Here is the synopsis to a superb, otherworldly film--directed by Jonathan Helpert--titled IO:
Sam (Margaret Qualley), one of the last survivors on a post-cataclysmic Earth, is a young scientist dedicated to finding a way for humans to adapt and survive, rather than abandon their world. But with the final shuttle scheduled to leave the planet for a distant colony, her determination to stay is rocked by the arrival of another survivor, Micah (Anthony Mackie). She must decide whether to journey with him to join the rest of humanity and begin life anew, or stay to fight for Earth's survival.
Co-writer Mr. Charles Spano has also worked on films such as Embers(available on iTunes, Amazon, and Netflix) with director Claire Carre and Bouncing Cats(available Amazon , iTunes, and Netflix) with director Nabil Elderk. So, here is the splendid interview with Mr. Charles Spano about his experience on Netflix's IO.
Could you express how you came to writing the screenplay of IO?
There was a children's sci-fi show called Star Stuff that I used to watch when I was a little kid in the early 80s. It only aired in the greater Philadelphia area, so I doubt that many people remember it. But it was about a boy on Earth who had a sort of pen pal who was a girl in space. I was only maybe five years old, but it had a profound effect on my young imagination and it stuck with me. That relationship of the two characters in that show inspired the idea that would become IO.
How was your experience co-writing IO with Clay Jeter and Will Basanta?
All screenwriting teams have different ways of working together. Clay and Will and I used to go on hikes in the Santa Monica Mountains and Angeles Crest and out on Mount Baldy - we called ourselves the Weekday Hiking Society, partially serious, but partially as a joke because we were content to be broke and living life climbing up a mountain and look down on Los Angeles and see all the people in their cars coming and going from work and meetings. On those hikes we would encounter abandoned radio towers, the ruins of buildings, and things like the Observatory on Mount Wilson. And it was walking through these places and imagining that we were on a future abandoned Earth that let us immerse ourselves in the world of IO. That's how we did our development - the mountains were our writer's room - we'd walk and talk about the characters and what they would be going through and how they would feel. Keeping a lot of mental notes and writing it all down later.
What was your writing habit when you wrote IO?
Usually writing pretty intensely for about 5 hours at a time. I wrote the first couple drafts in a mad dash. And then we were invited to the Sundance Screenwriters Lab and that began a long process of rewriting. From that point we traded countless drafts back and forth because during much of the actual writing I was in New York and Clay and Will were in Los Angeles. When Jonathan Helpert came on to direct, he brought a very strong vision to his interpretation of the material and he and I spent a lot of time talking about Sam and Micah, and their journeys.
What research did you do when writing IO?
Climate change, Greek mythology, bees, solar sails, long distance space travel, space stations, geosynchronous orbit, W.B. Yeats. Will was our expert on hot air balloons and gas balloons.
What was your reaction when you first watched the trailer of IO?
There is a strange feeling when you see the trailer of a movie you wrote because it exists in a way that it never has before. Even when you have seen cuts of the film the trailer somehow makes it real in a different way. I guess because it has been handed over to the audience and now it belongs to them.
What’s the best advice you have ever received about writing?
It's tough advice to hear, but I had an agent tell me that when a writer is ready for an agent, agents will contact you. I thought that was crazy. Then how are you supposed to have any hope of ever getting an agent? But it turned out to be true.
Oh and I remember reading an interview with Billy Bob Thornton after Sling Blade came out where he said just keep writing screenplays and by your eighth screenplay you will probably be good enough for it to get made. I think that also turned out to be true for me.
On a practical note, the best advice I can give about writing is what my wife and writing partner Claire Carré and I call Rule Number One: write it down. What I mean by that is any idea you have, any breakthrough in plot or thoughts about character - write them down right away! Ideas that seem like you'll never forget can be gone from your mind in days or even hours.
Do you recall the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, it was about a time traveling detective named Frank. I think I was in First Grade. At a young age I was very enamoured with a sort of 40s style. Fedoras and characters with hard boiled sounding names.
What’s your favorite line from IO?
I won't quote it directly, but there is a scene where Sam asks Micah what animals he saw when he was a boy. I find this moment touching because we are living in a reality where the future could very well be a world with no animals.
What writers inspired you to be a screenwriter?
When I was younger, I really sparked to Michael Tolkin's The Player, a film from his own novel directed by Robert Altman. In some ways it was also about being a screenwriter which seemed cool and enticing. And then it was all Paul Thomas Anderson, who I think has described himself as being a writer first and a director second. After that I wanted to write mad, fever dream screenplays like Werner Herzog, and scripts that felt like Milan Kundera and Don DeLillo novels.
For IO, obviously Tarkovsky was a big influence, but so was Jon Raymond who wrote Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy, and Meek's Cutoff for Kelly Reichardt.
Reprise by Joachim Trier and Eskil Vogt is a script that has had a lasting influence on my writing and I love Paul Schrader's screenplay for The Mosquito Coast. But, more recently I've been inspired by The Knick which was created by Jack Amiel and Michael Begler, Michael Hirst who created and wrote 89 episodes of Vikings, and Chris Cantwell and Chris Rogers and all the writers on Halt & Catch Fire who I think are responsible for some of the most moving screenwriting ever.
In your experience, what would you say it takes to be a successful screenwriter?
Just sticking it out. Try to be the last one standing. Because there is a lot of rejection in screenwriting and it will feel, maybe accurately, like everything is conspiring to make you give up. But if you stick it out long enough you will also find that you've written quite a few screenplays and that you've gotten better at it. The trick is that for every script you write you have to fully believe that it is definitely going to be made, while simultaneously accepting the reality that getting anything made into a movie is incredibly unlikely.
If a self-published author is seeking a screenwriter, how would one get you to read his or her story to see if it would make a compelling movie?
That's tricky. Because as working screenwriters we get sent a lot of material from our agents that we need to read, often quickly. Like, an entire series of 500 page novels for one pitch. And then if we've been lucky enough to sell a show and are staffing a writer's room, that means reading over a hundred sample pilots. And then after that we need to read our friends scripts and give them notes. So there is not a lot of reading time left. I think building up fan base for your self-published stories could lead to discovery because agents and studios are always on the search for material. But agents don't accept unsolicited material. With writers like me, you can find my email online and contact me directly, and there are plenty of writers you could DM. I'd say be polite, ask if they would consider reading your story and don't be surprised or insulted if they don't have time. The reality of it is that screenwriters have tons of our own stories we want to tell which are in the queue for us to write someday, so it is hard to displace those. I guess my best advice is if you think that your self-published story would make a great movie and you can't find a screenwriter interested in optioning it from you then write the screenplay yourself.
What would it take for you personally to be interested in translating a self-published story into a screenplay?
I'd personally have to be very captivated by the concept, because if I'm adapting a short story, I'm going to dimensionalize the characters myself, so it would really be about the concept being both exciting but also subjectively resonant to me. That or encountering a story so authentic in it's representation of an experience wholly foreign to me that it is unlike anything I've ever read. But I've read a lot of short stories and there are very few I would want to adapt as a screenplay.
What do you like best about yourself?
Ha, that's a funny question. I have a strong sense of principles and identity.
Last question, if you had to write yourself as a villain, what kind of villain would you be? What would you be named?
That's also a strange question. I do relate to the Magneto of Marvel's 2014-2015 Cullen Bunn run, who is trying to save mutants from persecution. The best villains believe they are doing the right thing.
When all's said and done, you would definitely miss something special if you don't give Netflix's IO a try. I would like to definitely thank Mr. Charles Spano for his time to reply my interview questions. Also, I would like to thank you, the reader, for reading this blog interview. Take care and I hope you have a happy day.