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The Write Way to Stardom

DMC students learnt how to create byte-sized TV with respected script-writer Professor Ross Brown of The Cosby Show fame

To work with Professor Ross Brown of Chapman University is to witness first-hand how a veteran Hollywood writer breathed life into TV shows people talked about. This is what 47 DMC students did during a Master Class held in June, "Story Telling Through Film And Television". It was led by Prof. Brown, an Assistant Professor at the Lawrence and Kristina Dodge College of Film and Media Art at Chapman University.

A former writer on “The Cosby Show”, a famously well-loved American sitcom in the 1980s, Prof Brown has chalked up over 30 years of experience in film and TV work in the US. He was the lead writer for the hit comedy “Step By Step”, and has writing and assistant directing credits for movies such as “Private Benjamin” and “National Lampoon’s Vacation”. He has also created prime-time shows for top American broadcasters such as ABS, CBS and NBC.

DMC students having fun with Prof.
Brown at the Master Class
During the two weeks he taught at The Agency, Prof. Brown got DMC students to create ideas for a web TV series and write the scripts for the pilot webisode. He also showed scenes from “The Cosby Show” as examples of how creative writers can be, while being economical with their words. He also explained how his team on “The Cosby Show” made use of mundane details like sibling rivalry and over-anxious parents to create educational and entertaining TV.

Having written two webisodes in five days, Prof. Brown
hangs out with DMC students at The Agency

Describing himself as a very simple person who likes to stay in the background, the father of two grown-up children told students a story of how he started in the industry − at the bottom, literally, in a commercial for pet food. He said: " I had to get down on my hands and knees in front of a bowl of dog food and stand in for a dog on a dog food commercial – because it cost less to use me than to hire an extra dog!”

He went on to rub shoulders with Hollywood glitterati. Once, he had to set straight die-hard autograph hunters who mistook him for Chevy Chase and chased him to his motel room door. He also shared a moment with world-renowned ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov who was dating Jessica Lange then. “It was at a wrap party, Jessica and my date, who was a continuity supervisor on the movie and who eventually became my wife, were chatting,” he recalled. “I stood waiting there with my hands in my pocket, like Mikhail, who was waiting for Jessica. And he gave me a resigned look like he was saying ‘yeah, I’m a date, too!’”

Prof. Brown’s sojourn in CASS was his first time in Asia and he found time to visit Clementi  Mall, Chinatown, Kampong Glam’s Zam Zam Restaurant and even tried some durian.

DMC students having lunch with Prof. Brown on the
last day of the Master Class

The students in his class say Prof. Brown has shown them how much a script can do. Said Clara Lim, a second year DMC student, “This Master Class has really opened my mind to the process of storytelling. Prof. Brown has such a nurturing attitude that it has really taken the pain out of TV writing. Right now I can see how script-writing is such a great skill to adopt for future corporate videos.”