Lovett is the latest Washington communications professional to try to translate his skills in campaign spin, prepared remarks and news releases into entertainment for the masses. His dream of branching out, or cashing in, with a screenplay or sitcom is one New York magazine writers and editors have long harbored. They’ve had so many stories optioned — if not actually made into movies — that formal relationships between New York news outlets, talent agencies and studios have become commonplace. The success rate of Washington writers is worse, perhaps because the town’s highest accolade is “insider,” or because a city populated by self-styled alphas isn’t exactly a breeding ground for comedic angst.
“It’s a town that really showcases a pretty limited number of skills,” said Reid Cherlin, a good friend of Lovett’s, who recently left a White House communications job to pursue a writing career in New York. “When you talk about being funny, or doing entertainment, what you are really talking about is stepping back and thinking critically and making connections.”
Hollywood has valued Washington power brokers more as executives than as creative forces. Chad Griffin, a former aide to President Bill Clinton, college roommate of White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer and former partner of Kristina Schake, Michelle Obama’s communications director, works in the intersection of Washington and Hollywood as a political strategist in Los Angeles. He said there is more of a track record of people from Hollywood going on to big things in politics — Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Al Franken — than the other way around.
Kal Penn explained that the dearth of creativity in Washington left him hungering for L.A., and the lack of intellectual life in L.A. left him longing for Washington. Penn left a successful acting career for a youth outreach position in the Obama White House, and last month returned to Hollywood, where he is developing a sitcom set at the United Nations and appearing in “How I Met Your Mother.”
“My view of D.C. and L.A. is that they’re almost the yin and yang,” said Penn, who described Lovett as a kindred creative spirit with whom he brainstormed short films last summer.