Fulle Film Commentary - A GOOFY MOVIE (1995)

It's time to break out the Cheez Whiz and hit the road to Hollywood with the Goof Troop as Jason & Rob provide commentary for the one of the most underrated animated films of all time, A GOOFY MOVIE! 

Click below:

Top 20 Favorite Films - by Jason Anders

(My top twenty favorite *not necessarily greatest* films of all time.)
1.) All That Jazz (Bob Fosse, 1979)
A brutally honest, semi-autobiographical film by Bob Fosse about Broadway life which is, in my opinion, a timeless masterpiece and one of the greatest musicals ever filmed. The movie centers on choreographer Joe Gideon, played by Roy Scheider, who "came to believe that show business, work, love, his whole life, even himself and all that jazz, was bullshit." This movie is best described by film critic Matt Zoller Seitz as a "spiritual autopsy," and legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick said it to be "the best film I think I have ever seen."

2.) Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
There's probably no screenplay that I could come closer to reciting by heart than this one. Everything there is to love about movies can be found here, a love letter to cinema written on celluloid by Quentin Tarantino. My biggest disappointment in moving to L.A. was the realization that Jack Rabbit Slim's is a fictional restaurant and that I'd never partake in their world famous twist contest. This film comes recommended alongside every other movie that Tarantino has touched, even as a ghost writer. 

3.) Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959)
Howard Hawks directs what Roger Ebert called "one of John Wayne's best performances." What I love most about this film is that it takes the time to just hang out with the characters, a rare quality in movies, allowing them to become your friends. Sure, there are terrific scenes of action involving shoot-outs and dynamite, but the real fun is when the movie slows its pacing to crawl as our heroes sit around a jail smoking and drinking while Ricky Nelson strums his guitar and they all sing not one but TWO full songs in a row. Film critic Robin Wood said in his estimation that "if there was ever one movie to justify the existence of Hollywood commercial cinema, it would be "Rio Bravo." I can't say that I disagree.

"When I'm getting serious about a girl, I show her Rio Bravo and she better fucking like it." - Quentin Tarantino 
4.) Blow Out (Brian DePalma, 1981)
The most creative and original suspense movie I've ever seen, littered with political subtext and cross-references to other films and historic events, stars John Travolta in what is easily his best performance as an artist who discovers a hidden crime through his work as a sound effects editor on B-movies. The first five minutes feature a movie-within-a-movie, a sleazy low-budget horror film called "Co-ed Frenzy", which will make you feel like you've wandered into the wrong theater. DePalma was inspired by Hitchcock and, in many ways, may have outdone the Master of Suspense with this dreamlike thriller.

5.) Badlands (Terrence Malick, 1973)
Based loosely on the true story of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate, who in 1958 went on a two-month killing spree across Nebraska and Wyoming, this movie not only avoids making sense of the killings, it refuses to even focus on them. The result is hypnotic. This film will also make you want to build a tree house even more than "Swiss Family Robinson." I usually dislike voice-over narration, but Sissy Spacek's dialogue is so poetic, funny and strange that it adds to the movie like music. 

"Before we left, he shot a football that he considered excess luggage." - Holly Sargis  

6.) The Sugarland Express (Steven Spielberg, 1974)
While "Jaws" may hold a dearer place in my heart, this was Steven Spielberg's first theatrical film and its success would make or break the director's future of bringing us "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial", "Raiders of the Lost Ark", "Jurassic Park" and "Schindler's List." Thankfully, this husband-and-wife-on-the-run story was critically acclaimed (and a hell of a lot of fun), with The New Yorker critic Pauline Kael calling Spielberg the "new generation's Howard Hawks." It is easily one of the greatest debut films in the history of cinema. 

*Winner of the 1974 Cannes Film Festival Best Screenplay and nominated for the Palme d'Or.  

7.) Sons of the Desert (William A. Seiter, 1933)
Nothing makes me happier than the work of Laurel & Hardy, and of their 107 films this has always been the movie I use to introduce newcomers to the Academy Award-winning duo of "The Boys." The magic of their comic invention and universal, timeless humor takes second place to no one. William A. Seiter, a director known for romantic comedies and dramas, directs Stan and Ollie's best and most subtle feature here, which is sadly his only film with them. "Sons of the Desert" was finally deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress in 2012 and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

"They lived life the way it was supposed to be lived and showed us all that it doesn't work. To me it was the greatest love story of all time - I think that was the basis for the longevity of their films, that they obviously loved and cared about each other very, very much." - Dick Van Dyke

8.) Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola, 2006)
It's unreal that as of 2016 this movie has yet to be released on Blu-ray. It is Sofia Coppola's most beautiful film, a historical picture which avoids being informative and instead allows us to connect with the loneliness of its central character, in what is probably Kirsten Dunst's best performance. The movie is equal parts epic and quietly restrained, and always complete eye candy (the pink and black opening titles set to the blasting of Gang of Four's "Natural's Not in It" with Dunst looking at the camera is the perfect start.) The costumes and production design transport you to a different world, and Versailles is as much a character in this film as Tokyo was in "Lost in Translation."

"This is Sofia Coppola's third film centering on the loneliness of being female and surrounded by a world that knows how to use you but not how to value and understand you. It shows Coppola once again able to draw notes from actresses who are rarely required to sound them." - Roger Ebert   

9.) Wild (Jean-Marc Vallée, 2014)
The story of a woman who lost her way in life, determined to get herself back on the right path by hiking the entire Pacific Crest Trail alone, is a raw, dark, funny, and powerfully emotional adventure about loss and redemption, completely defying convention. The nakedly personal book by Cheryl Strayed, on which the film is based, provided Reese Witherspoon with the best (and most complex) performance of her career.

"If your nerve deny you, go above your nerve." - Emily Dickinson   

10.) It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (Stanley Kramer, 1963)
An epic 192-minute comedy packed with more comedians than the film itself can handle, this was marketed as "the comedy to end all comedies." Few things will ever make me happier than seeing Jonathan Winters destroy that gas station with his bear hands, watching Jimmy Durante literally kick the bucket, and Ethel Merman slipping on a banana peel. This is also the one movie where The Three Stooges can do absolutely nothing and get a laugh.

"This superscaled tribute to slapstick remains a landmark for bringing together several generations of brilliant comic legends from vaudeville, radio, television, and the movies, many provided with the best-written and most memorable screen roles they were ever given. It's a flat-out joy, as well as Kramer's most fondly remembered picture." - Lou Lumenick, New York Post     

11.) Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2014)
This was my favorite movie of 2014. P.T. Anderson wildly succeeds in taking on the impossible task of adapting Thomas Pynchon's novel for the big screen. It is a fun and complex film noir filled with characters addicted to their nostalgia as much as they are to their drugs, all played flawlessly by some of Hollywood's most underrated and greatest actors. I can't believe this movie exists, and I'll be forever happy that it does.

"Inherent vice in a maritime insurance policy is anything that you can't avoid. Eggs break, chocolate melts, glass shatters - and Doc wondered what that meant when it applied to ex old ladies." - Sortilége

12.) Short Cuts (Robert Altman, 1993)
It's hard to pick only one Robert Altman movie for this list (a younger me would have insisted it be "Popeye"), but this dark and funny film, based on the writings of Raymond Carver, about the lives of twenty-two strangers in Los Angeles unaware of their connections to each other, popularly referred to as an "L.A. jazz rhapsody," is the director's most compassionate project. This is my favorite Robert Altman movie, just barely beating out his remaining 87 directorial efforts... though they're all perfect. Even "Popeye." 

13.) Ed Wood (Tim Burton, 1994)
Tim Burton's tale of the "worst director of all time" is one of the funniest and most endearing biopics about Hollywood ever made. Martin Landau's performance as Bela Lugosi is worthy of its Academy Award and Johnny Depp's undying optimism as Ed Wood will forever be in the back of my mind... "Really? Worst film you ever saw? Well, my next one will be better!"

14.) Modern Romance (Albert Brooks, 1981)
The funniest movie about jealousy ever made.

15.) Used Cars (Robert Zemeckis, 1980)
Before Robert Zemeckis made my childhood favorites, "Back to the Future", "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", and "Death Becomes Her", he directed this dirty comic gem starring Kurt Russell as a used car salesman in a film that celebrates the main character's genuine love for a rotten business. This movie is pure foul-mouthed fun and a primary example of why Russell is one of my favorite actors.

"This classic screwball fantasy is more like a restless and visually high-spirited version of the W.C. Fields pictures. The director, Robert Zemeckis, developed a homegrown surrealism out of earlier American slapstick routines. This picture has a wonderful, energetic heartlessness; it's an American tall-tale movie in a Pop-art form." - Pauline Kael

16.) To Be or Not to Be (Ernst Lubitsch, 1943)
Jack Benny, my favorite television personality, never had much luck in the movies, this being his one true exception.  The Editor-in-Chief of the Library of America, Geoffrey O' Brien, sums up this dark Nazi comedy far more eloquently than I ever could...

"To Be or Not to Be did something rare, then or at any time, by interweaving farce and disaster in such a rigorously structured fashion as to elicit, in the very same scenes, genuine anxiety and a hilarity so acute that it has something like an ecstatic kick. For many, myself included, it is close to being the funniest film ever made, featuring Carole Lombard in her last and greatest performance, and Jack Benny in the only film role that did justice to his comic genius."

17.) The Last Picture Show (Peter Bogdanovich, 1971)
A small, subtle, rich, complex, detailed and beautiful film about love, loss, sexual misadventures and the death of a small town which pulls off being set in the 50s so well that Roger Ebert referred to it as "the best movie of 1951."

18.) One, Two, Three (Billy Wilder, 1961)
With its rapid-fire machine gun delivery of jokes, spoken so quickly by James Cagney (in his final starring role) that you'll probably only catch 20% of the punchlines the first time out, this screwball Cold War comedy by Billy Wilder comes recommended along with every other film the director has ever made ("Some Like It Hot", "Sabrina", "Five Graves to Cairo", "The Apartment", "Ace in the Hole", ect.) as my favorite of the bunch, along with it's running theme that everything is "hopeless, but not serious."

19.) Deconstructing Harry (Woody Allen, 1997)
The first film to make me aware of Woody Allen captured my imagination as a kid by having Robin Williams portray a character who is losing focus, so much so that he is literally blurry the entire movie. It felt like a movie that shouldn't have been allowed a green light (like most of the director's films), especially after the introduction of cannibalism and a trip to Hell where Billy Crystal plays the Devil. It might be Allen's most personal, self-hating, vulgar film. I don't know if it's his best, but it's definitely my favorite (possibly tying with 2003's "Anything Else" and 1996's "Everyone Says I Love You".)

20.) To Catch a Thief (Alfred Hitchcock, 1955)
"Psycho" will always remain my greatest obsession of Alfred Hitchcock's work, but "To Catch a Thief" will always be my favorite to revisit. A romantic mystery filled with comedy and suspense, this faultlessly constructed thriller is classic Hollywood eye candy and one of Hitchcock's most stylish and endearing. There's a seductive simplicity to this movie, sprinkled with razor-sharp dialogue and escapist photography, that makes for one of the most fun outings with the Master of Suspense ever presented.

"A lot of movies are about life, mine are like a slice of cake." - Alfred Hitchcock 

*BONUS - Universal Monsters (1923 - 1956)
No, I couldn't pick just one (though James Whale wins for my favorite Golden Age horror director.) There's just something about the Universal monster movies which belong to a space completely separate from any "top movies" list as a collection that must devoured as a whole to ever experience the full effect of what they have to offer. Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Boris Karloff, Claude Rains, Lon Chaney, Jr., Ben Chapman and Elsa Lanchester (even "The Munsters", if we count television) feel like family at this point, and below is a complete list of my favorite spooky films to get you acquainted...

1.) The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Wallace Worsley, 1923)
2.) The Phantom of the Opera (Rupert Julian, 1925) 
3.) The Man Who Laughs (Paul Leni, 1928)
4.) Dracula (Tod Browning, 1931)
5.) Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931)
6.) The Old Dark House (James Whale, 1932)
7.) The Mummy (Karl Freund, 1932)
8.) The Invisible Man (James Whale, 1933)
9.) The Black Cat (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1934)
10.) Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale, 1935)
11.) Dracula's Daughter (Lambert Hillyer, 1936)
12.) Son of Frankenstein (Rowland V. Lee, 1939)
13.) The Wolf Man (George Waggner, 1941)
14.) The Ghost of Frankenstein (Erle C. Kenton, 1942)
15.) Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (Roy William Neill, 1943)
16.) House of Frankenstein (Erle C. Kenton, 1944)
17.) Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein (Charles Barton, 1948)
18.) Abbot and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (Charles Barton, 1949)
19.) Abbot and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (Charles Lamont, 1951)
20.) Abbot and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Charles Lamont, 1953)
21.) Creature from the Black Lagoon (Jack Arnold, 1954)
22.) Revenge of the Creature (Jack Arnold, 1955)
23.) This Island Earth (Joseph M. Newman and Jack Arnold, 1955)
24.) Abbot and Costello Meet the Mummy (Charles Lamont, 1955)
25.) The Creature Walks Among Us (John Sherwood, 1956) 

CUT! That's a wrap, folks!
  Click here for Alyssa Merwin's Top 20 Favorite Films!

"Writing Community: A Conversation with Producer Emily Cutler" By Alyssa Merwin & Jason Anders

Playwright. Producer. Television & Film Writer. Actress. Stand-Up. Sketch. When it comes to comedy, Emily Cutler has done it all. She hasn't gone unrecognized for it, either - winning the L.A. Times Gold Derby Television Award in 2010 for "Comedy Episode of the Year" for writing the acclaimed Community episode "Modern Warfare." It was her writing on Dan Harmon's underrated NBC series that made us want to reach out for the following interview, which she was more than gracious with her time for, meeting us at a coffee shop next to CBS Radford before starting her day at The Odd Couple and allowing us to ask her all about her life and career. Oh, and about being Patrick Duffy's daughter-in-law...

Jason Anders: So if I can ask a personal question to start off with, what's it like having Patrick Duffy as a father-in-law?

Emily Cutler: Oh, you did your research! He's an absolute delight, the dad you always wish you had.

JA: I felt like he was my dad having grown up with Step by Step (1991)...

EC: See, I was of the Dallas (1978) time. I've only seen Step by Step recently, which was surreal because now I know him. He's a delightful, lovely, down-to-earth human being. I got lucky in the father-in-law department.

JA: Did you grow up a TV junkie?

EC: I watched everything. I was of the generation when MTV was starting, so we were glued to it. I watched Barney Miller (1974), Gilligan's Island (1964) and The Brady Bunch (1969) reruns. I wouldn't say I was a junkie, but I loved TV.

When I was a kid I liked The Love Boat (1977) because I was young and thought it was a naughty show. Fantasy Island (1977) was a good show, which apparently they are trying to remake right now.
(Thomas Lennon & Matthew Perry on the CBS Radford lot for The Odd Couple)
JA: Everything is being remade...

EC: Yes. Working on The Odd Couple (2015) I can certainly attest to that.

JA: How are you enjoying working on The Odd Couple?

EC: The cast and crew I am working with have been a delight and that is not always the case. In fact, most often it is not the case. You're dealing with a lot of creative types and, often, "crazy" comes along with that. On this particular show everyone is down-to-earth, rational, very respectful and wants to get their work done. It's refreshing.

Alyssa Merwin: How does working on a television series differ now from when you first started?

EC: The staffs are smaller, for sure. There's not as much money being thrown around. As comedy changes, the tone of the room changes. It's not as "set-up, set-up, joke" all the time, sometimes it's a different style of writing, but it hasn't changed that much. I don't even think it's changed that much since the time of Garry Marshall, who actually comes into our room a lot because he's a producer on the show. Essentially, at its core, writing comedy is the same.

I loved the original Odd Couple (1970), I loved Jack Klugman and Tony Randall. If you go back and watch those episodes, the scripts are really just two guys sitting in their apartment talking. There really wasn't a guest cast, it was more like a play. We've rounded out this version and made it more of an ensemble, but at the heart of the show it is these two guys trying to get along. We found actors who are very similar to the roles they're playing, which I think they did with the original Odd Couple.
(Matthew Perry & Yvette Nicole Brown in The Odd Couple)
JA: ... Matthew Perry and Yvette Nicole Brown can do no wrong. 

EC: Matthew Perry is delightful and brings to it his own cadence and rhythm. Yvette Nicole Brown's name got bandied about and I said she was really terrific to work with, she's just at the beginning of her comedy career. She could have her own show. She can do it all and is one of the nicest people in the world. She's the whole package.

AM: Community was such a unique, consistently funny show - what was it like working on those first few seasons?

EC: I think what makes a show special is the voice of the creator; if they fight for it and it's clear then the show is going to be interesting, whether or not it's a success or a failure. Dan Harmon is a mad genius - I really mean genius and I really mean mad. He had a vision and a very specific voice and our job was to help him realize it. Most of the people on the staff got it and had a somewhat similar voice as well. He was the guiding force behind that, it was Dan laid out on a page across your television set.
(Community - "Modern Warfare")
TV is all about collaboration, if you can't collaborate you don't want to be in television. Dan Harmon had to learn how to collaborate. He was used to working on his own. He pushed back against the powers-that-be and just fought for his vision. When they were saying "no" he was saying "well that's what I'm going to do." It's not always the best way to be in television, it can earn you a bad reputation, but he saw what he wanted to do and said, "if we're not going to do it this way then this is not something I want to do." They pretty much caved and let him. The show was crazy, every episode was different - there was even claymation and animation - and after a while they just started to trust him. We got to do amazing things and creatively it was a fantastic place to be.

Time-wise and personal life-wise it was not the best place to be because we spent the night there a couple times a week. We worked very, very late. It was not the most organized way to work but it produced some amazing creative results, so that's the trade-off.

AM: You were responsible for the very first paintball episode, writing "Modern Warfare", which became a tradition...

EC: I did. I can't remember where the idea came from - I know Dan wanted to do something that had to do with paintball and we started talking about different tropes and ways that we could tell the story. I put in the element of the two main characters, Britta and Jeff, having a physical relationship and working through it because we wanted to ground the episode in something so that it wasn't all just craziness. Justin Lin directed it. You don't get a better creative experience than that.
(Community - "Contemporary American Poultry")
AM: You also co-wrote the episode "Contemporary American Poultry" with Karey Dornetto - is it difficult to incorporate homages? 

EC: If you're a movie and TV person like I am, that's the most fun to do. What Dan really wanted to do is make sure that it wasn't just purely a spoof, he wanted it to have reality for our characters and actually tell an emotional story as well as a big, fun romp. A lot of the episodes I really liked were very simple, more about the characters and not big and splashy. We kind of sprinkled those in. If you're not invested in the characters the homages are going to get tiring after a while.

AM: Did you like the paintball episodes that they made after "Modern Warfare"?

EC: I liked them, but I personally would not have done another paintball episode. I liked it just being its own thing. I know what they were thinking and the subsequent paintball episodes were really cool, but I liked having it at just the one. You want to make it fresh and different and I definitely think they did. If you're telling a different emotional story each time, that will differentiate them. It really starts at what story you want to tell about the characters - all the other stuff is just icing on the cake.

AM: How challenging is it to have characters evolve while trying to keep them recognizable without being repetitive?    

EC: That's just life - the essence of who we are is the same even though our situations might change and it's fun to see how the characters might react and evolve. I didn't see the sixth season, but I'm looking forward to it so don't tell me anything. Also, you're working with a cast that's amazing who are bringing a lot to it and are always surprising. When your actors can surprise you, it's great. Community was a playground of pure creativity, it's a great place to be in when you can do whatever you want and let your imagination run wild. A lot of time in television you can't do that, especially in a multi-cam.  
(Community - "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas")
JA: What has been your best education as a writer?

EC: Community. Dan Harmon had a very specific way of doing things, I don't know if you're familiar with the wheel (story circle), which was a real education. I came onto that show as a co-producer and I'd never been on a set alone, Dan just said,"okay, go produce your episode." You were really thrown into essentially making a short film every week. Other than that, every show is an education - not only in writing but in dealing with people.

JA: Do you prefer a studio audience or no?

EC: I was an actor for a while and I loved the feeling of getting something back. You're writing in a vacuum in a lot of these single-camera shows, which I also enjoy, but I love getting the immediate feedback of knowing if something works or not. An audience doesn't lie, if they don't laugh then your joke isn't working. It's fun having a tape night each week, I haven't done multi-cam in a long time and I'm really having a good time.

JA: How difficult is it to rewrite jokes on the spot when a punchline fails with the studio audience?

EC: That's a muscle you have to constantly flex and keep well-oiled. If you take a lot of time away and come back then you're a little rusty and you've got to build that up again. It's exciting, very electric, to all be on a set with everyone pitching jokes - again, it's super collaborative.
(One of Emily Cutler's first spec scripts was for NBC's Frasier)
JA: Do you remember the initial spark for you in being an entertainer?

EC: I just came out that way - I was always a performer and always writing. I was an actor for a long time and it was frustrating to be auditioning for your five-line part on Babylon 5 or whatever, and I just started writing in my downtime. I wrote plays and multi-cams. I think my first spec scripts were Mad About You and Fraiser and it just seemed like I found my place and tribe of people. I just sat down and wrote them to see if I could.

I met director Steven Shainberg, who was living in the building with a friend of mine, and he said, "I know a comedy writer, would you like me to pass your work on?" He gave it to writer Jon Feldman who said, "this is incredible. You do this, you have a shot." I think he may have passed my script on to his agent who said he would "hip-pocket" me, which means sort of represent me. My career just took off from there.

AM: What has been your most surreal career moment?

EC: I sold a movie with a partner at the time and we were walking on the Sony lot complaining about some note we'd been given, and I went "wait a minute, stop. Look where we are. Look what we're arguing about. We're being given notes at Sony, and they bought our movie. Holy shit."

The same thing happened on the Warner Bros. lot because you have that iconic tower. Also, the first time anyone pays you to do anything in this industry it's crazy. Even to this day when my agents negotiate money I'm still so shocked that anyone is paying me to do anything - I'd practically do it for free. Actually, now that I've said this, I will also do it for an incredibly large amount of money.
JA: What do you love most about what you do?

EC: I get to be around funny people all day. I have thought about writing a drama because that seems exciting, too - but I get to sit in a room with the funniest people ever and all we do all day is laugh. It's like a dream. I have to remind myself every day, when I'm tired and cranky waking up super early, that I'm really lucky.

I think that the hardest thing is to be a mother with this demanding job, and even though I'm having a lot of fun I have two kids at home who I want to see. When I was on Community for two seasons I think they were maybe two and four and I rarely saw them. Was it worth it? I don't know. I wouldn't take a job like that now. If I were to meet a Dan Harmon, even if I thought the show was the best thing in the world, and they said I'd be there until 2 a.m. I would have to say no. If you're twenty it's great, but your priorities change.

JA: How did you become involved with The Michael J. Fox Show?

EC: I was brought on only in the initial stages when there was a writers' room here. The whole production was moving to New York and I didn't want to move because my kids were in school here, so I didn't go with them.

That show was a gamble. My dad has Parkinson's so I'm very familiar with what that means. Michael is super talented and it was just a matter of if audiences would accept it and allow comedy to come out of this very difficult situation. I thought the show got better and better but I think people just had a tough time seeing him with Parkinson's. I think they couldn't get past it, which is a shame - I think that he was so beloved as an actor that it made people feel sad and maybe guilty for laughing, but I thought it was really well done. The show runner, Sam Laybourne, is really talented and the staff of writers was amazing. I just think that was the bump in the road.
(Christopher Lloyd guest stars on The Michael J. Fox Show - 2013)
AM: How do you feel television has changed since Netflix and Hulu?

EC: I watched all of Mad Men streaming and it was just amazing. When I caught up to the last season and had to watch it with commercials it really changed the experience. It changes the structure a little bit because what we do in a multi-cam on a network show is featuring act breaks with a tease to get you to come back, not having commercials on Netflix changes the flow of the script. I think watching shows streaming is great, you just have to restructure your script. Shows now are cut way down... I think they're nineteen minutes? You have to tell your story in a very limited amount of time. A lot of things get truncated, some stories cannot be told as fully as you want them to be told. It's a big adjustment.

You asked earlier how things are different in comedy, that is one way; shows are getting shorter and shorter and I wish they weren't. I wish there was more time to tell your story. You have to get to your key points faster and it's not as satisfying. I do think that at places like Netflix and Hulu there's a lot more creative freedom because there's not as many cooks in the kitchen, so it's a wonderful creative place to be. I have yet to write for one of those places, but I would really like to.

JA: What are you watching now?

EC: A lot of cable. I recently started watching The Affair on Showtime. I watch a lot of dramas. When I watch comedy on television it feels like work, I'm not necessarily just letting it flow over me. I sample everything because I like to see what's out there and what people are doing but I haven't found a comedy recently that makes me want to tune in every week.
(ABC's Suburgatory - 2011 - Produced by Emily Cutler)
AM: How do you feel working on a drama would differ from working on a comedy?

EC: I think it's more attention to story. You're freed from having a couple of jokes per page. It would be a challenge for me to do that because I think I'd try and make the drama as funny as possible, which might not be helpful. It's a different muscle and not something I've done before. Sometimes you're in the writers' room for up to twelve hours per day with people who are very serious all the time and I'm not a very serious person. It would be interesting to see if I could fit in to that. I would miss laughing all day.

Telling a story is telling a story, and defining a character is defining a character. Every character wants something and most people have conflict, so it's not that different, you're just thinking of it in a more dramatic and serious way. At the heart of it you're telling a story.

JA: What are your favorite movies?

EC: Midnight Run (1988), Waiting for Guffman (1996), Goodfellas (1990), and Casino (1995). Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) is a perfect romantic comedy.
(NBC's Growing Up Fisher - Co-Executive Produced by Emily Cutler)
AM: What makes a great script?

EC: I can probably tell in the first page or two if someone can write. All of your characters shouldn't sound alike. Specificity is what I look for in a writer. It's the difference between saying "they were staying at a hotel" as opposed to "they were staying at the Holiday Inn." Specificity gives me a picture in my mind.

We just had the argument in the writers' room about whether it's better to write a spec script or a pilot of your own - both serve a purpose; the spec script is going to show that you can write for other characters in another voice, the pilot is your own voice with characters you've created. I like reading a pilot because I'm going to see specifically what your voice is, and if no real voice is coming through then the script just doesn't interest me.

I feel that way with people, too. If I meet someone who has nothing to say and no voice they wouldn't be as interesting to me as someone who has a strong voice and a strong opinion about things.

JA: What is your advice for aspiring writers in the industry?

EC: Write something you're passionate about, no matter what people tell you. Write what you think you can write the best and find what your voice is (you may have to write a lot of crappy drafts before you get to something good.) Each thing helps you find your voice. Don't try to be something you're not - go to your personal experience, it's far more interesting than you think.

Also, meet as many people as you can. It really does help. Sit down with people and get your work out there. The more people that read you, the better. You don't always have to take everybody's notes, but definitely ask for notes and take them. When you first start writing you put all of yourself into it and crank out this draft, making it as perfect as you can, and then somebody gives you notes and you feel like your baby is being ripped apart. It's important to hear all of those notes, even if you don't take them, and take them graciously... don't fight back. A lot of times your instinct is to say, "but I put that in there for a reason!" Just hear everything, take it in, and use what you think will make your script better.
(ABC's How to Live with Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life - 2013 - Supervising Producer)
AM: What advice would you give about being collaborative?

EC: When I asked Garry Marshall what he would tell the writers he said, "be nice." You're in a room with these people spending more time with them than you do your own family, so you have to be a team player. That doesn't mean swallowing your voice, it means hearing everybody, knowing when to fight for something, knowing which hills to die on, and which times to stay quiet. It's kind of like a family, you have to put out fires sometimes. If you're delightful and a pleasant person to be around you'll get a job over someone who isn't pleasant to be around. Know when to talk and know when to listen. I'm still learning that.

Be prepared to rewrite. A lot of TV and film is rewriting and it's a painful process and a painful thing to learn because you worked so hard on your first draft. You have to be willing to change it.

AM: How do you deal with negative criticism and low ratings when they come around?

EC: A lot of people didn't tune in to Community, but we felt like we were doing good work. It depends on what your goal is. It didn't reach the wide audience that I'm sure people hoped it would, but the audience it did reach were impacted in a strong way. Our goal as creative people is to just do the best work we can. It stinks if people don't watch it, but you're hopefully doing it for the journey and not just the destination.
(Watch The Odd Couple on CBS - Thursdays at 8:30/7:30c)
JA: If you had to sum up your life with three words, what would they be?

EC: Hectic. Challenging. Delightful.

Follow Emily Cutler on Twitter at @CutlerEmily

"The Quintessential Scream Queen Mom: A Conversation with Dee Wallace" By Jason Anders

Having appeared in over ninety television shows and a hundred films, Dee Wallace is probably best known for her role as Elliot's mom in Steven Spielberg's 1982 film, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. The high school drama teacher found her way from Kansas City to the studio backlots of Hollywood delivering baked goods to casting directors which would lead to her first acting job... just one of the many stories she was kind enough to take time out her busy schedule to share with me.

Jason Anders: My first question is how do you have time for an interview with eighteen films currently on your roster?

Dee Wallace: Well, you just make time for the things you want to do and here I am with you!

JA: Do you remember your first job?

DW: I baked cookies to get on all of the lots. I was at Universal and taking my chocolate-chip cookies to Reuben Cannon, one of the few casting directors who came out and met me. He said, "come on in and let's talk!" As I was sitting there he was called to the set because one of the girls didn't show up - he turned around and looked at me and said, "what size do you wear" and I responded, "what size do you need?" So that was my first gig, playing the waitress on Lucas Tanner (1974).
JA: Which is your favorite of all your television guest spots? 

DW: Lou Grant in 1978 - I played on the "Hooker" episode - I had done some pretty good guest star appearances before, but this was really a tour de force role. The casting director from Blake Edwards' 10 (1979) happened to see it, and that's how I ended up in that film. It was just an amazing part with an amazing cast and director, and it led me into a really big feature film.

JA: Do you have a least favorite guest role experience?

DW: I do remember being frustrated on Ally McBeal (Buried Pleasures - 1999) because I was playing a lawyer and every time I would try and do something relatively dramatic the director would come up and say, "don't do anything, Dee. The cast are the stars of this show. The guests are not supposed to do anything." I had worked with the director several times in my career, and this time was a little frustrating.
(Dee Wallace and Danny Pintauro in Cujo - 1983)
JA: Yeah, because why bring in established actors if you aren't going to allow them to act?

DW: That's absolutely what I said to him! Why would they bring in one of the queens of the emotional world to come in and do nothing? But I guess, in a good way, I was a name enough to support the show... any work when you are an actor is a blessing, my darling.

JA: Who was the director on that episode, and what had you worked with him before on?

DW: Mel Damski - you're asking me to go back forty years! Mel and I have worked together three or four times on guest star roles. He was just doing his job, doing what he's told to do, and I thank him for remembering me and thinking enough of me to bring me in.

JA: Do you have a favorite character you've played?

DW: Oh yes, Donna Trenton in Cujo (1983). Stephen King loved the film and our interpretation of it. He was happy that we didn't kill the kid at the end.
(Lobby card for The Howling - 1981)
JA: One of my favorites is your performance in The Howling (1981)...

DW: Joe Dante is just fun! That's the first word that comes to mind when I think of Joe. He's an incredibly inventive director. All of the cartoons and film clips on the television he purchased himself because the studio wouldn't cough up the money to do it. It was his idea to use all of the character's names and references from all the old werewolf movies. He was always creative and could just tap dance on the spot. He's still a good friend and I would love to work with him again.

JA: What to you is the most important aspect of the actor/ director relationship?

DW: Well I think the most important thing between an actor and director is respect for each other. Actors are children... and probably most directors are children, too - but there's a psychological way of working together that's a very important part of the creative process, and it begins with respect. Everybody works differently and needs different things to create the best performance that they can. I, again, have worked with the very best; Blake Edwards, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante and Peter Jackson. Lewis Teague literally walked on two days into the shoot of Cujo and took over the direction and did an amazing job. I've often thought that Lewis should have been given a lot more breaks in the business. I've really worked with the best of the best.
(Steven Spielberg and Dee Wallace on the set of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial - 1982)
They all allow me to do my work in the way that I need to do it. I think that's really important for so many of the young directors who are learning, who may be afraid that they are not going to be able to maintain control on the set. They don't realize that you have to give an actor their creative freedom so that they can bring their own creative ideas, improvisation and emotional take while following the careful direction and vision of the director.

If you put a box around an actor you won't get as good of a performance. That's where television falls down. In my perspective, we have so many writers and producers in television that it's really become almost too sacrilege. An actor can't paraphrase or bring in any kind of creativity, and I think it suffers. I think the whole project suffers.

JA: By the way, I loved your performance in The Frighteners (1996)...

DW: Oh yeah, I had a great time killing everybody! (laughs) It was such a beautiful, phenominal arc for an actress - going from who you think was the victim to a maniacal killer. You know, before E.T. I played a lot of psychos, hookers, alcoholics and crazy drug addicts. Once E.T. hit, for the next fifteen years I became the quintessential mom. It gets old!
JA: That being said, how did you feel about playing Laurie Strode's mom in Halloween (2007)?

DW: That was a no brainer. And I knew that Rob Zombie was bringing all of us in to pay homage to our careers. Dude, who doesn't love Rob Zombie? You're not going to talk to anyone you ever interview in this world who doesn't love Rob Zombie. He's just the best. He's a great person, beautifully down-to-earth, very available to everybody and a really great director. I love the way he directs, he lets you start with the script and then improvise, encouraging you to bring in whatever your creativity sees in the part. Everybody just has a lot of fun, and that's how he gets that real in-the-moment feel... that, and three hand-held cameras. It's a great way of directing and I loved it.

JA: What did you think of the film?

DW: I loved all of it! It got a little graphic, but that's just me. Everyone kept saying "the remake" but I lovingly refer to it as a "Rob-make." He went back and explored how it all took place and how it happened. After everything we've seen, you couldn't take the original and redo it. You just couldn't. We've come too far and have seen too much, we've explored too many avenues with violence. I think everybody is just looking for a way to ditch any remake, and justifiably so in most cases, but not this one.
(Scout Taylor-Compton, Rob Zombie and Dee Wallace on the set of Halloween - 2007)
I also love the girls. Scout Taylor-Compton and I have become very good friends - we do a lot of conventions together and we're going to be at Fangoria over the Halloween weekend in Vegas. We spent many nights on that set singing to the top of our lungs at 3 a.m. sitting on the doorstep. She's a great girl and extremely talented, as is Danielle Harris. I didn't get to really work with Danielle that much, but I know her from doing a lot of the conventions together - she's a very smart, very "with it" lady who knows who she is and what she wants. I'm blessed and always have been to work with young people who are extremely talented.

JA: What are your favorite performances you've seen on film?

DW: Sally Field in Norma Rae (1979)and in just about every role she's done. Also, Meryl Streep in The Bridges of Madison County (1995).

JA: What originally inspired you to go into acting?

DW: My mother was a wonderful actress in Kansas City, and I watched her one Easter give a thirty-minute reading called "The Crucifixion." I looked around and the place was packed, everyone was crying. I just thought, "wow, my mom moved all of these people." I'm sure I was an actor in one of my past lives because I came in dancing and acting, as did my daughter. She's just a chip off the old block. Maybe we were in vaudeville together.
JA: So it looks like your daughter is pursuing the same dream?

DW: Oh yeah, she's just finished a part in her fourth film. She's played a part in Sebastian (2011) and also stars in Henry John and the Little Bug (2009). She's on her way!

JA: What was your reaction to her interest in the same career?

DW: You know, Jason, I just want her to be happy. I want her to be fulfilled and give back to the world. You can give a lot back as an actor. I've given her advice before that her dad gave me - I remember when I got the reviews for The Howling and was so excited just saying,"oh my God, they love me!" He just looked at me and said, "honey, if you believe the good ones then you've got to believe the bad ones." I said to her, "you're the only one who will ever really know, so you have to judge yourself. You have to be true to the integrity of who you are." I really think that's the most important thing in life, in any profession that you go into - to meet your own integrity.

JA: If you had to sum up your life with just one word, what would it be?

DW: Blessed.

Follow Dee Wallace on Twitter at @Dee_Wallace
Visit Dee Wallace's official website HERE

"Tales from Transylvania: A Conversation with DRACULA UNTOLD Director Gary Shore" By Jason Anders

Gary Shore, an Irish filmmaker from Artane, Dublin, spent seven years of his life trying to break into the business as a director. Completely broke, on social welfare, and six months into having given up on his dream of making movies, Shore received a phone call that changed his life. Today, he has a feature film behind him with Universal Pictures and multiple movies in the making. He responded to an interview request by taking the time to meet up with me at a coffee shop in Hollywood. He bought me an iced cappuccino and spent the next ninety minutes telling his story, which will inspire anyone with big dreams to endure the hard times...  

Jason Anders: It's pretty cool that your origin point of directing feature films is in telling an origin story of an icon. How did Dracula Untold (2014) come to be your fist project? 

Gary Shore: It was a combination of hard work and luck, initially. I had a general meeting with Jeff Kirschenbaum, the executive on the project at Universal Pictures, around 2010. I was showing him my previous work, some short form commercials, and he really dug it. When we ended the meeting he said, "let's try and find something to work on together." Two weeks later there was a shakeup at Universal and Jeff ended up becoming Co-President of Production. One of the particular companies who had a project with Jeff was Michael De Luca Productions and they had the Dracula Untold project for several years - it came close to being made a couple of times, but they never could quite make it happen.
They said they were interested in the version I pitched. I was really surprised because I had this skepticism about Dracula, feeling that we'd seen enough films about him at this point. However, having said that, I was very interested in the backstory of Vlad the Impaler. A few years before that I had seen a documentary about him on the History Channel and I put it in the back of my mind as being a wonderful story to bring to the screen. The hook that got me interested and touched me about the script was the opportunity to tell a dark hero story. I'm really interested in the tragic hero. I love tracking the rise of characters like Darth Vader, Michael Corleone and Caesar in Planet of the Apes (1968). For any filmmaker who likes dark material it's great to try and tell that arc, but that on its own wasn't enough.

There was an idea of family in there that I felt was interesting - how do you rationalize this mass murder at home? To dig into those details is what interested me. I told them I'd love to take a stab at this, but in the story Vlad's son was only a baby and I wanted to make him eight years old so that he could have a relationship with his father that actually resonated. For me, that became the center of the story. It's a father and son story, even though they had always imagined it as Braveheart (1995). It was the darkest ending I had read since I arrived over here - all of Vlad's people die, the people of the town kill their own children and drink their blood, and Vlad's son is the only survivor who says at the end, "I love my father but I pray I never see him again." There's no fucking way that is ending up in a studio film, but that's the ending that I would love to have.

JA: Were there specific movies that inspired you to become a filmmaker?

GS: I loved going to the cinema, I went every Sunday as a kid, but I never thought of it as a profession. I wish I had that romantic story where I started making films as a kid on Super 8, but unfortunately that's not the case. I was always into painting, illustration and drawing and I wanted to be a comic book artist.
JA: Which comics were you into?

GS: I was into Jim Lee and the Adam and Andy Kubert illustrations. It wasn't the stories that interested me, it was what was being drawn.

JA: What made you decide to go to film school?

GS: I ended up in film school by accident. I went to art college to become a painter. The way the system works in Ireland is that all higher education is free, so it's equal opportunity. I studied pretty hard and ended up doing better than average and had the option of going to this film school that wasn't portfolio-based, it was points-based. With my love of both film and art I thought that maybe I could go into advertising. I was a total failure the first year. I eventually got my first short made, and looking back at it years later I really thought, "wow, that's pretentious."

I always imagine it like you get into a little dinghy and you're out at sea - you can see the shoreline as you row away and want to see what's farther out. It's the same when you make shorts or music videos, you find yourself accelerating to a point where you say, "it's too far to go back now."

Eventually, I woke up to a phone call from Warner Bros. saying "we've seen your work, how would you like to come work for us?"
JA: What was it that they saw to make them call you?

GS: A trailer that I made for a film called The Cup of Tears, adapting Japanese animation into live action. I was really inspired by the techniques they were using back then in anime. It ended up being something that was quite bonkers as a script, which I loved, and the teaser evolved out of it.

JA: Which filmmakers do you really respond to?

GS: David Fincher, Terrence Mallick, Akira Kurosawa, Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, Ridley Scott, James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese - they're great entertainers who delve into great drama and have all made masterpieces.

JA: Since the first director you listed was David Fincher, I'm curious as to if you've watched the Alien 3 (1992) documentary.

GS: Yes, it's fascinating.
JA: Have you had similar experiences to his?

GS: Absolutely. There's a reason you get hired as a first-timer on a studio film and it's a huge gamble that they put on the director. It's a lot more nuance than the bottom line equaling a job well done. Everybody goes in trying to make the best film that they can and at the end of the day it's the director who has to take responsibility. The editing room is a pretty lonely place because all of the people who were telling you what to do on set are now gone. Alien 3 I've always put up there in the crosshairs - it baffled me that someone of Fincher's quality could be so disrespected, they just didn't know who they had on their hands. There's a missed masterpiece in that film if they'd just go back to all those reels sitting in storage and put together a feature film the way he designed it. You can see Fincher in the griminess and desolation of that movie.

It's the same with Paul Thomas Anderson - when you look at Cigarettes & Coffee (1993) you can see that same DNA which translated into Boogie Nights (1997) and Magnolia (1999). Fincher's DNA goes all the way back to his music videos.

JA: You and David Fincher have similar origin stories.

GS: I sent him a message a while ago about having a rough experience with the studio thing and we ended up getting coffee together to share horror stories, he guaranteed his stories were darker than mine. He's one of those guys who looks at other filmmakers and wants them to do the best they can and be given the opportunity to see how a lot of the nuance and the politics work in the system over here to help us avoid certain mistakes. He's championing the filmmaker and is incredibly generous with his time. It's rare, a lot of people are very protective out here, but he's all about passing it on.
(Dracula Untold merchandise)
I always had the Alien 3 thing in the back of my mind and I ended up getting into those realms during post-production, there was a lot of heavy involvement from the studio and it was incredibly frustrating. Our release date got moved forward, we were going to be opening up against Gone Girl (2014)... fucking irony. It's like you start out boxing and the first fight you get is against Muhammad Ali. This is the guy I've put up on a pedestal and looked up to on every aspect of what I do. I sent him that message before Gone Girl opened saying that I hope it does incredibly well because we need films like that to be made by auteurs like himself. He makes these very interesting and commercially difficult films - there are only so many guys on the front line who can yield that kind of power to make those films without compromise. For every one of those films that hits and is successful, it gives the studio and marketing an opportunity to see that an adult thriller can do incredibly well without having to dumb everything down to this PG world. 

JA: Do you have a commercial you're most proud of?

GS: I'm not necessarily proud of commercials for the very fact that they are a cynical ploy to help people buy shit. It's also hard to tell a story in thirty seconds. It started off as a way of just trying to get work and make a living. Had I been doing this fifteen years ago things may have been a bit different, it was all a little bit more in the filmmakers' hands. It was they heyday of music videos, commercials and auteur short films.
(Gary Shore's concept art for Dracula Untold)
JA: It seems like the way in is always changing...

GS: Everybody's journey is so different. If I could package that into a course I could make a living out of it. You can do something that you think will get a great response and nobody looks at it - when you just do it for yourself and it happens to get through it can be satisfying, but then you realize the easy part was getting in. Now you have to actually deliver something that has worth, meaning and longevity.

JA: Did Universal Pictures tell you what they saw in your work that made you stand out?

GS: My commercials were quite visual. My comic book and anime days came back to influence my style. Also, my use of green screen.

When I was making music videos I started doing a lot of green screen, only because I had a really bad experience shooting at nighttime where I didn't have lights and someone put grease in our actress' hair instead of conditioner... she looked awful... we were out in the middle of nowhere on some mountain in Slovenia near Lake Bled and it was freezing. It was a fucking disaster. I said I would never shoot somewhere where we were that limited again. I wanted to have green screens and do all my own backgrounds and all my own matte paintings.

Study to be a writer and study After Effects, that way you're not limited by everyone's problems. You're a master of your own destiny. If you can write well, and you can articulate it visually with modern animation software, you're gold. People will want to see it. Storytelling is the most important part. You're only limited by your imagination.
JA: What was your initial reaction to the first screening of Dracula Untold?

GS: It came in ebbs and flows. The studio was very keen to get it down to 90 minutes. There's a lot of wonderful elements that the writers envisioned and put into the story, this collage of great ideas that had taken them years to write. On their own those elements were wonderful, but as a story I was trying to figure out what it was. If I had more experience making films with a studio I could have spotted those mistakes early on. We did not have enough sub-plots to sustain a two-hour film, it wasn't The Lord of the Rings (2001) or The Hobbit (2012) where you have multiple strands of story all moving and meeting at one point, it was the story of one man. There's barely a scene in the film without Dracula.

JA: I don't think there could have been a better vampire for this film than Charles Dance.

GS: We were actually trying to get Gary Oldman for that role since he was Dracula in Coppola's film, he would have nailed it. We also talked about getting Christopher Lee while he was around, God rest his soul.

JA: I don't know if it was intentional, but when Dance licks the blood off of Vlad's neck it reminded me of that scene in Alien 3 where Ripley is cornered by the Xenomorph...

GS: That wasn't a mistake. I was doing that because of the Charles Dance connection and I wondered if I'd actually get away with it. You're actually the first person to pick up on that. That's funny. I was always asking Charles between takes about his experience on Alien 3 and he actually had to tell me to shut the fuck up at one point because I was asking too many questions. He didn't say that exactly, it was in a much politer way.
JA: It's interesting that you wanted Gary Oldman for the Dracula (1992) reference, but then accidentally ended up with Mauro Borrelli who worked on that same film as your illustrator for the "book of the dead."

GS: The funny thing about Los Angeles is that you have this concentration of great artists, filmmakers, writers, illustrators, seamstresses, directors of photography - Fincher's take on it is that you have twenty-five miles of this talent and you can fill your time with bullshit meetings but, ultimately, you don't have control of your creative future. The important thing about living here is putting in your time every week to meet these people, if you do that then it's the greatest town in the world... if you don't, it's just a waste. That's the only way I was able to get an illustrator with that connection, Borrelli just happened to be in town by a wonderful coincidence.

JA: Were there other intentional homages in Dracula Untold?

GS: I think the biggest reference in that film was probably to Predator (1987). There's particular moments such as the Turkish soldier shaving with the knife before the bats fly into the camp (referencing Mac), the heat signals (or bat vision, as we called it), and then Vlad just getting out of the water after he wakes up in the river with the big wide shots... you can almost hear Alan Silvestri's score coming in, very man versus nature. I think I remember counting 10 Predator references total. The biggest overt Predator reference wasn't in the film, we were shooting the battlefield sequence where Vlad and his men run out to fight the Turks - it was 4 a.m. and I blasted the end credit music from Predator on the loudspeakers. I told Luke before shooting one of his scenes to take his cue from the end of Predator when the device goes off and the ash is just raining down... walking back to the choppers, Dutch is beaten but not broken. He was just like, "Gary, what the fuck are you talking about?"
There's a couple of Spielberg references, actually - when the bats are circling the tower with Ingeras and Mirena at the window it's a clear rip of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), I was even playing John Williams' score on the set that day. There's a Goodfellas (1990) reference, the bit where DeNiro is smoking and the camera pushes right into his face and he takes the cigarette and stabs it out - I wanted to use that moment when the Turks first walk in during the Easter gathering in the Great Hall, I just push into Vlad's face the exact same way. If there were a cigarette in his hand he would have stabbed it out on the pig in front of him that he's having for dinner.

I made the film school mistake of wanting to get a long tracking shot like the one from Boogie Nights or Goodfellas to introduce the Great Hall. I had this idea of making a political drama with a Boardwalk Empire (2010) type story with everybody vying for a piece, which is what Transylvania history books were saying at the time. It was a political turf war. Vlad and his brother were put in there as puppet leaders and I wanted to get a sense of that with a long tracking shot. After about fifteen takes and half a day we finally got the shot, and then the studio heard about it and flew in the accountants and executives who all said, "fuck you, you're not going to waste our time and money on shots like that again." It was a good shot, but you've got to know what film you're making. It's just not going to happen on a big tent-pole movie. I wanted it there to give an impression of the environment, but there's just this appetite of the studio to move things along and get rid of all that stuff. You end up with this compromised vision.
JA: Were you a fan of the original Dracula (1931)?

GS: I think that's the world of Guillermo Del Torro, the fascination with old Gothic literature and classic storytelling, which wasn't my education or what captured my imagination. The films that captured my imagination were movies like Empire of the Sun (1987) or The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) - these little movies about characters under pressure were my first impression of films with an engaging power over an audience that aren't just warm, fuzzy feelings. I absolutely adored E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), it gave me a gut-wrenching feeling at the end.

JA: You mentioned you saw The Treasure of the Sierra Madre at seven years old, how did you arrive at it?

GS: My dad. It was on during a Saturday morning close to Christmas and my dad just said we were sitting down to watch it. Every Christmas I watched it again and it became my holiday movie. It's those formative years. Unless you get exposed to the classics then, you can appreciate them in a different sense but it's not as engrained in your DNA. 
(Dracula Untold concept art)
JA: What else drew you to Dracula Untold?

GS: The original ending of the script - it was a total downer, but completely true to the tone of what it should be. Dracula should have ended up on his own. Alone. There's a love story there that a huge part of the audience responded well to, but for me that wasn't the ending. We shot a scene of all the kids being killed by their parents who drank their blood and at the eleventh hour the studio asked for that scene to be removed. I asked at what point were we going to make a Dracula film. My sad ending never ended up in the film, but the movie was a mild success for the studio and I don't think it would have been anywhere near that had all of those elements stayed because people would have reacted badly to such a depressing ending.

It's like I told you earlier, with the stories of Darth Vader or Michael Corleone - how is it ever going to be a happy ending? This guy has just sold his soul and is going to Hell. Purgatory. These tragic characters end up destroying themselves. It was dark, but we could've gone darker. Dracula isn't just shades of gray, and I wanted to go all the way into the darkness but I couldn't get away with it.
JA: Any chance that you'll be involved in the sequel?

GS: I think it would had to have done better financially to warrant a sequel. But who knows, there's certainly a core group of fans out there who would like to see it happen. I hope for their sake it does.

JA: What are you working on now?

GS: I wanted to focus mostly this year on a short film - my wife is having a baby in about four weeks time and I wanted to make sure I didn't have a film on the other side of that. I'm finishing it today, which will be a segment in the film Holidays (2015). I want to go back to the stuff that really captured my imagination. I've had a lot of mythological stuff sent to me and I don't want to work in a Medieval setting again.

I'm one of those people who can only do one thing well at a time. I like to pick one thing and then really go for it.
(Universal Orlando's 2014 Halloween Horror Nights featured a Dracula Untold maze)
JA: What advice would you give to someone who wants to be creative for a living?

GS: It's not absolutely necessary, but it really helps if you have someone at home who doesn't judge you for what you want to do. I was extremely lucky that my parents were supportive... and not in the financial sense, they just told me to do my best. A lot of people get stuck in a situation where their parents want them to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer - if it's a job that you don't want to do then don't do it.

There is no easy way to break through and make a living creatively, and in most cases it takes about ten years to even get in the front door. If you have parents who are supportive and allow you to stay home until you're 28, working in your room, that's what you need. I've worked in bars all night and creatively all hours of the day at home and had to just keep on reading, drawing, writing and watching stuff. You've got to put in your hours. A great chef is going to know the taste of good food because they've developed a palette, they know what is great from testing. You have to watch as much as you can and study as much as you can in order to be able to have taste. This isn't to say that I have great taste, but I know what I respond to and what I like.

You need to be prepared to put in a lot of time. I got to a point at twenty-seven when I was living in the suburbs of Dublin at my parents' house and all of my friends had started work two years earlier - they'd all bought houses at that point and were professionals and I was completely broke. I remember one night deciding between buying two beers and walking home or one beer and taking a bus - I remember walking home thinking, "I never want to be in this situation again." I was on social welfare and living at home with fuck-all options left. Literally on the breadline. I'd given up film at that point - about six months prior I said "I can't break into this" after spending the best part of seven years in Dublin working on it. Having someone else who really believes in you is what you need.
(Gary Shore's concept art for Dracula Untold.)
JA: That's an inspiring thing to hear from someone who just directed a big-budget Universal horror movie - there are a lot of people on the edge of giving up.

GS: In your country you're maybe going up against a thousand other people who decide to go into this business. People get distracted and that thousand people dwindles down to two hundred... maybe one hundred. Once you get to your late twenties there may only be five of you left. It's the very last people standing who make it through because eventually you're going to become competent and there will be so few people left to race against you that you'll start breaking away from the rest of the crowd and come into your own. You just need endurance and the support of other people.

JA: Since it's Halloween, let's close on your essential scary movies.

GS: The only film that ever scared me in a really psychological way was The Exorcist (1973). It still would. It goes to a whole other dark place that you just don't see in modern movies, with imagery that just disturbs. It's also beautifully structured with a very clever sound design. It gradually stretches between horror and normality, which makes the disturbing stuff work. Also Salem's Lot (1979) and It (1990). I enjoy John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) but it's not going to scare me, it's just really good storytelling.

JA: How would you sum up your life with just three words?

GS: Make your luck. I don't think anyone is lucky, I think you have to earn it.

Follow Gary Shore on Twitter at @GaryShore81