We got on the phone to have a chat with Terrell T. Garrett and Michael Stark, the writers of “Wolverton,” one of the two runner’s up in the first annual Launch Pad Feature Competition. We found out what they have been up to since placing in the top 3, what they have planned next and what the contest has meant to them.
An interview with Terrell Garrett & Michael Stark
TB: There are many famous duos, Simon & Garfunkle, Thelma & Louise, Ren & Stimpy, the Ambiguously Gay Duo etc. How would YOU describe yourselves as a duo?
Michael: We’re just two guys who’ve consumed too many comic books, monster movie marathons, wrestling matches, ultraviolent videogames and tawdry-covered paperbacks.
Terrell: Aliens would probably describe us as “tasty.”
Michael: (Laughs) Living in a small town, it was only natural we’d gravitate towards each other.
TB: Where are you guys located?
Michael: We’re in Hillbilly Hollywood, the suburbs south of Atlanta where they shoot “The Walking Dead. “
TB: Must make for an interesting mix. Also, I can’t believe there isn’t a reality show called Hillbilly Hollywood.
Michael: Soon, probably. There’s a lot of production going on where we live and there’s only going to be more with Pinewood Studios about to open. It’s sort of like when I lived in New York City, only its zombies, not “Law & Order” blocking up traffic.
Terrell: I’m actually taking a break from the chores The Governor gave me just to answer these questions.
TB: That’s kind of him.
Terrell: He’s a harsh man, but fair. Such is his way.
TB: You guys landed a top 3 spot in this contest. Has that accomplishment done anything for you?
Michael: Between the contest and getting on The Young and Hungry List, the phone is definitely ringing more. Not ringing off the hook, but ringing more. We’re still unrepped, but we’ve been extremely choosy about this.
Terrell: I’d say we definitely have more fans, but the contest came at a busy time for me. Not only did I get swamped with day job stuff, I also got married.
TB: Belated congrats!
Terrell: Thanks. When it comes to reps, we’ve been a little elusive. What can I say? We’re old-fashioned. We want to be wooed. We’ve been left at the altar before.
Michael: But with The Tracking Board, we’ve been pleasantly surprised. You guys have gone above and beyond the call of duty. You can google some of the other contests I’ve won. Some of them, three years later, I’m still waiting for my winnings.
TB: What about non-screenwriting contests, any hot dog or pie eating trophies proudly displayed at home?
Terrell: I’ve been a finalist in non-screenwriting contests before. I used to be a video game designer, and I’m still an avid gamer. I actually placed 2nd in the Quake Competition at QuakeCon 2000. I was also a Top 12 duelist in the Razer Cyberathlete League that same year.
TB: Over achiever! How long have either of you been writing?
Terrell: I kind of did the backwards thing. I left my job as a game designer and moved from California to Georgia to learn screenwriting. After I found out Michael was a screenwriter, I hounded him to teach me the ropes. I showed him some solo scripts and he tore them apart and made me cry. True story.
Michael: Yes, but I also showed you how to put it back together where it worked. I spent some time leading writer workshops in New York and I wouldn’t pull something apart if I couldn’t help piece it back together.
TB: How about as a team?
Michael: We’ve been writing together for four years. I had a burgeoning Hollywood career in the late 90s, but it got cut short because of a long, mysterious illness. I burnt some very important bridges in the process. Hey, when you’re given a few months to live, you don’t worry so much about networking. We jump cut ten years later and I find myself still very much alive. Woops. With all my old connections in Hollywood gone or still pissed off at me.
Michael: I had no intentions of ever throwing my hat back in the spec sale ring, but Terrell kept pestering me. He showed me a spec script that had sold for seven figures and I knew we could do much better than that. I blame him for making me dare to dream again.
Terrell: You’ll thank me later.
TB: What kind of writing have you done before screenwriting?
Terrell: I’ve published short stories before. Donald Miller, the author of “Blue Like Jazz,” published one of my stories in an anthology called “The Ankeny Briefcase.”
Michael: I was a music critic for a national magazine. Before that, I had a band that almost got signed by a dozen labels. I’m a bit relieved I didn’t sign my soul away to indentured servitude like many of my musician friends did in the 90s, having to pay back their recording fees.
Terrell: Oh, you may have also read my work writing for Carson Reeves and Scriptshadow under the non de plume, Roger Balfour. So, like Michael, there are some big wigs who probably still hate me, too.
Michael: There’s your big scoop. Terrell wrote for Scriptshadow. The sex tape will be released next week.
TB: I probably don’t want to know, but what’s on that sex tape?
Terrell: Nasty stuff. You’re right, you don’t want to know.
TB: Annnnd now I have terrible imagery in my head. Moving on! What were your first scriptwriting experiences like?
Michael: I wrote my first script at NYU Film School. I was the only undergraduate at the time who even wrote one. This is when we were still using half-broken filmos with doorknobs as the cranks. They put me in a graduate program where I was mentored by Ring Lardner, Jr., Ian Hunter and Waldo Salt. Ring Lardner gave me ten pages of all my spelling errors and said, “Don’t worry, my dad used to correct F. Scott Fitzgerald’s typos.” Then they tore my script apart and, magically, before my eyes, put it back together all fixed. I still use that technique today when giving screenplay notes.
Terrell: I didn’t even show my first script to Michael. Oddly, it was kind of like “American Horror Story: Coven” but not as good. Nowhere near as good. Abysmal. Horrible. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.
Michael: The first two we don’t talk about. But, the third one got me into CAA. As a joke, I recently entered it into some contests. It didn’t even make the first cut. Which I find very amusing because back in the day everyone from Sean Connery to James Lapine wanted to direct it.
TB: Maybe you should send Sir Connery the script again. Maybe, just maybe, pull him out of retirement for one last hurrah. Listen if “Grudge Match” can happen, truly anything is possible. Is this your first outing as a team?
Michael: As a writing team, we had a script go out wide three years ago called “Buffalo Bill In London.” Like, “Wolverton”, it was a genre-busting tent-pole. Unfortunately, the timing was off because of “Cowboys & Aliens” performing so darn well.
Terrell: It did get us some rabid fans and meetings though.
Michael: I should emphasize, “Buffalo Bill” is NOT really a Western. It has cowboys in Victorian London spouting screwball comedy dialogue. It’s its own damn thing.
TUNE IN TOMORROW WHEN WE CONTINUE WITH THE INTERVIEW AND DISCUSS: