VENICE - Evanston, Illinois, and Venice may not seem to have much in common, but they do for veteran TV writer and producer Jeffrey Lieber.
Growing up there, Lieber recalled Evanston as a “super-progressive” place, noting their recent push for reparations.
“When I moved to California, I started looking immediately for something that felt like that [Evanston],” Lieber said. “Venice does to me, in terms of being a complex, economically varied, racially and socially varied kind of place with all the upsides and downsides of that.”
Lieber left the Chicago area for L.A. in 1995, looking to transition from acting and playwriting into film and TV work. Living in Brentwood and Hollywood, he followed a familiar path to the entertainment industry: writing spec scripts, landing then losing agents.
Settling in Venice by 1997, Lieber worked as an associate producer on the R-rated video game Blue Heat before his first feature, Tangled, was produced in 2001. A co-writing credit on Tuck Everlasting followed the next year. Within a few years, Lieber was working steadily in television, writing and/or producing on shows such as Miami Medical, NCIS: New Orleans and his current role as an executive producer on the reboot of Charmed. (Lieber is also credited as one of the three creators of megahit Lost, based partially on an early pilot he wrote, even though he had no further involvement in the show. He explains here.)
Starting in a 900-square-foot bungalow, Lieber and his wife, musician Holly Long, eventually moved to a larger craftsman-style house on one of the walk streets near Abbot Kinney Boulevard. They started a family there: their daughter is studying photography at NYU and their son is still in high school. They also have two rescue pitbulls.
Lieber said he’s seen waves of changes in his 24 years in Venice. A neighbor who’s been here since the early 1980s told him the police used to knock on doors and ask residents if they could paint their house number on the roof so police helicopters would know their location. “That’s how she was introduced to Venice,” Lieber said with a laugh.
In Lieber and Long’s early days of living here, Lieber recalled hearing some neighbors arguing. “The woman said, ‘All you want to do is get high and have sex!’ I wandered inside and I said to my wife, ‘The first rule of living in Venice is when we fight, we close the windows’.”
“We’re so on top of each other,” Lieber continued. “I sort of love that on some level. I love that we’re on top of each other because it forces us to care about each other. It forces us to interact with each other.”
Coming from the Chicago area, Lieber said he was used to interacting with people on public transportation, but L.A. is so car-centric most people are isolated, except in Venice.
“There are very few neighborhoods in L.A. that feel like neighborhoods,” he said. “Venice really does.”
“Venice is its own little pocket. We’re part of L.A., but also we’re not part of L.A. We exist unto ourselves and we’ve always been a hugely independent community.”
Asked about the current state of Venice with increasing homelessness, Lieber said, “It’s complicated…I know both the feeling of walking and seeing encampments three blocks from my house and being sad that visual landscape is being ruined. And I understand that it’s hard. We live in a world where the economic disparity is primal and apparent.”
“I don’t want to be Santa Monica, that aseptic sort of clean world. I don’t want that. But I wish we could find a way to both honor the fact that we live in a community that’s always been economically diverse and also find a way to keep the sidewalks safe and keep people safe.”
Despite Venice’s evolving state, Lieber said his family has no plans to move since everything they need is here.
“I like being in the mix,” he said. “I need a fair amount of noise when I write and happily Venice is one of those places where you can get that life on the street.”