From Montreal, Canada, John Fallon debuts a new category here: interviews with professionals which are on the market. He’s a screenwriter, cinema director, actor and executive director at Bruise Productions Inc. With a lot of tips and knowledge, John Fallon gives you some important advices to the start-up of your screenwriter career with a great professional eye.
MENEGATTI: You’re an actor, screenwriter, director and executive at Bruise Productions Inc. How did everything begin? Tell me about your career!
JF: I had a tough upbringing, movies saved me. So when I reached a harsh crossroad early in life, I chose filmmaking. I went to film school first for two years than did acting school for 3 years. Once on the market, I started off doing the audition rounds, getting the random small parts while script doctoring for local production companies. Then I graduated to writing my own scripts for production, then getting hired to write for others. Finally I had to learn (and I’m still learning) to produce out of necessity, and I finally reached my holy grail of having directed my first feature with the upcoming The Shelter to be released this year in North America via the fine distribution company Uncork’d. I am now in the process of teaching myself how to edit, writing a new script while trying to get my next film off the ground. The more you know, the less people you have to depend on…
Check out “The Shelter” trailer, right here: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ed-AMOYuvRo)
MENEGATTI: As a professional you have many points of view. In your opinion, tell me about the screenplay, which captivate the actor, director and the executive.
JF: The actor in me is attracted to either roles that go deep (like a complex character study), roles that will be lots of fun to do (like an action film) or roles that are both! The director in me is attracted to scripts that are in tuned with my own personal affinities (dark, action driven, a guy with a sword is always good) while the producer in me, well, looks for scripts that can be done at a price and would be financially/commercially viable.
MENEGATTI: This question came from a reader of my blog. As a cinema director, when you read up a screenplay with camera directions (this sort of technical language), how do you face it? Someone who wants to do your work? No problem, just friendly suggestions?
JF: I have never encountered that. The screenplays that I have worked with were either written by me or were optioned/commissioned off of screenwriters who knew better. In my opinion, if you’re not going to direct the film yourself, there shouldn’t be any camera directions that go further than “Angle on” or “Close on” in your script. I personally would hate to read a script filled to the brim with camera directions from a writer if I wanted to direct it. You have to remember that you’re one script competing with countless other ones, it has to be an easy read. Don’t give people a reason to pass on your script at Page 1 because it’s filled with camera directions. But that is just my opinion…
MENEGATTI: As a screenwriter, what’s your writing process? Do you work through some writing method?
JF: I first come up with my initial premise and then I find my ending. It’s hard to get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going, so knowing your end game beforehand is key for me. Than I usually think about the story for a long time, write notes/ideas that surface at the oddest places (like in the shower), figure out my middle section (always the hardest part), until I finally sit down, have a glass of wine and begin a first draft. Once I start, nothing else in life matters, I’m all about the script. Once a first draft is done, I step away from it for a week or so and then go back to it for a second draft with fresh eyes/mind. I then send my second draft to people I trust and know, get their feedback and with that I enter the third and final draft. Of course this is if I ‘m writing on spec. If I’m writing for somebody else, the process is usually more intricate being that I am getting notes from one or many outside sources and I am trying to please many people at the same time instead of just myself. And there are always exceptions… it took me 3 years to crack The Shelter… there’s a first time for everything…
MENEGATTI: What kind of story is yours? Usually, what do you like to write? Why?
JF: I tend to gravitate towards bleak stories, action driven, edgy, experimental that uses imagery to tell its tale or mixes of genres like Sci-Fi/Horror or Period/Action. My lead characters are usually damaged (I love anti-heroes), circumstances are usually severe, I like to push the envelope and if I have humor, it’s dark or out of line (unless I’m hired to write something light of course). Sombre and gritty stories are what I respond to the most when I go to the cinema, hence it would make sense that’s what I like to write the most as well.
MENEGATTI: What’s the most important thing you have to say to a person who wants to be a good screenwriter?
JF: Learn the basic structure well, and don’t write a novel, write a screenplay. Some people tend to over-write when it comes to their descriptions, which may turn off potential buyers/investors/directors etc. They read LOTS of scripts. I’ve always said that for me a script is a road-map to make a film, lots can/will change in pre production, production and post-production. Therefore focus more on fleshing out your characters and having organic dialogue than going too heavy with scene descriptions. Lastly, if you’re going to write for a low budget, the less locations (company moves really up cost) and the less characters you have (actors to pay) the better. A note on writing with production in mind if I may. Right now the two films that I am trying to get going have budgets of over 1 Million dollars each. I realized I needed something smaller to shop around. So I am writing a new vigilante script named EVA, one that can be made for 200-300.000$ which is now a popular production model. All that to say, it’s good to have scripts of varied budget ranges in your back pocket.
MENEGATTI: As a director and executive, do you read and or produce screenplays of the other screenwriters?
JF: I started off just producing my own scripts. But being that life has gotten very busy with less time to shut off the world and write, I’ve leaned towards optioning or commissioning scripts more and more. My next film The Prize was a script written by Karim Chériguène. He pitched me a story, I loved it and I commissioned him to write it. And The Shadowing was a story I had in my mind for along time but couldn’t find the time to write alone, so I hired screenwriter Jason Hewlett (who is now working on another script for me) to bang out a first draft and then we worked on it together. I’ve realized that sometimes writing with somebody else has its benefits, as another writer will often come up with things that I wouldn’t have thought of.
MENEGATTI: Do you have some titles about famous screenplays that you think the screenwriter must read?
JF: I would read Eric Red’s The Hitcher (the script that got me into writing) for economic dialogue and pacing and Raiders of the Lost Ark by Lawrence Kasdan for how to write action.
You can read up the Eric Red’s script. PDF version here: (http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/TheHitcher.pdf)
MENEGATTI: Do you have a regular channel (e-mail, site, etc.) to receive screenplays for your own analysis?
JF: I can be reached via my blog www.john-fallon.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MENEGATTI: What are the key points in a screenplay, which you analyze in the moment to choose a story to produce?
JF: Getting a film off the ground is very hard and time consuming. You don’t get paid a cent to develop a film when you own the production company. It’s lots of work and it can take a very long time. So if I’m going to invest years of my life into trying to make a movie happen – I have to respond to it on an emotional level as much as I do on a commercial level. I have to love the shit out of it. And “ideally”, it also has to be with people that I trust. I have to be “all in”! That’s where I am at right now.
MENEGATTI: The readers of my blog want to know if you usually receive screenplays via agents to you analyze or if you search them in other ways too, for example, in sites like The Black List (blcklst.com).
JF: Not yet. The scripts by other writers that I am attached to have landed in my lap because of some kind of personal relationship. In the sense that I knew the person to some degree or they knew somebody that I knew. I like it that way to be honest. More personal.
MENEGATTI: Ok, John, now another question of a reader, to end up the interview. What do you prefer, a good story or a technically well-developed script? Thanks!
JF: Ideally both. But you can take a technically flawed script with a good story and turn it into something solid. You cannot do the opposite.
Take a look in the American Muscle trailer: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZzUnQARY94)