Thursday 11 April 2013

One year on... Brian McDonald

Brian McDonald is the author of Invisible Ink: A Practical Guide to Building Stories that Resonate, and The Golden Theme: How to make your writing appeal to the highest common denominator.
   He is an award winning screenwriter who has taught his craft at several major studios, including Pixar, Disney and Industrial Light & Magic. His award-winning short film White Face has been shown all over the USA.
   I had the privilege of interviewing him back in 2012. We recently caught up on Skype and I got to ask what he's been doing since.


•  What have you been doing over the last year?

I've been teaching, mostly, working at several places, and doing that Red Badge thing with Tom Skerritt.

Tom Skerritt makes it to the wedding in Ted (2012)

•  What's Red Badge all about?

The Red Badge Project was set up by Tom Skerritt and Evan Bailey to assist wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan—Wounded Warriors with post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury—recover through the process of storytelling. They find their way through the psychological healing process by learning how to tell their own stories. Tom, of course, is a well-known actor and Air Force veteran, while Evan is a former Army Captain.

Working with these vets has been fascinating, and I love doing tag-team teaching with Tom. I teach improv to these guys and sometimes Tom will jump in and do improv, which is very interesting. Working with the vets, and with Tom, has been a cool thing; there'll be more of that.

•  What else have you been up to?

I'm still writing the blog. Plus I published Ink Spots, of course. Thanks for the review. The book, which is a compilation of a series of blog posts—to get that in shape, to make it all work, the editing and cleaning it up—was harder than I expected.

•  What about your other writing?

I'm in the beginning stages of trying to get a film going that I'll direct. I've been trying to figure out how I'll do that. I went through a down stage after Django Unchained was announced; that was really hard for me. I thought my script Freeman was unique enough and personal enough that there wouldn't be a duplicate out there. I worked really hard on that for a long time. Then Django came along. That took the wind out of me, because it meant my script Freeman probably won't get made.

•  You don't think Django will open the door for films like Freeman, given it made money?

Some studios liked the script, but they wouldn't make it. I'm not quite famous enough for them to risk it. I have things I want to talk about, that they don't want to talk about.
   People are gun-shy. I expect they will make an exception of this; they'll say, "Well, that's Quentin," and close the door again. 
   I've heard these arguments before. I've been in rooms where the people said, "Oh, there's a movie like your movie; there's a movie coming out like your movie." There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the whole Hollywood thing. You think there would be, you think there's some kind of a logic, but it's like being through the Looking Glass. It doesn't make any sense.
    In a hundred years, Hollywood's made almost no films for theatrical release about slavery, almost none. They made Glory, but Glory doesn't have any slaves in it. There are soldiers fighting for the Union, but they aren't slaves any more.
   Lincoln is about the emancipation of slavery, but there are no slaves in that. Those films are rare because it is still a touchy subject here. Who knows, maybe things are changing, maybe it will turn around.
    I've spent years and years and years writing screenplays and not selling them. Freeman got a lot of attention and I thought something might happen, but nothing did. To see Tarantino's movie come out and do so well and be so highly praised, with people talking about what a great idea it was—I had the idea, or a similar idea. It really did throw me.

•  What have you got coming up in the next year?

I have a script I want to revisit. My agents decided they didn't want to send it out. Which my agents did a lot... I want to revisit that because I wrote it to please them and probably didn't do the best job. If I'd written it the way I wanted to write it, I would have done a better job. I think it's a viable idea.
   Also I have a children's book in the works; I hope to get that published.
   I may be consulting on a movie that I can't talk about. It's a Motown biopic, that's all I can say. I respect the director. He's been around a long time and I could learn a lot from him, so If it goes ahead, I'll drop everything and concentrate on that. Plus I'd get to talk to a lot of those original people, which would be cool.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Very sorry for Brian McDonald, seeing a movie succeed when it could so nearly have been his.