Mark Goffman KSG '94 (Writer, Director, & Producer, LAW AND ORDER: SVU, SLEEP HOLLOW)
By Dominique Kalil '00
I have an addiction to interesting people. In trying to understand this addiction, I have thought long and hard about what makes someone or something interesting. I have come to realize that what merits the term “interesting” is not so much the initial impact of someone’s story, but the sustainability of that impact. Part of my own intrigue is the all important captivation necessary to keep my ADD-inclined mind from straying. Television audiences are like that too. Like me, they are temperamental, easily distracted and wish to be pleasantly entertained with an exquisite but almost impossible balance of rational predictability and surprising spontaneity. Sometimes the strategy employed by successful writers to maintain this balance must be acutely calculated; at other times the process is probably rampantly impetuous. Either way, television writing involves remarkable skill and perspective—both of which Mark Goffman has in abundance.
Mark hails from Houston, Texas (my home town for sometime, he even dated a girl from my high school!) and appears to have taken an unusual route to Hollywood. He started his career as an economics and philosophy concentrator at Harvard. Following college he moved to Brussels, where he wrote for the magazine “Belgium Commerce”. After a couple of years living overseas, Mark returned to Harvard to get his Masters in Public Policy from the Kennedy School. During a winter recess and a period of procrastination, he and a school friend, John Hellenes, wrote a story about a twelve-year-old child who runs for mayor. Mark’s brother’s girlfriend worked at an agency, and the story eventually made its way into the hands of a producer. And thus began the Hollywood career of Mr. Goffman. After graduating, Mark left for Hollywood, but unfortunately, his short story never panned out because, as he stated, “the market is fickle and children’s stories fell from vogue.”
Nonetheless, Mark continued to move about the industry, working to make a name for himself. Ultimately, he was accepted to the Warner Brother’s Writer’s Workshop after telling the one joke he knew during his interview. When I asked him what the joke was, he said he was kidding but that he had been advised to be funny during the interview (hear ye, hear ye future applicants!). At the workshop he managed to hone his sitcom skills, and upon exiting the program he signed with an agent at CAA, which even he admits was a huge deal. Mark’s career progressed rapidly from there, experiencing all the usual and simultaneous ups and downs of cancelled shows and exciting prospects. He ultimately found himself moving away from comedy and more towards drama, eventually ending up on The West Wing, where he stayed for 3 years. He loved that time, describing it as “a great opportunity to successfully tap into and convey my own inherent interest in politics.”
Today Mark is working on Reunion, a new show launching this fall on Fox (it airs Thursdays at 9:00/8:00 Central, right after The OC). Reunion is about six high school friends who relive years from their past. Mark’s first episode of Reunion will air Sept. 29th. Critics’ high reviews of the show to date suggest that Reunion will continue to embody that skill I mentioned earlier; namely that ability to maintain interest through shrewd writing and clever topics. While I personally never watch TV, I might have to make an exception for this show because I want to see if this concept is really as good as it sounds. And believe me, it sounds exceptionally interesting!