Just this past Summer, Matthew James McDonough went from unknown Australian writer, to top 3 winner in our very own Launch Pad Feature Competition, signed writer with Will Rowbotham and Adam Marshall at Caliber Media Co., and he even notched a spot on the 2013 Young & Hungry List. We had a chance to hop on the phone with the comedic newcomer to discuss how life has changed since the contest, what he’s up to now, and what it’s like writing for Hollywood from the other side of the Pacific Ocean.
AN INTERVIEW WITH MATTHEW JAMES MCDONOUGH — PART 3
TB: A lot of the actual writing jobs are OWAs (open writing assignments) and/or IP (intellectual property) jobs: Any particular properties you’d love to take a stab at? If so, why? If not, why not? (If uncertain, might I suggest a gritty take on “The Little Mermaid.”)
MATT: There is a gritty take on “The Little Mermaid.” It’s called, “The Little Mermaid.” The original story by that Danish guy, Hans Christian Andersen, sounds f*cking hectic.
In the original tale, she gives up her tongue for a new set of pins, dances for the prince but he flags her and marries some other bitch and the little mermaid F*CKING DIES HEARTBROKEN. Not exactly a Disney ending. Maybe a series on HBO? Wahlberg, get on it!
But yeah for sure, OWAs are cool because if you find something you like, some of the work’s already been done for you! What I think I’d really enjoy doing though is punching up dialogue on comedies, that would be great. I’ve read a few comedy scripts where I’m like man, I wish I got a chance to write that! The idea is great but the actual comedy… not too flash.
TB: Coming out of the contest, you were snatched up right away by a few of our judges — Will Rowbotham and Adam Marshall at Caliber Media. How has that experience been, and what’s next for you? (I know you guys are planning on going out with “The Third Wheel” soon)?
MATT: It was a relief to get signed before the competition was over. It was great to get that recognition from Will and Adam before the results were in. I think in screenwriting, especially comedy, it’s important to sign with someone who has similar tastes to your own. If they like your comedy (and not just your idea), you know they’ll do their best to rep you as a writer, not just your script.
But in terms of what’s next? Hopefully get “The Third Wheel” out on the market very soon.
If that fails, Will, Adam and myself are forming a K-pop inspired group called The Third Wheels. You should see Will in his open blazer, bare chest (both nipples are pierced – it’s a solid look) and leather pants combo. His body is an inspiration to mankind.
TB: And, while I know “The Third Wheel” has not yet hit the market, but what are you planning to do next? Have you and your reps discussed the next few projects?
MATT: I have another spec that’s just about ready to go. I won’t say too much but I’m really excited about it, as I haven’t seen a film in recent history that deals with this sort of subject matter. That’s definitely the story I want to focus on. The plan is to get “The Third Wheel” onto the market then focus on that.
MATT: I really admire Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, all of those guys… they’re usually so involved in their projects. At a certain stage in my career, I’d like to have more of an input than simply writing the script and being done with it. I haven’t really done it much, but I’d love to direct or act in my own comedy. But that’s long term plans.
TB: What were some of your favorite films and television series this year? Ever? And from there, what were some of the films and TV that inspired you to become a writer?
MATT: TV influences me more than film I’d have to say (mainly because it’s so much easier to list my favorite TV shows then it is film). Rather than purely from this year alone, I’ll just give you some of my all time favorites –
TV: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Arrested Development, Entourage, Scrubs, 30 Rock, Seinfeld, Sex and The City, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Shield, The Wire, The Sopranos, Homeland, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, Big Brother season 15–nah just fucking with you.
Movies: The Departed and The Town spring to mind but in terms of comedies — Knocked Up, 40 Year old Virgin, 21 Jump Street, Superbad, Bridesmaids etc.
TB: If you could pick one — what movie do you wish you’d written? And second to that, what film do you wish you’d had a chance to pitch for? Past or present, or even future?
MATT: I’m going to choose a TV series instead and say “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” Mainly because Australia needs a TV show like that. “It’s Always Sunny in Brisbane” would be a hit. Irreverent humor plays pretty well here.
TB: Describe the perfect day for you to write. What’s the setting, the feeling, the atmosphere of a good day? Has that changed over the years?
MATT: The perfect time to write is when you don’t have other things to worry about – distractions, your job, cats… all of these things are time vampires… but there’s always going to be distractions in life so you have to roll with it.
But if I had to say? Maybe the perfect time to write would be after you’ve taken a short break… after you’ve seen a movie or read a script that really inspired you. I know after I’ve seen a good comedy, I’m always keen to sit down and work on my stuff.
And it’s probably the perfect night over the perfect day. I definitely prefer to write in the evening.
TB: Aside from writing, what sort of things interests you both within, and outside of the film industry?
MATT: Within the industry? As I mentioned earlier, I’d love to play behind the camera a bit, and maybe step in front from time to time as well.
Outside of the industry? Probably music. More specifically, Hip Hop. Music is definitely a source of inspiration for me… Guys like Drake, Eminem, Big L, Big Pun, and my man Verbill.
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?
MATT: No real plan of attack, I just do whatever feels natural. A lot of the research for comedies about relationships comes from life experience… from either my own perspective or observing friends and family too.
Being from Australia, I definitely need to do additional research to get a feel for the city I’m basing my story in. Even simple stuff like using Google maps to find out where landmarks are in LA and Chicago, names of airports… the type of searches that get you flagged by the FBI. For example, my next script required a great deal of research on the DWP and the Los Angeles mayoral election.
In terms of outlining, generally, I will try and create a loose outline and then change it about a million times. After writing a few scripts though, I now realize how important it is to have a solid outline before you start writing pages. It definitely saves a lot of time down the track.
TB: And when you sit down to actually conquer a script, what is often the easiest thing to come, and what are your struggles?
MATT: I enjoy dialogue… coming up with the comedy. Editing is a struggle… not because it’s that particularly difficult but because it sucks having to get rid of scenes and dialogue that you love.
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?
MATT: To have films that I wrote sitting on my shelves… but also, to eventually have the opportunity to be involved in the entire process from script to screen.
TB: Is there anything else you’d like to discuss? Keep in mind, this interview is all about you, and being that you’re not local, we’d love to cover most anything you’d like to discuss. Anything you’d like to touch on, etc.?
Will write for green card.
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