For our inaugural post, I chatted with writer/producer David Paterson. This man has created both indie and big-budget films (including Love, Ludlow, Bridge to Terabithia and The Great Gilly Hopkins). He has also been a stuntman, playwright, actor, stay-at-home dad, and fire fighter…in his spare time.
One preface to the video: My apologies for the low quality recording! I recorded via skype, which was pretty terrible during my call with David. Any recommendations? Please leave them in the comments section below. Thanks!
– Crystal Smith, 3RSC Blogger
5 Things I Learned From David Paterson
- Have patience.
In 1990, Disney offered David a lot of money to option his script (and therefore hand over all of his rights), but David held out for years in order to be a producer on the project. It took him 17 years to make Bridge to Terabithia because he didn’t want to negotiate on certain creative elements. Because of his patience, David was able to maintain the artistic integrity of his story. “There has to be a level of patience in order to ensure quality,” he told me.
- A lot of indie producers know how to get things done better than studio producers. (see 3:22 in the video above)
David has written and produced both small, indie and big-budget films, but enjoys the process of indie filmmaking most. His latest project is The Great Gilly Hopkins stars Kathy Bates, Glenn Close, Octavia Spencer, and Julia Stiles. But even with the star-studded cast, he is returning to his smaller budget roots in order to have more control over its production.
- It’s (probably?) easier to make a movie today than it was 10 years ago.
Maybe I should use the word “cheaper” instead of “easier.” David told me that Love, Ludlow cost $75,000 to make, but could probably be made for $35,000 today since it wouldn’t need to be shot on actual film. “10 years ago, everyone was using film. You didn’t have the technology that you do today. You can make a $250,000 movie now for $50,000.”And if that isn’t enough of a kick in the pants to get out there and make something…
- Life’s too short to wait to be discovered. (see 1:22 in the video above)
In his early years David had success as a playwright, but knew he was capable of more. He dreamed of being discovered one day, then had a life-changing moment when he realized that he needed to make things happen for himself. So, he adapted one of his plays into a screenplay, and Love, Ludlow became a Sundance Film Festival success! Sidenote: David calls screenwriting the “cheating” version of writing because it’s so compact. “Not that it makes it any easier. You’ve got to be brilliant in fewer words.”
- Make art a part of your life, not you life all about your art.
It’s easy to take successes and failures way too seriously in this business, but try to “stay grounded,” David says. If not,“You could go to bed angry and wake up hungry forever.” If I write any more about this, I’ll just end up transcribing his words starting at 3:33 in the video above, so check it out!
- (Bonus!) You’re never actually done with your movie.
Even though filming on The Great Gilly Hopkins is complete, David is still working on its marketing by touring and speaking at an upcoming film festival. He says he won’t really be “done” with it until it premieres. And even beyond the premiere date, he’ll market it for years to come because, as he says, “Your film should never be ‘done.’”
On the five-year anniversary of Love, Ludlow’s debut, David reached out to Starz and the Sundance channel and proposed that they broadcast it again. They did, and David made $10,000 for his efforts. “You should always be promoting your film until you’re dead, and you let someone else deal with it then.”
Come see David on Friday, May 20 at the 3 Rivers Screenwriters Conference!
Purchase your ticket HERE!