Thursday, December 02, 2004

Du Bi Quan Wang Da Po Xue Di Zi

A student asked to interview me for a newswriting class at the university, obviously sorely wanting for better subject matter. Here for your modest enjoyment is how I responded to his email.

1. What is your background? When did you start writing? Did you have any specific inspirations?
I started drawing comic books when I was a kid, and when I was in high school I realized my word balloons were bigger than my pictures so I switched mostly to writing. In high school I won several awards in a statewide one-act play contest for high school kids, and that encouraged me to keep going. In college I won the first David Letterman award ever given a script project, and that gave me the confidence to continue to pursue it. I have always been interested in a number of different elements of scriptwriting, including comic books and radio dramas as well as television and film.

2. What do you feel are your major accomplishments so far?
Winning the David Letterman Scholarship in 1987 was a big accomplishment and has opened a lot of doors, and if nothing else it is an interesting conversation piece. Having my name in Variety and the Hollywood Reporter was a big thrill the first time until I realized it really didn't mean anything. Seeing the first screenplay that I sold getting turned into a movie, and then finding it for sale and on the shelves, was really exciting and probably another milestone.

3. What are some of your hobbies?
I enjoy all kinds of things, from camping and hiking to winemaking to reading to watching movies. I collect stamps and comic books. I still every once in a while put out my own 'zine or comic.

What are your favorite movies and why?
My favorite movies include Dr. Strangelove, Manhattan, The Bridge Over the River Kwai, Sunset Boulevard, and Stalag 17. I think that not only are they movies like I would like to make, but I suspect that--like with most people that talk about their favorite anythings--they represent certain times of my life.

4. Do you have any amusing anecdotes regarding scriptwriting?
One of my favorite scenes in "Among Us" is when the characters sit around a fire and tell about their own Bigfoot sightings. Unfortunately that blazing fire was built with a copy of my script, since so much of the wood was wet that day. I think that's an important lesson for any budding screenwriter to learn.

5. Who do you feel has made the biggest impact on you as a writer?
I have always looked up to William Goldman and read all of his books as well as peruse his screenplays. Once when I was really low professionally one of his books kind of sprung off the shelf and helped me over a rough patch. My wife is a good sounding board and we worked a lot together doing tech writing projects for a lot of years. Now she writes poems and short stories but still can give me good tips. Ironically I have made more money writing Bigfoot and killer rabbit and piranha movies than she has writing actual literature.

6. What are some pieces of advice you have for others interested in scriptwriting?
A lot of people are talented, but talent is an empty bucket; you have to fill it with projects and deadlines and commitments. The hardest battle to fight is not coming up with ideas, but sitting there typing them when a little voice in your head tells you nobody will ever read this or care, and you can hear the Colts game on in the next room. It is butt to chair, and no muse can change that.

7. If you were stuck on an island and could choose one item to have with you, what would it be?
I think if I had a big crate of paperbacks I could figure out the rest.

8. What are some of your goals for the future?
I would like to write a film that is released theatrically--I have worked on several that might yet make it. I would like to bring my production background to the fore again and direct my own direct-to-video feature.

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