FV: How do you approach the blank page? Where do you go to find inspiration?
DC: I watch recent movies that I like. I read a lot of comic books because to me it has the right combination of text and story-telling and visuals. If I’m writing a small character piece I could read fiction and be fine. But on Godzilla I wanted to always be thinking in giant, sweeping science fiction terms. So I was watching a lot of those types of movies. You know, I could be watching Star Trek and it would help me with Godzilla just because it put me in the right mindset of “the universe is yours to play with.” I watch a lot of Discovery channel stuff, History Channel and that always helps.
On Godzilla as an example and Doom I did this too. I watched a lot of nature documentaries because I felt like I’m writing about an animal; it’s just a giant animal. But if I can get some cool set pieces out of behavior that I see animals doing in the wild in the show, then I can maybe translate that into something. Just whatever’s appropriate. And then I read a lot. I’ll be reading fiction for the sake of constant creativity, but I also I feel like on everything I write there’s research I could be doing.
On the script that became The Expendables I read all about mercenaries. I read biographies of mercenaries and I read about first hand accounts of armed conflicts and things like that. On Godzilla I read about the history of Godzilla, Godzilla’s history through film. But I also read a 600 page manual that is handed out to municipal areas, cities, counties, states, about disaster preparedness and how to react when a disaster does hit and how to make sure that you rebound from it. Because I was trying to tell the story from a perspective of Godzilla being treated as a disaster. So anything that I find appropriate I’ll read. Even if I don’t get a specific idea out of it creativity-wise, it gets me in the right mindset. I don’t want to be doing anything while I’m writing a script other than living in the world of the script. So if I’m not writing it and I turn around, I’m trying to spend time with my wife and have fun, but if I’m reading, I’m reading something that’s gonna help me in the right mindset, and if I’m watching something hopefully it’s gonna help me do that too.FV: So if you’ve got act 1 and act 2 pretty well laid out, how long does it take you to write that first draft? How long do you want to spend?
DC: Horsemen and Godzilla, the first and last things I’ve done, are pretty similar. I think they both took 3 months for a first draft. And they were both 2 ½ months to write the first 2 acts, and I wrote the last act in a week on both of them. Because it’s a runaway train at that point, and there’s no more questions. Act 2 is the hardest, because I know where I need to get them, how am I gonna get them there? By act 3, if you can’t just roll with act 3 you’ve messed up somewhere. Act 3 should write itself.
I get really emotional writing act 3. It’s coming out of me at that point. A lot of times I have to struggle to force myself to write the first two acts. First act’s easy, second act is hard. Third act, I’m just dying to do it. I’ve spent all this time leading you to a place, now it’s time to show you.
FV: Ho much time do you spend rewriting?
DC: Depends. Like on Godzilla I was under a pretty strict time crunch. So I wrote it, it was very, very long. I sent it to a couple friends and I did a week of super intensive rewriting. If you’re writing on spec you’ve got the luxury of time so it just depends on how long it takes to get it right. Usually once or twice. I don’t like to rewrite.FV: Going back to the writing process. What’s your philosophy or mentality as a writer?
DC: I want to elevate. My philosophy as a writer is to always make something better than it ought to be. This is obvious. I’m sure every writer says that. But I really want to, if it’s an action movie I want to make it, like Heat is a good example, again, I want it to be an action movie with characters you actually care about, and stakes and themes. I always want the story to have themes even if it’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard. Godzilla is a pretty cut and dry, giant monster smashes stuff. But the reason I got excited about it is because I saw themes and relationships to the modern world that I could tell in this story that was important. I always strive to elevate. And you see a movie like The Dark Knight and it tells you, or Inception, another Chris Nolan movie, it tells you, you can make giant movies that work on many different levels, that are intellectual, that are important, that are valuable and they work on a commercial level. And they’re exciting and they’re fun and they’re popcorn. People don’t do it too much, and I don’t think they try hard enough to do it. But I’d like to try. I do try. And you know, you learn that sometimes you try and things get changed. But if you don’t try then no one will.http://www.fresh-voices.com/interviews.html