An Interview With Screenwriter Philip Lee



Philip Lee wrote the screenplay for Nowhere Street; here is a link to his Twitter account:

  Q: What is Nowhere Street about?


A: Nowhere Street is about one man’s journey into the dark side of life. It’s my take on an old theme. The most interesting thing about Nowhere Street is that it was a feature length film shot on a 3K budget. It’s not perfect, but it works for the most part.


Q: What made you want to direct it?


A: When I had met John Lore back in 2005 at The Santa Fe Film Festival, he was looking for a script to shoot. He had just graduated The University of New Mexico and wanted a film to DP. I had half a script so when I went back to Redding, CA, I finished the script and sent it to him. He thought it was doable so I moved to Albuquerque in April and we started production. I really had no experience so it was a challenge considering the limited resources we had to work with. Everyone needs a new challenge.


Q: What have you done to get it in front of an audience?


A: Because of the budget and lack of name talent, distribution was tough. I did hook up with one distribution company, but they went bankrupt and sold their library to an individual who was reluctant to let me out of my contract. Right now the film is sitting in limbo and will no doubt remain there until I shuffle off this mortal coil.


Q: What made you want to be a filmmaker?


A: I could give you all of the patent lame answers of wanting to make art or having an avenue to express myself, but that would just be a bunch of pompous crap. Filmmaking is fun and when you’re surrounded by good people, it makes for good memories. Indie filmmaking especially, because, everyone’s ego is pretty much on the same level. Once you get to bigger budgets, a larger pay scale makes some people think they’re a lot more creative than they actually are. I have heard some of the dumbest suggestions come out the mouths of people that would be better suited if they were mute and just cashed their checks. At its basic core though, I would like to make entertaining films for the general public.


Q: What kind of day job do you have and how does it influence your writing?


A: I have two jobs that do not inspire me on any level.


Q: You have written 18 screenplays, What genre do you like to work in?


A: I have actually written more, but I say 18 because if you can’t find anything in the first 18 that you don’t think will bring a return on an investment, then I don’t need to work with you because you’re a moron. I focus mostly in the action genre, but I have a few comedies and horror scripts in the mix. I think you have to have some diversity, but I also have to be excited about the concept. Don’t ask me to write a drama. I can’t stand them. I’ll have dramatic elements in my action stories because you need that, but a straight drama, ugh. They are called “motion pictures” not “emotion pictures.” That might piss off some hard core dramatists. Let it. They always need something to get dramatic over.


Q: What inspires you about New Orleans?


A: I’m no longer living in New Orleans and when I was, nothing inspired me there. I don’t get inspired by locations unless it’s the back drop or setting to a good fight scene. Yes, stories tend to change tone depending on where they are set. The same story shot in New York will have a different feel if it were shot in London, blah, blah, blah. I don’t have the resources or the luxury to choose my locations. I make the best of where I am.


Q: What do you like about the film industry?


A: Not much right now. I find myself extremely disappointed with some decisions directors are making. I hate hand held and shaky cam filmmaking and I see too many young directors relying on the style too much. It’s jarring and obscures the image you’re trying to film. You see it on news footage because 100% of the time the guy filming it is in fear of losing his life. I don’t think it adds anything artistic to the film unless you consider motion sickness an art form. Use a tripod you bunch of bobble-headed bozos.


Q: What would you change about it?


A: There are so many problems with the film industry right now and they will never be fixed. The money people and distribution entities are driven by complete greed and corruption while the creative personnel are subdued by their own growing and crippling egos. All the underlings have to be yes men because the egos don’t want to be wrong or the underlings really have nothing creative to add. Nobody seems to know what a “plot hole” is nor do they seem to give a damn. I could go on and on, but what’s the point. I’ve learned a long time ago in this business that nobody wants to hear the truth unless it’s what they have already decided is the truth.


Q: What do you think makes a producible screenplay?


A: A producible screenplay has to be balanced because it’s not just a story; it’s an undertaking that has immense risk to it. It has to be calculated to reduce the risk to the investors and still be able to entertain the general public. I was talking to this one screenwriter and he was taking about writing the next big drama. I told him that dramas were a big risk that I had backed up with some data I had researched. He said, “I don’t care about the numbers. All I care about is the story!” People like that are very selfish in that they don’t care about anybody. They don’t care about their investors. They don’t care about their distributors and most disturbing, they don’t care about their audience. Numbers ARE people and if you’re not entertaining your audience, you won’t be hitting the numbers you need where investors will want to work with you in the future. What makes a great script? Who knows, who cares. I haven’t agreed with the Oscar winners for the last ten years. What makes a producible script? A producible script is one where a realistic estimate of the box office is at least 5X the budget. It’s up the creators and the investment group what criteria are used to construct a realistic estimate.


Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)


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