Yesterday, I was saddened to learn that one of my writing heroes, screenwriter Frank Pierson, had passed away after a brief illness, but was hearted for a number of reasons. Pierson had reached the formidable age of 87 — and was still actively working.

During recent seasons, Pierson wrote scripts and served as consulting producer for two of the hottest shows on television — Mad Men and The Good Wife.¬†After learning of Pierson’s passing, Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner said:¬†“[Frank] was a writer’s writer: sharp and funny and clever and, most importantly, honest about the details that make one human. He was a great artist and made everyone around him better.”

Throughout most of his career, Pierson was best known as a screenwriter — with credits that include Cat Ballou, Cool Hand Luke, and Dog Day Afternoon, which earned him a 1975 Academy Award.

I was lucky enough to meet Frank Pierson at the Austin (Texas) Film Festival during the mid-1990s, when I was a finalist in the screenwriting competition. I attended a small discussion group with Pierson and other competition finalists — and was enraptured listening to Frank discuss his work, including how he developed screenplays for Dog Day Afternoon (one of my favorite movies) and Presumed Innocent. What I learned that day has stayed with me — and has been some of the best writing advice I’ve ever received.

I feel very lucky and blessed to have spent time with Frank Pierson and will always be inspired by his example — a writer with depth, soul, humanity, and so many other gifts who created fine work right up until the final days of a long, inspiring life.

Thank you, Frank! We will miss you.

Photo: Los Angeles Times, All Rights Reserved