I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter........
when I saw The Deer Hunter.
I know I've succeeded........
I've never 'succeeded', but I've come darn
My inspiration to write REQUIEM.......
was the personal memory of remarkable men and
women journalists who lost their lives in pursuit of 'the story.'
What inspired you to write?
Paul VanDevelder: I'd have to say Mr. Hemingway's A Farewell to
Arms. When I read the last lines of that novel I knew, without a
doubt, what I wanted to do ( I once asked Joan Didion the same
question...she gave me the same answer).
FilmMakers Magazine: What did you do to prepare yourself to write your first script?
Paul VanDevelder: I read every book I could find that made a
stab at teaching the form. Also, I spent time with friends who were
successful screenwriters (John Nichols - The Milagro Beanfield War)
and picked their brains. Then, I read a dozen scripts.
FilmMakers Magazine: Is this your first script and how long did it take you to complete?
Paul VanDevelder: No, it's not my first, but it's the story
that my first script prepared me to write. I wrote the first draft of
this script in nine days. It was like being chased up a mountain by a
forest fire. Then, I spent the next several years tearing it apart,
peeling it back, rewriting and rewriting. What I learned along the way
is that nobody masters this form, but some learn to endure it with
more grace than others.
FilmMakers Magazine: Do you have a set routine, place and time management for writing?
Yes. I run five to eight miles early in the morning to clear my head,
to think through the day ahead. Then, I sit down to write, usually by
9 a.m., and work until 3 or 4 p.m.. During those hours, whether I'm
working on a script, a book, a magazine piece, or an essay for a
newspaper, I'm gone.
FilmMakers Magazine: Do you believe screenplay contests are important for aspiring
screenwriters and why?
Paul VanDevelder: Yes, even though contests, by definition, are
a bit of a crap-shoot, they represent the new method of getting your
work noticed by people in the industry.
What influenced you to enter the FilmMakers International
Paul VanDevelder: My sister. She won the Final Draft contest
last year. When she read REQUIEM she urged me to submit it to
Filmmakers (Final Draft was closed). Glad I did.
FilmMakers Magazine: What script would you urge aspiring writers to read and why?
Paul VanDevelder: I would urge any aspiring screenwriter to
read a variety of scripts, including Chinatown, Fargo, Lonestar, and
Traffic. Each of these made great movies, but stylistically, they
spread the field and demonstrate the great
latitude of the form.
FilmMakers Magazine: Beside screenwriting what are you passionate about and why?
Paul VanDevelder: Justice. My book, Coyote Warrior, tells a
remarkable story of one man's pursuit of justice against all odds. In
many respects, REQUIEM tells a similar story. It seems to be a theme
that drives my life.
FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter
Paul VanDevelder: In my very limited and humble opinion, John
Sayles has few peers when it comes to crafting story. His characters
are messy, nuanced, complex, and painfully real. You never quite know
where the pages are going to take you, but you're going to love the
experience of getting there.
FilmMakers Magazine: Name the director you would love to work with and why?
Walter Salles or Peter Weir - both
are superb dramatic story-tellers.
Magazine: Name the actor you would love to work with and why?
Paul VanDevelder: Sean Penn, or Robert Downey Jr.. Although
these actors represent very different styles, they both have the the
ability to project 440 volts of emotional complexity in an environment
that seethes with ambiguity. That's a gift, a gift that makes for a
four dimensional experience in a two dimensional medium. I've imagined
both of them as Jesse, the lead character in REQUIEM, and it's always
been a flip of the coin.
FilmMakers Magazine: Any tips and things learned along the way to pass on to others?
Paul VanDevelder: Yep. Stay out of the bars and get a solid
education in the classics. While you're doing that, eat and sleep
well, and take care of your earth suit (your body). Develop physical
stamina - it's the best medicine for a clear head. Develop a routine
that suits you, then stick to it, even if you don't write a word, day
after day. That's okay. Those days of silent anguish are the dues you
pay for the days when you get to roar. And when you're finished
writing, laugh, go for a bike ride with the person you love, make
dinner for friends at least one night a week, grow a garden, and learn
to take others more seriously than you take yourself.
FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?
Paul VanDevelder: I have a contract for a new book, and my
first book, Coyote Warrior, has just been optioned. If the producer
decides to turn it into a feature rather than a cable production, I'll
probably write the script.
FilmMakers Magazine: Where will you be five years from now?
Paul VanDevelder: Right here, in the silence of my office,
doing what I love.