Self-Financed Pilot

Mar 17, 2003  •  Post A Comment

The six broadcast networks are producing about 130 pilots at an average cost of more than $1 million each. David Landsberg is only producing and starring in one, but he is doing it out of his own pocket. A self-described short, bald comedic writer, producer and actor, who voices the father on the Disney Channel series Stanley, Mr. Landsberg, 58, got the idea for Heart Broken from his real-life experience as a Vietnam War vet hospitalized after a heart attack last August. In the series three 50-something men share their lives and loves. “I’m not here to make a political statement,” says Landsberg. “I’m here to make a funny statement.”
He did try to sell his idea for a sitcom sex farce to a network, but says the three female execs he pitched “had no idea what I was talking about.” Energized by his brush with death, he decided to shoot first and see whether anybody would buy later. His cast is working for deferred salaries, including John Mendoza, Reginald Vel Johnson, Joanna Kerns and Yeardley Smith (the voice of Lisa Simpson). He bartered equity in the project to Dan Morgan for use of his Shades of Light Studio in Burbank. He is paying minimum to the crew because he felt it wasn’t fair for them to work without pay. And he doesn’t care if CW is that you don’t build series around older men. “Half the country will be over 50 in a few seconds,” says Mr. Landsberg. “I want them.”
Stricken again a month ago, Mr. Landsberg returned to the V.A. hospital for more open-heart surgery, which he now refers to as additional research. “No executive is going to tell me I can’t do this,” he says. “I know this is edgy. That’s why my ass is showing. If I’m going to put my ass on the line, it’s got to be special.”