Interview: Writer Adam Dickinson (part two)

In early October, local film production company Words Pictures Movies will premiere their first feature Everything Fred Tells Me is True. (Here’s the trailer.)

This is the second half of an interview with Adam Dickinson, who wrote the screenplay. (Here’s the first half of the interview from last week.)

Magnificent Nose: What’s your writing routine?

Adam Dickinson: To me the important thing is to have certain rituals to keep the writing process moving forward. At the start of any large project I’ll always put together a realistic timeline and set milestones, which I’ll enter into Google Calendar. I’ll set up email reminders for when deadlines approach. The first milestones are generally pre-writing phases: character sketches, working out main themes, scene-by-scene outline, etc. After that comes milestones for page counts of draft 1, then rougher timelines for draft 2. Then to really keep myself honest, I’ll create a spreadsheet of completed pages which calculates average pages per day, and number of pages to meet each milestone, and what my page-per day rate has to be to get there, so I can speed up the pace if need be.

Molly-Kai Chandler as Christine

Once the actual writing process starts, I tend to use a very outside-in approach. I’ll start with a rough breakdown of scenes, then fill in scene details beat-by-beat, indicating the gist of each line of dialog, or main action. Once all the beats are there, I’ll start putting them down in actual screenplay format in the working document.

While a draft is in progress, I make it a point to write every day. I keep in mind what my page-per-day goal is, but I look at that like an average. I never spend too much time staring at the screen if the spirit isn’t moving me to write that day. I always force myself to make a single change over the course of each day, but nothing more. I can let myself go to bed at night as long as I know something has moved forward that day. It can be a single line of dialog, a rewrite of a clunky scene, or maybe just jotting down notes on how a future scene might play out better. After that single contribution is made, sometimes things don’t move any farther than that, but sometimes it’s enough to force the floodgates open, which can result in a 10 page or more writing frenzy that makes sleep seem irrelevant.

Jessica Frey as Tracy, Alex Mills as Philip

MN: Are you always writing?

AD: I generally always have some kind of project lined up when I finish the last one, although it may not always involve writing the whole time. When I’m not actively involved in writing, I still generally keep my “do one thing today” rule, but it becomes a bit more flexible–It includes video editing, updating web-sites or other promotional related activities, etc. When there’s no concrete project going on with any immediate plans for production, I tend to dust off an old half-finished project and set up a similar schedule to work on it, at least on a temporary basis until something more concrete comes up.

MN: Who are your favorite writers? Do you have any screenwriting or novelist idols?

AD: This is where my inner geek comes out. I love Douglass Adams, and J.R.R. Tolkien, and have read and re-read their books more times than I’d care to admit. I love Kurt Vonnegut and Philip K. Dick both, for their abilities to twist reality each in their own convincing way. I like anything by Mark Twain, but specifically some of his later works (A Connecticut Yankee, The Mysterious Stranger) when he starts to cross the line between clever witticism and disturbing cynicism. I also completely love J.K. Rowling for giving the kids (and their parents) a brilliant story and a reason to read, and Lemony Snicket for warping all their minds once they’ve gotten in the habit of reading.

Alex Mills as Philip, Molly-Kai Chandler as Christine

For Screenwriters, I find Kevin Smith and Robert Rodriguez both inspirational–not just for their writing, but their ability to do so much to translate their screenplays to film with so few resources. I love Lawrence Kasdan specifically for The Empire Strikes Back, since he was able to take what seemed like an already perfect first film and elevate the entire series. Nora Ephron for writing When Harry Met Sally, making me realize that even though they say “Show Don’t Tell” the best writing still shows what people are saying. Frank Darabont, because so much of his style seems to contradict the things they tell you in all the screenwriting books, and yet he writes dialog that your ears never want to stop listening to. And I love every word of everything written by Steven Moffat on Doctor Who.

Dream sequence from Everything Fred Tells Me is True. Clockwise from left: Director Eric Vitner, Anthony Kroposky, Producer Bruce Meyers, Christina Labrador, Alex Mills as Philip

MN: Do you have any other projects in the works that you can talk about?

AD: I’ve started working on a screenplay for a new feature about two characters whose love lives keep meeting bizarre supernatural twists. I’m definitely taking this one slowly until I figure out a realistic avenue of producing it. Not to mention after 5 years or so working on a feature film in my spare time, it’s nice to have the instant gratification of doing shorts on the web.

In that department, Bruce and I have recently re-formed a new version of our old college band, A Halo Called Fred, with much more emphasis on the multi-media. Not so many live shows these days, (we’ll still do them when the spirit moves us) but in the past five months we’ve released five music videos and one new song.

We’re also currently working on a new web serial called “Barry the Steampunk Monster”, which will combine the band’s sense of humor with many of the storytelling techniques we picked up from the Words Pictures Movies films. The story is a part-animated, part live-action story about a time-traveling super-villain, hell-bent on mass destruction. It’s also the subject of one of the songs and music videos mentioned above. We’re hoping to wrap up the first episode in the next few months.

MN: Thanks for talking to us, Adam, and best of luck with the film and your future projects!


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