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.
First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
Next up: an interview with Bryce Richardson, author of 2580
Born and raised in Houston, Bryce Richardson graduated from the University of North Texas. A few years later, Richardson moved to New York where he’s had a one-act play produced and made several shorts. His 16mm film 2580 played at the 2015 Slamdance film festival. Richardson is currently working on his first feature film.
What is the name of your first screenplay that was produced, or your first project that was produced, or your first writing assignment?
Closing Shop was the first short film that I had written and directed.
Can you tell us a bit about the journey as to how it came about?
Before this short, I had written a one-act play produced by the Metropolitan Playhouse in the East Village. But since cinema was what I cared about the most, I decided to take the confidence I gained from that experience and focus solely on making films. I made sure my first film, Closing Shop, would be finished no matter what obstacles I encountered along the way. I succeeded—and it turned out to be a total piece of shit. I will never let anyone see it
- Tell me a little bit about the experience of having the project come to completion.
I didn’t attend film school, but I’m sure the main benefit of going to one is being able to make bad films in a safe place. This was my film school. There’s a lot I learned while making Closing Shop, but most importantly I learned to never shoot anything until you are absolutely sure the story is ready. This script was garbage: it was too subtle for the sake of subtle, and lacked any true moments that allowed for cinematic storytelling. If I had made it in film school it would have received the proper C- it deserved and I would have moved on. Instead, I got lots of expensive rejections letters from film festivals.
- What was the hardest obstacle to overcome in achieving that first project?
I thought the hardest obstacle was ignoring that voice in my head telling me not to make this film. I assumed the voice came from a place of fear and I was determined to ignore it. It turns out the voice came more from a place of common sense. Now, I try to think through the negativity. I know I have something good if I can think of solid arguments to counter The Voice.
This film did get accepted into one large public screening. I delivered the DVD to the projection booth and sat down in a packed house. My heart was racing as it finally hit me that I was about to show a bad movie. I still held out hope that I might have made something of value, but then the host of the screening came out and told me that my DVD wasn’t working. I was elated and told myself that I would never let anyone lay eyes on this film, even if by chance.
What actually turned out to be the hardest obstacle was accepting that I made something nobody (including myself) liked. I applied the lessons I learned from that to my next short, 2580. I am proud of it because it’s closer to the kind of films I want to make in the future with bigger budgets and more complex storylines. I like to think I couldn’t have made that film without failing with the first one.
- What have you learned about the industry when it comes to being a writer?
Nothing that most people don’t already don’t know—it’s cruel because it has to be. I wish I could say the cream always rises to the top, but it really doesn’t. You can produce great work and there are no guarantees it will be seen. There’s just too much crap being dumped into everyone’s eyeballs.
- What are you working on now?
I’m finishing up a script for my first feature. But enough about my future. Let’s keep dwelling on the failures of my past.
So after making my first short I have a new routine for every new project: after I’m done writing the first draft of a story, I have to ask myself this question: do you want to make A film or do you want to make THIS film?
With Closing Shop, I wanted to make A film more than I wanted to make THAT film. So I failed. With what I’m writing now, I want to make THIS film. So that’s optimistic.
- What is your favorite movie or TV series?
That changes every day. With what I’ve been writing I’ve been thinking recently about Fellini’s neorealist films (La Strada, I Vitelloni, Nights of Cabiria) and Buñuel’s Mexican films. There’s a simplicity to these movies that I’m drawn to now than when I first saw them. I find the best of these still maintain the lyrical style and sense of humor that I loved so much in their later films. Lately I’ve been more appreciative of films that can draw the maximum amount of poetry out of a simple plot.
- Where do you think the movie and television industry is heading? What do you think its future is?
I try not to think about it too much–I just want to build an audience for my work. If there is someone or something in the industry that can help me by way of helping themselves, then please do. Just try not to be too unethical about it.
- What parting advice do you have for writers?
I’ll return to a previous answer. At some point in your writing process ask yourself this question: do you want to make A film or do you want to make THIS film? If it’s the former then don’t make it. If your soul is going to be crushed it might as well be about something you care about.
- What do you do when you’re not writing? What do you do to get away from the industry?
I play in a basketball league. It’s fun working with a team towards a goal that has nothing to do with bettering my career. We all yell at each other, yell at the refs, yell at the other team. It’s the perfect antidote to the constant bullshitting and networking required in professional life.
- Tell us something about yourself that many people may not know.
I just got a new stand-up desk. My life will now involve less sitting. I’m both excited and terrified.
And check out the other interviews in the series:
Tracee Beebe, http://ow.ly/ODrGq
Mary Krell-Oishi, http://ow.ly/Olp7W
Stuart Creque, http://ow.ly/O1Ubu
P.J. McIlvaine, http://ow.ly/NIE74
Ken Lemm http://ow.ly/NoT9c
Jane Rosemont http://ow.ly/N6epJ
Todd Niemi http://ow.ly/MOfFq
Louis Pappas, http://ow.ly/LxRji
Allan Brocka, http://ow.ly/LfQNy
Gregory Blair http://ow.ly/KZj9s
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