When I think of aggressively going after created materials, the first name that comes to my mind is the Public Broadcasting System.
Shane Salerno was a little surprised as well. Salerno, whose documentary about the reclusive author J.D. Salinger has created a lot of buzz after he spent years crafting it, created a bit of a stir when he announced that the film would air on PBS instead of a larger outlet (as well as for a cheaper television rights package than what he could have landed elsewhere).
The reason PBS won? Susan Lacy, the creator and executive producer of American Masters.
“Susan called me out of the clear blue," said Salerno, about Lacy's pursuit. “I answer my own phone. She started talking when I said ‘hello’ and I don’t think she stopped for 25 minutes. And she really made an incredibly coherent and intelligent case for why this had to be on American Masters."
The film will air in January 2014 as the 200th installment on American Masters. The series has highlighted the lives of literary icons such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Allen Ginsberg and Edgar Allen Poe in the past, to name a few.
“I thought Salinger belonged among those artists. I felt very strongly about that. And Susan was unique in her pursuit. It was like I was Harrison Ford and she was Tommy Lee Jones,” said the director, referring the movie "The Fugitive". “She was so relentless and single-minded about it."
Lacy famously called Jeff Rosen, the manager of Bob Dylan, every month for 10 years to try to get Dylan to be the subject of an American Masters episode, finally landing the music icon in 2005. Did it take that much to land Salerno's work?
“It was really more aggressive than that. It was sometimes more aggressive than that (calling once a week). But never bothersome. And I learned a great deal on those phone calls," he said.
The film will premiere on the network after Salerno's book, "The Private War of J.D. Salinger, hits bookstore shelves this fall. Are you interested in either project?