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 3
TB: What is your routine? Since you’re a writing team, do you switch off writing or do you just have one designated guy like the Coen brothers?
Michael: Outline, outline, outline. Get all the bugs out in the treatment. Show it to the few friends we have left, get the architecture down before we waste time building. This isn’t jazz, but as a team, we do sometimes riff off each other so there is some room for improvisation.
TB: Do you write in the same room or one at a time separately?
Terrell: We usually write in the same room. With lots of coffee. But sometimes, we don’t always have the time because of life and day jobs, so we email each other pages.
Michael: It’s less lonely to write as a team. Although, that doesn’t stop us from procrastinating either.
TB: How long did it take you to complete the first draft of “Wolverton” and how long to get it ready for the contest?
Michael: We wrote “Wolverton” in fits and starts. We handed the first act to our then-manager who didn’t warm kindly to it. We shelved it a few months to work on something more modern day, but, it kept calling to us.
Terrell: And when we didn’t have the manager anymore…
Michael: Suddenly we were back in the position of doing whatever the hell we wanted, and so we went back to it. We usually bang out a first draft in two or three months. The draft you see is our second draft. Again, if you work everything out in the treatment, I don’t think you have to rewrite ad nauseum.
TB: Writer’s block, fact or fiction?
Terrell: I don’t believe in writer’s block. Sure, we have days where things maybe come a little bit slower, but none of that is wasted time. I think people sometimes forget that time spent thinking and plotting and figuring stuff out counts as writing, too.
Michael: I could agonize for days over one adjective. Terrell is less obsessive.
Terrell: I just obsess over different things. Like, have we gone too far? Have we gone far enough?
TB: Any new projects percolating?
Michael: We’ve been asked to develop some things for various producers we’re not at liberty to talk about. We do have some fresh specs waiting for the right manager and/or agent to get behind. Otherwise, we’re starting to transition into television. Shows like “Sleepy Hollow” have given us faith that there’s an audience for the crazy sh*t we’ve been dreaming up.
Terrell: I’m working on a solo sci-fi spec as well.
TB: Long term, what kind of things do you hope to be writing in your career?
Terrell: We’ve both been outlining novels. I’m writing a YA series that I hope to finish over the next year or two. I’m intrigued by the success of Kindle authors like Blake Crouch, Amanda Hocking, and Hugh Howey. Crouch left his legacy publisher to publish his books on Kindle after he met resistance trying to get one of his novels published. Now, M. Night is making one of his books into a tv series and it turns out he’s making more off his ebooks than he ever did with his traditionally published books. Howey also published “Wool” on Kindle and now Ridley Scott is attached to make that into either a film or tv show. Hocking is a writer who wrote a plethora of novels and was rejected by every major publisher. She ended up selling so many books on her own that she became a millionaire. After spending the past few years writing scripts for producers, the idea of writing a book and getting it out into the world on my own is very tempting.
Michael: I agree a hundred percent with Terrell on ebooks. It’s instant gratification. It’s building an accessible fanbase. It’s also eliminating the middle-man. The way the music business, publishing and Hollywood has changed, this definitely empowers the artist. Call it the schmuck’s revenge.
TB: What were some of your favorite television series this year?
Terrell: This year, I like “American Horror Story: Coven.” It reaffirms that no one is better than playing crazy than Kathy Bates. And the girl from “Precious’s” super power is that of Human Voodoo Doll. It doesn’t get cooler than that. For comedy I like “The League.” I’m a huge fan of “Lost,” “Breaking Bad,” “The X-Files,” and “Buffy.” The movie that made me want to be a writer was “Jurassic Park.”
Michael: Of course I love “The Walking Dead” because it revitalized the town we live in. My property value has jumped back up to what I bought it! Huzzah! Thus, if anyone wants us up in LA, I can sell my house in a jiffy.
TB: There are currently 5 million projects based on or inspired by “The Wizard of Oz.” If you had to, what would your version be like?
Michael: Mine would be told from the point of view of The Flying Monkey Wrangler. Wait, wasn’t Chevy Chase in that?
Terrell: I’d be lazy and just adapt Cat Valente’s wonderful novel, “The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making”. Best girl goes to fantasy-land story there is.
TB: If you could pick one — what movie do you wish you’d written?
Michael: This will date me. I’m not as young and hungry as that list would have you think, but I pitched the book “The Prestige” with Antonio Banderas attached. My take on it was more a horror flick. Nolan’s script definitely did a far better job than I would have. But, I feel vindicated, cause I knew it would make a great movie.
Terrell: I wish I had written the script, “A Killing on Carnival Row”. Movie? “Shaun of the Dead”.
TB: Man, I still pray that Travis Beacham’s script will get made one day.
Terrell: It’s so good.
TB: Describe the perfect writing day for you guys.
Michael: Once we wrote a first act in one day. It’s never happened before or since. We write extremely elaborate set-pieces. These Rube Goldberg mechanisms sometimes take a long time to execute. What can I say? Mousetrap was my very favorite game growing up.
Terrell: We’re kind of known for classy material, but that first-act-in-one-day script was a pothead version of “Day of the Triffids” and was perhaps the raunchiest thing ever set to paper. I still laugh about it. Any day where we’re laughing a lot is a good writing day.
TB: Aside from writing, what sort of things interests you both within, and outside of the film industry?
Michael: I own a Book and Record Store outside of Atlanta. So, I have a perfect excuse to be a hoarder. I’m also obsessed with delis and sazeracs. Although fried chicken is plentiful down here, a lean pastrami sandwich remains as elusive as Bigfoot.
Terrell: I read a lot of books. I have been accused of playing “Diablo 3” like it’s a fulltime job. I like gaming of all sorts and I used to be a part of the stand-up comedy scene for a short stint in Atlanta.
TB: When you’re sitting down to tackle a new project, is there a lot of research you do before hand? Obviously this may change per project, but do you have a sort of “plan of attack” each time out?
Michael: We’ve written a lot of period pieces, so that means immersing ourselves in world building. Luckily, I own that book store. And, thank God for Wikipedia. I think the time and effort we put in world building shows on the page. Unfortunately, we sometimes end up speaking in atrocious English accents by the end of it.
TB: And when you sit down to actually conquer a script, what is often the easiest thing to come, and what are your struggles?
Michael: I think we tend to overpolish. Having a fear to finally release a draft into the world. I think we’ve set aside things in our desk a little too long.
Terrell: I don’t think we ever worry about set pieces or action. That stuff can come easily. Expressing the theme can be a struggle. Making the story resonate can be a struggle.
TB: And long term, I know we’ve chimed in on the “what’s next”, but in a perfect world, what do you want for your career next, in 5-years, 10-years, lifetime? What are your goals and aspirations?
Michael: I know there are no second acts, but I do hope to resurrect the screenwriting career I was building years back.
Terrell: First off, to be able to keep doing this. To keep writing. And to see something we’ve written get made.
TB: Random ultimatum scattershot: Buckaroo Banzai or James Bond and “The Goonies” or “Monster Squad”?
Michael: Buckaroo Banzai has always been one of my favorite movies. I’m still waiting for the sequel. I know Terrell and I argue over this all the time, but I hated “The Goonies” and “Monster Squad.” I never quite liked John Hughes either. But, then again, my writing partner hadn’t seen a movie before 1970 until he met me.
Terrell: My dad made me watch Buckaroo Banzai when I was a kid and I’ve never been the same since. Oddly, I sometimes find James Bond boring. Although I loved “Skyfall.” “The Goonies” all the way.
TB: Any last lingering thoughts?
Michael: I just hope nothing I’m associated with will ever be targeted for the “How Did This Get Made?” podcast. Although, at this point, I’d whore myself out to “Crocodile Dundee 4”.
Terrell: There’s a “Crocodile Dundee 3?”