You’ve expressed reserved enthusiasm on your first short, “A Distant Chord.” What do you see about that film today which was not immediately obvious during its production? ^ Tons of mistakes, which I guess is normal. I see things I would have done differently with both films. But that’s all part of filmmaking. When you’re strapped with small budgets to make these types of films, you always see things you could have done differently. That plus, when I did “A Distant Chord,” I was still very green behind the ears. In a way, I knew what I wanted to achieve, but I didn’t know the proper way of going about it. That film took me a year to complete. I ran out of money half way through, and had to go back and do reshoots. Plus I edited on a Steenbeck, which was a complete and utter nightmare.
Your screenplay for “Life’s Back Pocket” won the Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting. How has that honor helped the film and yourself? ^ It did for awhile. It got me an agent, and people took me serious because of it. Not too long ago, I had an option agreement with a Producer in LA, but I got more attention because of it, when the great actor Ossie Davis signed a “letter-of-intent” to star in the project. The film still hasn’t gotten made. (Read the screenplay online at this link.)
You’ve created 15 screenplays to date. Have you experienced any level of frustration in not having these screenplays brought before the camera? ^ Absolutely. This is the type of thing that keeps me motivated. That plus seeing so many bad films being made. I am not a big supporter of the kind of crap Hollywood churns out. I get more frustrated at the abundance of bad films I see, rather than where I am in my career. Things happen for a reason, and I am in this for the long haul. A friend of mine, director Paul Chart (“American Perfekt”) recently said to me, “Eric, the only reason you haven’t reached your goals, is because it just isn’t your time yet”. And, he’s right. I know deep down what I am capable of, and I know that things will happen when they’re supposed to happen.
You are currently at work on your first feature film. What is this film about and when do you plan to have it completed? ^ Well, I have been in discussions with a Producer in New York, about doing an American version of Albert Camus’ “The Stranger.” Kind of like from a revisionist view. I’m a huge fan of the book, and I love Visconti’s seldom-seen film , with Marcello Mastroianni. So, we have approached the publishing company several times, and it’s still in the early phase. Also, I’m going to be assisting Nathan George (Parris in Harsh Light) with a film project this fall, based on a short piece he wrote. The key is to somehow stay busy in this industry. Some projects come together, others fall apart, but you must stay active to remained focussed.
From your experiences in the film industry, what insight could you provide up-and-coming filmmakers who are eager to make a name for themselves? ^ For me, I was sold after seeing a Cassavetes film for the first time. His films are inspiration to me, and I strive to write & direct good films. It’s not about becoming famous for me. It never was. I am into the art of making a film. From writing, to directing, to editing. Plus I love working with good actors, and improvising. Film school to me, wasn’t the right environment. It bored me, listening to Film History 101. Film School, and college in general is just not for everyone. I chose to do “A Distant Chord” on my own. I learned more by doing that film, than I did in film school. It’s the truth. It presents you with so many challenges, that I always recommend this to the younger generation. Just go do it. That, and rent Cassavetes “Minnie and Moscowitz”. I love that film!!
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Posted on September 4, 2001 in Interviews by Phil Hall
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