Formative Creative Experiences: I loved acting at my High School and in UCLA Theater productions, and I wrote and directed video projects since I was little. It was always something I did for fun, though, and didn’t seem like a real job. Then I worked in development for a year and a half, and that experience convinced me that writing was something I might actually be able to do for a living.
Influential Movies or TV Shows: All the Coen Brothers movies, Terry Gilliam’s films. GET SHORTY, FIGHT CLUB, LA CONFIDENTIAL, THE GODFATHER, STRICTLY BALLROOM… there are a lot of others, I guess. On TV, I don’t know. I used to watch a lot of Star Trek and M*A*S*H, and I really like The Simpsons, but cable TV tends to cut into my writing time, so I cut it off.
Comment on Your WBC Experience: It was really useful in helping me attack a script and get my head around an idea. I used to just hack at stories, writing tons of stuff and then cutting. WBC allowed me to do a lot of that structural work earlier in the process.
What are your favorite WBC tools? Mini-script, 3-6-3. WBC taught me how to outline, and that has been an invaluable tool not just for writing, but for pitching and book adaptations.
How you got your start in the business: I wrote and directed the short film CHEKHOV’S GUN. Off of that I got my first script assignment from an indie company, and I also ended up doing a spec book adaptation of COCK, the novel by Will Self. That script got me my representation and subsequent studio work.
Describe the Transition Stages of Your Career: From actor to miserable industry drone to short film director to indie film writer to studio film writer.
How many hours per week do you devote to your creative work: From a low of maybe twenty when I have a lot going on up to maybe fifty if I’m cramming to finish something.
What biases or preferences do you have regarding the writing process? I guess in general I like to have a clear creative brief, and then be set free to create within that. I actually like writing assignments, and developing things with other people, but I prefer to be allowed to come up with my own solutions to problems.
Do you have any special rituals, places you write, etc.? I write in my office at home. I used to write in cafes, until I spilled hot coffee on my laptop. My main ritual is now making sure that my cup of coffee is not sitting precariously close to my computer.
Do you have anything you’d like to say about LA or the entertainment world? Every advance I’ve ever had in my career has come from the stupid projects, the ones that never should have gone anywhere but I did anyway because they seemed fun and I cared about them. Every savvy, smart move I’ve ever made hasn’t done anything for me. My best career moves were making a twenty minute black and white short film about four guys in one room, adapting a novel about a woman who grows a penis, and pitching a film based on a story I wrote in third grade. None of those should have done anything for me, and in traditional Hollywood terms, they were actively bad ideas. But I cared about them, and they turned out well. Writing things cynically is really, really hard, and I suspect I'm not talented enough to phone something in. So, for me, just on practical grounds, a stupid idea I'm passionate about is better than a high concept I just think people will like.
So… uh… do stupid things.