Intellectual Properties of John Steinbeck are owned solely by the

Estate of Elaine A. Steinbeck. 

ON

CANNERY ROW

PITCH

ON CANNERY ROW

Written by P.J. Palmer and Eric Enno Tamm
WGA REGISTERED 2019 by Vacant Lot
8-Part Limited TV series
 
Drama | Biography | Adaptation

Intellectual Properties of John Steinbeck are owned solely by

the Estate of Elaine A. Steinbeck.

LOG LINE

This drama series explores the impact of an extraordinarily profound connection between two friends -  John Steinbeck, one of America's greatest writers, and Ed Ricketts, a brilliant and charismatic biologist - from their days as impoverished artists to the heights of fame and success, through tragic losses, multiple romances and personal failures, this is the story of a deep bond between two men that challenges our notions of love. 

In the vein of:  THE CROWN and GENIUS.

PITCH SUMMARY

ON CANNERY ROW is a limited TV drama series about writer, John Steinbeck, as he revisits the challenges, successes, adventures and regrets of his life while struggling to get to his best friend, Ed Ricketts, who lays dying from a horrific accident. Adapted from Steinbeck's profound memoir, ABOUT ED RICKETTS, our story spans John and Ed's epic 18-year friendship by following the biographies of each man as told through Steinbeck's best-seller, CANNERY ROW

1930's Monterey, California, is where an eclectic, liberated, artistic community thrives on ideas, sexual experimentation and camaraderie even as the Great Depression ravages America.  A young, ambitious but starving writer soon finds literary greatness after befriending a deeply charming, beer-loving philosopher-scientist who presides over Monterey's population of "whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches".

 

It is here that we witness the birth of free-love and the bohemian spirit that defines generations to come. These are idealistic young people striving for a better life and a better world.

Told through memories and surreal dreams contrasted with a race against time, this 13-part series travels between 1930 and 1948 through an incredible friendship between two extraordinary men: John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts. Their epic, week-long parties with an eclectic group of vagabonds, celebrities, prostitutes, artists, politicians and laborers are where ideas and inspirations are formed  - these are the foundations for marching songs in bloody labor strikes, their voices for starving migrants and their bravery on the frontlines of WWII. The day-trips collecting sea-creatures in tide pools are preparations for adventurous expeditions that lead to the ecological awakenings of a generation.

 

With these life experiences, both John and Ed go on to deeply impact Western culture by creating some of  the greatest American literary works while laying the foundations for ecological and environmental movements 

and going on to make nearly 20 renown Hollywood pictures. Their profound bond carries them through personal tragedies, illicit heartbreaks, fame, fortune and failures.  All with an idyllic, blue-collar town on California's raw and wild coastline as its touchstone. 

"He was a part of my brain for eighteen years..." - John Steinbeck in About Ed Ricketts

Stories of friendship are a long tradition in motion-picture (GOOD WILL HUNTING, SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID, STAND BY ME) and this series picks up on that tradition with the relationship between John and Ed - the camaraderie, competition, adventures, jealousies, triumphs and failures of two men, the women they loved and the long shadows they cast over American culture for decades beyond them.

Like the source materials, the series explores the many fears and anxieties we have with the one guarantee in life: each of us will one day die - probably sooner than we should and for reasons that are avoidable. The series treatment of these existential themes are done with holistic view, much like CANNERY ROW: we peer into the stories like a scientist looks into a tide pool to study a diverse community's cycle of life, survival, procreation, evolution and death. Through our characters, we open up hard questions - when is it appropriate to exercise one's right to die? In sickness? Heartbreak? Patriotism? When is it ok to take another life, animal or human? For survival? Tradition? Commerce? Heartbreak? Patriotism? - and these themes have larger implications on man's treatment of the environment - how much should we destroy for survival? Tradition? Commerce? Comfort? Sport? Science?

While this series is a period piece, the issues of those days are a mirror of today: a divided country lead by the 1%, struggling to survive in systemic classism, racism, sexism, and inequality.  We explore the truths that lay below the surface of friendship and marriage, sexual freedom, emotional freedom, human frailty, ambition and the nature of family. All set against the sobering backdrop of man's disastrous relationship with the environment

THE SOURCE MATERIAL

"CANNERY ROW" - best selling novel

The novel, is beloved for its unflinching portrayal of its characters and their nature. It is a collection of short stories - some humorous, others brutally tragic - strung along a simple plot. The novel is experimental in narrative - a poem in long-form, expressing the ideas and philosophies of John and Ed through partially

fictionalized characters in a very real place. Most readers understand that CANNERY ROW is based on a real place. However, most do not realize that the characters and stories are also based on actual people and events. John borrowed heavily from his own experiences and memories for the novel, which is a fictionalized biography of Ed and the people living on the Row. These characters and this place are a touchstone for the series - woven in to support and explore the themes and story arcs of our main characters. 

 

"ABOUT ED RICKETTS" - memoir

John's memoir reads as a behind-the-scenes / tell-all about his novel, CANNERY ROW - revealing the inspirations for characters and stories - adding a new view into this world of the lower class bums, prostitutes, starving artists and laborers in a community that nurtured some of the great minds of the 20th century. It is a deeply personal and moving portrait of Ed Ricketts, and their 18 year friendship. This memoir is published in all editions of THE SEA OF CORTEZ after 1951. 

CHARACTERS

JOHN STEINBECK (browse photos and casting)

The Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning writer - was not born into greatness. His body of work and accolades are due to his talent and his unrelenting, focused work ethic. A self-made man, he starts out as an impoverished writer struggling to find his voice. He dreams of being like his idol, Ernest Hemingway, but isn't sure he will ever get there as he battles his own demons - his awkward shyness often turns into biting and emotionally abusive cruelty to those closest to him - his insecurities drive his ambition to succeed at all costs - he sacrifices his closest relationships as he only focuses on success. 

 

Soon he finds himself world-famous - even described as Hemingway's equal by the New York Times.  Hollywood takes notice - John becomes a sought-after peer and collaborator by the likes of Charlie Chaplin, John Ford, Elia Kazan and Alfred Hitchcock. His works win Oscars, Golden Globes, Cannes, BAFTA, Venice and National Board of Review awards with multiple nominations for each as well nominations for the Palme d'or, Berlin, DGA and WGA awards.

 

He even finds himself with a direct contact with the President of the United States - and working with the Marines in covert special-operations in World War II Europe. 

But success comes at a price: John's marriage suffers greatly and dissolves as their fortunes change. Many old friends become envious of his success - and he no longer feels welcome in his hometown. Some of his most famous books stir deep emotion and anger in readers - they burn his works in the streets and ban them from

schools and libraries. John fears for his life and even looks to leave writing altogether. When patriotic duty calls, his fame provides him extraordinary access to the front-lines of war - which leaves deep, permanent wounds.

 

Through it all, the highs and the lows, John has one constant in his life, Ed Ricketts.  More...

ED RICKETTS (browse photos and casting)

Better known as "Doc", the main character in the novel CANNERY ROW - a quiet marine biologist who befriends everyone.

 

“Doc would listen to any kind of nonsense and turn it into wisdom. His mind had no horizon - and his sympathy had no warp. He lived in a world of wonders, of excitement. He was concupiscent as a rabbit and gentle as hell. Everyone who knew him was indebted to him. And everyone who thought of him thought next, 'I really must do something nice for Doc.” - Cannery Row

 

While this is a true description of Ed, it's only one facet of him - he is a true renaissance man, able and eager to brilliantly comprehend and master various fields. The story of his personal journey is complex: a self-made man with a boundless mind - he finds steady inspiration in the tidepools. He owns his own business, loves his work and supports his family.

 

Ed dreams of experiencing a "breakthrough" - he searches for this elusive experience in nature, in music, beer, science, poetry, art, philosophy, history, literature, religion, friendships and sex. This extraordinary breadth gives him a view of humanity and culture that resonates deeply. 

But searching comes at a price:  His sexual experimentation and exploits jeopardize and finally destroy his marriage and breaks-up his young family. The Great Depression, WWII and the lack of good insurance conspire to destroy everything he has ever worked for.  His soul-mate, John, helps to buoy him through the hard times (as does a constant stream of women).

 

And his insatiable appetite for life keeps him going -  until one day, quite tragically, it doesn't.      More...

 
 
 

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