Monday, July 13, 2009

First Look With Mike White

Writer/actor/director Mike White is more than just the sum of his credits but here they are anyway: "Chuck and Buck," "The Good Girl," "Year of the Dog," as well as "School of Rock," "Orange County," "Nacho Libre," "Freaks and Geeks," "Pasadena" and some other junk he won’t get into. He has won prizes for writing, acting and for loving animals. He wrote a hard-nosed Op-Ed piece for the New York Times once and was almost cast in an acclaimed Broadway play - but at the last minute, they decided to go another way. Most recently, he produced and acted in Sundance sensation Jared Hess’s new comedy, "Gentlemen Broncos", scheduled for release this Fall.

AFF: You've acted, written and produced. Do you have a favorite role in overall production?

WHITE: I’ve also directed! Haha. It’s all fun in different ways. I like to be able to mix it up and not feel like I’m doing the same thing over and over. But writing is probably the most satisfying. If the material is mine, I feel more connected to the experience.

AFF: For people new to the industry, what do you think are the best stepping stones to a career in screenwriting? What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

WHITE: My advice to aspiring writers is to write as much as you can. If you can keep from taking a day job, great. The more time you can give to writing, the better. Write that great first script you’ve been thinking about for years, then move on and write the next one. Then the next one. You can only develop a style and point of view by pushing the boulder up the hill, time and again.

AFF: Is there someone in the film industry with whom you would like to work? Why them?

WHITE: There are people I admire and would love to talk to – if not, work with. I admire comedy filmmakers like James L. Brooks and Woody Allen. I would love to talk to them about their processes etc. I would also love to talk to Jane Fonda – she was a producer for a few years who managed to do what many have tried but failed at – produce socially conscious, artistically successful and profitable movies. The China Syndrome, Coming Home, Nine to Five – all different genres and different topics, all interesting movies. As a producer, I respect that.

AFF: What are you looking forward to most about AFF?

WHITE: It’s fun to meet other writers since you often feel isolated, working on your own stuff. It’s always interesting to meet other people you admire and do what you do.

AFF: Why do you feel that festivals and conferences like this are important to both established industry professionals and newcomers?

WHITE: It’s great to create a community of individuals passionate about the same things. Newcomers can get inspired and emboldened that they can succeed in a tricky profession. And the old-timers like me (haha!) can get reinvigorated by interacting with their peers. It’s always a good thing.

AFF: With experience in both television and film, do you have a preference? Which, if either, do you find better suited to your skills?

WHITE: I prefer my lifestyle when writing in film. My days are more flexible and not as much pressure. But you really get an adrenaline rush writing for TV – the pace is faster, more immediate gratification. I think TV suits my skills better in that I like writing more character comedies and less the high-concept stuff the film market seems to prefer.

AFF: Can you tell us about "Them," which is curently in development?

WHITE: This is a Jon Ronson book I adapted with Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”). It’s a lot of fun and very bizarre. Universal owns it and we’re just hoping when Edgar finishes his latest movie, we can get them to make it. It’s a conspiracy theory comedy – if shape-shifting lizards ruled the world.

Have your own questions for Mike? Join him at the 2009 AFF Conference. Badges on sale now!

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