Ep 28 – Directing & Writing Dave Made a Maze

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Intro: All right, welcome to the successful screenwriter podcast, where we are dedicated to anything and everything screenwriting. Here, we interview successful screenwriters and filmmakers to discover just what it takes to make it in the industry.

Geoffrey: We have, man, such an awesome guest today. Mr.

Bill Waterson, the writer, director of the amazing film. Dave made Maze bill. Thanks for being out this.

Bill: Ah, it’s my pleasure.

Geoffrey: It’s my pleasure. So we’re gonna kind of break into this film a little bit., I’ve watched it a few times and I was like, I gotta get this guy. This is probably one of the most original films I’ve ever seen.

I’m not easy to impress being a screenwriter and, having been in this business for a while. And when I saw something like that, gotta get ’em. So the fact that you’re willing to come on, thank you so much. I do wanna get into a little bit of your origin story. Like, like where do you come from? How did you get interested in screenwriting?

Bill: When I was very young my neighbor, John Richards, and I had access to my father’s VHS. Camera. Okay. Where you had the tape in the, you know, you carried the oh yeah. Old school. She made the tape. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. The idea of editing software was, was totally foreign to us. So it was just cutting in camera with the, and always getting, getting it wrong, thinking we were recording what we weren’t and we made a whole bunch of, we made a, we made Three.

Cool. We made alien invasion, alien invasion, two and alien invasion, three, all lobbying fireworks at our GI Joe figures and stuff like that. That’s awesome. And it seemed, it seems like that would be the straight path to becoming a filmmaker, but I it’s not at all. I’m only now remembering that I even did that.

It I don’t know if it was just growing up in Ohio or just sort of my own mentality. Yeah. It just didn’t occur to me that people made, even though we were making our own movies, it didn’t occur to me that people made movies. It was a very long time before film got on my radar and I actually ended up going into rock and roll.

I was playing in bands in college. Oh, okay. Moved to Dublin Ireland. Oh, wow. Just to, just to go on an adventure post college, you know? Yeah. Even then that’s when I actually got into film, but [00:02:00] it didn’t occur to me. It was something I could do. I, I dabbled in acting a little bit while I was there, but I was mainly a rocker, but they had the Irish film center in Dublin and I was alone in this country.

So I was going there all, it was one of the hip bars too, but I was going there all the time for like how Heartly retrospective. Yeah. You know, in the nineties, like they were already doing respectives of Hal Hartley in like 1998. You know, I was homesick, so movies like magnificent seven, which, you know, obviously is a classic.

Yeah, it’s a classic. It’s also a Carala rip off, but oh yeah, of course.

Geoffrey: Yeah. It’s the same

Bill: Ray film. right. But this sweeping majesty of the, of the planes of America, some of those, you know, even, even forest Gump got to me just because it was, you saw America coast to coast and I was homesick in Cleveland.

Originally moved back to Cleveland. After four years in Dublin, played in rock and roll bands, started getting into like making music videos and stuff like that. Worked with a friend on a music video and worked on editing it a little bit with another friend. And that’s when you start seeing like[00:03:00]

bands implode one after another . Right. They just, they break up , you know, Charles gro and at midnight run, these things go down it just, it just was too daunting. So I moved to LA. It just drove out like days after I made the decision an apartment in Hollywood and was still really lost as to what I was gonna do, but really missed the performance aspect of music that took me to improv and auditioning.

Gotcha. I was booking commercials and getting some gigs here and there. That’s awesome. Which then takes you into you. I was studying at second city and they did a really good job of having you understand the beats of scenes and how the dominoes fall into each other so that you get it in your bones so that when you’re improvising, it’s not random your story constructing, you know, on the fly.

And I found that really interesting. And then all the subtext that like one of the acting. Exercises was learning the subtext of lines. Very good. And, and delivering the line. [00:04:00] But, but as if it were the subtext and then you can retrofit that as the writer really in a really interesting way. And sometimes when I’m stuck, I’ll just write out the subtext in my first draft.

That’s an interesting

Geoffrey: approach, cuz I think, you know, usually you try and fit the subtext in like four or five, six later. Right? I think writing it down at first, that’s a very interesting experiment. I’m actually try, try that out. Yeah.

Bill: Sometimes if I’m stuck, I mainly use it. If I’m stuck. I’m like they’re in this room, what are they saying to each other?

you know, and I’m like, well, he needs this, she needs this, but she says this, but she means this. And I just write out the subtext. I love it. And then, you know, and then build it back to yeah. A conversation that’s cool. It can, can be really helpful. And also if, if I’m writing to direct. Obviously it’s good for me to know what the subject is so that I can talk to the actor about it. If it’s not popping

Geoffrey: on camera. I wish every director said that. So, so where was the birth of Dave made? Well, that’s

Bill: Steven Sears. The, the co-writer, he was the primary writer in that script, right? He and I were friends at second city [00:05:00] and I was producing and directing a live Bo bill comedy variety show.

Okay. Very, very Muppet show. And in, in directing that. Started seeing the macro and the micro at the same time, I had done some web series with our producer, John Charles Meyer. We acted in a web series that I, I directed really. I was acting in it and my friend who had a really nice camera, pretty much directed it.

Okay. The DP basically directed it as I realized more and more. But then in the editing of those web series, I was learning editing. I was like, oh, I don’t need those four lines of dialogue if he’s looking at her like that. Yeah. I don’t need those four lines of dialogue. And that really helps. It it’s how, you know, you’re a director when you’re willing to throw a bunch of shout.

Yeah. Okay. But it also really helped as a writer, too, you know, again, my ear early drafts are always fat, but well,

Geoffrey: that’s, that’s, that’s every

Bill: draft, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah. But but that, some of that stuff came in really handy where it’s like, oh, maybe, maybe they don’t need to talk their way through all of this.

Yeah. Like my earliest stuff is so talky almost Tarantino, [00:06:00] just like not,

Geoffrey: never shut up. Everybody says their feelings, then you have to kind of figure that out, cut it out and, and, and make sure you leave room for the actors to, to be able to find that voice. So did, did he come to you with a concept? Did he already have a draft and then you guys worked a together draft.

Okay. He had,

Bill: and, and it was, it’s weird how it came about. He had a draft of something else. Okay. That, that if I remember correctly got affected by a story that I had told about my childhood, same kid that I used to make the movies. We built a Fort in my bedroom, like pillows and yeah. And blankets. This is amazing Fort like, like


Bill: epic Fort.

Yeah, the whole bedroom. Like the, you couldn’t see the floor at all. It was all, you just crawl through the that’s awesome. It was awesome. Yeah. And we were gonna his house for dinner and I left a note for my mom. I’ll be at John’s. He lives a block away. She comes home. Doesn’t see, the note goes upstairs is calling bill, where are you?

Opens the door, sees the fantasy world that we’ve built. That’s awesome. And immediately assumes that I’m lost somewhere within it and just starts tearing it apart. Like, [00:07:00] ah, bill, where are you before? She’s like, wait a minute. This is crazy and that concept of you’re in your own room, and yet, somehow someone standing totally lost way can’t find you, you know?

Yeah. I, I, I think if I recall correctly, that really fascinated Steve. So he took the script that he already had, which had had all many of the elements that are in Dave made. And sort of made it about that. Yeah. And it was also, it, this is really telling he was, he had a job that he hated logging tapes for reality TV.

Okay. So the James Raban act character, all of those off camera. Incessant prompts that are just like forcing reality on people who are already being real, you know all of that was coming outta that frustration and, and that’s for that whole camera crew

Geoffrey: idea. Oh my God. That’s such a great aspect of, yeah.

Yeah. As soon as I saw. That I’m, you know, spoilers guys, but you need to watch this movie. It’s a 3, 3, 4 year old movie. Yeah. When, when when, when the documentary crew goes in there and then he’s [00:08:00] giving him direction. Okay. Can we do another take in that? I was just dying. It’s absolutely hysterical.

Bill: It does it grounds it.

I love childlike. Wonder. Yeah. So

Geoffrey: shut up. And then, and my kid, he watched it with me and he kept going. He goes, dad, the, the, the boom, guy’s always on point. He’s always got the mic. He’s always trying to get the angle. Absolutely hilarious. And then, and then the camera man is just sitting there. Just always.

Always taping, not helping anybody when they’re in danger. Right? It’s absolute it’s including himself. yeah. Including himself. Yeah. Absolute brilliant writing. And

Bill: so what, and those two guys are second city friends, Scott. And are they, are they? Yeah, Scott and Frank, Frank was one of our teachers. Scott was in a.

Improv group. We did a two man group, but Scott and, and Steve were, and I believe are in a group that, you know, just, oh man, may are sharp.

Geoffrey: Did a hell of a job.

Bill: Well, I gotta tell you. Yeah, so he, he had this, he had this draft and my friend, John, that I made the web series with, who was the lead singer in my high school band.

He wanted to produce it. And [00:09:00] Steve was like, bill, I think you should direct it. Cause we’ve been doing the VO bill show and all this stuff. So then we just started tag. We were working. Laptop to laptop shaping, shaping the script to where we wanted it to be until while we were fundraising, which took, took

Geoffrey: forever.

Yeah. That’s what I wanted to ask you. Cuz you shot this in a studio, right?

Bill: Yeah. We shot it in a single sound staging Glendale, the

Geoffrey: whole thing. Yeah. So was it all crowdfunding or was it, was it

Bill: more, no, we talked about it. The only effective crowdfunding video I could come up with. We couldn’t use cuz it had, you know, a rip reel of all the stuff you’d expect.

Okay. Andre lab set to dance, magic dance even use the,

of our production team were from robot chicken. So we had clips of robot chicken and stuff like that. But you can’t use that in a crowd sourcing video. You have to use stuff you own. Yeah. And the whole point was selling point of the movie is the tactile nature of all the practical effects. Yeah. But we can’t make [00:10:00] them.

For free just to shoot them, to show you, we can make them, or I can’t, you know, I know, I know that’s what a lot of makers do with their own materials, but I’m, I’m a director. I’m not a builder, you know? Right, right. So, but we made a video like that anyway, just to use as a private link on our website and that, that got us some investors, but it was all, it was all independently financed, equity, equity investors but not, not

Geoffrey: crowdsourced.

The theme of the film itself is, is beautiful as consistent, which I love. It’s not overly hammered into the audience. You know, so theme is important. You’ll see a lot of films that have a weak theme. This doesn’t, this is about. Trying to finish something that you’ve started, especially if you’ve you’ve had something.

Not actually get done if you failed several times or if you put things off because you’re worried that they won’t be successful. And to me, it just felt like this is an allegory for screenwriting. This is an allegory for filmmaking. And I’m just curious, how [00:11:00] deliberate was that done in the process?

Bill: Yeah.

Hundred percent. If, if anything, I would say that would be my strength as a director. And certainly the strength I brought to the screenplay was theme. I mean, I had read Sidney lats making movies, and he, as a director, he defines all of his definitions through theme. Like, if someone’s asking you a question, he thinks all, all, what’s the theme of my movie.

And I’ll I’ll know the answer to the question. Yes. Even if it’s wardrobe saying these jeans or these jeans, it’s like, hang. Yeah, what is my theme? And that literally happened with wardrobe. like, I went, I went through a, what is my theme thought? And, and it, and it, and it answered the question for me. Interesting.

But yeah, so that was very deliberate. You know, it was very much a metaphor for the creative process in general. And a lot of people brought things to it. What, what kept happening in pre-production was we’d get the script to somebody we wanted to work with and they’d show up and go. So you you guys wrote a movie about me and that happened like a dozen times [00:12:00] because anybody who’s trying to make something that’s a good theme.

I knows how hard it is to make something, you know, no matter what it is, like, obviously all the, all. Tactile artists who came and worked in our art department. They’re all, they’re all creators, they’re all makers. They all generate something out of nothing. Yeah. And they know how hard it is. And the more ambitious it is, the harder it is, you know, Nick Fone the lead.

Yep. He was like my friend and I have this documentary we’ve been working on since we were in high school and we’re never gonna finish it. And we really wanna finish it and we’re never gonna finish it. yeah. Yeah. And it was like, welcome, welcome some

Geoffrey: my people. Yes, no, I get it because you know, I, I talk about that, like creating a theme and being able to hit kind of those human truths is really how you can make a, a script or in your, in instance, a film.

Really hit that wide audience. And I think you’ve done it with this. It does this, this film speaks to anybody who’s ever tried to do anything. I think so. I

Bill: mean, we talked about like, it does it, [00:13:00] obviously the people who are artists, many artists have responded very directly to it, but it’s also like. I really clean the

I got two kids or whatever

over before production. Oh, didn’t didn’t have, we didn’t have Rick Overton until the day before he shot. We didn’t. We shot on a Monday and on Friday I got Adam Bush. On Saturday, I got

Geoffrey: Stephanie Allen was this because was this because you were having a difficulty finding people, actors or talent that could really absorb who the character was?

Bill: We were just having trouble getting a meaningful. Yes. Okay. From anybody you know, we were having trouble getting past lawyers, agents, and managers, even though I think

Geoffrey: it’s, I think it’s well casted. I mean, oh,

Bill: thanks. Yeah, we didn’t have any, we didn’t, everything was off only. We didn’t have a single casting session and we didn’t have, [00:14:00] wow.

That’s we didn’t have a single table read. We didn’t have a day of rehearsal. I met Nick. Not expect. I met Nick like two weeks before. Cause he came to the build space to, to be like, who are these

Geoffrey: guys? Yeah. And his and his career is doing well.

Bill: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, everything was off offer only. It was either someone we knew personally wow.

That we knew we could trust or we knew was at a, a. A certain level that would sort of maybe help with the profile of the film. Yeah. I mean, cause everybody like Steve knew John Morrison. Okay. Scott is a friend of Steve Scott and Frank the boom up and camera. Those are friends. Yeah. They’re friends with Rick Overton.

Our producer knew Kristen bangs nest. I had worked with Adam Bush and, and Scott Cripe before this is why you network . It was like, I mean, there were some people that came that we, that I target, like I wanted. I wanted James. And then my casting director den brought Stephanie and, and mirror to my attention.

And as soon as I saw them, I was

Geoffrey: like, of course, yeah, great chemistry, you know? Yeah. I mean, you could see it on screen, which is man that’s high risk, especially if you don’t have like any kind of an audition

Bill: going. I met [00:15:00] James in, he, he was onset in his. When I met him, I’d never met him before. I’d never spoken to him before.

Wow. I mean, he’s James Orban. Cause he’s American gold. Like there’s nothing to worry about. Yeah. The only thing to worry about was the fact that I was such a huge fan that I completely freaked out when I . Yeah. Like he walked on set that first day and I was like, I don’t even, I’m completely pretending to be a director and I have to pretend I’m not freaked out that

Geoffrey: James Antioch is.

Yeah. Well, he probably got a kick out of that part though. That’s a cool part. Oh, he, yeah,

Bill: he crushed it. He had happened. He had ideas for days even. And this is, I’ve told this story before, but a friend of mine got me the little, a little view finder. Yeah. Selections. Cause that’s still the, the technical aspect of filmmaking.

The DP side is still. A huge blind spot for me. And which is why I hire great DPS. I, I hire for weaknesses, but I, I also still wanna be able to contribute and speak their language. So, yeah. And the first he, he was in his wardrobe test the first day of the filming and I had the thing around my neck and, and, or in my pocket head in my pocket.

And he is like, you don’t, what would be [00:16:00] great is if I had one of. Few finders I was like, man, what? I love that it’s perfect. Cause there’s always, there’s great footage of him just doing. Yeah. Yeah.

He wanted it. He wanted, he wanted.

Geoffrey: Interaction. That’s that’s pretty great. And, and then you guys even roll that into the scenes where there are the paper bags, he had the little view finder too, like a little, make sure we got the little cute detail. Yeah. That’s great stuff. What about the writing process?

Where, where you were creating this script or going through multiple drafts, did you run into difficulty? Did you ever hit that wall where you’re like, I don’t know where we’re gonna.

Bill: A lot of times, a lot of times, I mean, Steve and I had a lot of fun, so we could, and we were both improvised improvisers.

Okay. So when a lot of times when we got stuck, we would just improvise the scene. Oh,

Geoffrey: interesting. Okay. And,

Bill: and you know, a lot of that stuff didn’t end up in the script cuz it got us to where we needed to go. Yeah. [00:17:00] And some of it did, like I never expected when we first did the whole. Rhyming riff back

Geoffrey: and forth.

Oh yeah, that was, that’s a great part.

Bill: I, I can’t remember it offhand, but we improvised that, cracking ourselves up in my apartment and we’re like, well, that’ll never, that’ll never make it on screen, but let’s put it in. And then it did it, they, and they crushed it and it was super fun. Yeah. So that helped that, that was, that was the way we got out of it.

Sometimes I had to, you know, we weren’t always in agreement there sometimes there were, there were really good jokes that I was like, It’s it’s a joke. It’s not, it’s not organic to the moment. It’s a joke. Yeah, exactly.

Geoffrey: You know, and he’s like, is it adding to the story or not? Yeah.

Bill: You know, and of course he wanted to be funny and it was a great joke cuz he’s a hilarious guy.

But you know, so sometimes some, you know, at a certain point as the director, I had to sort of be like, I I have to own this now. Yeah. But the one, the one part where I remember I actually drove out to like, took like 40 minutes away to some college campus to sit in a library. Cause I was like, I [00:18:00] cannot figure this part of the movie out driving me crazy.

And it was it’s my favorite part of the movie. It’s not everybody’s favorite part of the movie, but it’s mine. Okay. It’s when the, the, the couple are caught in the loop of their relationship. Oh, I love.

Geoffrey: I really love. That’s a solid, that’s a solid scene.

Bill: That’s my FA that’s my favorite. That’s the most, that’s the most in control.

I was on set in terms of knowing exactly what I wanted each set up to be, how to play the practical gags and the magic yeah. Of the costumes appearing and disappearing. And even stuff like frame, I’m like, okay, they’re not getting along. So they’re not sharing the frame at the top, but as they start to communicate, we’re getting dirty over the shoulders.

So that they’re actually connecting in, in, in, within the frame, they’re literally connected. And then, and then we’re in closeup by the end because they’ve fully realized they see each other in a way they haven’t. It was great.

Geoffrey: And, and you did that with the dialogue as.

Bill: Yeah. And that wasn’t the dialogue like Steve, Steve had Steve had this interest, the costume thing.

I think he had the, the, the walls changing. [00:19:00] Maybe I’m not

Geoffrey: sure. Yeah. The walls, the, the, it became more cardboard as the scene progressed. Yeah.

Bill: But it didn’t loop in that way. And I was trying to figure that scene. I was like, I knew there was magic here, but I didn’t know what it was. Yeah. And then I was thinking of those old hell Hartley.

Gags where he would, it’s a gag. I, I call it a gag. It’s so much more than that, but he would, the characters would swap dialogue. Yeah. That’s exactly it. Like, they, they would just, I would literally say what you had just said except had a totally different meaning now mm-hmm and you were like, wait a minute, I’m in this weird loop and I’m hearing the same words, but they have totally different meaning.

And I was like, that’s what this

Geoffrey: needs to be. It was perfect. I mean, it was, it was avant garde in its approach and done wrong. Would’ve stuck out like a sore. And the tone that you’re going for this, for this film, but it, it was just, it was a perfect way to bring the two characters together and to resolve their conflict that they’re having.

It was awesome,

Bill: man. Yeah. Oh, thank you. For, for me it was like, yeah, that was the emotional climax before the physical climax moments later. Yeah. But that’s where the themes in the [00:20:00] thinking about the theme came, came in Andy so much, cuz it’s like, I mean, I can hyperly the scene, but it’s like. Steve had these costumes, but he wasn’t even sure why or what they were.

So then I was like, all right, what these, what is happening is these are the projections. These are the things we worry about in ourselves or we project on. Yeah.

Geoffrey: It’s

Bill: the subtext. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So it’s like, you’re a bum you’re so, so that, that’s when I sort of figure out what are these costumes?

They can’t be random. They have to matter. So you’re a bum you’re, you’re a artist. You’re a clown, like all consulting things, judge. Yeah. Yeah. You’re the woman is judgmental. She’s too beautiful and unattainable. Yep. They’re in, they’re in tuxedo and wedding gown, because if you’re a couple, why aren’t you married?

You know, like all those. Aggravating projections that we either do to ourselves or society does to it. It’s a

Geoffrey: great scene that could be broken down and really taught. Like, this is how you can do subtext. This is how you can do visual subtext.

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Geoffrey: to our show. It’s great filmmaking. Very

Bill: well done. Oh, thank you. And then the walls, of course. Yeah. Becoming more cardboard is like the facade.

Falling apart you know, they’re ripping the costumes off each other to get back to their true selves. The facade of, you know, the, the mazes attempt to fool them is failing. And that’s why the maze is flailing. And the maze knows if they’re in love, the maze doesn’t have a chance. Yep. So it’s doing everything it can to get between them.

And they’re just getting closer and closer together. Very good with closeups, you know, basically. That’s so awesome. So, yeah, so that was this scene I really took ownership of. And that was when I was really stuck on for a long time. Cause I knew Steve had magic, magical clay on the wheel, but it wasn’t, [00:22:00] it wasn’t all adding up.

Yeah. In, in, in, in the way that I thought it needed to, or could, it felt like an opportunity to do something yeah. Special. And I think that’s on a, on a, on a step back way. I think moments like that are what are, why being a director and a, and a screenwriter become. It can be very powerful. Yeah. Because like I noticed someone would be building something because it was in the script and I’d be like, oh, I mean, it was just this thing in the script.

I didn’t mean if we have to sit there and actually build it, you know? And then you’re like, oh God. . Yeah. So everything I put in my script better matter. Yep. Everything is an opportunity either for narrative or world building or something, you know, or just for a department head to read your script and go, I want in that, I wanna make that thing.

So that made me a lot more conscious about like, Not only just everything matters. Everything you put on there matters

Geoffrey: if you put in a giant cardboard keyboard. [00:23:00] Yeah. That’s gotta get made.

Bill: right. Exactly. Exactly. So don’t be flipping, you know? Yeah. And then as a director, of course, if I’m pointing the camera at something, it’s cuz I’m telling you this is important.

Yeah. You know? So it’s when you combine the, the, the director’s mind with the writer’s mind to try to write a script that is. I mean, it’s like, Jen, it’s like, everything is there for a reason. And, and it’ll, it’ll fall apart. If it doesn’t have this thing, because it pays off or it’s thematically relevant or it’s character relevant or it’s narratively or thematically driven.

Yeah. You know, just, it just all has to matter. Otherwise you’re wasting someone’s time.

Geoffrey: No, I absolutely agree. And when I’m working with students, I’m always telling them every line counts. Every line. Doesn’t matter if it’s dialogue, doesn’t matter if it’s descriptive action, every line counts, you can’t have throw away anything.

Yeah. Yeah, I totally

Bill: agree. And I’ve tried a lot of, a lot of really highly praised TV series particular. They spend a lot of time treading water and it’s in incre for me, it’s incredibly aggravating cuz it’s exactly what I spend. All of [00:24:00] my energy, my work energy avoiding like yeah. If I feel like I’m treading water at all, it’s like, All right.

Well then they, this has to be set somewhere interesting or they have to be doing something while this is happening. It has to be advancing. I have to either be learning something about the character, advancing the plot. Building the world or, or hammering you with a theme visually or something. I, I just, I never want to tread water.

And then I watch these scenes where I’m like, we’re five minutes in and I Haven none of those

Geoffrey: things happen. That’s interesting. You say that. Cuz I find with the higher concept shows with the bigger budgets, they tread more water. Yes, but if you have a lower budget show, that’s more character centric like shows in the UK.

They don’t, they put in, they, they stuff their scripts. Oh my God. They stuff their scripts with so much content. I’m watching a show. I’m watch. I was watching the British version of utopia. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. I didn’t know that I, no. So, so Amazon made utopia, they made the, you know, Amazon version, but there’s a British [00:25:00] version of utopia.

It’s two seasons. And I, and I watched got my wife, hooked her into it. And, but watching one episode of like 50 minutes, they cram so much into it. I was like, how many, what episode are we on? We’re on episode one. Are you kidding me? It’s so good. So I say, give, watch. It’s it’s so

Bill: tight. I, I was watching dairy girls, the Irish, something.

I love that the Irish come it’s like solid. I can’t sneeze or I’m gonna miss four jokes. Like they are moving almost like Rick and Morty pace of like, yeah, don’t Bo get to the chorus. We got stuff to do. Let’s keep going. you know, and I’m just, I’m amazed by, and I totally agree that even I’m watching some Norwegian shows now, I, I think a lot of the European shows just part like foreigners.

I love, I love on them. Yeah. HBO, max, I just think a lot of. A lot of the European shows they’re just better at they’re better at television than we are

Geoffrey: they’re so I, I think it’s cuz they don’t have the, they don’t have the budget, so they, they can’t waste on spectacle. They have to get into character.

They have to get [00:26:00] into structure. Like those Norwegian thrillers are so good. Yeah.

Bill: Yeah. Yeah. I’m really, if you get a chance, foreigners on HBO, max is a lot of fun. It’s a big metaphor for immigration

Geoffrey: using. All right. I’m gonna look into it.

Bill: Time travel. It’s real. It’s but it’s also a mystery. It’s also a cop cop mystery.

It’s it’s

Geoffrey: cool. Are there dinosaurs? I mean, how far are we going with this? Not yet.

Bill: There are Vikings

and there are, I think there are. Caveman, but it’s interesting because like the camera will pan through Oslo, through a homes community. Yeah. And it’s all a bunch of Vikings who like never could assimilate because they popped up in this time and they, they, they just couldn’t assimilate. Yeah. You know, it’s like, it’s wonderful metaphor.

It sounds interesting. And culture is really

Geoffrey: cool before we kind hit on a few other things. Do you have any advice for upcoming writer, upcoming writer, directors

Bill: out there? Yeah. Don’t be lazy. All right. I won’t be lazy. You heard it. The number of people who’ve sent me a script that they’re super jazzed about where I’m like, this is a first draft.[00:27:00]

And they don’t realize it’s a first draft, the number of production companies who have brought me in to meet on a script. That’s not good. That they’re all super excited about. Yeah. Like don’t be lazy. Yeah. You better than that. Put the work in than that. Put the work in. Like, if I read your script and immediately at 15 fixes it’s cuz you didn’t do the work.

Oh. You know, that’s rough it’s cuz you didn’t do the work and I’m not talking about spelling errors. I don’t that’s that happens. That happens in my scripts that I’m talking about, like all the stuff we’ve been talking about. Yeah. Yeah. Getting to the point, being concise, having everything matter, knowing what you’re trying to say.

And, and these are things I I’m constantly learning. I think one of my biggest problems is, is not having. Having too many characters be in, in, in a version of my voice, as opposed to really finding, like when I find a voice for a character. Yeah. The work, the work takes care of

Geoffrey: itself. It takes several. That takes several drafts though.

I mean, I find it takes four or [00:28:00] five drafts before you start really getting a voice of a character,

Bill: Or finding like, oh, you know who? This is like I actually used, I used James. As, as a character that I was writing in, in a script because I, and I don’t know James well enough to speak for,

Geoffrey: but your interpretation.

Yeah. Yeah. Very. And it’s just like,

Bill: I always knew what to say. I knew what to have the guy say, I knew how he would react. That’s great. I, you know, I, and I also was, I was also infusing some hair in there. It’s like, The guy is sort of meta. He tends to comment on what’s what’s happening. But that, that character in particular is he finds genuine human connection, difficult.

So he more observes. It’s like, ah, the getting, so it’s like shut up. That’s know people that’ll cast their movie in their heads so that they can, you know, find, find that voice and find that rhythm. But everything matters. Everything, everything you put in your script matters. So if it’s not, if you’re not, if the scene isn’t crushing it.

And you know, it,

Geoffrey: fix it. Yeah. I love that. I always recommend at [00:29:00] least 12 drafts. Wow. Before you send it out to anybody. Yeah. I’m a little hardcore.

Bill: Wow. That’s pretty good. I, I outlined so thoroughly. I mean, my outlines can be 20 some pages where I like to do all. Oh yeah. Wow. Yeah. You know, and I, I, I was hugely influenced by those that video from the south park guys, always establishing causality.

The time I spent on my outline is just getting the dominoes to fall. So it’s just perfectly natural and, and makes sense. And another thing, here’s a, here’s two tricks. Sure. You’re talking about specific advice. Here’s two. I wanna hear it. The last movie I wrote, I wrote the third act first. Okay. Which is weird.

I mean, I knew, I knew what was started with the ending. Okay. Yeah. I started with the ending and then all of the specifics, like it, it was almost like , I’m trying to think of some ver like, I feel like someone’s, there’s a movie where someone is telling a story, then they remember something they’re like, oh no, wait, she has a knife.

And the actresses , it’s like that. We’re like I did, I had all of these details in the third act and I’m like, oh [00:30:00] gosh, well, if this is this guy, then I need to know. Yeah here. Or if this shows up and becomes the thing that saves her life, then it needs to be either thematically, metaphorically, or literally placed here.

So then I was able to go back and place all the things yeah. That paid off. And as opposed to like, just inventing them and being like, I don’t know, maybe it’s this. Maybe it’s like, oh, I, I knew what it needed to be. And then, so I found the logical. For it to show up earlier in the movie so that everything in the third act is paid off, as opposed to being introduced or invented.

Geoffrey: That’s a great trick, especially if you’re doing something like a thriller where you have to kind of do the evolution of the mystery. So you can start with the end and then work your away. Yeah. That’s

Bill: a fantastic tip. It was really, that was really stuck on that feature. So that’s what I did. And then the other thing that never occurred to me in a friend of mine Matt ward is great writer.

He gave me his, he gave me his advice and I, I did it like five times in this last script. If you’re stuck, if you enjoy doing [00:31:00] this, if you’re stuck on a scene, write it. Like I just go to Microsoft word and write it as a short story. Ah, interesting. Because sometimes the formality of the, and then this is definitely true because I was an actor, but sometimes the formality of a, of final draft or whatever you’re using Uhhuh has it, it, it can be really dry, but it also can be really intimidating.

Like when I see. Character, right. Dialogue. I’m thinking as an actor, I’ve gotta did it. I’m like, but that’s not this, this thing is a piece. This can’t be right. You know, but if you’re in Microsoft word and you’re just like brainstorming a short story, I don’t know, for some reason comes

Geoffrey: off, it sounds like a good way to like overcome writers actually did a blog on writer’s block and about how writer’s block can be like a form of a mini.

Panic attack. And so you’re in frontal cortex, creating, creating, creating you have this panic attack, your Magdala kicks in, which then shuts off the frontal cortex. So if you can get into Microsoft word, you take a moment, you breathe, and then you have this new kind of atmosphere you can play [00:32:00] around in. I could see why that would work for you.

Yeah. Oh, that’s a great idea.

Bill: And also you can also in a short story of format, a pros format, you can really dive into. Stuff you can’t do in a screenplay, which are the inner thoughts of your charact, inner thoughts. Yeah. Motivation. And then you’re like, oh, that’s what that character’s thinking. Okay, great.

Now that I’m in touch with that, now I can just think creatively and pleasantly about how

Geoffrey: do I show that? Take your time and

Bill: yeah. In, in the screen, in the screenplay, as opposed to wrestling with that in this really formal. Structure that right. It just, you know, sometimes you’re writing a final draft and you’re just like, I must be a writer because this is so terrible.

A first draft is it’s easier do, and it’s not. Thank you. Yeah, it’s not, it looks so final even if you know you’re yeah. Experimenting. It looks final. So in word, I, for every screenplay I have, I have like 20 to 35 word document. Oh, or I’ll I’ll ex that’s where I’ll dump character ideas. Maybe it’s this. And I can actually, and because I prefer writing with a partner, but I don’t often [00:33:00] write with a partner.

Jen love

Geoffrey: cowriting it’s. It’s awesome.

Bill: I have three features that I’m going out with now. All three, three different. Collaborator. I love collaborating, but people aren’t always available and sometimes you just gotta get your own work done. So I’ll, I’ll my Microsoft word documents are play all the conversations.

What if it’s this? No that’s lane. Wait, here’s a bad idea. What if he’s a, this, ah, no, he shouldn’t be that because of this, but, and they play out like a conversation I would have with the collaborator. Right. If I, if we were able to be in the same room and it. Always gets me to where I need to go. And then, and then I go over to final draft.

I’m like, okay, now I have, now I have the puzzle

Geoffrey: pieces. Yes. Well, every time you collaborate, you, you, you get better, right? Because you, you collaborate with somebody that they have strengths where you have weaknesses. Yeah. And then you, and then you just teach each other. And it’s a lot of fun if you’re collaborating with somebody and it’s not fun, , you’re

Bill: not doing it.

Right. so you get the wrong teammate. Yeah.

Geoffrey: I I’ve seen them because I’ve seen like, well, don’t tell my [00:34:00] partner, I did this. And like you’re, you’re scared of your screenwriting partner. wow. You need to find a new one. So no, that’s. That’s some gold though. Thank you. That’s really great advice. So what do you have going on?

I know you’ve, you’ve done some cool stuff. You’ve been in like video games, talking to a dude with his own, with his own action figure. So yeah. Yeah.

Bill: Jim Payton lost planet three. That was, that was a treat. I yeah, I’ve let’s see. I have direct. Three music videos since Dave made a may, two of ’em are out already and awesome feature puppets.

One is a Bollywood, all marionette, Bollywood dance music video. Wow. Featuring the marionettes for the Bob baker theater. And then one, one is a very handsome Dave ma a may ask. Okay. Travel, travel log, basically for we did for Greg Feldon super fun. And then I’ve got one coming out in January.

That’s gonna be a lot slicker, a lot different. Okay. For, for Braxton Moro. Who’s got an album coming out. I’ve done two, two pilot teasers, like three minute proof of concepts. Cool. One of them, one of them I can’t talk about, but the, that [00:35:00] show has been sold. I’m not, I’m not like attached. Oh, Hey, congratulations.

Oh, I’m not attached to it. So congrats. Go congrats. Go to them. But I’m proud of it. Very proud of. And the other is for my own show. And I got to work with the Jim Henson creature shop. Nice. Which obviously for someone who works with practical effects and puppetry was, was a dream come true, everything and more that I ever could have

Geoffrey: imagined, oh, I could have, I’d be like a kid in a Candyland.

Bill: I had to keep reminding myself I was the director because they would be showing me things that they’re like, so this is what we built. And then, and I just wanted to go, oh my God, it’s amazing. But I was like, wait, wait, wait, wait in the scene. The character does this thing. So it has to have a flexible knee sock, you know, like I had to, I had to remember I was the director and not just keep out And we’re going out with that property as a TV property.

We’re going out with that first quarter next year. That’s so awesome. So wish me luck on that. Very happy. Very happy. Oh yeah. Break your leg, man. And then yeah, I, I. I’ve got one feature I’m turning into a comic book just because we can’t really be on set the way we’d like, and right. Getting movies made is, is [00:36:00] impossible.

So, so I’m turning one into a comic book. It’ll be that first of all, it’s satisfying to just see it come to life. And secondly, it’s the preexisting IP that You know allays a lot of fears.

Geoffrey: Could it be like a limited series typographic novel or is it just gonna be like a one shot type of deal?

Bill: It was too thick for a, it was too much for a graphic novel and I did trim it down a lot.

Like I didn’t just hand the, the comic regardless feature script. I, I eliminated a couple characters combined, some things. But I, I think I’ve got it down to three to four issues. So we’re doing an issue one that ends. The BA basically ends on the act one cliff hanger. Okay. And it’s really fun. Dark.

I’m describing it as a midnight run as a, as a vampire movie. It’s super fun. Oh yeah. That’s interesting. Super fun. It’s got a lot of humor and stuff, but it’s also got the dark, dark heart that I love. And that’s, I think is in midnight run, but also is in a lot of junk comedy, like a dark comedy. Yeah. I mean, it’s.

It’s basically, it’s a vampire movie. That’s a metaphor for the death of manufacturing jobs in the us. So it’s interesting. The backdrop is very sad. The backdrop is, is [00:37:00] just, the frame is going to be full of vacant buildings and empty factories and rust and everything. But then within that world, we find this oil and water buddy comedy.

With the guys that are going up against the vampire. So it’s very good. It’s really fun. And it’s working great as a comic book. It looks gorgeous. Awesome. So that’ll be another, another fun, just, just something to have done, but also a piece to play another way to sort of, yeah. You know, it’s, it’s like, yeah, well, they won’t read a script.

They’ll look at a look book. Well, they won’t look at a look book. They’ll read a comic book. It’s like, you gotta get ’em to engage

Geoffrey: somehow entice them in. Absolutely.

Bill: And then I finished a feature based on a short story that I optioned. good. I just finished the first draft of that. It’s wildly ambitious ambulance style, magical fairytale. Oh wow. It’s realist. Fairytale. Yeah.

Geoffrey: Fun. Awesome. Well, I mean, I, I look forward to whatever you have coming out next. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share in your social media where you can tag us at the successful screenwriter.



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