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 – Part 2
TB: “Wolverton” is insanely dense and immensely entertaining. I feel like the first 10 pages could be a movie in it’s own right. Was it less or more packed in previous drafts?
Terrell: Probably more packed. We like to kitchen-sink things for our first draft, hoping that something in it will connect with someone.
Michael: Again, we’ve been writing huge franchise spectacles. We already have a dozen sequels lined up for “Wolverton” including the comicbook, the Saturday Morning Cartoon and the breakfast cereal. Originally, we were looking for ways to throw all the Universal Monsters into one serviceable feature.
Terrell: Like “Van Helsing” if it was good.
TB: Your script has plenty of genres it plays with, do a lot of your ideas involve this drop-in-a-bunch-of-genres-and-hit-blend approach or is this a one off?
Michael: All our scripts have been like fun, little experiments in genre. We take familiar tropes and conventions and turn them on their head. “Wolverton” plays with the gentleman thief character we’ve seen in “Raffles”, “The Pink Panther” and “To Catch a Thief.” You can’t really have a cat burglar who works only with charm set in the modern day. So, to make it interesting (for us anyway), we put it in a gothic setting and made his specialty stealing only magical items.
Terrell: We write movies we want to see. We do like mash-ups. When it comes to genre, I think we should always be pushing the boundaries. But, at the same time, I think there’s a lot to be said for a story well told while sticking to the basics. It really depends on the idea.
TB: Very true.
Terrell: I think a great example that subtly and weirdly mixes genres is “Eastbound & Down”. It’s a spin on the classic underdog story and it does its own thing. One minute it’s a black comedy, the next it’s a drama and then it’s I don’t know what.
TB: The word you’re looking for is “perfect.”
Terrell: Kenny Powers would agree.
TB: Any underutilized genres you wish could make a comeback?
Michael: Personally, I hope the Western is indeed NOT dead as we’ve written quite a few of them. I like that even though the spaces are wide open, the towns themselves are contained. The small towns can essentially become a character. Zahler did a great job doing exactly that with “The Brigands of Rattleborge.”
TB: That’s a GREAT script.
Terrell: Mostly I want Ridley Scott to stop everything he’s doing and make “Prometheus 2.”
TB: With any genre mash-up, or any mash-up in general for that matter, there’s sometimes a sense of this is juuuuuust above fan fiction. Do you agree with that notion?
Michael: I don’t agree with that. All screenwriters are movie fans. We’re just writing valentines to the stuff we love. You take that heart out of it, then you just have product. I liked Hollywood much better when it was run by furriers than by these Harvard grads today. The garment industry guys understood heart.
Terrell: “Fifty Shades of Gray” was originally “Twilight” fan-fiction. It doesn’t matter. All writers get their ideas from other ideas. Part of the job of being a writer is absorbing everything and then distilling your own notions and ideas through those filters and creating something new.
TB: Speaking of inspired works, let’s talk about that dreaded Hollywood word: REMAKE. What’s your idea of a good remake?
Michael: John Huston’s “The Maltese Falcon” was better than the 1931 version. That was only a ten year difference. Hammett fanboys didn’t exactly have conniptions over that.
Terrell: “John Carpenter’s The Thing” was better than the Howard Hawk’s version.
Michael: I don’t know about that. It just had more money thrown at it and better special effects. But, like all the “Invasion of the Body Snatcher” remakes, they’re all good and they all have their place. I’ve enjoyed them all.
TB: “Wolverton” basks in many genres but it’s firmly rooted in action/adventure. As far as that genre goes, does it get any better than “Raiders of the Lost Ark?”
Michael: It’s one of our favorite movies. And, obviously an influence on the old-fashioned, action adventures we’ve been writing.
Terrell: It is a high watermark, isn’t it?
TB: How about favorite shameless, Indiana Jones knock-off?
Terrell: The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Michael: I love a script that was never produced called “Smoke and Mirrors.” But, it wasn’t a shameless rip off; it was an homage to the pulp serials these guys grew up on. Notice that Indiana Jones was not based on existing material, but, the trope is so recognizable that, at the time, it was fresh but still familiar.
TB: Everything is built on what came before it.
Michael: Yeah. I mention this because we’ve had some pushback with “Wolverton” because it’s not based on existing material. Yet, it has a very familiar character and setting with Dorian Gray, HG Wells, and The Monkey’s Paw thrown into the mix. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, but it’s told in a way that hopefully you haven’t. We’re not reinventing the wheel here; we’re just giving you a really freaking awesome wheel!
Terrell: I think everyone is familiar with the lovable scoundrel hero that Harrison Ford characterized so well. Different medium, but I’m quite fond of Naughty Dog’s “Uncharted” series. I think “Uncharted 2” captures the essence of those pulp adventures and then some. And, the Nathan Drake character is rogue-like in that Harrison Ford way, but different enough to feel fresh and fun. And, I’ll mention “The Last of Us” while we’re on this topic. It’s survival horror, so it’s a bit more grim and gritty, but the adventure elements meet that same watermark.
STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT PART IN THE SERIES AS WE LOOK AT: