Five years ago, Jack Amiel, co-creator and writer of Cinemax’s critically acclaimed series The Knick, took a ski trip to Park City with his wife and two sons—entirely on hotel points. “My wife kept asking, ‘What do you think it’s like to live here?’” he explains. “I told her, ‘I’m pretty sure you can’t use Starwood points to pay the mortgage.’” The couple became determined to make Park City’s laid-back lifestyle their day-to-day reality and within a few months were living their mountain-town dream. Amiel calls this an extraordinarily wonderful time of their lives. “I skied 80 days my first season here,” he says.
Growing up in the declining Manhattan of the 1970s, Amiel says he experienced things most children should not, one of many reasons he appreciates that his children are growing up here. He headed to the University of Wisconsin for college, where he met his longtime writing partner, Michael Begler. Their first taste of writing for the stage was the university’s musical comedy competition, and, as he explains, “we found our natural habitat—writing comedy.” After graduation, he and Begler teamed up in LA and honed their craft, working as production assistants and writing spec scripts. Quickly—in terms of writer’s luck—they scored an 80-hour-a-week entry-level TV writing job. “The greatest break you could ever have,” he says. They went on to write for Empty Nest and Malcolm in the Middle, as well as movies like Raising Helen and Big Miracle.
Fast-forward 20 years, and the comedy team of Amiel and Begler created The Knick, directed by Steven Soderbergh. Amiel says he draws inspiration for the dark, edgy medical drama set in early-20th-century Manhattan, starring Clive Owen as a drug-addicted surgeon, from the “universality of human beings.” Whereas when he moved to Park City and his family was embraced by the community, The Knick looks at the opposite: if you arrived in New York City in 1900 as an immigrant, you would have had to fight for your place.
Amiel writes mostly from home but can also be found in a quiet corner of the Kimball Junction library or on the deck of the Deer Valley Grocery Café—where he wrote much of season one. In the winter, Amiel skis “any mountain where I’m meeting friends,” and he mountain bikes in the summer but adds, “I invariably hurt myself.”
His favorite thing about living in Park City is that it forces him to be present. “Sometimes I’ll look out the window and realize how grateful I am,” he says. “There is nothing better than living in a community where we actually choose to live.”