American Gem 2003 Short Screenplay Competition - EYEWITNESS
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Gary Davidson

Fourth Place Winner

Gary Davidson
Santa Monica,
Biography: Born. Draw cartoons. Make Super 8 mm animated movies. Go to college. Watch foreign movies. Make first 16 mm film that ends up being twenty minutes of black leader. Come to Hollywood. Write many scripts. Get many rejections. Find an agent. Lose an agent. Contemplate alternative career paths. Write short script for own amusement. Enter it in American Gem Short Script Contest. Answer questions for American Gem.....


I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter ....

Actually I never really wanted to be a screenwriter per se, I wanted to be a filmmaker. I read where Paul Schrader (screenwriter of “Taxi Driver”) said that a screenwriter was only half a filmmaker. I think that’s true. It’s a director’s medium. According to Billy Wilder, directing a film is a lot more fun than writing one. So why do all the hard labor then hand it over for someone else to have all the fun? But to answer the question, I knew I wanted to be filmmaker/writer the moment I saw William Wyler’s “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946) at a revival screening in college. For some reason that post war film written by Robert E. Sherwood reached out and grabbed me by the lapels, shook me up and galvanized my life. 

I know I've succeeded....

when American Gem sends me an email and asks me to answer these questions. 

My inspiration to write EYEWITNESS.......

Page 159 of “Hitchcock by Francois Truffaut.” Hitchcock is talking about his decision to shoot “Dial M For Murder” on a single living room set and says: “I could just as well have shot the whole film in a telephone booth...” I thought, wow, what a cinematic idea. Whole film takes place in a phone booth. Of course we all know about a recent film with the same concept titled “Phone Booth,” written by Larry Cohen. And, no, I did not rip-off Mr. Cohen. “Eyewitness” was written long before I ever heard of Mr. Cohen’s script. In fact my script was also titled “Phone Booth” at the time. Interestingly enough, I actually had the opportunity to ask Mr. Cohen where he got his idea. Turns out years ago he’s the one who originally pitched the idea to Hitchcock! So what Hitchcock is telling Truffaut is really Mr. Cohen’s idea. So, I guess, I did rip-off Mr. Cohen.




FilmMakers Magazine: What inspired you to write?

Gary Davidson: Film writing instructor at San Francisco State told everyone first day of class we were wasting our time. That odds were only one person in the class would ever become a professional screenwriter -- and that one person was going to be the instructor. Got bumped first day. Never took the class. Still looking for instructor’s credits on the big screen. 

FilmMakers Magazine: How did you prepare yourself to write your first script? 

Gary Davidson: I didn’t. And it made my learning curve that much longer. I assumed that because I could see the movie in my head I was a writer. I later realized a vivid imagination is only half the story. 

FilmMakers Magazine: Is this your first script and how long did it take you to write EYEWITNESS?

Gary Davidson: This is not my first script. I’ve written maybe half a dozen features, same number of shorts. First draft of “Eyewitness” was written basically in real time, straight through, about thirty minutes. But I’ve been tinkering with the sucker for years. 

FilmMakers Magazine:  Do you believe screenplay contests are important for aspiring screenwriters and why?

What influenced you to enter the American Gem Short Script Competition?

Gary Davidson: I think they’re a good thing for a starting writer for several reasons. It gives you the experience of being judged by strangers (which is what Hollywood is all about), they’re a great confidence booster if you win or place, and they can give you credibility when it comes to agents and production companies. But there’s one drawback to screenwriting contests that I’ve noticed. And that’s that many of them award scripts that will never be produced. I mean, what contest judges are looking for is sometimes not quite what Hollywood is looking for. Short scripts are a different matter but, love it or hate it, in Hollywood Concept is king. Even if a few contests ignore your writing, that may not necessarily be a bad thing. You may still have a very marketable script. Go with your gut. Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot have a web site ( that covers this subject in a very enlightened way. It offers an incredible insider's view into the world of big time screenwriting. I highly recommend it. 

FilmMakers Magazine: Beside screenwriting what are you passionate about and why?

Gary Davidson: Is there anything else? 

FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter and Why?

Gary Davidson: James Cameron. Don’t let the stratospheric success fool ya, this guy can write: Techno thriller, action, epic romance... he does it all. Even a slight stumble like “Abyss” includes possibly the most romantic scene ever written for the screen: Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Ed Harris who plays her ex are stuck in a diving bell with only enough air in a scuba tank for one to get back alive. So Ms. Mastrantonio’s character allows herself to drown and Harris has to fight like hell to bring her back to life. “Aliens” script is a masterpiece of screenwriting. 

FilmMakers Magazine: Name the director you would love to work with and why?

Gary Davidson: Werner Herzog. A visionary filmmaker who sees the world through the eyes of a madman. There are images in this man’s work that I will carry to my grave. Klaus Kinski as Aguirre a conquistador in the middle of the Peruvian rain forest on a raft swarming with monkeys. The titles of his films alone should win Academy recognition: “Aguirre, The Wrath of God”... “Even Dwarfs Started Small”... “Where The Green Ants Dream.” C’mon. 

FilmMakers Magazine: Name the actor you would love to work with and why?

Gary Davidson: Hey, Nicole Kidman, you interested in being in a low budget short entitled “Eyewitness” shot in DV, no pay...? 

FilmMakers Magazine: Any tips and things learned along the way to pass on to others?

Gary Davidson: You’ll never be a great writer until you’re willing to ‘pull your pants down’.” Screenwriter Richard Jefferies quoting his mentor Alexander Mackendrick.

FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?

Gary Davidson: Screw up my courage and write a feature. 

FilmMakers Magazine: Where will you be five years from now?

Gary Davidson:
I’ve learned to never look that far ahead, especially in Hollywood.

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