I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter ....
MITCH: My mom and dad
took my brother and I to movies all the time. I’ll never forget the first
time I saw what is still my favorite movie, The Commitments. In school, I got
exposed to all kinds of stories. I
fell in love with Flannery O’Conner and John Steinbeck.
Honestly, I hate to say it, but I chose screenwriting because I thought
it would be the easiest way to make a living at writing.
Then when I saw things like Lawrence of Arabia I realized the power
screenwriting could have by combining words with these amazing images.
TONY: I’ve always known I wanted to write. As a kid I lived
to hear my grandfather’s stories. He was the definition of raconteur and
could hold my attention for hours. That’s probably where I got the bug.
I’ve been writing short fiction for as long as I can remember. I’d do
every writing class I could get into as a kid. I was an English major in
school. For me it’s just about telling stories. It stems from that oral
tradition and grew as I became aware, through my father’s love of the
movies, that film is currently the most powerful storytelling medium there is.
I’ve wanted to be a part of that tradition from a very early age.
I know I've succeeded....
MITCH: … when someone asks me this question.
TONY: When my writing partner, and my girlfriend approve. Mitch's taste and mine have pretty much locked since day one and Kate just has an innate sense of story.
My inspiration to write FRIJOLITO G0! .......
started simply as an excuse to get back behind the camera. We went to film
school together and co-wrote and directed a short film about an a cappella
techno band. We parted ways and each made a second short film. After we
reunited in NYC we’d been looking for work, doing the entry level film
industry thing and wanted to fix our creative jones on the side, so we threw
together Frijolito, Go! from a few disparate elements.
’s character is based loosely on a mutual
friend of ours who’d actually worked as a party clown, mostly in low-income
housing projects. That idea coupled with a moment witnessed between him and a
little boy at an ice-skating rink and sort of gelled into Frijolito, Go! Oh,
and Tony saw the word Frijolito scrawled above a urinal at Miramax.
What inspired you to write?
Mitch Larson: I had a teacher in high school named Tom Ferderer who taught
a class that changed everything I was thinking.
He introduced me to Joseph Campbell (who is a living god, or
was when he was alive anyway). It
was the first time I understood what subtext was, and that writing
doesn’t need to be and isn’t supposed to be just a frivolous
the idea of writing was much more interesting.
Tony Mosher: For me it goes back to that storytelling idea addressed in an earlier question. I love stories. I'm fascinated by the core idea of story, and how it's the one thing that we hold in common with our ancestors and their ancestors and their ancestors. All that Joseph Campbell stuff. It really frustrates me when people come out of a theater and talk about how "unreal" everything is they've seen. For me storytelling has always been about reminding people, and myself, what is possible.
FilmMakers Magazine: How did you prepare yourself to write your first script?
Mitch Larson: I was completely unprepared. I had a screenwriting class in college and had to show up to the first session and pitch my feature! I had a loose idea based on the Bob Dylan song
"Isis," but no story. After suffering through the pitch, I started writing it, and it turned out all right. I still love the idea that I ended up with, but it was clearly written during my "be different to be different" years. Knowing what I know now, someday I'll go back and do it right.
My first script was based on an idea that my father and I worked out together. I think it was originally his idea, actually. It was a period piece, and I really didn't know what I was doing, so I just invested all my energy into the research. It was a very emotional father and son story and I'm not sure I had the life experience yet to aptly convey that kind of thing, which is probably why it's gathering dust. I want to revisit it. I still think it's a wonderful story.
FilmMakers Magazine: Is this your first script and how long did it take you to write FRIJOLITO G0!?
Larson and Tony Mosher: No, it’s not the first for either of us. Because it was
written sort of on a whim—-something to do cheap and fast with
resources we had at our disposal—-the first draft came together
really quickly. It’s gone through several re-writes since but
hasn’t changed dramatically on the whole. I suppose two weeks of off
and on work for a first draft.
FilmMakers Magazine: Do you believe screenplay contests are important for aspiring
screenwriters and why?
Larson and Tony Mosher: They're critical. We've been working in the film industry in NYC now for a few years and have come up with some pretty nice contacts that we still hope will get us somewhere, but the contests allow you to have that little bit of validation that makes the struggle worthwhile. You make a stride in a competition and it makes you feel like you're more than an assistant or whatever it is you're doing to pay the bills.
FilmMakers Magazine: What influenced you to enter the
American Gem Short Script Competition?
Larson and Tony Mosher: It’s unique among the short competitions we’ve seen in
that it offers production as part of its prize. That and it’s been
around for a few years, has a good amount of entries each year, and
promises industry exposure.
Beside screenwriting what are you passionate about and why?
Mitch Larson: Definitely music. Music provides a variety of visceral experiences that can't be had any other way. And I really want to travel the world and see things, like that random boat in the middle of the desert… have you seen that thing?
People; family, friends, strangers, all of them. People in bars, people on the train, people in the park. What they do, how they do it, why they do it. It's all fascinating to me. I could watch people for hours. That and the components of film: story, image/photography, acting, music. Music is a big one. It informs nearly everything I do.
FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter and Why?
Mitch Larson: Whenever I feel I'm getting cocky, I remember Ingmar Bergman. It would take me three or four lifetimes to come up with something like
Wild Strawberries or Persona. As for non-dead writers, I gotta go with the hometown boys, the Coen brothers.
Oh Brother Where Art Thou? and Barton Fink are brilliant. Their worst scripts are still damn good.
I don't think I can put all my chips on one. I'm a really big fan of the legends from the seventies. The guys that writers of my generation venerate as the screenwriting Gods: Schrader, Towne, Chayefsky, Goldman, et al. I'm just sort of getting into the previous generation of Ernest Lehman, Neil Simon… Of the current batch I seem to gravitate towards those who have something in common with these guys; Kaufman, Anderson (both of them), Cohen, Payne and Taylor. I once had the good fortune of reading an unproduced screenplay by Herman Raucher
(Summer of '42) which completely changed the way I thought about writing scripts. It definitely had the biggest impact in terms of the way I write.
FilmMakers Magazine: Name the director you would love to work with and why?
Mitch Larson: If he could be reanimated, I'd love to work with the greatest director ever, Alfred Hitchcock. No one has ever been able to give the audience a ride quite like him. I'd also love to see what David Lynch would do with something we wrote. Like him or not, he is truly original, and I think he's a genius.
David Gordon Greene. I'm a huge fan. I instantly fell in love with George Washington. I know he mainly writes his own stuff, but I just love what has made up his work to date. Small crews, small casts, small budgets-it's so incongruous to what's going on in the film industry at the moment. I can't wait to see what he comes up with now that he has a budget at his disposal.
Name the actor you would love to work with and why?
Clint Eastwood. Because he's Clint Eastwood.
Again, I have to take the easy way out. I think Meryl Streep is inhumanly good. I'm fascinated by Samantha Morton. Billy Crudup and Mark
Ruffalo. I'm always interested in what young actors are capable of doing if they weren't taking risk-free roles. I think there are some really talented younger actors out there who could really show their chops and do amazing things if they just chose meatier parts.
Any tips and things learned along the way to pass on to others?
Mitch Larson: Two things. First, find resources where you are. In New York, there's all kinds of great organizations for young penniless aspiring writers. Things like the Stellar Network
where FRIJOLITO, GO! won its first award. Second, focus on
structure. I learned the
hard way that you shouldn’t write a word of the script until you
know exactly where it’s going. You
can really waste a lot of time trying to figure it out as you write.
Oh man. What do I know? One thing I have learned is that your chances are better if you focus on just doing your thing. If your goal is nothing more than to land an agent, chances are slim that they're going to pay attention to you. You do your thing, if you're doing it well, the agents will find you. At least that's what I've seen. And I'd add that the clichés definitely seem to be true. There are definitely dues to be paid. If it's something you have to do, you just find ways to do it. You wait the tables, do the temp work, put up with the nightmare industry jobs, whatever it takes to allow you to get close to people that can make a difference or to get your stuff seen.
What's next for you?
Tony Mosher and Mitch Larson: We're going to make a short film this summer. We have feature scripts in competitions. We have a couple of things out to people that we think might spark to our stuff. Oh, and we're going to buy a radio station.
FilmMakers Magazine: Where will you be five years from now?
Mitch Larson and Tony Mosher: With a director credit on a feature. And out of debt. Definitely out of debt.