This is the third post in a series of interviews with writers who have had their first films, web series, television assignment, etc. make it to the big or small or computer screen. It is an effort to find out what their journey was to their initial success.
Let me know what you think. Any feedback or suggestions for the sort of information you might like to know will be appreciated.
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Next up: Screenwriter/director/producer and author of Rails & Tails Micky Levy
Rails & Ties (Warner Bros), directed by Alison Eastwood and starring Kevin Bacon was Micky’s first produced screenplay. She had completed several book adaptations, notably Donald Kraybill’s Amish Grace, for which she received a Humanitas Prize nomination. Recently, Micky directed Page’s Great and Grand Escape, a short she wrote that premiered at the Foyle Film Festival.
- What is the name of your first screenplay that was produced?
My first paid assignment was a rewrite on a screenplay called POE that was based on a selection of stories by Edgar Allan Poe.
- Can you tell us a bit about the journey as to how it came about?
I’ll tell you about how my first script, RAILS & TIES, got produced. I went to a Hollywood assistants networking party at the Arclight in Hollywood with my friend, Christine, who at the time was an assistant to an established producer. At the party, I met a producer by the name of Barrett Stuart. He was nice and straightforward. I sent him a comedy script that I had. A week later, he got back to me, saying he liked the writing. He asked me if I had something else. I sent him the script to RAILS & TIES. Barrett connected with it and gave it to Alison Eastwood, who championed the project.
- Tell me a little bit about the experience of having the project come to completion.
It’s a wonderful, exciting ride to see your first script being made, especially by creative powerhouses like Alison Eastwood, Barrett Stuart, and Robert Lorenz. I got to hang out on set, and it was a joy to see Kevin Bacon, Marcia Gay-Harden, and Miles Heizer bring the characters I wrote to life. In a synchronistic twist of faith, when RAILS & TIES opened in the U.S., it played at the Arclight in Hollywood.
- What was the hardest obstacle to overcome in achieving that first project?
I had to write after putting in hours at my day job and going to school. I wrote on weekends, early mornings, and late nights. I had no social life or downtime. Luckily, my day job at the time was for screenwriter Arthur A. Ross, who understood the struggle involved. I used to sneak in writing time during my work hours too. I have a feeling Arthur knew about it but pretended not to…
- What have you learned about the industry when it comes to being a writer?
I received positive feedback about my writing fairly early on, but I also got many, many rejections. I think the most important thing to learn is not to take a “no” as a “stop” but as a “move on.” Wish the haters well, and don’t let their negativity rub on you. Aim high. Don’t be afraid to tell singular and personal stories that express your POV on the world.
- What are you working on now?
I’m writing a new script. I’m also working on a book with my good friend, Photographer Dayna Cussler. Additionally, I’m preparing to direct a feature film I wrote. I had a, well, not very committed producer attached to that film, and after two frustrating years, I am finally moving forward.
It’s about a teenage girl who wants nothing more than to be beautiful and popular, even though she has some special talents that make her powerful in some very unusual ways.
I love telling stories about outsiders and teenagers. I had a great time making PAGE. I was lucky to have a talented cast, dedicated crew, and two great producers: Richard Joel at 405 Productions and Brian Meade. We shot for three days in Los Angeles. We finished post in late September. We got into the first two festivals that we submitted to: The Foyle Film Festival in Ireland, and the Malibu Film Festival. Both festivals were supportive and well attended. A positive experience all around.
- What is your favorite movie or TV series?
Can I have more than one? J I love THE GODFATHER, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, RAGING BULL, TAXI DRIVER, REDS, THE SHINING, SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS. Recently, I thought GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY was a lot of fun. WILD and WHIPLASH were awesome. Anything by Woody Allen, Noah Baumbach, and the Coen Brothers I love. TV Series… THE WIRE, THE SOPRANOS, BREAKING BAD, THE SHIELD. Recently: GIRLS, HOMELAND, HOUSE OF CARDS, THE GOOD WIFE.
- Where do you think the movie and television industry is heading? What do you think its future is?
There’s always going to be a demand for content and strong stories. I know successful and creative writers who work with an eye toward the marketplace. I tried that. Didn’t work for me. I write from a personal place, and my first priority is to be true to the stories that I must tell.
- What parting advice do you have for writers?
Keep writing and sending out your material. You need only one “yes.” Read as many scripts as you can.
- What do you do when you’re not writing? What do you do to get away from the industry?
I love the Industry. I don’t need to get away from it. I just live my life the best was I know how.
- Tell us something about yourself that many people may not know.
Can I tell you an amusing anecdote instead? I was shooting a short documentary called “my first time.” I interviewed writers about their first time writing, and I interviewed men and women about their first time having sex. I found that there was a startling similarity between the two! Anyway, we were shooting in Hollywood when it started to pour. Me, my crew, and interview subjects ran into a nearby restaurant that miraculously allowed us to continue the interview and shoot inside, even though we didn’t have a permit or pay them to use the facility. We set up in a long table. We start to roll. The interview subject is talking about her first time having sex, in graphic detail, when into the restaurant walks in writer/director Christopher Nolan. He crossed our frame and sat in the booth next to us. We asked him to be in our film, but he was no Batman, he turned us down…
And check out the other interviews in the series:
Hilliard Guess http://ow.ly/HcOmr
Amir Ohebsion http://ow.ly/H8aPq
Donald McKinney http://ow.ly/GvPfn
Michelle Ehlen http://ow.ly/GvPr1