Author Topic: DAVID MILLS, RIP  (Read 3923 times)

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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« on: March 31, 2010, 04:15:33 pm »
What a gigantic loss.

I met David decades ago when he was self publishing a beautifully written and designed 'zine called UNCUT FUNK. He is the ONLY person I have ever admitted is a bigger P.FUNK fan than myself. I remember a genius video he shot that gave a tour of the Jersey neighborhood where p.funk was born. He went there for Eddie Hazel's funeral. That was his level of commitment to some of the greatest music ever made.

When the whole PE thing blew up, I never doubted his motives....I knew he loved the group. He always had impeccable musical tastes. But he was a reporter with integrity, and that was that.

Over the years, I begged him to write a p.funk screenplay I would direct. He was never interested.
But he would hit me off with great obscure p.funk covers, and a AWESOME p.funk mousepad he made himself (oh how I hate that it was taken from me that same night by some ass).

As great as his fiction and non-fiction writing was, this website is also one of his great achievements. Brilliantly designed, amazing breath of topics, and connected me to so many other sites and people I connect with regularly.

I go here several times a day. I just love it. And since the site was such a great reflection of him, I loved him.

Through this site, I found Denmark Vesey and others. I post both here and at DV because the convo is so good. I haven't been to DV's yet, but I hope they honor him there. He debated them with honor.
He debated them because he cared.

I never asked him what he thought about him revamped site,but I wanted him to like it. I never told him I named it my favorite site of last year, but really it's my favorite site period. He crushed me when he almost retired from it. Now that he's gone, I am in a daze.

UBM, you were a true brother.


Offline Reginald Hudlin

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« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2010, 09:32:58 am »
From the Vanity Fair website:

Remembering David Mills, Who Elevated the Art of TV Writing
by Nell Scovell April 1, 2010, 12:15 PM
In early 2001, two-time Emmy award winner David Mills signed an overall deal to develop series for Spelling Television in a twist on the classic Astaire/Rogers swap: David would give Spelling class and Spelling would give him sex appeal (and presumably a lot of money). Suddenly, the writer of gritty dramas like Homicide: Life on the Streets and NYPD Blue had an office sandwiched between the writing staffs of Titans and Charmed, where I was a co-executive producer.

I first heard David’s name on a Monday morning when my clever colleagues Alison Schapker and Monica Breen excitedly related a meet-cute tale. They’d been working in the office that Saturday when a man stopped by their door, introduced himself as “David Mills,” and asked, “Do you mind if I use your copy machine?’

The name rang a bell, and after he left with full copying privileges, Monica Googled it. Once she had confirmation that David was indeed the co-writer (along with the great David Simon) of the HBO mini-series The Corner, she sprang into action. “I went running into the room with the copier and basically said, ‘I love you,’” she told me yesterday over the phone. “The Corner changed my life. It was one of the reasons I wanted to write for television.”

Intrigued by Alison and Monica’s lavish praise, I struck up a conversation with David the next time I saw him in the Spelling snack room. He was soft-spoken, friendly, slightly formal. We continued our conversation in bits and pieces over the next few months. We discussed what he was working on (the pilot for Kingpin), journalism, and music. My recollection is that David always had a couple of CDs in his hand.

I hadn’t seen The Corner and since it wasn’t yet available in stores, I asked David’s whip-smart assistant, Elyse, if she had access to a copy. A few days later, she handed me some DVD’s. “These are David’s, so you have to promise to return them,” she said.

So I watched The Corner on David’s personal copy. And it exceeded the hype. It’s truly the finest mini-series I’ve ever seen, with storylines and characters that go beyond compelling and riveting and extend into soul-baring. It is transcendent television. And it changed my relationship with David—not because I didn’t return his DVD’s; I did—but because, from that point on, I was in awe of him. For me, TV had always been a medium for entertainment. For David and his co-writer, it was a way to capture humanity.

David and I both moved on from Spelling and it seemed unlikely that our paths would cross again, until along came Facebook. Two years ago, I friended him with a gushy personal message, “You’re EXACTY the kind of person that I would enjoy keeping in touch with but never run into.” He wrote me back a kind note and accepted the request.

It was great to see his little headshot pop up in a comment on my page and I enjoyed reading the links that he posted to his blog, Undercover Black Man. So it was an awful shock to open Facebook yesterday and see links to articles about David’s death at 48, after suffering a brain aneurysm on a set.

I knew David had been working hard because five weeks ago, I noticed that it had been a while since he’d commented or posted so I sent him a short message on Facebook with the subject line, “Where’d you go?” He responded (in part): “I’m still in New Orleans working on the new drama, Treme. You know how it gets in the middle of a TV season when the sh*t gets really thick and you’re doing work on four different episodes at once, and maybe a little course correction for stories that aren’t quite working? That’s where I am right now.”

Those who worked with David will write more eloquently about his life and extraordinary talent. The truth is I was more his admirer than friend. He was the embodiment of superlative television for me. I re-read our final email exchange and stared at the last three words I will ever send him. At the time, I was referring to Facebook, but now the words resonate on an existential scale.

I had written to him, “You are missed.”

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2010, 10:50:50 am »
David Simon remembers his friend and HBO 'Treme' colleague David Mills
By Dave Walker, The Times-Picayune
March 31, 2010, 3:55PM

David Simon, co-creator of HBO's “Treme,” first worked with David Mills, a “Treme” writer and co-executive producer who died Tuesday (March 30) at age 48, when they both wrote for the student newspaper at the University of Maryland.

HBO'Treme' writers Tom Piazza, David Simon, Lolis Eric Elie, Eric Overmyer and David Mills.

With “Treme” aiming for an April 11 premiere on HBO and the production aiming to wrap its 10-episode first season in late April, Simon wrote his friend’s obituary Wednesday.

It was distributed, unsigned, by the network.

Here’s the complete text:

David E. Mills, an Emmy-award winning television writer who worked on dramas as varied as “Homicide,” “NYPD Blue,” “E.R.” and “The Wire,” died suddenly Tuesday after collapsing on the New Orleans set of his new HBO drama, “Treme.” He was 48.

A former journalist who worked for the Washington Post, the Washington Times and the Wall Street Journal, Mills was on the set of the post-Katrina drama as it filmed a scene at Café du Monde in the French Quarter when he was stricken.

He was rushed to the downtown Tulane Medical Center where he died without regaining consciousness. Doctors there said he suffered what appeared to be a brain aneurism. Mills was on the film set as a writer and executive producer, monitoring filming of an episode of the series, which is slated to premiere on HBO in little more than a week.

Cast and crew of “Treme” held a memorial service in Washington Square park this morning and then suspended filming for the day.

Mills won two Emmy awards for television writing and was nominated for three other Emmys for his writing on “NYPD Blue” and “E.R.” As a newspaperman, his coverage of race and popular culture for the Style Section of the Washington Post in the 1990s was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize by the newspaper.

In addition, Mills – a light-skinned African-American who loved to explore the nuances of race, politics and culture in America, tweaking ideologues wherever he found them – maintained a much-read internet blog, “Undercover Black Man,” for the last half of this decade.

Born in Washington D.C., Mills grew up in the Northeast section of the city, attending Ballou High School before a housefire resulted in his family moving to Lanham in Prince George’s County, Md. Mills graduated in 1980 from Duval High School, where he competed on the It’s Academic team and earned a Benjamin Banneker four-year scholarship to the University of Maryland at College Park.

He immediately gravitated to the Diamondback, the daily newspaper at the campus, beginning as a staff writer in the fall of 1980, then becoming the news editor in 1981. The following year, he ran the daily broadsheet’s editorial pages and arts pages simultaneously.

“He was an enormous talent,” said David Simon, a co-executive producer with Mills on “Treme” who first met Mills in the Diamondback newsroom. “He loved words and he loved an argument – but not in any angry or mean-spirited way. He loved to argue ideas. He delighted in it, and he was confident that something smarter and deeper always came from a good argument.”

After graduating from College Park in 1984, Mills was hired by the Wall Street Journal and assigned to the paper’s Chicago bureau to cover the chemical and biotech industries. Mills soon found that he was bored by the subject matter and homesick for Washington.

He left the Journal in 1985 for a feature writing job at the Washington Times, and from there, became one of the few Times staffers to write their way onto the rival Washington Post, joining the Post’s vaunted Style Section in 1990.

His leap to the Post followed a remarkable parody of the classic Post Style celebrity profile – one in which some celebrity is interviewed for an hour or so in some suite at the Willard Hotel, with the celebrity’s every physical act and verbal tic highlighted by a reporter who has been offered minimal exposure to his subject.

Mills pretended to interview Bugs Bunny at the Willard, offering up the sort of gossipy, aside-laden snark for which the Post’s arts section was then known. Bugs bemoaned the fallen state of cartoons, reflected on his various costars – “of course, the tragedy is that Elmer only wanted dramatic roles” – and then shilled for the Humane Society, horrified that actual rabbits often lost their feet for human trinkets. It was a glorious sendup.

The Post hired him soon thereafter, assigning him to cover race and popular culture for the features section, a beat that Mills made into his own.

“He was a star from the moment he arrived,” recalled Leonard Downie, the Post editor at the time. “But he was never a prima donna. It was clear to me that David was motivated by a genuine curiosity about the world and a desire to tell real stories. If things were confusing or gritty then that was reflected in his stories.”

Articles by Mills focusing on the angry rhetoric of rapper Sister Souljah – highlighted by presidential candidate Bill Clinton – and a controversial interview that revealed anti-Semitic sentiments on the part of Professor Griff of the influential hip-hop ensemble Public Enemy caught the zeitgeist and became the focus for considerable debate and comment about race relations. The Post nominated his coverage for a Pulitzer Prize in 1992.

That same year, David Simon – a co-editor on the student newspaper with Mills a decade earlier – called with a unique opportunity: Simon’s non-fiction account of a year in the Baltimore homicide unit was being made into an NBC drama. Co-creators Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana had offered Simon the chance to write a script.

“I called David Mills because I had a singular memory of us working at the college paper, pausing in the middle of pasting up pages so that David could watch episodes of ‘Hill Street Blues’ and ‘St. Elsewhere.’ He loved television. He saw the storytelling possibilities in television very early.”

Indeed, his nephew, Clifford Porter, remembers Mills as a twelve-year-old growing up in Washington, constructing elaborate cartoon-strip episodes of popular dramas in notepad, changing and honing the plotlines until they resembled the storytelling of those television shows.

Simon and Mills wrote the script in two weeks. It proved too dark and depressing for network tastes and NBC resisted including it in the first nine-episode season of “Homicide: Life on the Street.” Before the second season, however, Levinson and Fontana convinced comedian and feature star Robin Williams to play a lead role in the episode and NBC relented.

The episode aired in 1994 and won the Writer’s Guild of America award for best script in an episodic drama. Mills immediately resigned from the Washington Post and headed to Los Angeles, looking for more writing work.

“I told him he was crazy, that the Post job was one of the best gigs in journalism,” remembered Simon. “He told me I was the crazy one to stay in journalism. That a door had just opened up for us. I didn’t see it.”

At the Post, editor Downie, in his exit discussions with Mills, remembers saying something he did not say to departing reporters often: “I could see that this was an adventure that David needed to take, but neither he nor I knew how it would end. So I told him that if it didn’t work out, we would take him back.”

Mills immediately got hired as a story editor on David E. Kelley’s “Picket Fences,” but when he discovered that Kelley did not heavily utilize his writing staff, penning most episodes himself, he walked away from that lucrative job to look for a real opportunity to write.

Shortly thereafter, he read a Washington Post article in which the heralded lead writer and executive producer of “NYPD Blue,” David Milch, had waxed philosophically on race in the writers’ room and his ambivalence about hiring black writers who, writing from a singular frame of reference, would not be able to access the viewpoints of his police characters. Mills penned a dry, sarcastic note to Milch.

To his great credit, Milch invited Mills to lunch and they talked it over. A script assignment followed, after which Mills was hired as a writer and eventually, as a producer, on the hit ABC drama. Nominated for two Emmys for his scriptwork – some of which dealt with racial nuances on the street and in the squadroom of the police drama – Mills left “NYPD Blue” in 1997.

He ever after considered Milch, however, to be his mentor as a television writer, insisting that he had worked for the best writer in television.

“David Mills was a brave and resourceful spirit and an extraordinary writer,” Milch remembered yesterday. “I so deeply regret his loss as a friend, but more profoundly as an irreplaceable asset in the writing community.”

Following a brief stint as a producer on NBC’s “E.R.,” Mills and Simon reunited in 1999 to adapt Simon’s second non-fiction narrative, “The Corner: A Year In the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood” into a miniseries for HBO. Airing the following spring, the miniseries earned Mills and Simon a pair of Emmy awards for best miniseries and for best writing in a miniseries or movie.

Thereafter, Mills entered into a series of network development deals in which he dutifully tried to thread his way through the morass of conflicting priorities, casting issues and contradictory network script notes that stand between a writer and the opportunity to have a network drama actually produced. He was most successful with “Kingpin” in 2003, a six-episode NBC miniseries that was the network’s answer to the rise of Tony Soprano on HBO. Though it received generally favorable reviews, NBC became uncomfortable with the idea of a drug trafficker as the central character in a prime-time drama and no additional episodes were ordered.

Mills and Simon collaborated again in 2006 and 2007 on episodes of “The Wire” which Mills wrote on a freelance basis, though by then, he expressed weariness with the process of television writing and told friends he needed time off.

He had established his blog and attracted a loyal readership with his insights on race and politics and he found that while it paid little, a return to prose writing had rejuvenated him as a writer.

Last year, Simon sought out Mills again to work on “Treme,” a narrative of post-Katrina New Orleans. Mills joined the HBO production as a co-executive producer and writer, penning two of the coming season’s ten episodes and becoming involved in all facets of production.

“It was as if he was coming out of a long tunnel,” said Simon. “For the last couple years, I think the frustration with the development process had worn him down and he was no longer as interested in television as a medium as he had once been. But by the second half of this season, he was as excited and as engaged as I’d seen David in thirty years. He loved telling stories and if he believed in the story, nothing was more delightful to watch than David Mills at work as a writer and storyteller.”

In addition to his journalism, blogging and television work, Mills was also the coauthor of an oral history of Parliament-Funkadelic, a favorite musical band. That work, “George Clinton & P-Funk: An Oral History” was published in 1998. Mills wrote extensively on music, funk especially, and briefly published his own periodical on the subject, Uncut Funk, in the 1980s.

A Los Angeles resident at the time of his death, Mills is survived by two sisters, Blanche Carroll of Peoria, Arizona, and Gloria Johnson of Charlotte, N.C.; and one brother, Franklin Mills, of Washington D.C.

Services are planned for the Washington D.C. area but details are unavailable at this time.