Today we are bringing you another installment of Framing Film. This has to be one of our favourite parts of our blog; talking to independent film makers and creators about their passion! We find it so interesting to learn from each person we interview and we hope that you do too!
So without further delay, keep on reading for our interview with Joe Gazzam!
Ferenc Igali: Hey Joe, thank you for agreeing to an interview, it's brilliant to have you with us. Our series targets the process behind filmmaking as well as filmmakers and their independent journeys. You said that you had written a script that sent you from Atlanta to California.
What was that first script like?
Joe Gazzam: The first script was pretty much a Tarantino rip off! It was right around 2000-ish and you know, he had sort of blown up and caught my imagination. It was somewhere in between Cohen Brothers and Tarantino, a lot of dialogue and some crazy stuff going on.
Plot wise it wasn't very good but I think it had a voice and a style that responded to that first agent and for some ungodly reason he found a glimmer of talent in there.
FI: How hard was it writing that first script that got you the representation?
JG: It was easy, actually.
I was desperate, I was working a bunch of horrible jobs and I knew that was what I really wanted to do. So it was easy writing it. Getting the representation was hard because everyone out here has got a script and everyone is trying to get it to agents. I just got lucky and one of my buddies was dating a girl, that was represented. We basically brow-beat her into giving my script to her agent and he liked it! So that sort of got the ball rolling.
FI: What was it like, writing up that first speculative script?
JG: Again it was clunky writing that first one, just because I wasn't quite sure what I was doing. I was completely just doing it for the fun of it! I was completely amused with myself, probably unduly! It was a bit of a train wreck and meandering. But it was a lot of fun to do, considering I had no one giving me notes and for better or probably for worse actually, I wasn't really paying attention to structure. It was actually a lot of fun, it just turned out to be something that probably could never be shot.
FI: You said that you've written a project each for Disney and Universal, as well as having sold a show to Syfy - what kind of genres and ranges do you work in? And do you have any preferences?
JG: The project for Disney is Untitled but it is in a Hawaiian adventure movie and it's basically an Indiana Jones for the family, set around mythology, so it's broad comedy action, sort of world building.
The Universal was a little bit more grounded, it was based on the TV show 'It Takes a Theif' and that was just a sort of, big action-y movie.
The Syfy show was sort of like an updated take on that old show 'Greatest American Hero' except a little more grounded, but it was sort of scifi action.
I guess in terms of genres, that's sort of always been the constant. I've done literally everything with a word before action! Romantic comedy action, dark thriller action, scifi action. One common component is action!
FI: You've had some great support along the way - just how crucial is that to the emerging screenwriter? Some go at it alone and some have family or friends to help prop them up; is it a make or break factor?
JG: I have had some great support along the way and you do need that because it's crucial. This is a brutal, unforgiving town, that no one really cares about you. When you really start getting support is when you probably really need it the least! So having some friends, family to support you is important.
My own wife, when I was writing my first real spec script, I got fired from my job, so I was making no money and she read half my script and said "I think you're going to sell this, I believe in you, so I'll pay the bills, you just keep writing!" and it ended up selling, so something like that is just vital.
FI: As a writer, sometimes you work on rewrites; how hard is it to approach material from another writer and attempt to morph it into what's needed? Do you follow certain notes that people want to emphasise or do you try and attach your own voice in a rewrite?
JG: It is hard, a lot of times when you get sent a rewrite it is because it is a train wreck, it's just a horrible mess. So a lot of times your pitch may be, I'm just going toss this in the garbage and start fresh. I've done that a number of times. But every now and then you'll get a good one, where you can sort of tell where they are going and where the mistakes are. I haven't really had a big problem with that. It's sort of fun when a lot of it's working and you can fill in the gaps. Really it's just matching the voice and you're just trying to make it work, not worrying about what they wrote or what you wrote but just trying to please the studio.
In terms of attaching your own voice, I think it's sort of unavoidable! People just have a natural style, I think, unless it's something very specific.
FI: In terms of rewrites; we've all seen horrible lines of movie dialogue or entire films at one point or another and thought; "I could do better". Do you believe that the rewriting process adds to, or even defines this effect as writers attempt to take the story in their own way with each rewrite?
JG: The rewriting process can add to it, I've seen it add to it and hopefully I feel that I have in a lot of cases. But there's also a weird mentality out here, where they are just churning and burning writers and then it really becomes a mess. The longer something stays in development and the more rewrites its had, the more time the executive and the producer put in on it, so their brains are scrambled. By the time you get to it, if you're the fourth or fifth writer in, it's a big giant mess, so getting anything to work, even if you have something similar to a road they have gone down, they don't want to do it. It can be a real bad experience at times!
So everyone, that is the end of Part one of Joe's interview! Make sure to check back in a few days when the second half will be posted! Thank you again to Joe.
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