How a Halifax screenwriter found Genius in Hollywood

The story of how Halifax-born Noah Pink managed to successfully pitch a television series in Hollywood sounds like a movie plot.

He calls it a fairy tale.

"I'm loathe to tell this story because it will never happen like that again," Pink told the CBC Nova Scotia's Information Morning. "It's such a fairy tale Hollywood story."

Pink, 34, is the co-creator and co-executive producer of Genius, a 10-episode television series about the life of Albert Einstein that debuted on the National Geographic channel Tuesday night.

Long shot

Pink said it all began with a meeting with the staff at OddLot Entertainment in Los Angeles, which owns the rights to Walter Isaacson's biography of Einstein.

He'd been moving back and forth between Los Angeles and Toronto making films and music videos after beginning his screenwriting career in a cramped apartment on Agricola Street in Halifax.

OddLot was hoping to turn the Einstein story into a feature film, so it asked Pink to read the book and write a screenplay.

Pink decided Einstein's life involved too many "momentus events" to fit into a two-hour timeframe, and that the story would be better suited to a television show format, with multiple episodes.

He also decided he had to find a way to convince the company that he "was the right guy to do it."

As a screenwriter from Nova Scotia, he said, "I knew it was going to be a long shot to get the job," so he went all out with his pitch, walking them through all 10 episodes.

"I remember very distinctly how that phone call ended, because it ended with radio silence," Pink said.

He wasn't expecting a call back. Then, surprisingly, he got one.

Enter Ron Howard

Pink said he was told Ron Howard, child star from The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days, and Oscar-winning director of A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13 and The Da Vinci Code, among other films, liked the script and wanted to meet.

"That's incredible," Pink said. "This is the first director we went to and he wants to do it, that's fantastic."

Pink said Howard unknowingly helped him shoot his first short film in Nova Scotia years ago, by accidentally donating the film. 

"His crew dropped a box of Kodak film off the back of the truck" during the Cinderella Man shoot in Toronto, Pink said, and the photography company let him use the film for free.

"I guess I've been tangentially connected with Ron for about a decade now," Pink said, even if Howard didn't know it.

Sealing the deal

After meeting Howard, Pink said he returned to Canada and was there for only a couple weeks when he got a phone call from film producer Rachel Shane, originally from Winnipeg.

It was a day "I'll never forget," said Pink.

Pink said Shane asked him: "Hey, how's your week looking, Noah?", and he answered: "I think it's open."

A few hours later he was on a flight back to Los Angeles, and heading into a meeting with Ron Howard, producer Brian Grazer, and the heads of Fox Studios and National Geographic, Pink said. 

"They ordered the series right in the room," he said.

Genius airs on the National Geographic channel every Tuesday at 9 a.m. ET. The series premiere is also available for free online for a limited time.