This is the next 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.
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Next up: an interview with Gregory Blair, author of Deadly Revisions
A Southern California native, Gregory Blair has been active in the arts for many years as an actor, writer, director and producer. His work has been published and/or produced in various venues: his editorials have appeared in newspapers, e-zines and academic texts; his poetry has been included in several collections; his stage plays have been produced across the country. His outrageous comic novella “Spewing Pulp” was honored with a 2005 Stonewall Award and he has garnered nearly a dozen screenwriting accolades, including the 2014 Claw Award for “Best Feature Film Screenplay” for Deadly Revisions (which also earned him the EOTM Award for “Best Director of an Indie Horror Film” as well as the L.A. Movie Award for “Best Narrative Feature” and the Flicker Award for “Best Picture”)
What is the name of your first screenplay that was produced?
Deadly Revisions was the first screenplay that actually made it into the world as a film. It was not the first screenplay that I sold, though, which is a good lesson: selling a screenplay—as exciting as it is—does not mean it will ever become a film. I am still waiting for some of my sold screenplays to make it to the screen. So you must enjoy each success for what it is…but only for what it is. And drink good martinis.
Can you tell us a bit about the journey as to how it came about?
I wrote it to sell. There continues to be a growing demand for low budget films that require only minimal locations and cast, little to no fx, take place in the present, etc. It seemed crazy not the feed that need. But I had to keep it interesting for me, so that meant lots of twists. That led me to choosing to write a psychological thriller. The single location necessity, though, screamed horror genre, since people are always getting trapped in a castle, a cabin in the woods, a cellar, etc. So I came up with a story that had elements of both genres. Thus, Deadly Revisions, which tells the tale of an amnesiac horror film writer haunted by nightmares, is a valentine to the horror genre wrapped in a psychological thriller. Or is it a psychological thriller wrapped in a horror film? An interesting thing about the film is people come away with many different opinions about what really happened.
It was a long journey. I wrote it, thinking it would sell quickly. It didn’t. It fared well in several screenplay competitions, got lots of bites, but no sale. What changed things was my budding friendship with Bill Oberst, Jr., who’s made a name for himself in the horror community. We wanted to do something together and, after several false starts, I gave him the script. He was instantly as passionate as I was. Then I showed it to another friend who wanted to produce something and she went gaga. So, we had a core group of people who wanted to make the movie. That’s really what you need—no matter how it happens. They can talk to people about the film, help you pitch it, attract or procure investors, back you up emotionally—all sorts of good things. You may write the script alone, but it won’t become a film without a small army.
- What was the hardest obstacle to overcome in achieving that first project?
The obstacle that’s directly in front of you is always the hardest. When you’re staring at a blank page, when you’re trying to fix that one scene, when you’re trying to sell the script or get funding to make it yourself…each one of those, in their own moment, can feel like a Goliath. You just have to breath and believe you can overcome all obstacles. I guess what I’m saying is: doubt is the hardest obstacle to overcome.
Power is where you put it. Some people put a lot of power in rules and those who teach them: how to write a scene, how to format a script, how to blah-blah-blah. If you look at the recent nominated screenplays, many of them break “the rules”. A paragraph of more than three lines of action? Mon Dieu!! A noticeable lack of white space? The horror!! The only thing that matters is that you tell a good story, tell it well and in your unique way. Follow the rules if they help you, break them if they don’t; just make a good story, make a good read.
- What are you working on now?
I’ve totally switched gears. Deadly Revisions is a dark, brooding, slow-burn mystery: buckets of atmosphere, a deliberate pace and a growing sense of doom. My new project is a light, whirling dervish, madcap comedy about a backyard gathering that goes awry when an uninvited guest shows up…with a pickaxe…and an attitude! It’s called Garden Party Massacre. Think Shaun of the Dead or Tucker and Dale Vs. The Evil. It’s a fast-paced romp with kooky characters, hilarious situations and more than one kind of fruitcake. Everyone who’s read it, loves it and wants to be involved. That’s a first and I’m taking it as a very good omen. Not like that Damien creep.
- What is your favorite movie or TV series?
Couldn’t choose. It’s like Sophie’s Choice by the dozen. I like the current sci-fi and horror television series offerings like Penny Dreadful and Dr. Who, but I also like Downton Abbey and really liked Glee when it was fresh. As for films, I’ll mention Insignificance and ZOO: A Zed and Two Noughts because (1) they both taught me tons about directing and visual storytelling and (2) not enough people know about those films.
- Where do you think the movie and television industry is heading? What do you think its future is?
Sadly, I see the trend toward convenience over quality bourgeoning even further. I say “sadly” because instead of going to the cinema, people are opting to watch films on handled devices at home. As such, the viewing experience goes from communal to solitary, from something you focus on to something that just passes the time between distractions. What once was a special, quality experience you shared with others is becoming a selfish non-event—no more important that the latest tweet or text. Perhaps I’m old school. Or perhaps I’m just a lover of film and I think you should treat your lover with respect.
- What parting advice do you have for writers?
Despite what I just said above, I think there are infinite things to be shared and it’s in your soul to want to share them. You wouldn’t be a writer if that weren’t the case. So write on. Share your stories. It’s by sharing stories that we recognize we are all one…and bringing people together in some way is what great art is all about. And, the upside of the tiny technology trend is, for the price of a cell phone, you can always film your own damn movie! It may not be pretty, but pretty isn’t everything; sharing your soul is. So share on.
- What do you do when you’re not writing? What do you do to get away from the industry?
Most of what I do is related: my free time is spent watching movies, plays, etc.—all of which involved (or inspire) writing. I suppose going out to eat and walking my dog don’t have any artistic ramifications. (Although you should see me chew!)
- Tell us something about yourself that many people may not know.
I almost wasn’t born. My parents only wanted two kids. My mother had my sister and a miscarriage; if not for that tragedy (the miscarriage, not my sister), I might not have been born. So embrace the day. Take it from a guy who almost wasn’t.
And check out the other interviews in the series:
Josh Kim http://ow.ly/K7obx
Jim Thalman http://ow.ly/JQ8YT
David Au http://ow.ly/JwM0A
Dwayne Alexander Smith http://ow.ly/J8GJI
Haifaa Al-Mansour http://ow.ly/ITabq
Chad Crawford Kinkle http://ow.ly/HXLq0
Mikey Levy http://ow.ly/HA9Xm
Hilliard Guess http://ow.ly/HcOmr
Amir Ohebsion http://ow.ly/H8aPq
Donald McKinney http://ow.ly/GvPfn
Michelle Ehlen http://ow.ly/GvPr1
Josh Kim, screenwriter, screenwriting, screenplay, How to Win at Checkers Every Time, The Police Box