Saturday, December 6, 2014

My Interview with Shaun Epona of Screen World International

SE: Jon first off I want to thank you for this opportunity to gain insight into the life and methods of a renown working screenwriter.

JR: Thank you Shaun. I'm not too sure how renown I am, nor working in the sense of actually making a living.

SE: We all have to start somewhere, and believe me, you are plenty renown in the circles I move in internationally.

JR: Yes well I guess most people in the US aren't aware of what little work I have that has made a bit of a splash. Around here, if you're not a Hollywood name, you're pretty much nobody.

SE: Jon, around there people still listen to the American media and don't have a clue about the rest of the world. But lets not get into politics. Although I understand there's a lot of, how shall I say it, theory, I guess, on how one should go about becoming a working writer, a success in the business or even on how to go about writing stories, regardless of where you are in your career. 

JR: Or if you even have a career. Yes Shaun, that's is certainly true. There are so many books, classes, blogs, you name it, on how to write, be it stories, novels, or even letters to your kid's teacher excusing him from missing school.

SE: Have you written a lot of those?

JR: Yes of course. And I can tell you, I don't make an outline first. I don't use three act structure. And I don't have the protagonist save a cat.

SE: And yet your kids are excused from missing a day?

JR: Yes. Quit amazing isn't it. Ha. But really Shaun, the same applies to screenwriting or any kind of writing for that matter.

SE: So what then is your approach? You must have some kind of convention, structure or routine, right?

JR: Shaun, I wake up every morning precisely at 4:45 AM, shut off the alarm, without snooze, go back to bed for an hour and then get up. Then I make some coffee, put it in a thermos, make my son breakfast and let it on the stove, since he isn't up yet. I make a peanut butter sandwich. I drive for an hour and a half in the rush hour mania, while munching on the peanut butter sandwich, drinking my coffee, and listening to some successful writer talk about writing. Anyone who follows this routine, I guarantee, will become at least as successful as I have.

SE: So you work in an office.

JR: Yes I do Shaun, down in white people's country, where everyone has religion, believes in America, and wears a permanent smiley face; and where gas is always ten cents cheaper than anywhere for a hundred miles. Nah, just kidding. I have no clue what other people do with their lives. I don't think they do either.

SE: So you have your own office.

JR: Actually no. I work for a company which shall remain nameless. But here's the interesting thing, while I'm there I rarely actually write anything for more than an hour. Most of my day is observing other people and doing other things on the computer. Now I don't overtly or explicitly observe anyone. It's just that being around others, you can't help to see and hear them. I think this is the very best environment imaginable for a writer. You are constantly in situations or observing situations that deal with things other than writing. Those things are what become the soul of your work. Even if you don't write directly about them, they inspire or give insight into the things you do eventually use.

SE: Jon, are we talking about a writer's room here?

JR: Well if any room you write in, or exist in as a writer, is a writer's room then, yeah I guess. Here's the thing. It does not matter if you wait tables, sell insurance, or whatever you do to stay alive. Anything you do can inform your writing if you let it. But if you are a writer, not only should you let it, but you had better. Otherwise you get stale. And that's why seasoned writers sometimes end up writing stories about life in Hollywood, or about a writer's or actor's life and so on.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Take this guy I know. His job is to cast actors, or even just get them side jobs. He deals with agents, bosses, job recruiters, the people he hires and so on.  Sounds boring right? But how about he gets kickbacks? In return for casting or hiring someone they kick back to him, say $20 every paycheck, every two weeks. Lets say he hires 100 people that way. That's $2,000 every two weeks beyond his own salary. Does that sound like a boring job? No. He could get caught. A deal could go bad and someone might want him killed. People who lose jobs can go postal. What happens if he hires someone who is not really qualified, but willing to make the payoffs?

SE: Gees. What are you saying here. Are you saying you dramatize these things from mundane jobs, or do these things actually happen?

JR: What do you think? Are people really all that happy to get by on a living wage? You think they wouldn't devise scams like this if they could? This is what American ingenuity is all about. This is what America is all about. In fact, other countries are much better at it. America has become the land of government handouts and corporate welfare, not to get into politics or nationalism. But America is generally known as the land of the fat, dumb, happily lazy.

SE: And this is why your work is so popular.

JR: Exactly Shaun. People around the world generally resent America and Americans for their false sense of entitlement. They love to laugh at them behind their backs. All you have to do is expose real American life. It's too easy.

SE: Ok. But lets get back to the process. What's your take on the so called Hollywood novice convention of outlines, three act structure, archetypes, and so on? You know what I mean.

JR: Yes of course. Shaun, as I say, there is a massive tertiary industry of programs, schools, books, blogs; you name it, on how to succeed in anything Hollywood related, especially acting and writing. Ironically, most everyone involved will claim there are no formulas or rules, as they then list a plethora of formulas and rules. Use an outline. Use three act structure. Use archetypes. Save the cat. Make the protagonist likeable. Give the characters an arc. In screenwriting, it's break the first act around page 17. Build the chase in the second act. Come to a climax and conclusion in third act. Pay off the first act set up in the third act.

SE: But don't most stories follow those patterns?

JR: Only American made Hollywood stories Shaun.  Since Hollywood is good at international marketing, this seems to be the rule. But really it's just a proliferation of the fairy tale syndrome, which as you know, was coined by Professor Max Von Itchenstein, in his social media survey studies of world media culture.

SE: Yes of course. A brilliant survey and study.

JR: Yes of course. And banned in America.

SE: And banned in America. What is that all about?

JR: Shaun, I don't know. But I don't care. Maybe the guy is a Muslim or something. Regardless, the ban makes my work all the more marketable.

SE: On the world black market.

JR: Ha. That's funny. Yes, black market if you like.

SE: But Jon, you still haven't touched on your actual ways of writing, your structure or routine. How do you actually write when you write.

JR: Shaun, as a writer, everything I do is part of my writing, every experience every waking moment. It all feeds in.

SE: You're evading the question.

JR: Ok Shaun. Perhaps I am. Here's the thing. I have no structure, no convention, no style, nothing. I just sit down and write. What ever I write it just happens. Something comes to mind, I put it down. A story evolves. Characters evolve. There is no inherent or universal structure. It's different every time. And here's another thing. I do have successful and great writers I look up to, who I've studied, and listened to, and through the world of modern technology, you could say mentored me virtually. And in regards to your questions, none of them have any inherent structure either. When they talk about it, they may come up with something to appease the interviewer, so as not to be considered eccentric or freaky.  But when pressed on it, every one of them gets there in some different personal way, often which they can't talk about, maybe because it's personal or maybe because it's irrelevant, or maybe because it's so abstract that words fail it.

SE: Words fail a writer?

JR: Yes. Absolutely. We think faster than we can write. We feel things and know that we can't express them clearly or understandably enough, and something like the meta-process of writing is like that. Think of it as maybe spiritual. Can you clearly define spiritual things in a way that is universally understood?  No. What is God? There are as many answers to that question as there are people willing to attempt to answer it. Same for love. What is love? Well one answer is, God is love. So the answer to the former is "love." The answer to the latter is "God." And this leaves us with no idea of what either one is in is terms of lexical thinking. Because some things are not lexical. Some things are not even things. As humans we may have a limit to what we can understand and what we can communicate.

SE: Jon, you could say that to answer any question you don't want to answer.

JR: Yes exactly, and that I don't know how to answer or can't answer. I admit to the limits of what I can and cannot do, or am willing to do.

SE: OK. Now my mind is reeling and I need to soak all this in. So I'm going to end it here, for now. I hope we can do this again sometime.

JR: Of course Shaun. Anything for you. It was indeed a pleasure.

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