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Callie Khouri


Los Angeles, CA

I don’t think about the odds. I ignore the numbers.

My career has always been focused on film, with the occasional TV pilot. None of the TV work hit, and I became convinced the universe did not have me creating anything other than feature-length films.

I was relieved for two reasons: First, I wasn’t sure I wanted to work that hard; television writers are notorious for pulling long hours, constantly revising their work based feedback from critics, viewers and producers. Second, TV is too changeable. With film, you tell a story and it’s set; with TV, storylines can go on indefinitely. I worried I wouldn’t be able to come up with enough ideas to sustain even one season of characters and plot lines.

Then out of nowhere, an opportunity arose. It started with a meeting at my agency with a guy I’d never met. We’d been paired up to develop a TV show about the city of Nashville. Now, Nashville is a place I really love, so my first thought was, There’s no way I’m going to do this. I’m not going to make a show that ends up becoming a hee-haw, honky tonk, line dancing cliché. I projected myself into the future and imagined the pain of being asked to “add another redneck” to “balance” the storyline.

But something told me I needed to go for it. So I took it one step at a time. I’d convince myself to go to each meeting to “see what they had to say.” I’d always give myself an out: I told myself as soon as I heard one thing that made me want to run for the hills, I’d bolt.

As one meeting led to another, I found myself walking a fine line between optimism and skepticism. I’d leave one meeting thinking, Hey, this is really going to happen, and the next thinking, I’m gonna get totally screwed.

There’s a good chance I might have given up had it not been for my partner, who was a Clydesdale. Every time I wavered, he charged forward with a “nope, we’re going.” It was then I realized something important: Nothing is ever one hundred percent. There will always be one little thing that turns you off or makes you want to give up. Eventually, you have to make a choice to either go all in or not at all.

When we pitched the project, the response was wildly positive. I found myself thinking, “We’re really doing this.” Once I made that decision out loud, everything changed. It got to be so much fun, an adventure; each moment was like playing a game, wondering if we were going to make it to the next level.

And we did. Our pilot was a huge success.

Now that the show is on the air, it’s still a rollercoaster each week. I love it; it’s also the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Now I wish I’d gone into television sooner— it’s a much better medium. You get to spend years with a character as you watch them change and go through new experiences. You become attached and excited at the idea of watching them grow.

I’m not going to sugar coat it: The film and television industry is rough for women. I sit with my peers and we look at the numbers; we all agree they are completely out of whack. But you have two choices: You can get lost in the numbers or you can move forward.

So I don’t think about the odds. I ignore the numbers. I choose to stay focused on the goal and try not be discouraged by what others say is ‘reality’.