Portland writer grew up with a love of good stories, films

by: COURTESY PHOTO - Douglas SoesbeFor 35 years, Portland native Douglas Soesbe has toiled at NBCUniversal in Los Angeles, reading and evaluating scripts and writing some cable television movies.

Movies have been the love of his life since the days when his father projected a picture onto the neighbor’s house. He was hooked.

So considering his recent good fortune, you can just imagine Soesbe’s excitement. His script for “Boulevard” will be made into an independent movie with Robin Williams.

Filming begins in late May in Nashville, and Soesbe will be there for part of the shoot. The movie will be directed by Dito Montiel, who won an award at the Sundance Film Festival for “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints.”

He hopes the film will debut at Sundance 2014, be picked up for distribution, and play in theaters in April 2014.

Clearly busy with a full-time job, Soesbe has dabbled in personal writing. He penned “Boulevard” eight years ago, and it was optioned a couple of times. Through contacts, Williams came across the script, and liked it. Actually trained in drama, the comic genius was looking for something small and dramatic to work on, Soesbe says.

“We did a rewrite a couple months ago,” Soesbe says, and Montiel started putting his creative vision to the project. “We didn’t change it radically. Everything (Montiel) told me was good.”

The story of a man going through a mid-life crisis isn’t a new one, and there isn’t a special inspiration behind it.

But, “it’s a new take on it,” Soesbe says. “It’s just a general thing people go through, going through their life and wanting to make changes. It’s not a plot piece, it’s a character piece.”

Movie parties

The 64-year-old Soesbe hasn’t wanted to make many changes in his life. It’s been about movies, movies and more movies. Growing up in Northeast Portland, he frequented the Laurelhurst and Avalon theaters, and some days he would stand at the back door of the Laurelhurst just listening to dialogue. His father actually built a home theater — and the young Soesbe charged admission for movies, many of which had been shown at lunchtime at the old Washington High School, where he attended and volunteered to be in charge of the films.

“I’d pick them up on Friday night, show kids on Saturday, and return them Monday,” he says, chuckling. “I can tell that story now.”

There would be popcorn, cookies and Kool-Aid for sale.

The movie parties continued through college to today. “I don’t charge anymore,” he says.

Soesbe graduated from Portland State University in 1971 and earned a graduate degree in playwriting in 1976. A year later, he moved to Los Angeles. to pursue his career.

He has written four TV movies: “The Wrong Woman” for CBS, “Till Dad Do Us Part” for Fox Family, and “Blind Terror” and “Look Again” for Lifetime. For NBCUniversal, he helped shape “Les Miserables” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”

And, he wrote scripts in his off time.

“I was never able to crack the spec market,” says Soesbe, who lives in Sherman Oaks, Calif.

Now, his time has come — and with Robin Williams.

“I’m a great fan of his,” Soesbe says. “I never dreamed he would do one of my films. I still can’t believe it.”

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