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Simon Baker and Dan Mazer talk I GIVE IT A YEAR at SXSW 2013

IGIAY

AUSTIN —  While Dan Mazer is usually known for his script work with Sacha Baron Cohen on films like “Borat” and “Bruno,” he has stepped up behind the camera for his directorial debut with “I Give it a Year.

The film follows an unlikely pair named Nat (Rose Byrne), an ambitious businesswoman, and Josh (Rafe Spall), a struggling novelist, through their first year of marriage. While they at first fall deliriously in love, they begin to discover that perhaps Josh’s ex-girlfriend, Chloe (Anna Faris), and Nat’s American client, Guy (Simon Baker), might be better suited for them.

Mazer and Baker sat down with myself and two other journalists to talk about being burned out by typical romantic comedies, the trust between actor and director, and whether or not any doves (or actors) were harmed in the making of this film.

After the round table at the Intercontinental - Stephen F. Austin Hotel in Austin, Texas on 3/10/13.(Photo Credit: Alex Gonzalez)

After the round table at the Intercontinental – Stephen F. Austin Hotel in Austin, Texas on 3/10/13.
(Photo Credit: Alex Gonzalez)

(Q represents a question from another outlet, and AG stands for a question from myself)

Q: I read the press notes and everything. Can you talk a little bit about improvisation in this film?
DM: I’m sort of a great believer in things feeling natural and real and authentic, and I think a lot of that often comes with a bit of improvisation. It’s interesting, because I wrote it as well as I directed it. Bizarrely, you’d imagine I’d be more precious about the words than perhaps somebody who hadn’t wrote it, but I sort of realized the process and it was raucous. I thought some of these jokes might just be shit (laughs). I was very encouraging of the actors to sort of improvise. The philosophy is that I wrote it, tried and tested it one way. “Let’s have a go. Let’s get the script into words and see what happens.” In the casting, one my primary objectives was to find people who were funny and sharp and bright and witty. I sat down with all the actors as opposed to just kind of reading most of them and sat in a room and chatted with them and laughed with them. I thought, if they do have all those attributes, if they are bright and funny and can sort of think on their feet – which some actors can and some actors can’t – then I sort of wanted them in the movie. I was very encouraging of a bit of improvisation, because then I essentially get the credit (laughs).
Q: So you’re okay with your actors maybe criticizing your script a little bit, like, “Hey, I think this might work better this way.”
DM: Yeah. I hate to deference in any shape or form. I’m certainly very good at not being deferential.
SB: It’s funny, because so often you get asked questions about improvisation and how it works in films. It’s such a loose term, because I always think it’s like the controlled improvisation. I mean, Dan wrote it, but there’s a lot of people that get this idea that writer/directors are like, “These are my words, this is the Bible, this is the Holy Grail. Don’t mess with it.” But Dan had this sort of next step on confidence in like, “I’m cutting this thing,” which means, in essence, “I’ll take whatever is going to come out, but before it gets passed on to anyone to watch, I’m still editing, so I’m still the writer in essence.” (laughs) So there was a lack of sort of any kind of fear. I mean, I thought with Dan there was no fear. I didn’t improvise at all. I barely improvised.
DM: Well, your character was different.
SB: Well, it depends on what I’m doing. My character didn’t really lend itself on that in this particular piece. Obviously, Rafe’s character totally was that character. Rafe and Dan had this thing where he would just go, and sometimes we’d all be sitting there going, “Where the fuck is Rafe going? Where is he going with this?” and Dan never got like, “Actually…” (makes disapproving face) You know, he just let him go. It’s an interesting game, because really, when you do improve – like, I improve a lot on my show (The Mentalist), but that’s sort of the role. In this, I had to sort of hit certain beats off of what other people were doing. It’s a very interesting game to see the trust between an actor and a director. It was interesting for me watching Rafe and Dan, because Dan didn’t get panicked. This comedy stuff, when it’s really like a full-blown comedy, it’s quite serious business. “Oh, that’s funny, that’s not funny, that’s funny.” It’s like, “Oh, geez.” It’s okay if you’re doing a drama and you throw a couple of gags in there, because no one’s expecting it to be funny. When you say, “This is a comedy,” it’s like saying to a woman before you have sex, “This is going to be some great love-making.” Right? (laughs) You set yourself up for sort of a situation.
DM: Oh, I’ve never done that.
SB: Nor have I! I’m always like, “This is going to be shit, but I’ll do my best.” (laughs) But yeah, it’s interesting like that, with the rules. Also, from watching Dan, he’s not undermining Rafe’s confidence when he is going off somewhere where it doesn’t necessarily work, he’s not going, “That didn’t really work,” because that can really crush you. Rafe had a big responsibility in this film, and he had to pull off a lot. He had to be a twat that’s sort of likeable and entertaining, but shouldn’t really be with this girl. It’s sort of a hard thing to do, a hard ask for a character. I thought he did it quite well. I thought you handled that really well.
DM: Thank you, you’re very kind, sir. Oh, Simon Baker (laughs).

Q: When you’re on the other end, and you’re watching them sort of doing some improvising, can you feel where it’s kind of not going anywhere like what you were saying?
SB: No, because a lot of the time I was this straight guy kind of waiting, just a little bit. Like anything, there’s the direct route, and then there’s the scenic route. Sometimes we get very scenic, and then we’re like, “Finally, we’re back on the main road again.” In my head, I was always often thinking, “That one works.” The cut is like a house of cards. Obviously, Dan knows more about this than I do. With this particular film, once you get into the edit, it can be like a house of cards. You really like this gag, but in order for that gag to work, you’ve got to have this bit and this bit and this bit.
DM: Obviously, I’ve spent the last 10 years with Sascha [Baron Cohen] where it’s a lot of improvisation. I’ve become, hopefully, quite adept to seeing what works and what doesn’t. Often, he can go off for an hour and a half, and you get like a minute out of it. You’re constantly thinking, “What minute is good?” So now this, in contrast, was much more controlled.

Q: Simon, what was it that drew you to the script when you first read it?
SB: I’ve read a lot of romantic comedies, like all of those “26 Dresses.”
DM: Or “27 Dresses.”
SB: (laughs) The prequel! They changed one number.
DM: Finishing the script, it was like, “I think we need another dress.”
SB: Yes, 27 is much more romantic. No, but I’ve read a lot of those. Ever since I did that movie, “The Devil Wears Prada,” I was sent a lot of those. Obviously, they always wanted me to play the guy that was an asshole, basically. They all tick these certain boxes of those sort of clichés of the genre. What I liked about this movie was that it actually ticked all those boxes of the genre but flipped them all upside down. So it was like, “Okay, we’re going to tick all those boxes, so we’re hitting the nail on the head with all of those bits that we expect, but we’ve got a total reverse story.” I thought that was just a fresh and interesting way to go about it. Little did I know that some people get a little bit like, “Well, what does that say about marriage?” Is this movie really about marriage? We’re just trying to make a piece of entertainment that takes the piss out of how far and how serious we are about the notion of committing to a marriage and sticking with it. I don’t know many people, but I’m from a broken home. My wife is from a broken home. So many people understand divorce. If they haven’t been through it, they certainly know someone that has been through it. Everyone knows the dreaded relationship where you lose a friend, because you’re like, “Oh no, please, what? That’s it. I can’t be friends with you anymore, because I can’t stand your wife!” (laughs) It’s like, “Can you come? Please don’t bring the missus. Of course she’s invited.” You know, the politics of that that we don’t talk about, is funny and interesting and awkward. I thought that was great. I thought, obviously if you can pull off that, that first anniversary scene. It was the most romantic moment in the whole script, I thought, when these two are being honest with each other and saying, “You’re not really the person that makes my heart sing.” I thought that was the challenge in the whole movie, and I was interested in that. I hadn’t done anything like this, so it’s always a challenge, sort of interesting.

AG: Kind of a random question, but you as a director, since this is so opposite of a romantic comedy, are there any famous couples or famous storylines in movies that you would love to take this route with?
DM: That’s interesting. Sort of all of them, really. If you take any romantic comedy, to me it’s sort of incredibly fascinating to see what happens the moment the credit rolls. If you talk about “What Happens in Rome” or “27 Dresses,” most romantic comedies are about people who absolutely shouldn’t be together. That’s the point of a romantic comedy.  It’s like, “Look at these opposites. They’ve attracted. Isn’t it going to be fantastic?” The cynic in me is sitting there like, “Well, it’s not going to be fantastic. They’re unbelievably ill-suited for each other. They’re going to get back from their honeymoon, and the thing that annoys you about the Irish sheep farmer, if you’re the San Diego PR girl, will absolutely drive you crazy within a week of moving in with each other, and it’s going to end in a horrific and acrimonious divorce.” So you sort of think, with all those things, it’s kind of the realist in me that looks behind the Hollywood curtain, if you like. I think you can take any romantic comedy, and almost all of them will end in divorce (laughs).

Q: I thought it was kind of interesting, because you made Anna Faris’ character and Simon’s character not conniving or evil trying to break them up. They were just kind of on the outskirts. His character didn’t even really know. I thought that was an interesting take. You obviously did it on purpose, because it follows the romantic comedy line to have this person trying to do something back-handed.
DM: Exactly. That tends to be what happens in a romantic comedy. A nasty guy swoops in and sweeps the girl off her feet. You think, “Please don’t end up with him, because he’s not very nice.” The challenge in this is that you’re rooting for a couple to split up. That’s really hard to do and not make it toxic and [make you] feel bad at the end when they do split up. So in order to do that and facilitate that, you need to pick another protagonist who you sort of want them to end up with. If they are kind of nasty or horrible, you’re going “Oh, don’t end up with that person.” You actually want them to end up with that [other] person, because Guy, Simon’s character, is lovely. He’s brilliant. Again, that was the interesting thing in Simon taking the part. When you see him on screen, you have an expectation. “Oh, he’s going to be a nasty guy. He’s going to come in and blah, blah, blah.” What’s brilliant, and what Simon does brilliant, is kind of flip that expectation. Guy’s actually a bit of a doofus, so you’re happy they end up with each other. Simon does that brilliantly. So the reason they’re not nasty is because ultimately, you want our characters to end up with them.

Q: Did you know Simon prior to this?
DM: Oh, no, not at all. Obviously, I knew Simon’s work and loved it and thought it was brilliant and just thought I would be only so lucky to have him. Obviously, the casting process was like playing Fantasy Football for me in a weird way. I came in and go, “Oh God, I love Simon in that, he’d be the perfect Guy; I loved Rose [Byrne] in ‘Bridesmaids,’ she was fantastic. I’ve worked with Anna [Faris] on ‘The Dictator,’” so, you know, it was amazing to have the opportunity to go out to these people. It was incredibly thrilling when they said yes. I think, universally, even if you don’t like the film necessarily or have problems with the film, universally everyone said “My God, you’ve got an amazing cast.” Almost in a way to kind of say, “How’d you fuck that up?” (laughs)
SB: That’s so English of you.
DM: (laughs) I got warned beforehand!
SB: I’m not even English, but it’s still in there.
DM: The PR people, before you come to America, just go, “We know you’re self-deprecating, but don’t be self-deprecating. Americans don’t understand it. They’ll just think you think the film’s shit.” (laughs)
SB: Oh, you’re so cute.
DM: Like Hugh Grant bumbling, sort of.

Q: So is this almost the romantic comedy for people that don’t like romantic comedies?
DM: I think it sort of is. I’ve been burnt, as it were, by riding on an airplane or sitting down on a Tuesday night and going into Netflix and thinking, “Oh, this would be fun to see, this kinky story of this mismatched couple.” Most romantic comedies are neither particularly romantic nor particularly comedic, so it’s really a slightly pejorative term, “romantic comedy.” You go in with an expectation, and I understand why people want to market this as a “romantic comedy.” People go and see romantic comedies, so it’s not really a difficult sell. To me, it’s a movie about relationships as opposed to a romantic comedy, really.

AG: So what were the biggest challenges for both of you in flipping this genre on its head?
SB: There wasn’t really a challenge for me in that regard. I mean, it was all kind of laid out there for me. It was just the process of doing it, which always has its little challenges here and there, but there were no real major challenges. Like Dan’s saying, what the idea of a romantic comedy is, and it’s a term that I don’t really like. It does set you up. You look at a film like “Silver Linings Playbook,” and it’s really a drama. It’s a family drama that has romance in it and some comedic moments, but they’re focused on it being a story about a family and a guy kind of getting back into the family. When you do a film that is a “romantic comedy,” you think, “You’ve hit me with romance, now where’s the comedy?” If you don’t have equal parts, then you’re in trouble. No challenge. I really always, I don’t get to do a lot of films because of the amount of work that I do on my TV show, so when I do something, particularly if it’s in a mainstream sort of genre like we’re looking at here, I want it to be something that’s sort of fresh and interesting. I’d rather take the chance on something like “I Give it a Year” and take that risk than go and do the standard tried and true obvious choices that come along. There weren’t really any challenges in it for me. I mean, just logistically, walking off one set and walking onto another was the only kind of challenge.
DM: I think for me probably it was, like, just to actually try and make it romantic in some ways, because my natural instinct is my previous work. I definitely am much more towards the comedy side of things, and I have quite, sort of in life, a relatively cynical view of things and kind of, as a reaction to those romantic comedies, I was like, “Don’t want any sop in this,” because you feel like you’re selling out. So the challenge was really to make the romance feel real and authentic within a comedy framework. I was always very confident about the comedy part of it and just needed to kind of steer myself to make the romance not really feel cheesy. That was my challenge.

Q: No doves were harmed in the making of this film?
DM: Oh no, loads of doves. Loads of doves! (laughs)
SB: You would see on set just a pile of dead doves. No, I think Rose was harmed more than the doves. I think there was someone in the back of the truck that we didn’t see spray painting pigeons white, like, “Two more!” (enacts spray painting pigeons) No, that was a tricky day. Rose was genuinely petrified, properly frozen in fear.
Q: That made it much more fulfilling onscreen. You could tell, that’s not acting.
SB: On the DVD, there’s going to be an amazing kind of sort of blooper reel of her just like, “Ugh, oh, no!” (squirms) It’s about eight minutes long (laughs)That was a good day. We enjoyed that. We rehearsed that, too, didn’t we? We rehearsed with doves. I remember, at the church, doing rehearsals, and I remember at the end of that day, looking over at you across the room and you were so sort of restrained that you were like, it was almost like an eye roll and a sigh at the same time without doing anything, going “How are we going to do this?”
DM: It was May the 17th or whatever.
SB: Then, when the day came and we drove out to this pretty location out in Pinewood, it was a beautiful location. We got there, and Dan was like (makes anxious face). As soon as the doves came out, Rose was like (jerks around nervously).
DM: It was amazing to have an animal scene and not be worried about the animals at all. The animals, we knew they were going to behave. It was actually the star that was the worst (laughs). You didn’t love them, but you were just…
SB: No, I didn’t love them, but I was just trying to keep the woman from running away.
DM: Very manly.
Q: Great job by the violinist in that scene.
DM: Yeah, he’s a brilliant sketch comedy performer in Britain. He’s got his own TV show, and he’s really funny. He will be a big hit at some point in his life.

Q: How did you get Stephen Merchant on board to do this? You don’t see him in many films.
DM: No, you really don’t. I know Stephen. I knew Stephen a bit from around, and he’s the only part I wrote with someone specifically in mind. I wrote it and wanted Merchant to do it. I wanted it in his voice. “I know how he’d do it, he’d be brilliant at doing it.” Because he doesn’t do much, I was like, “Oh, he probably won’t do it, but we’ll just get someone to do a sort of Stephen Merchant impression.” (laughs) He read it and was just like, very simply, “Yeah. Funny. I’ll do it.” It was an incredible thing. We made it work in his schedule, and obviously he’s a scene stealer in every scene he’s in. It was a real thrill to me in terms of he’s sort of comedy royalty in England. To have one of your peers think that what you’ve written is kind of up to his standard, as it were, was incredibly thrilling for me. That was really nice.

Q: You guys mentioned rehearsals. You had rehearsals before you started filming? Before any film was shot, you had rehearsals?
DM: Yeah, we did a couple of weeks. Again, just as part of the process, I thought it would be nice to stand stuff up and see what would happen, encourage improvisation at rehearsals and play around with things, just really work it all out.
SB: It’s pretty luxurious. Doesn’t happen very often. No matter how, when you really look at it, it’s very vague, but what it does it get it all a little bit of, you get to have a little chat, things come out, ideas get popped up. Sometimes, when you get to shooting, all of that’s forgotten. It’s just something to sort of work through. I thought that was fun and luxurious.
DM: It really helps on the day you turn up at your place. Sometimes you just throw everything out and say, “I wasn’t really expecting that to happen.” Often, it just saves you that first hour, or an hour and a half, in the morning of your shoot where you can actually be getting stuff on camera as opposed to working things out. It was great, I loved it.

Michael J. Bassett talks Silent Hill: Revelation 3D

In theaters October 26, 2012

This Friday, the sequel to the 2006 movie adaptation of the game series, Silent Hill, will be released in theaters. In Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, Heather Mason (Adelaide Clemens) and her father (Sean Bean) have been on the run, always one step ahead of dangerous forces that she doesn’t fully understand.  On the eve of her 18th birthday, plagued by horrific nightmares and the disappearance of her father, Heather discovers she’s not who she thinks she is.

Michael J. Bassett, a fan of the game series himself, was brought on to write the screenplay and direct the film. After directing several other horror films like Solomon Kane, Deathwatch, and Wilderness, Bassett had his work cut out for him with a sequel to the cult-hit, Silent Hill. The English screenwriter and film director spoke about his life-long fascination with the horror film genre as well as what it was like creating a Silent Hill movie that all audiences can enjoy.

Michael J. Bassett at Comic Con 2011 talking about Silent Hill: Revelation 3D

AG: You’ve directed several other horror films. How did you get into the horror genre? Is it something that you’ve always wanted to do or did you fall into that?
MB: Oh no, I’m a horror fan. You end up making movies you enjoyed as a kid, I think. I grew up in the mid-80s when VHS movies were first available. You could rent movies. I remember cutting school as a teenager with a bunch of friends, renting a whole lot of horror movies, and just spending all day watching horror movies instead of going to school. I remember being caught by my head teacher — the principal — and he said to me, “What possible use is this going to be to you as an adult? What job can you get where this will be any good to you?” I wish I could see him now and say, “It seems as though it was really useful.” (laughs) Because that’s what I love. Half of me wanted to be a veterinary surgeon, and the other half wanted to be a filmmaker. I ended up going down one route and not the other. I like all sorts of genres, though, not just horror. I love horror. I love thrillers, sci-fi, and fantasy, so Solomon Kane was a fantasy picture with a kind of horror beat running through it. A film like Silent Hill is much more directly a horror movie. It has twisted visuals; it’s going to scare you, put you on the edge of your seat, and make you jump a couple of times. It does all of those things a horror movie should do.

AG: I’ve read that you’re a fan of the games, so what was it like for you to be able to write the screenplay as well as direct something that you’re such a big fan of?
MB: Knowing that I was going to get to play a role in a film about Silent Hill was really exciting. I was a fan of the games. I’ve been playing them on and off since they first came out in the mid-2000s. I remember playing the game for the first time, seeing my friends play, and just being blown away by the new ideas and the visuals. It was so exciting. Then, to work with Samuel Hadida — he’s the producer who also worked with me on Solomon Kane – was great. He made the first Silent Hill movie, and he said to me, “I want to make another one. Would you be interested?” I was really excited. It’s a big challenge, though, because you have to make a movie that is not just for Silent Hill fans. It has to be for people who don’t know Silent Hill, who just want to have a great movie experience. They don’t want to study it, they don’t want to go play the games, and they don’t want to see the first movie. They just want to enjoy a great horror movie. So I had to do three things: I had to write a script which was a sequel to the first movie and made sense continuing the story of the little girl from Silent Hill; it has to be an adaptation of one of the games themselves, so we used Silent Hill 3 as a basis for the story; and it had to be a story which you don’t need any knowledge of, that you can just enjoy with a bunch of mates or your date on a Friday night and have the crap scared out of you. That’s kind of three jobs for the script, so it was a big challenge. It was very exciting but difficult.

AG: I actually read up a little on the Silent Hill game series, and it all seems very complex and intricate. How did you go about, like you said, basing it on the games but also making it clear for an audience that doesn’t know about Silent Hill?
MB: The key was that you had to start with the foundation story. It had to be a continuation of the story of a little who’s grown up – she’s turned 18 years old – and she’s been plagued by nightmares and memories that she’s been suppressing. Her father, played by Sean Bean in this story, is keeping her safe, moving her from town to town, because they’re afraid of something that he won’t tell her they’re afraid of. Her story, the story of a girl discovering who she is, she has to find out where her father disappeared to. In doing so, she has to return to this place called Silent Hill where all her nightmares are coming from. That is kind of the basic story. From there, I began to put more complex ideas in, which was bringing in the mythology of the game, and just layering those on top of the basic story, a simple story that everyone can understand and you don’t need any knowledge of Silent Hill to enjoy. So it’s just a question of layering everything in, one thing on top of another. Then, when we finally put the film together, we looked at it and said, “Can everybody understand that?” I think they will.

AG: Are there any horror film directors that you kind of looked to for inspiration when going about directing this film or any of your other films?
MB: Oh, I mean, obviously I’m inspired by loads and loads of different filmmakers. Ridley Scott is one of my great heroes in terms of his great visual style. When I was cutting school and watching those horror movies, the guys I was watching were Wes Craven, John Carpenter, some of the great horror filmmakers. I ended up working with Wes Craven years later, and I told him the story of cutting school, watching the original Hills Have Eyes and being told off for it. He started laughing when I told him, and I thought, “Years later, and here I am sitting with Wes Craven.” I mean, the truth is, you try and stay original to your own style, so visually, I’m influenced by the games. The games of Silent Hill are beautifully put-together, so I tried to capture that world for the audience. There are some good horror movie directors out there now, but right now a lot of the horror is found footage or it’s stuck in a very domestic, realistic world like a house or a street or something. One of the things I liked so much about Silent Hill is that they’re creating a whole new, original world. She starts in a regular town, but she ends up in a place that is just really twisted and dark, with the walls peeling, and this kind of rusted world of monsters and strange corners and freaky ideas. That was a kind of exciting thing to do as a filmmaker.

AG: You wrote the screenplay as well as directed it, so what was more difficult? Writing the screenplay or finding out how to direct it? Which do you enjoy more?
MB: Well, the thing is, when I’m writing, I just want to be directing. When I’m directing, I’d rather be at home writing (laughs). I’m never fully satisfied. The great thing about writing your own script is that when you’re writing, you have a sense of what you want it to look like. Then, when you’re on the set, it’s much easier to communicate that to the actors or the crew, because you know what you meant. Even if the have to make compromises or changes along the way for whatever reason, you’re working for a position of understanding very clearly. So that’s the kind of great thing. The other thing, the disappointing thing, is that the director can’t always do what the writer wants. So you have to be prepared for a little bit of disappointment, but it’s a great thing. It’s often tiring and very hard work, but it’s the best job in the world.

AG: If you could turn any movie that’s not in the horror genre into a horror film, what do you think that would be?
MB: A non-horror movie into a horror movie? (laughs) Wow! It would be like taking a great romantic comedy and turning it. Let’s take When Harry Met Sally. The other thing is, though, that there are so many other great things out there to adapt as well. So rather than taking an existing genre and making it something different, let’s take some of the stories that haven’t been told and do those.

AG: Speaking of which, what would be your dream horror film project?
MB: There is a great game, actually, called Deadspace. It’s fantastic. It’s terrifying. It’s science fiction, which I love. There’s some brilliant stuff to be done with that. I think some smaller horror is actually more interesting. There are a few scripts of my own that I’m desperate to get off the ground now. I’ve been doing TV recently and Silent Hill before that, so I need to make some time and figure out how to get my own stuff back to the screen. I think some deep, psychological horror is very interesting as well as the monster stuff. Silent Hill has a bit of both.

AG: When it comes to directing for the small screen and directing for the big screen, what’s the biggest difference?
MB: One of the things that are interesting right now is that television is sort of doing more interesting things than feature films in terms of budget. The budgets are getting a little better, but what I’ve discovered, really, is that it’s time. Television is done much quicker. You have to make choices faster, and you don’t necessarily get the luxury of stopping and thinking about it, trying something again. You’ve got to be confident with your first decision as the best decision. That’s the challenge. I mean, a lot of movies are done on a short schedule with a small budget. What I also think is great is that people’s televisions are getting bigger and better, so now you can shoot television much the same way as you shoot feature films for the visuals. So the worlds are not that different. The nature of storytelling is a little bit different, but as a director, you’re still trying to make something that is visually impressive, compelling, and does something new for the audience every time.

AG: I’ve actually noticed that on TV, there are a lot more “scary” shows, like American Horror Story or The Walking Dead. Are there any of those types of shows on TV that you’re a fan of?
MB: Oh, I’m a huge fan of The Walking Dead. We didn’t get American Horror Story in the UK until quite later on, so I haven’t really gotten into that one yet. I mean, some of the visuals are fantastic. The Walking Dead is the one everyone is really going for at the moment. I tried out Grimm and stuff, but they’re not quite dark enough for my taste. I think horror on TV is something I’m really interested in doing more of.

AG: What kind of TV show do you think you would love to do?
MB: I could tell you, but I’ve got a couple of ideas I’m developing. I like action, and I like horror. I want to do an action horror show.
AG: That actually does sound like The Walking Dead. I love that show.
MB: It’s got proper action, but mine will have more action than that.

AG: Well, do you have any last words for the readers here in Houston about you or the film or any upcoming projects?
MB: Silent Hill: Revelation 3D comes out this Friday, so I hope everyone sees it and enjoys it. It’s a different experience from the regular horror movies. It’s not Paranormal Activity, it’s not Insidious, and it’s not Sinister. It’s a horror movie on a sort of grand scale. If you like your monsters, you’re going to get a lot of monsters.

A Very Muppet Halloween!

Kermit Pumpkin Carving

Fozzies Halloween Jokes

This Halloween comes around just a little under a month before the return of The Muppets on the big screen, so why not celebrate with some Muppet decorations? Any fan of Fozzie’s funnily unfunny stand-up will enjoy the Halloween jokes while fans of “the original Everyman” Kermit will enjoy carving their pumpkins in the shape of his face.

Soon enough, I’ll have the interviews with Kermit and Miss Piggy up for you all to enjoy. Until then, Happy Muppet Halloween!

Childhood Memories: The Lorax

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

My sister recently had a baby girl, and one of her baby shower themes was books. Instead of cards to go along with the presents, she wanted books that she could read to my niece, which she does now every night. I was so excited to buy her Dr. Seuss books, because those were our favorites growing up. Now I catch wind that yet another Dr. Seuss classic is being made into a movie, and I can’t wait.

The Lorax, a story that revolves around environmental and societal awareness, is being made into a CGI movie starring Danny DeVito, Ed Helms, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Rob Riggle and Betty White. The story is about how greed led a young man to destroy a beautiful forest, using its natural resources for personal and business profit. A little ahead of its time, The Lorax strives to teach a “green” lesson.

Danny DeVito plays the Lorax who warns the Once-ler, played by Ed Helms, that if he continues cutting down Truffula trees and using Swomee-Swans to create and sell “thneeds,” the forest will be demolished and gone. Zac Efron’s character, a boy named Ted, meets the Once-ler who tells him the story of the Lorax.

Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl were childhood staples of mine, and I’m excited to see what today’s technology can bring out in this great story!

 

Movies

I decided that my blog needed focus, so I thought about what I love. Could I blog about music? Food? Journalism? It took me a while, but I decided that movies are what I love most. Working at La Prensa de Houston has granted me the opportunity to interview various actors and actresses and write reviews of different movies, so why not blog about it as well? From now on, this blog will be dedicated to the study, critique and review of movies. I’ll try to post at least twice a week, whether it’s reviews of new movies or interviews. I hope you enjoy!

Woodward & Bernstein

So, I was lucky enough to attend a discussion with two of the greatest journalists of our time, Bob Woodward & Carl Bernstein, last Thursday. I am working on the post about it, because there is just so much information to write about! It was an amazing lecture, and I’ll have all of the experience up soon!

Lawrence Wright Lecture

Today in my Advanced Feature Writing class, my professor had journalist Lawrence Wright come and be a guest speaker. He is a staff writer at the New Yorker, a fellow at the Center for Law and Security at the New York University School of Law, and author of the Pulitzer-Prize winning book The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. He took his experiences writing the book and turned it into an off-Broadway play and a 2010 HBO documentary, both called My Trip to Al Qaeda. He also co-wrote the hit movie The Siege, and a script he originally wrote for Oliver Stone was turned into a Showtime movie called Noriega: God’s Favorite.

It was such a great privilege to be able to speak to such an accomplished journalist and writer. We got to ask him questions about struggles we are facing in writing our own stories for class, and he was so helpful.

He said that in order to be a journalist, you have to be curious. You have to speak to one person, and when you’re done, ask them for another name of someone to talk to. Then ask that person for another name. Keep going until you ask someone for another name and they can’t name someone you haven’t talked to yet. Your research isn’t over when you start writing; it’s just beginning.

You have to enlist your source into helping you. Don’t be afraid to tell them, “I don’t really understand; Can you help me to understand so that I can convey this as accurately and thoroughly as possible?” How can you write about something or someone you don’t understand and expect your readers to?

He then went into the actual storytelling process. He said that there are two really important elements in creating gripping stories: characters and scenes. Characters, he said, are like donkeys, “serviceable beasts of burden.” This means that you have to take a subject your readers might not care about except that they care about the character, and that’s what keeps them reading.

There are flat characters and round characters. Flat characters are the ones who convey the information; that’s all you want from them. If you notice them too much, the information gets lost and they begin to compete with your round characters. Round characters are the ones you want to be noticed. You have to signal to the reader, “This is someone we’re going to pay attention to.” As it becomes pertinent, you start to bring in their personal stories and their backgrounds. Each person has their own independent reality, and your job is to listen to it, understand it and convey it.

When it comes to scenes, he said that a good one is the thing that creates the tension and keeps the pages turning. That was when he went into the “Rubber Band Theory.” When you get the reader engrossed, pause. If you pose a question in the minds of the reader, don’t answer it right away. You want that tension. Once you have that scene, report it. Write down anything and everything you see, read or hear about your subject.

My professor had us read Wright’s piece about John O’Neill, chief of the F.B.I.’s counter-terrorism section, who died in the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11. After speaking to Wright today, it is clear how he was able to turn something as vast as the 9/11 attacks and narrow it down into something so human and personal. “The person that was supposed to get bin Laden didn’t get bin Laden, bin Laden got him. He was a flawed character with a wife and kids and three other women who all thought they were engaged to him who all met for the first time at his funeral, but in the end he’s forgiven. Everyone who dies at the end is forgiven. Kind of like Annette Bening’s character in The Siege.”

It’s so unreal to me that I get to sit down face-to-face with such prominent and successful journalists in my classes here at UT. It reminds me how lucky I am to go to college here and to appreciate the opportunities I’m given and put them to good use in my future as a journalist. I’m still not sure what kind of journalism I want to make a career out of, but all I know is that I want to write. I want to write until my hands can’t write or type anymore. I want to meet people, all sorts of people that inspire and move me. I wasted so many years of my college career trying to be someone else for someone that in the end disappointed me and left me. I should never have put anyone else before me, but life is all about learning from mistakes. Now I know exactly who I am, and I’m not going to stop until I get to where I want to be.

#np little lion man – mumford & sons