We had the good fortune of connecting with Donald Ian Bull and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Donald Ian, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I pursued a creative career because I love stories. We humans are storytelling animals; it’s how we make sense of the world. I’ve been a TV editor, director, producer, and novelist, and with each of those jobs, I get so involved that time itself seems to disappear. I discovered that pleasure at a young age, and it has never left me. I have what my grandmother would call “a touch of the poet.” That means a touch of talent, while also being a little touched in the head because you need to be a little crazy to choose a creative career. At the same time, there is nothing crazy about my approach to work. Because creative jobs come and go, I must be very disciplined and organized with my business and my finances. That’s true for all successful creatives.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My path has been varied. I started in San Francisco, where I won a local Emmy at age 26 for documentary filmmaking, I was an editor on the early seasons of The Real World, I directed The Osbournes, and then I created and produced TV shows, like Dr. 90210, along with several short films and documentaries. None of it was easy, but I was lucky to have great mentors, like Jon Murray and Mary-Ellis Bunim, and friends and colleagues (Lisa Berger, Greg Johnston) who believed in me. Connections. Mentors. Friends. I can’t emphasize how crucial they are, and I wish I’d relied on them more.
I think what sets me apart is my enthusiasm and optimism. I believe I can work with anyone. I also love helping other people realize their vision. When someone says “That’s exactly how I imagined it,” I feel I’ve achieved some kind of Vulcan mind-meld.
My advice is to always ask for help. Collaborate and show other people your work. There is no direct route to success to the job you want, but good work leads to more good jobs, and you ping pong your way up the ladder. I have stalled more than once, however, and I wish I’d taken my own advice more often.
Eight years ago I started writing thrillers. like Robert Ludlum and Ken Follett. Using the pen name Ian Bull, I’ve written a trilogy called The Quintana Adventures, featuring Steven Quintana, a former Army Ranger photographer with physical and psychological wounds, and Julia Travers, the smart, beautiful, and famous actress who wants to help Steven find peace – if only he’d let her. In each book, I put Steven and Julia in dangerous situations that seem impossible to escape. I’ve also written a book about two thieves who fall in love, called Liars in Love, and Facing Reality, which explores the dark side of TV production. As Donald Ian Bull, I’ve written several books of nonfiction, including a how-to book on TV production.
I aspire to write books you can’t put down. That’s my brand. If I can create a real page-turner, then I know I’m succeeding as a storyteller. If I can become a successful genre writer, I will die happy. If someone adapted my books into movies, that would be nice, too.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Welcome to Los Angeles! Here’s our itinerary for the week. Starting in the San Fernando Valley on a Thursday night, we’ll start at Pit Fire Pizza in North Hollywood, where we’ll get whatever seasonal pizza is on the menu, and then dine and drink wine next to their outdoor fire. We’ll then cross the street and take in all the statues and busts of TV legends surrounding the TV Academy Building, and snap a selfie next to the giant Emmy statue. We’d then enjoy the latest independent movie at the Laemmle Theaters next door.
Friday morning we’ll get sandwiches at Art’s Deli on Ventura Blvd, then drive North on 101 and cross over the Santa Monica Mountains at Las Virgenes Canyon. It’s best in a convertible. We’ll zip north on PCH and make a right turn on Corral Canyon and take the road five miles up to the very top, where we’ll park and then hike a long stretch of the Backbone trail. From up there, we will see the entire Los Angeles Basin, Catalina Island, and the other Channel Islands further north. We may find cougar tracks, and even spot one if we’re lucky.
After a long day of hiking, we’ll head back to the valley to Bob’s Big Boy, which has a parade of classic cars every Friday night. It’s a wonderful mix of old surfers with their Bel Airs, bearded bikers with their Harleys, and young Latinx with their kit cars and low-riders.
Saturday morning we’ll head downtown and stop at Disney Hall and run around the outside taking photographs. There are a dozen staircases and passageways, and the light dancing off the brushed titanium is amazing. We’ll head to Little Tokyo next, and visit the Japanese American National Museum. The exhibits keep changing and there’s always arts and crafts to try. They have a barracks from a Japanese-American internment camp from World War II, and it honors the 110,000 Japanese-Americans who we forced from their homes and into American concentration camps. It’s a stunning piece of American history we can never forget.
We can then go to Rakkan, a great raman restaurant, eat lunch, then power past the Arts District to LA Boulders, where we will rent shoes, chalk up our fingers and climb some indoor boulders for the rest of the afternoon. Saturday evening we will stroll through the Arts District, wandering between galleries and eating at Pie Hole, and drinking beer at Angel City Brewery.
Sunday morning we’ll stay downtown and go to church at the Los Angeles Cathedral or the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels. The art inside is stunning, especially the bronze doors created by Los Angeles artist Robert Graham. We’ll then have lunch at Philippe’s, where we can get French dip sandwiches. Monday, if it’s raining, we’ll go to Disneyland. It’s one of the best ways and days to see the Magic Kingdom.
On Tuesday, we’ll drive north to the town of Ventura, and take surf lessons at C Street. The waves there are small and consistent and easy to ride, and it’s one of the best places to learn how to surf.
By then we will both be exhausted, and we will take Wednesday off!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My wife Robin deserves my never-ending praise and gratitude. I get on my knees every day and thank her for letting me into her life, and she laughs and says, “You’re welcome.” She draws out the best version of me, and when I stumble (which I do often), she forgives me and keeps us moving forward. She has been a puppeteer, a TV executive, a writer, while also being an amazing mother and wife. We love each other’s company, we still hold hands, and we disgust our teenage daughter Lily with our public displays of affection.
Other: My other author website is www.californianoir.net My blog is californiabull.com My other Instagram is https://www.instagram.com/californiabull My Ian Bull Amazon author page is: https://www.amazon.com/Ian-Bull/e/B00CWE796U/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1 My Donald Ian Bull Amazon author page is: https://www.amazon.com/Donald-Ian-Bull/e/B07D68W3X4%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share