Gary Allison is the author of the book The Final Round; here is a link to his website:
Q: What made you start writing in the first place?
A: I’m not sure. I like stories. My family told stories, some good, some bad, some repeated. I wrote as a teenager. It was garbage. Writing was for sissies and I’d be damn if anyone called me a sissy. The teenage years were secret notebooks of cringe inducing plots, incomplete philosophical assaults birthed from a black hearted, greasy teen whose mind was preoccupied with getting laid or lying about getting laid. They were awful years: the pimpled years.
Once eighteen, the writing stopped. I joined the Navy and proceeded to indulge in worldly customs that mainly involved experimental liver endurance tests. I was an iron man. When I wasn’t working at defending this great nation of ours single handedly from the evils of communism and dust bunnies, I was making hazy memories with some of the best people I had ever met or will meet. Those were great years, basement-feeding years, and the type of life experiences that fed the grumpy-gutted muse waiting for me to get off my lazy ass. Those were the pickled years.
Upon a mutually agreed upon honorable discharge, I was still young, newly married and somehow unaware that writing was a worthy pursuit, maybe even an occupation. I enrolled in college, knocked around a bit, landed in some film classes and creative writing classes. The grumpy-gutted muse awakened. He was fat, tired of waiting, and ready to get back in shape. I started writing beyond the assignments, devouring the discipline, the process, the joy of having something to say and having people wanting to read what I wrote. I was lucky. I had a professor that encouraged me, telling me I should publish, that I should keep working at it. I was good. I was damn good. And I enjoyed the hell out of it. Those were the positive years.
I told my wife that I wanted to pursue writing. She was all for it, but I still needed to get a job. So, I worked and I wrote and I continued going to college. I filled boxes with rejection slips. I dropped out of college. I worked. I wrote. I worked more. Those were the punishing years.
I sold my first piece of writing in 2008. It was a screenplay. We are now in the positively punishing pickled years. The pimpled years couldn’t make it. I wouldn’t change a thing, except to publish sooner.
Q: What is The Final Round About?
A: The Final Round is a non-fiction novel. I know how that sounds. How can a story be non-fiction and a novel? It wasn’t easy. The research lasted a year, involved newspaper articles, blurbs in books, and insight from surviving family members. All resources were vague or incomplete. I pieced together the story, filled the holes with probabilities and imagination that went along with the times and combined some characters. It was no longer a biography, but it wasn’t completely fiction, either. Enter the non-fiction novel, á la In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.
The Final Round is based on the true story of 1920s heavyweight boxer Billy Miske. He was the best around and on his way to becoming heavyweight champion of the world, but life had other plans. Billy would give the ultimate sacrifice, carving his name in the stone slabs of boxing history and in the hearts of his family. It’s a good book. You should read it.
Q: What makes Billy Miske different from other literary boxers?
A: The main thing that makes Billy different is that he was a living and breathing, flesh and blood human being. He was real, with real ambitions, hopes and dreams. He had real struggles, real drama and real disappointments. Billy Miske not only fought hard, but he loved hard. His story is an inspirational one, because it shows that no matter how hard life hits, you can always hit back.
Q: What kind of day job do you have and how do you use it in your writing?
A: I work part time in a local government office. It pays well enough for me to work fulltime at writing. I lucked out. The job fell into my lap and I took it. It beats the hell out of freelancing. It’s tough to be a freelance writer in this country. Writing is something that everyone just does. You learn how to write in grade school, for crying out loud, so paying someone to do it seems silly! It’s an underappreciated discipline. That is, until you have to do it. Pennies on the word is a crime against humanity! Most writers need to work day or night jobs. Some aren’t as lucky as me. Bureaucracy is a working writer’s best friend. However, I long for the day when the writing supports itself.
Q: What are some common mistakes rookie filmmakers maker when it comes to sound?
A: Some may read this and think, “What the hell does he know about filmmaking or sound?” A writer writes, but he also does a thousand other jobs, too. I worked in television and film for about ten years and I still keep a toe dipped in the cesspool.
I was an executive producer for one of the largest sound effects producers in the world, The Detroit Chop Shop. We produced sound effects for television, film, gaming, radio, and anything that wanted noises. I attended many film festivals, screened hundreds of films and talked to many new filmmakers. Most films from new filmmakers and some from veteran filmmakers have glaring sound issues. I think it was George Lucas that said something like, “Sound is fifty percent of filmmaking.” I may be paraphrasing. So, here are some things filmmakers need to consider when it comes to sound:
Location – If you have a scene on the beach or near a freeway or in a casino or inside a factory or in a dog kennel or anywhere else that has roaring, slamming, zipping, swooshing, crashing, wailing, screeching, barking, or anything loud constantly slamming your eardrums, you are going to ADR that scene. Try to avoid those locations. If it’s in your script then change it. Save yourself the headache.
Experience – It pays to have an experienced sound operator on set. Let me rephrase that. You have to pay to have an experienced sound operator on set. A professional sound operator will save you time and money when it comes to your film. If you skimp, you’ll pay in the end in more ways than one, but mainly in greenbacks. A professional sound operator comes with professional equipment that he or she knows how to use. Budget for one.
Sound editing – Your film editor is not a sound editor. Sound editing is important just as film editing is important. If you don’t edit your sound, it’s a mess.
Mixing – Your film editor is not a sound mixer. Budget for a sound mixer and let him or her do what they know best – mix your film. If you capture the best sound possible on set (see location and experience), the sound mixer’s job will go smoother. If not, well… start cutting more checks and more checks. Save the dough by taking the location and experience advice and save time in the mix.
Foley – Ever watched a film without Foley work? ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.
Music – What your actors are saying is more important than the cool score your composer made for you, or your brother’s original song. Take it easy with the tunes.
That’s it for common mistakes and advice. Next week we’ll cover mic placement… Sorry, I was having flashbacks, back in the bush, green boom operators surrounding me. You’re in the shot! Know your framing!
Q: Do you think working in sound helps you to make contacts in the film industry that can help you with your writing or do you think that industry professionals tend to pigeonhole you as “the sound guy?”
A: In my case, the answer was yes. I sold my first screenplay to a producer I worked sound for on an earlier film. Networking is natural on a film set. Most people are looking for their next gig; some are looking to move on, climb up the ladder. Working in sound was great for me. There was a lot of downtime, more time for brainstorming, outlining and writing. If anything, you get to work on your voice and style. I was lucky to have a good pitch for a script in a genre the producer was hunting. Timing was everything. I never felt pigeonholed, though. I always considered myself a writer. Working in sound was just like any job for me. I could have been milking goats and I would have still considered myself a writer and not a goat milker, no matter what anybody said. I’ll always be a writer, come hell or high water.
Q: What inspires you about Detroit?
A: Detroit is a strange city. It’s a mythical city, often talked about, but never actually seen. Most who talk bad about Detroit have never even driven through it. They only know what the media tells them and the media is full of so much shit that they are responsible for eighty-four percent of methane released into the atmosphere according to world-renowned experimental scientist Godfrey Hornsickle of the Hornsickle and Oats Studies in Flatulent Impacts. The media is single handedly burning a hole in the ozone, by god! The damn polar bears are sweating to the oldies because of these bastards! Get those oily mouthpieces off the air!
Detroiters inspire me: the people, especially those that have dug in for the hard battle, for the long war. Time and pressure, rare jewels, veterans willing and able to do whatever it takes, these are Detroiters. No matter the cost, no matter the shit storm, no matter the sneers from outside the city walls, Detroiters are ready for anything and they are survivors. Only optimists are born in Detroit.
Q: What about it would you change?
A: I would change one thing. It would be nice to have a winning football team. Thank Jesus for hockey.
Q: Who are some of your literary influences (and why)?
A: Hemingway is my favorite. I love everything he wrote, except one. I hate For Whom the Bell Tolls. But he was a damn fine writer. I love the simplicity of his writing, but I love the rhythm even more. He said he was always trying to break the writing down to its simplest form. I’m not sure he achieved it, but he came close.
Stephen King is another. He isn’t the best writer, but he can spin a tale. King reminds me that story is primary and that all else is secondary. Tell a good story and the reader will forgive your literary mistakes.
Elmore Leonard is another influence. He was a hometown writer and he took writing to a much higher level, especially when it came to dialogue. Of all the writers that I read, I study Leonard. That bastard has a new lesson no matter how many times you read him.
Nelson DeMille is in there, too. He’s another good storyteller, but for me, it’s about communicating wit. DeMille is the master of literary wit. He’s always a fun read.
And finally, there is Mary Shelley. We’re only talking about one book – Frankenstein. Reading it changed my life. That book has so much to offer. It’s filled with drama, horror, despair, joy, love, death, meaning, hope and hopelessness wrapped up into a tiny book, written by a young lady on a bet. Amazing. I think she won.
Q: What are some of the things you have done to publicize your writing.
A: Short of running naked through the streets and waving my books in the air, I’ve done almost everything. Facebook has been the biggest. I created an author’s page (www.facebook.com/gwallisonjr). That boosted sales considerably. I use Twitter (@gwallison). It’s a good way to stay above water. I’ve done interviews, blogged, had giveaways, sold them from my trunk, and placed ads online. It’s a fulltime job and wears you down, but until I put enough money together to bribe the New York Times Bestseller list, it’s a must do. However, with the novel I’m writing now, I’m going the more traditional route, nailing down an agent and shopping the big boys in New York. Put a little marketing muscle behind the pulp.
Mr. Allison’s portrait was done by Bowen Kline
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)