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The Vision For Pleasantville
Although he wrote the Academy Award-nominated screenplays for Big and Dave, Ross had never had an idea this complex

Although he wrote the Academy Award-nominated screenplays for Big and Dave, Ross had never had an idea this complex. "When I first came up with the concept for Pleasantville, I had no idea if it could be done. The more I wrote, the more the world came to life, and the more impossible it seemed," he admits. "Not only was the execution clearly going to be huge, but the story itself bridged so many genres it defied an easy description. Finally I began to understand it like a modem Alice in Wonderland. Two kids go through the looking glass (a television set), and like Alice, what we have is a social satire contained within a fairy tale."

Considered by many to be one of the great modem-day cinema fableists, Ross took Pleasantville beyond the magical comedy of Dave and Big. "My initial idea was to ask: what would happen if there was a place where there was no color, noise, doubt or uncertainty? What if a world like a 1950's sitcom, in which everyone is polite and predictable, came to life? I thought it would open up some really wild opportunities as the characters began to experience emotion, ideas and passion for the first time. Then I thought what if that experience turned their world to color?"

Ross didn't know at first that this 'colorizing' would lead to a rift within the town. "As I continued to write, it became a battle between the status quo and those people in Pleasantville daring to be different and free. From there, the theme blossomed in me in a dozen different ways."

Ultimately, what is revealed is the importance of opposites and extremes in life. "How can you know what beauty is if you don't know its opposite? How can you know what you really love if you're never in danger of losing it? What the people of Pleasantville discover is that when they open up their eyes to life's greatest pleasures they also get its absurdities and agonies and terrors. It's all part of life and you can't pick and choose," Ross explains.

As this unique story took shape, Ross found his imaginative concept sparking personal reflections - especially about the simpler world that his parents grew up in and how it begat our own. He was drawn back into the years when his screenwriter father was blacklisted, memories that influenced the script's subtle inquiry into the emotional basis behind censorship and intolerance.

"I grew up in a very liberal household but liberal didn't mean feminist. When my mother started her career, my father, like many men in that era, still expected dinner to be on the table when he came home," Ross explains.

From the earliest stages, the world of Pleasantville was set in a 1950's utopia: an icon of simpler, more homogenous times. But the story is not merely an allegory about television; on the contrary, the television in Pleasantville is a conduit to explore the morals and values and fantasies of an era gone by.

"It's about the nostalgia for that sort of simplicity and why we long for it in our current age of complexity, "says Ross. "I never watched much 50's television. The idea was to create a precisely homogenized universe in which everything is tweaked to an absurd state of perfection."

Using this large canvas, the shortcomings of the 1950's and the 1990's are explored. "I think the story reveals that the repressed wholesomeness of an Ozzie and Harriet universe is just as bad as the morally bankrupt, hyperacti

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