1. What inspired you to write Starfish?
We were in pre-production on another feature film that wasn’t working for the budget we had, when my best friend died to cancer. I was going through a divorce at the time and this was the tipping point for me, so I hid myself away in a cabin in the Colorado mountains and wrote the first draft of ‘Starfish’. Not intending it to become a film, just to be a cathartic exercise.
2. How long did it take you to write the first draft of Starfish?
I tend to gestate for a long time and then when I write - it goes very quickly. The first draft took about a week. But I like to go somewhere remote, with little to no internet or phone reception. I just watch movies, play an immersive video game and write. But the first draft of ‘Starfish’ was fairly easy to do as I wasn’t really thinking of it becoming a movie.
3. What was your writing schedule when you wrote Starfish?
I never give myself a writing schedule, not when I’m at the creative stage, at least. I’ve always tended to find myself more creative late at night - knowing the world is quiet around me. So by secluding myself in a cabin in the mountains or something similar - it helps me be creative in the daytime as well. Just the sense of isolation and no distractions.
4. What’s the best advice you have ever received about writing?
Honestly, just learning to actually listen to the cliches. Someone once told me to always write about yourself and let that be the core of any story. Then the layers of storytelling go on top of that. And I couldn’t agree more - everything has to come from a truth. And the only thing you’re an expert in - is your own life. So use it and it’s details.
The other cliche is - Don’t let any chapter/scene stop you. If you hit a block in a scene then skip it. Write the things you know and are excited about. Come back for the rest.
So long as you’re planning some structure ahead and so long as you’re obviously coming back to refine and rewrite - then this is never a negative thing.
5. In one word how would you sum up Starfish?
6. What is your favorite line from any movie?
Oh that’s an impossible task! But some of my favourites recently were in ‘Phantom Thread’ including;
“I think it’s the expectations and assumptions of others that cause heartache.”
And; “There is an air of quiet death in this house and I do not like the way it smells.”
7. How did you know you wanted to become a screenwriter/director?
In all honesty, I’ve wanted to be a filmmaker since I could first speak. I’m not sure what instigated it initially. But film (and everything it encompasses; writing, music, photography, acting) has always been the only thing I wanted to do.
8. What piece of advice do you have for screenwriters starting out?
Don’t worry about writing a screenplay. Write a story. Personally I hate screenplays. They’re cold, analytic tools. Necessary, but not friends to flowing creativity.
My personal process is a series of steps that ends with me essentially writing an abbreviated novel.
Only once I’m happy with my writing do I take this and rewrite it in Final Draft. And it’s just a job at that point. The creativity part is done. I’m just turning it into a useable script.
Don’t let the mechanisms of it being a screenplay stop you from writing your story.
9. In what ways do you set yourself apart from others as a director?
I think in this day and age you have to be aware that there’s always someone quicker, someone younger, someone smarter, someone more technically adept, someone braver and more talented than you.
But there’s only one You. So much like with writing - as a director I just try to bring as much of myself to a project as possible.
You have to have a clear vision but then also be ready and excited to embrace the things that go wrong during a shoot. Turning what could be a negative into a positive.
10. If a self-published author is seeking a screenwriter, how would one get you or any experience screenwriter to read his or her story to see if it would make a compelling movie?
I certainly can’t speak to more accomplished screenwriters/filmmakers. But for me personally - I’d take a look at anything I’m sent if I can tell two things -
Firstly; that the person who sent it is passionate about what they wrote. That doesn’t mean a two page e-mail. Keeping it short is always ideal. But just something that shows that what they wrote means something to them.
Secondly; I would want to know that they’ve actually researched me and watched/read some of my work. So I know that they’re reaching out to me because we may connect in some genuine way. And not just because they’re sending an e-mail out to dozens of creators. You’d be surprised how many people (normally actors) contact me, and they’ve clearly never even seen my work.
11. What would it take for you personally to be interested in turning a self-published story into a movie?
A story that I connect with. And I feel that’s probably the truth for most directors. Which is as nebulous and unpredictable as it sounds.
12. When inspiration is waning, when you feel creatively sapped, what do you do? How do you stay fresh?
Well sadly I tend to wade a lot through inactivity and days can just bleed by. But the times when I’m on top of things - it’s another cliche, but you can’t underestimate the power of going outside and taking a walk or a jog.
Breathing real air. Getting some exercise. You get oxygen to your brain and you have time to think and get away from your normal surroundings. And you can come back feeling more confident in body and soul.
13. Do you recall the very first short film you ever did? What lessons did you learned from it?
I did a lot of short films growing up, but without understanding the process. Even in film school, I don’t think I listened enough. I’d say my first public short film (‘Beneath’) was my first real short.
And the most important thing I purposefully learnt from it was - I did as many jobs as was humanly possible on it. We shot with just 4 on crew and 2 in the cast. I did all the camera work. The producing. In post I did the score. The editing. The sound design. I attempted a grade before passing it on to professionals.
But I tried to do everything. Because I think it’s very important that a director understands just how hard (and important) every single persons job is.
I don’t allow the actors to be called ‘Talent’ on my sets. As if they are called ‘talent’ then so should every other person on the crew be.
14. What is your favorite movie when you were a teenager? What is your favorite movie now?
‘Se7en’ and ‘Buffalo ’66’. And probably the same. I’m an obsessive list maker, so I have lots of ‘Best Of’ lists.
15. If you were to create a slogan for your life, what would it be?
‘IF’. It’s the only tattoo I’d consider getting. My mum used to read me Rudyard Kipling’s ‘IF’ poem every night when I was a kid. It even features briefly in ‘Starfish’.
But I think the most important trait is empathy.
16. Last question, would you rather have a cat or a dog?
I’m 100% a crazy cat person.
My appreciation to Mr. Al White for answering those questions. I hope you check out Star Fish when you can. You can definitely get the Digital copy or VOD starting May 28 of this year. By purchasing the film you are supporting a great cause(Cancer Research). Thank you my fellow readers for stopping by here. Come again soon as I'll be posting more interviews in the near future. Take care and have a great day.