Keynote Conversation: Jason Katims and Jim Higley

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Welcome to the Dad 2.014 Summit Live Blog, presented courtesy of Microsoft Surface 2. This is the live-blog session for the opening keynote session featuring  Jason Katims, a creator / writer of  Friday Night Lights and Parenthood TV shows.

Jason will be interviewed by Jim Higley of BobbleheadDad.

Those on Twitter, remember to follow the conference at #Dad2Summit.

The session will be starting about 9:45 am.

Katims has 2 children, 17 year old son  with high functioning Asperger’s, the inspiration for Max on Parenthood, and a 12-year-old daughter.

When son diagnosed, Katims said he felt like he was on an island. Then, after talking to more and more people, he realized that every family has it’s own stuff that it must deal with. Parenting is about “leaning in” to that stuff.

One thing we can do as writers is put our life out there for readers, a life that is real and authentic. People really respond to that.

Parenthood scene being shown: Younger brother Crosby talks to older brother Adam about becoming a parent and not immediately feeling that love/bond to his son. Takeaway- What makes it all worth it is the connection — the bond you feel. It will happen.

Katims says this scene reflects the two stages of parenting he went through. The first one in which he had to be pulled into it as a young struggling writer, trying to find that connection with being a parent. That connection didn’t happen the second his son was born. It came with time.

Think about how hard parenting will be … then double that. That’s how hard it really is. But be assured the connection with come with your child.

Katims aspires to show the beauty of being a father in a way that doesn’t ring false. Wants it not to be idealized portrayal but real – blemishes, worries, and all.

Enjoys writing scenes that have two fathers taking to one another in a real way, taking about their feelings. Seeing this is real life, like at this conference, is inspiring.

Parenthood scene: At-home dad taking to FIL about what to say about what he does for a hobby to his daughter’s class. SAHD said his job is taking care of his kid – has no time for hobbies.

TV series was based 20-year-old Steve Martin / Ron Howard movie. Katims wanted to update with more current parenting situations, such as a SAHD. Thought would be interesting to observe this “reverse” relationship between working mom and SAHD.

Loss of identity of self by being a SAHD and characters reaction to him was a key, interesting storyline to explore. Not a common or traditional male situation in real life or on TV but the more the characters talk about the SAHD role, the more the “weirdness” for the SAHD goes away.

Katims: What I love about Parenthood is being able to do a show about different generations of parents. Get to have scenes with cathartic moments, like one in which son talks to father about how he tried to not model himself after him as a parent. Get to watch the journey of all these people as they evolve over time.

Higley: Show reminds us to be the parent your child needs you to be.

Katims: Caliber of actors, like Craig T. Nelson, on show lets us really make the characters three dimensional.

As a parent you are trying to find your own voice. It’s a balancing act. We want to be different from how our parents raised us, but sometimes need to follow the path they led down. Want to find own way, but they was some real wisdom in what our parents taught us.

One thing I learned, how important small moments are in our lives. These moments of connection especially hard with a child with Asperger’s, so these so moments of grace are very powerful and come at unexpected times. Most important moments aren’t the big family trip, but the little things that happen on the way there. Enjoy putting these little moments of when life really happens into the show even if not part of a major plot point. These moments on the show, Higley said, actually inspire us the views.

Katims says most of the storylines come from real lives of him and Parenthood writers. They swap stories all the time, matter of factly, and sometime they end up in the scripts to his surprise.

Remember, folks — the Dad 2.014 Summit Live Blog is presented courtesy of Microsoft Surface 2 which is better than a 10. It’s a 10.6 inch tablet. Sweeeeeeet.

Katims tells story of how he wigged out on an amusement ride operator who wouldn’t cut his son a break in the height requirement for kids. That become a story point for Parenthood – Adam punches out a man in supermarket who referred to his son with Asperger’s as a “retard.”

Most challenging story line was mother having breast cancer, which is based on Katims’ wife having breast cancer. Was such a life-altering experience for him, felt it was a story that had to be told. Got courage to do that story line because he knew the actress, Monica Potter, could do the humor as well as the heavy scenes that would occur in her life because life doesn’t stop for cancer – she will still have to deal with Max’s Asperger’s, etc.

Wasn’t sure of doing some of these personal stories because how his personal situation may change of the years and they would have to live with what was filmed. Concerns about privacy for family, that others wouldn’t relate to such a “specialize” situation. Opposite happened. Many viewers really connect with the Asperger’s journey because it is unique but also real. Being a personal as possible, paradoxically, is where we tend to find these universal truths that affect others.

Coach Taylor character on FNL based on him always trying to be honorable – balance him being him such a stoic, traditional authoritative male character but also having a heart and being able to care about family and others.

That’s all – thanks for reading the live blog and thanks to Microsoft Surface 2.

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