Steven Levitan, the producer, writer and creator of the comedy show “Modern Family,” visited campus Thursday as one of a series of alumni speakers. Using charm viewers would find on the hit television show, he spoke and answered questions about his life achievements that got him to where he is.
Levitan attended UW-Madison from 1980 to 1984, where he took writing, film, TV and radio courses and had interest in radio and television broadcasting. After writing for multiple shows, he created “Modern Family” with his producing partner, Chris Lloyd, which premiered in 2009.
Levitan answered questions of how his years of screenwriting led him to “Modern Family.” He discussed his experience with setbacks in his career, and how he came up with a better idea when his earlier ones failed.
“One of the things you can take from anything in life, really, is from your failures come the most valuable lessons,” Levitan said. “Especially, by the way, when you’re doing anything creative.”
He encouraged attendees to continue to “embrace creative moments” and watch what happens around them because “if you’re smart, something good will come from it.”
Much of what makes “Modern Family” so likable, Levitan said, is that it resonates with people all over the world. He writes loosely about his own life, the Dunphys being a reflection of his family, to get the raw-feeling material for each episode.
“One of my favorite things is that I get to just write about my life,” Levitan said.
He added he feels the writing room is the most unusual place in the world because writers have to delve into their own lives to find relatable stories.
Levitan said he is happy about the choices he has made in making his writing personal.
“The success of ‘Modern Family’ came from being real about subject matter, and not shying away from it or putting a spin on it,” Levitan said.
“Modern Family” is one of the first shows to portray same-sex parents. Levitan said this is part of what keeps the show relevant while contributing in a small way to conversations about homosexuality. He said he knew the show could not be called “modern” without including a gay couple.
Levitan encouraged UW-Madison students to take advantage of all the opportunities that are offered. He also advised focusing on presenting oneself, as opposed to worrying about one’s transcript.
“Write things that you care about, that are important to you … if it’s interesting to you, if it’s a burning passion … I promise you not only you care about it,” Levitan said. “Dig deep, look around everyday … Enjoy the journey.”