HEY! WE ALL HAD TO START SOMEWHERE: an interview with Jim Vines, writer of The Perfect Tenant

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 Jim Vines writer of The Perfect Tenant
jim vines oneJim Vines—whose parents were both in the film and TV industries—was born in New York City and grew up in Beverly Hills. Jim fell in love with filmmaking at the age of eleven and hasn’t looked back since. After working various jobs in the film industry (grip, stuntman, still photographer), Jim settled into the life of screenwriting in the early 1990s. In 2006 he published Q & A: The Working Screenwriter, which is comprised of interviews with 16 screenwriters. In April 2015 he published his first novel, Luigi’s Chinese Delicatessen.  Most recently he has co-wrote House at the End of the Drive.
  1. What is the name of your first screenplay that was produced, or your first project that was produced, or your first writing assignment?
The first script I had produced was The Perfect Tenant. It was a thriller that made its debut on HBO and Cinemax back in 2000. It’s been playing on cable all over the world ever since.
  1. Can you tell us a bit about the journey as to how it came about?
perfect tenantIn 1995 I sent a producer one of my scripts. He liked the script but wasn’t able to do anything with it. He remembered me a year later when he needed a writer to do a rewrite on a thriller script. I did the rewrite for him (basically a page one rewrite) and he submitted the script to a production company he was dealing with. They bought the script soon thereafter. It all happened fairly quickly.


  1. Tell me a little bit about the experience of having the project come to completion. 


I think we sold the script in early 1997. Things were hot and heavy for a while (meetings with producers, rewrite sessions, etc.)…then the project collapsed. I think it had something to do with the producer leaving the prodco. Anyway, he started up his own prodco and suddenly the script was back on. More meetings, more rewrites, more waiting…then we had a start date for filming!



  1. What was the hardest obstacle to overcome in achieving that first project?


perfect tenant twoI think the hardest part was all the waiting around we had to do. It took a couple years of starting and stopping. But a couple years is nothing in the film business. Some productions can take years and years before a single inch of film is shot. If you want to make movies, you need to have patience. Lots of it.



  1. What have you learned about the industry when it comes to being a writer?


I’ve learned the following: 1) Writers are pretty much low man on the totem pole; 2) you don’t make friends in the film business—you make acquaintances; 3) you have to accept rejection and disappointment, and keep moving forward; and 4) don’t work in this business—in any capacity—unless you have an absolute burning desire to do so.



  1. What are you working on now?


luigiThough I still do an occasional screenwriting gig (i.e., rewrite assignments, etc.), my main focus has been writing novels. I published my first novel—Luigi’s Chinese Delicatessen—back in April. I’m working on the sequel now. I’ve also got a few other novels on the drawing board. I’ve found more satisfaction in writing novels than I ever did in writing screenplays…and I LOVED writing screenplays!



  1. What is your favorite movie or TV series?


Well, all my favorite movies and TV shows are from the 1960s and ‘70s. Just a few of my favorite movies from that period: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Great Escape, Goldfinger, What’s Up, Doc?, and Midnight Cowboy. A few of my favorite TV shows: The Odd Couple, It Takes a Thief, Star Trek, Get Smart, The Andy Griffith Show, The Wild Wild West, The Persuaders. From the 1990s: Seinfeld. There are some more recent shows that I love, such as: Curb Your Enthusiasm, Mad Men, The Office, Louie, Episodes, Entourage



  1. Where do you think the movie and television industry is heading? What do you think its future is?


I’ve become somewhat disenchanted with what’s being seen in movies theaters these days. Too many superheroes, too many special effects. I like movies about people. I like intimate stores about people just trying to make it through life. This is what I find interesting. I don’t even mind a good action flick as long as it’s got great characters and a solid story (the original Die Hard comes to mind). The superhero thing will eventually die down and more intimate movies will once again be in vogue. Not to say they’re not making these smaller, more intimate films nowadays—they are, they’re just a little difficult to find. As for TV: The stuff being done on cable is far more interesting and innovative that what’s coming out on the big screen. I never thought I’d say this, but I actually prefer what’s being shown on the small screen to what’s being shown on the big screen!



  1. What parting advice do you have for writers?


As I mentioned previously: Don’t get in this business unless you love love love it. If you want to write, you should be able to do it even if there’s no promise of ever getting paid. It’s the work that’s important, not the monetary reward (if any). Also, there’s an old quote: “Life is more important than showbiz.” I’d have to agree.



  1. What do you do when you’re not writing? What do you do to get away from the industry?


q and a the working screenwriterI’m a photographer, so I like futzing around with that. My girlfriend and I like to travel when time permits, take road trips, explore. But even when I’m on the road, I still manage to find time to get some writing done. Go figure.



  1. Tell us something about yourself that many people may not know.

Even though I’ve carved a decent niche as a horror and thriller screenwriter, I don’t like knives, needles, or the sight of blood. In real life, I’ve a very cozy, cuddly fella!


Nick Felice, http://ow.ly/QIF9O

Bryce Richardson, http://ow.ly/OWxBS

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

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