Vp Issue 8: "Now It’s Our Party: Profile, Ilene Chaiken"
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Productions and became the senior creative executive by the age of 28. In an interview for Power Up, a publication of The Professional Organization of Women in Entertainment, she said, “We did a bunch of shows that didn’t go anywhere. It was the era in which Stephen Bochco (NYPD Blue; L.A. Law) had just redefined television, and it was a hard moment for Aaron Spelling.
Television was moving away from what he did. Now it’s moved back.” Chaiken is particularly proud of the work she did on David Lynch’s successful Twin Peaks and on ABC’s short-lived medical series Heartbeat, the first television series with a regular lesbian character, played by Gail Strickland. From there, Chaiken went on to facilitate joint ventures between Quincy Jones Productions and Warner Brothers. After a few successful years as a top executive and coordinating producer for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, things started to crumble around her as business relationships shifted. Knowing that she was about to get fired in a power tango, she accompanied some friends on a ski trip to Telluride.
Angry and frustrated, Chaiken locked herself in a cabin for a weekend while the others went skiing and wrote a screenplay - it was an angry girl action movie that she describes as a “futuristic homage to The Seventh Samurai.” She returned to Hollywood and got fired, as expected. The film was optioned, but never “set up”; however, this landed her a gig writing a script for Hollywood Pictures. In the late 1990’s, Showtime passed on Chaiken’s pilot for Earthlings, a show centered on the lives of lesbians in Los Angeles. So, our storyteller turned to another significant story, one that would pave the way for The L Word. Chaiken had penned a script called Dirty Pictures about the Cincinnati museum director who went on trial in 1990 for exhibiting sadomasochistic photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe. “That was the first time I wrote about art and censorship and it’s a subject that’s particularly significant to me,” says Chaiken. “The idea that in a dramatic television series - that I could tell that story and elaborate on it—was just irresistible.” Chaiken returned to this theme of censorship in art last season on The L Word when Bette tried to bring the “Provocations” show to the fictitious California Arts Center (CAC). Chaiken says the story line for that episode was directly inspired by