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Writer Michael Connelly Embraces New Era of TV

The best-selling author and executive producer of Bosch opens up to MPTV students about his own journey into the industry

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Academy of Art University President Dr. Elisa Stephens, Executive Director of the School of Motion Pictures & Television James Egan and best-selling author Michael Connelly. Photo by Bob Toy.

Before Michael Connelly discussed the expected fate of TV during his visit to Academy of Art University on Thursday, April 9, he let the audience in on a tidbit from his past—he hadn’t always known he wanted to be a writer.

“I was following a more traditional track,” Connelly said. “I was an engineering major when I went to college, but I had always been a reader. It actually goes back to [when] I was a witness to a crime when I was in high school. I spent a night in the police station talking to detectives and so forth, and it interested me.”

Connelly said he saw and loved the movie The Long Goodbye, which led him to the book it was based on by Raymond Chandler. “I read all of Raymond Chandler’s books and then I stopped going to class,” he shared.

“I started re-reading the books and studying the books, and after about a month, I decided I don’t want to be an engineer, I want to try to be a writer,” he said. “It turned out my father was very supportive. I found out a secret about him and that was he wanted to be a painter right at the same age as I said I wanted to be a writer.”

Connelly, who started his writing career as a journalist and focused on his fiction during after-hours, has since written many best-selling novels featuring the character LAPD Detective Hieronymus, or “Harry,” Bosch.

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Executive Director of the School of Motion Pictures & Television James Egan, President of Academy of Art University Dr. Elisa Stephens and Executive Producer of “Bosch” Michael Connelly at dinner prior to the MPTV Q-and-A event. Photo by Bob Toy.

He also co-wrote and executively produced the documentary Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Story, which premiered recently in San Francisco and was directed by N.C. Heikin, who joined Connelly at the Academy alongside the university’s Executive Director of the School of Motion Pictures & Television James Egan.

Student Fuson Yu said it was amazing to see Connelly in person at the event.

“I read his books and feel it’s really interesting to see real people here,” Yu said. “I’m inspired by him.”

Connelly’s internationally best-selling Harry Bosch book series was turned into a television series on Amazon Prime. Bosch was available to stream on Feb. 13, 2015 and was recently renewed for a second season. Connelly said there were a couple of reasons why he decided to partner with Amazon on the show.

“Word leaked around town that I was getting ready to [pitch Bosch], and Amazon just called and said ‘We’d like to talk to you about it, let’s have lunch.’ … The guy who came to have lunch with us just kind of stopped us five minutes into us talking about what we wanted to do and said, ‘We’ll take it,’” Connelly shared.

“On one hand, I jumped at the chance because it meant I did not have to pitch this around town,” Connelly jokingly said, elaborating that he is mostly an introvert. “But also, it was very akin to my lifestyle. … When they said, ‘We want to do this, we want to do a season [and] drop it all at once’; it was just speaking to the way that I consume television.”

While writing for the show Bosch, Connelly said he didn’t call each installment “episodes,” instead he referred to them as “chapters.”

“I think what’s going on now goes back to Twin Peaks in the early ‘90s,” Connelly said. “Many shows are following the same thing, a continuing story, and that’s what a book is.”

Academy alumnus John Ware said he appreciated how the three speakers gave some advice on how to get a story pitched.

“That’s probably the most difficult part—getting in front of someone,” Ware said.

Connelly said it’s always a long road with any creative endeavor, but he is extremely impressed by the Academy’s students.

“Having just come off of a television show in Los Angeles … I see the students getting the kind of experience that will make them, hopefully, fit right in with the worlds of entertainment that they want to go into,” Connelly said.