently he brought the world the critically acclaimed television series American Horror Story.
Can you tell us a little about your background? Where are you from and how did your earliest days influence who you are today?
I was born in New York City, but grew up in Whittier, California. I was one of those kids who made movies with his friends. As I look back now I realize most of our super 8 films were really episodes of TV. Star Trek films, The Six Million Dollar Man, stuff like that. Maybe I was a TV writer/producer from the start.
Did you love horror and science fiction tales as a child?
Loved. Read hard SF as well as comics. And was going to SF conventions by the time I was 12.
Did you have any favorite monsters growing up?
Had a special love for the old Universal monsters — the classics, Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolfman.
Who do you consider to be the best in those fields today?
As far film and TV — I’d have to say Joss, of course and J.J. Abrams. His Star Trek re-boot almost makes me forget the original, which is a kind of miracle.
What first led you to become involved in the entertainment industry?
As I mentioned, from the time I could pick up a movie camera I never seriously considered doing anything else.
When you were working in craft services did you ever think your career would have taken you as far as it has?
I assumed I’d be further. I thought I would be directing big feature films. TV wasn’t really a thought then. Then I discovered that if you are a writer/producer in television you have the optimal creative control.
Your work has a rather dark element to it, why do you think that is?
Well, you could argue that nearly everything I’ve done has a big element of comedy. Angel, Lois and Clark, Terriers, certainly Wonderfalls — all of these hour “dramas” might have more humor and a more room for different kinds of humor than your average hour television drama. But I’m attracted to the darker stuff for sure. In my case, it may be less about darkness and more about BIG. I like the BIG emotion, the epic story, the melodrama. That might just translate into darkness in some elements of storytelling.
What was it like to work as production assistant on Platoon? How did you get the job? What did you learn from that experience?
I was working with the Los Angeles co-ordinator. So I met the cast and also Oliver Stone and Bob Richardson when I get them to the airport to go on location. So I learned how to navigate the San Fernando Valley. That was about it.
What was it like to produce Angel?
Just awesome. Working with Joss has been a constant hi-light — but Angel will always have a special place for me. It was the first place I was really allowed to have to have the ball and run the court.
What is your opinion on vampires? Do you feel the recent vampire tales have made them less appealing due to over popularity and overdone romantic plots?
For me, vampire stories are great for the, as I say, BIG and the EPIC. It’s a wonderful vehicle to do things that are heightened. I have no opinion about the recent vamp crazes. I haven’t kept up to be honest.
You also worked on Alien Nation. What are you personal feelings on extraterrestrial beings?
First off, my version of Alien Nation died on the vine. I have no personal feelings about ETs, as I tend to not believe in them. But it’s fun to think about that stuff. Like telling a scary story around a camp fire.
Of all the series you have worked on, which did you enjoy the most? Why?
You can’t make me choose. I’d have to say Angel/Firefly and Terriers. For the same reasons — the quality of the shows, the stories we got the tell and the people I got to work with.
Any interesting stories you could share with our readers from your work over the years?
When I was just starting out I jumped Alec Baldwin at UCLA once after he did a talk. I put a script in his hand. He was very gracious about it. I mean, I literally ran at him with the thing.
I got it back in the mail with a note from his manager saying Mr. Baldwin was a bad boy to accept it. Huh. Not that great a story, huh?
How do you think the entertainment industry has changed most since you first began your career?
Reality TV. But that came in not long after I did. I mean, I didn’t exactly start in the silent era.
What advice would you give others wishing to follow in your steps?
I would advise them to get out of my steps. Those are my steps. Why are they in my step? Actually, if you want to write and produce TV, you need to have a great sample script. If you want to be a writer — then write!
What do you consider to be the defining moment of your career?
I’ll let you know when I get there.
What are some of your hobbies?
I read a lot.
Any little know things about yourself that your fans might be surprised to learn?
Nothing that wouldn’t frighten them beyond the telling of it.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’ve been helping out over at Terra Nova for a few weeks. But it’s not officially “my” show — so if it gets canceled, I don’t want to see any of the usual finger pointing!
Anything you would like to say in closing?
I’ve already said too much.
(Editors note: This interview appears in The Damned Book of Interviews as well and is used with permission from Tim, simply because I do think he belongs at Van Gogh’s Ear)