Entertaining real-life stories with valuable lessons on how to succeed in business and in life
Entertaining and compelling real-life stories with valuable lessons on how to succeed in business and in life. The author is successful business, real estate, and media entrepreneur Dick Kazan.
Published on January 21st, 2014

James Duff: How he overcame great odds to become a successful Hollywood television writer.

At the age of 58, after a tough climb, James is finally on top.

He is best known for his highly successful TNT crime drama, "The Closer," about a unit of the Los Angeles Police Department that handles high-profile murder cases. Started in 2005, "The Closer" became one of the highest rated American TV cable dramas.

But to achieve all that he has, James had to overcome numerous challenges. Among James' challenges, he is gay and at the age of 17, ran away from home. Determined to become an actor, he met his mentor, G.W. Bailey, who taught acting classes at Texas Tech University where James was a student.

James Duff
James Duff

Bailey convinced James to follow his passion to become an actor and first in Dallas and then in New York, James gave it everything he had.

But auditions led to very little acting work and very little income as James struggled.

However, because of a lack of acting work, James saw there were endless numbers of actors but relatively few writers.

He began writing plays, one of which, "Home Front," about a troubled Vietnam veteran, reached the Broadway stage, a major accomplishment.

It seemed James was on his way to success. But then no more of his plays reached Broadway and to pay his bills, he became a waiter at a New York restaurant, serving many of the people with whom he had worked on Broadway.

It was humiliating and discouraging, and James eventually headed for Hollywood.

There he wrote movies for television, staring such actors as a young Jim Carrey, Kathy Bates and Martin Sheen and it appeared James was again headed for success.

But James decided to risk everything to have a television show of his own.

Most Hollywood shows are sold to television networks from a "pilot," that are costly full production shows; most of which never sell and the investors in the failed pilots lose their money.

But that didn't stop James, even after he had an incredible 18 unsold pilots. He refused to give-up.

Then in 2005, when James was 50 years old, TNT bought the rights to "The Closer," and as its creator and lead writer it seemed he might finally be on his way to success.

"Might" because many TV shows don't attract a large audience and are cancelled.

To make it big requires a minimum five year run, to qualify a TV show for syndication, potentially all over the world. "The Closer," became a very big success, running for seven seasons. At long last, James had made it big.

And to add to his success, "The Closer" was replaced in new show production by its spinoff, "Major Crimes," as James is on his way yet again.

Interestingly, one of the stars of both shows is G.W. Bailey; James' long ago mentor, for James never forgot the man who guided him through the tough times of his youth.

Success Tip of the Week: "There's no better teacher than failure," James told the Los Angeles Times. "The lesson I've learned in my journey has been persistence..."

Editor's Note: To learn more, please see How I Made It: TV writer James Duff, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Closer

In the next KazanToday: A man who started what became a giant hamburger chain with just $350.

Many of these short, inspirational success stories are about people from all walks of life who overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve remarkable results. These stories contain practical advice and a recipe for success for each of these renowned individuals. Some of their stories may help you to avoid some of the costly and time consuming mistakes that many of us make in life and at work. Learn from some of history's greatest winners on how to become a winner yourself, no matter what the obstacle, and no matter how daunting the task before you may seem. Good luck!
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