UTG INTERVIEW: Screenwriter David Larson Discusses Being Accepted Into Tribeca Film Festival With ‘Big Boy’

This year’s Tribeca Film Festival is taking place April 15-26 in New York City, NY. Each year the festival showcases hundreds of features by film crews across the globe. Not every feature that’s submitted to the festival gets accepted, which makes it a huge honor for those who make it. Most features that win in their category are eligible to be nominated for an Academy Award for the current season. Last year’s winner in the Best Narrative Short category, The Phone Call, subsequently won an Oscar this past February.

We had the opportunity to sit down with the screenwriter of the comedy short Big Boy. The short was accepted into Tribeca’s Short Narrative category, and is making its world debut at the festival this Saturday, April 18. David Larson is a local writer who teamed up with director Bryan Campbell and producer Mike Astle to make the short. He discusses being accepted into the festival and future plans for Big Boy. You can read our full conversation below.

Is this your first time collaborating with Bryan Campbell? How did you guys get in touch?

Big Boy was my first time collaborating with Bryan Campbell. I met Bryan through a mutual friend, Mike Astle, who is one of the producers with Jason Aumann. Mike had read all of the stuff that I had written, and I had worked with him on a project that he was writing. He liked the script and said that he might know a director that might be interested in this material. He got us in touch, we set up a meeting and hit if off over burritos at El Chupacabra.

Now we are working on another script for a feature. We like working together so there might be some other stuff in the future.

Is there anything in the works that you can tell us about?

I can’t say what any of it is. We are writing something, and there is a horror film written by someone else that I brought to his attention that we might collaborate on.

So did you write Big Boy independently or was it a collaborative creation?

Big Boy was just a script that I wrote with no real reason to write it. I just woke up with the idea. They don’t all work out, but I do that quite often and it’s one of a number of scripts I have. Every once in a while I forward them to friends, and that one caught Mike’s attention.

Take us through the initial plot development and your process for writing a script or screenplay. What do you do when you want to create something?

Almost everything I’ve written has been a spec script that comes out of my own brain. Very rarely have I been given an idea for something and been told to write on that. I do like that idea, and I have sat with people and worked collaboratively. Usually that will be one of us at the computer and the other pacing around putting it together. I did episodes of a web series with Mike (Astle) and I put together another short named STZ with my friend Betty Kim. That was a completely different process. She came to me with the idea. She said she wanted to do something about zombies, and I suggested STZ: Sexually Transmitted Zombie.

[Laughs] That sounds scary.

Generally with the stuff that I write, I’ll be struck with an absurd idea. I will wake up or I will be driving or I will just be doing something else and something will make me laugh. I will scribble it down in a notebook and every once in a while one of them won’t go away. A lot of the time the process of putting down the idea – it’s done. I won’t go any further with it. But sometimes they stay nagging so I’ll sit down and start outlining it. If it’s a short, there might not be an outline. I just start writing and if it has a natural end and has an arc that makes sense then that’s all there is to it.

With features, I’ve written a number of features, sometimes the outlining process will go on for months before I actually start writing script pages.

What first interested you in film writing and how did you initially get into it?

I’ve always loved movies, but I never considered that movies were something I could make because I never had money. I always thought it was something that you had to be rich to do. I never thought that you could do just one aspect of the process.

I remember when I saw Richard Linklater’s Slacker, I thought to myself, “this is something I could do with my friends.” Then Reservoir Dogs came out and it made me want to make a movie so bad that I could taste it. A few years later a friend of mine in California made a film titled Walking Between The Rain Drops that he wrote then filmed on a black and white VHS video camera. I loved it. That inspired another friend of mine named Matt to make a movie up here in the Northwest named Heartbreak Beat. I’m in Heartbreak Beat, and a number of people in the punk rock and hardcore scene are in it. That process was so much fun that I started writing a script. I made one a couple of years later, titled The Edge Of Quarrel. After that experience, which took a couple of years, the best thing to do would be to focus on one thing. I have spent years taking classes, I’ve been to seminars and was a part of the Northwest Screenwriters Guild for a while. I immersed myself in the culture of screenwriting, and once I started doing that, stuff just started coming out. Sometimes I like the stories and sometimes I don’t.

So you wrote and directed The Edge Of Quarrel?

I wrote, directed, filmed everything and casted. That’s part of the reason it took two years. I did too many things. I even edited it and self-released it through my record label, Excursion Records.

Did you like directing, or do you prefer writing?

I do like directing. I have a vision in my head, and I know how to get what I want with what I have. With Edge Of Quarrel I had no real equipment or actors, so when a scene came out really well I felt like we hit a home run. If I directed again I would prefer to have access to special effects and things like that. With writing, I can lay out perfectly the scenes I want and what I want to see.

So tell us about Big Boy. What’s it about?

Big Boy is about a young boy who is driving home with his family from seeing relatives. He has to use the bathroom and the family pulls into a rest area. The dad tells him he’s old enough to go on his own, which he is excited for, so he runs off to the bathroom. The rest area is nice looking and clean, but when he opens the door it’s a nightmareish scene. It’s every parents’ worst nightmare of what the kid could encounter in there. The first thing he sees is two gang members graffitiing the walls of this filthy bathroom. He has an encounter with them, and he encounters some other characters. He drops his bouncy ball, which rolls under a stall and he has to go on an adventure to find it.

Part of the reason I wrote it is because it’s a little bit of commentary on how guarded and protected children are now in comparison to when I grew up. We are just not the same kind of people anymore. Parents are so protective of their children. The idea of a seven or eight-year-old kid going to the rest stop bathroom by himself wasn’t unheard of when I was a kid.

So Big Boy is having its world premiere at Tribeca this weekend. After the festival, are there any plans to show it at any other festivals?

Bryan, Mike and Jason are planning on submitting it to more film festivals. I know there are other festivals that it has been submitted to, and I’m crossing my fingers for one in particular that I’m not going to mention because I don’t want to jinx it. I really hope we get another opportunity to go to at least one more festival with it.

How does it feel going to Tribeca? What happens if you win in your category?

It’s absolutely surreal to have worked on something that is going to have its world premiere at Tribeca – especially when you look at the other shorts in the category. It’s one of twenty submissions from the USA that were accepted, and I know there were a lot of submissions. It’s an honor to be nominated, and I would be thrilled to win. The craziest thing is if it won, that it would be eligible to be nominated for an Academy Award. That freaks me out a little bit to think about. It would be really awesome.

What do you do to get your work out there? This is obviously a great networking opportunity.

It is! I’ve tried a number of things with varying degrees of success. I’ve had another short produced by someone I didn’t know, who’s based in the UK and I met on Ink Tip. It’s a website that tries to connect producers and directors with writers. Like they always say though, you have to know somebody. That’s a very daunting thing, and you have to figure out how to get to know that somebody. Obviously, work on your craft. But you also want to spend time at events and get involved with other parts of film writing. If you’re a writer, you can volunteer your services on different films being shot around you. You’re going to get to meet people, and it’s better than just sitting there with a script waiting for someone to find you.

Go to film festivals. The Austin film festival, The Heart Of Film, has a four day screenwriting seminar. I was there a few years ago and there was an overwhelming amount of great information. I met two or three people who are good friends of mine now who I still stay in touch with. My friend always says that an overnight success usually takes an average of twelve years. You just keep plugging away at it and eventually something will work out for you.

What do you do to overcome writer’s block?

I haven’t experienced sitting down and not being able to think of something to write. On a bad day I can only write a couple of lines, but I try to always set a goal for myself to get me to the next part of the plot. If I go back to it and don’t like it, then I have something to rewrite.

So you try to set a goal to always write something, even if you end up having to change it?

Yes. If I don’t know what the next thing is that I want to do, then I try to work on another portion of the story. It’s all part of the process of writing, so I don’t consider it writer’s block.

Are there any particular films that have inspired you or influenced you along the way?

I am still inspired by Reservoir Dogs.

Brick – that movie just dominated. It has Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and he portrays a high school loner who starts playing these different drug gangs against each other. The dialogue is written in this old school detective talk. He’s basically just beaten throughout the movie as he’s trying to find out what happened to his girlfriend who’s gone missing.

All of Wes Anderson’s stuff. Rushmore is one of the best things I have ever seen in my life. I still watch The Royal Tenenbaums regularly.

So you have a website named Nobody’s Nose. Tell us a little bit about it.

It started off as something that was a bit of a joke between my friend and I. We would post funny things that made us laugh. After a while I decided to re-launch the site as a podcast network. I wanted to do my own show, and allow my friends to have a place to host their podcasts if they wanted.

What is your podcast about?

The podcast is named I’ve Known You Too Long. I interview people mostly from the northwest punk and hardcore scene. Right now the rule is that I have to have known them for longer than fifteen years. I want to talk about the ‘80s and ‘90s – which is the time I was more active in the scene. That’s not a hard and fast rule, especially if there is someone interesting that I would like to interview. The shortest so far is an hour, and I just finished a three and a half hour interview with Kevin Seconds – which will be broken into two parts.

To give it a format, we start with trying to remember how we met, which can be difficult. Then we look back at their past – where they came from, what were they like as a little kid. I like to talk to them about the moment they decided to no longer be a listener and become an active member of the music scene. It’s been a blast so far.

For Big Boy‘s screening schedule at the Tribeca Film Festival, you can visit the film guide here.

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