DG: What is your name and company URL?
DG: What is your specialty...filmmaking or screenwriting?
DC: I’m mostly known as a writer, but I have also directed and scored films.
DG: What are you currently working on?
DC: BATTERY FILMTEXT has been releasing my screenplays as paperbacks as part of a series. Twelve volumes are out now and eight more release this year.
I’ve also signed-on to score LVRS, directed by Emily Bennett, and a giallo by Ward Crockett entitled ALL THE FLOWERS THAT CUT THROUGH THE EARTH, both for 2018.
DG: Wow! Both Shriekfest friends! You've been busy! Who do you consider your mentor and why?
DC: So many have given me a boost throughout the years. It’s tough to name a single individual. Groups like Chicago Dramatists, led by the late Russ Tutterow, or Twilight Tales, a now-defunct genre series in Chicago, give you more sometimes than one person. I’m in the unfortunate position that no one with big power has really helped me directly (agents or lawyers just formalize stuff I’ve already brought to them). Raymond Benson (DIE ANOTHER DAY, THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH) has championed my work to others, as have a few producers and directors. Sadly, my artistic mentors are not accessible to me. David Cronenberg just isn’t returning my calls!
DG: LOL Nor mine. :) Why do you think the horror/sci-fi genres have such a large following?
DC: When done right, horror says more about the human condition than any other art form. The sub-genre variety is greater and the urgency more palpable. Plus, people like something with history. No matter where you start in the genre, there is something before to trace back to and enjoy.
For sci-fi, it is similar to horror, though it tends to be less cynical, which is a relief. I’m not counting dystopian films, of course; they, too, can enlighten and entertain, even when depressing as hell. But nothing stops a great space adventure, such as STAR WARS.
I also really enjoy stories that blend the two genres, such as ALIEN, MONSTERS, or TIMECRIMES.
DG: Me too! What do you love most about this business?
DC: The little wins are nice. And it really does turn on a dime. Plus, I love meeting people who are interesting and fun to be around.
DG: That is so very true! What do you dislike most about this business?
DC: Today, very few decisions are made without the marketing department. And marketing will not sign up for something unless there is already an audience. For example, no band today will get a record deal unless they already have one million hits on a self-produced video. Period. It’s the same for film. The days of people in power seeing and enjoying something, or sensing the potential based on instinct – well, that’s pretty much over. It’s a data-driven, Moneyball world.
DG: I hear ya! It is frustrating...the whole industry has put too much importance on the making of money instead of the making of quality work. It makes me sad. What career accomplishment are you most proud of?
DC: In 2010, I wrote a stage play called DESPERATE DOLLS. No one would make it – too violent, too weird, too controversial. A few close friends said it was unproduceable. I decided to make it into a film. Came close, but it collapsed. Because of the interest in the film, though, I met producer Anderson Lawfer (PONTYPOOL) and he mounted an excellent stage production in Chicago in 2014 that did great numbers. Google it, as a few wars were started over the show’s content. It was, however, my proudest moment, because it took so much pushing to get done. The final play that thrived was the exact script that I was told was unproduceable. Art is weird like that.
Oh, and I spoke at Comic-Con. That was fun.
DG: Wow, very cool on all of those things! Any advice you'd like to give newbies?
DC: I know so many people that create one film, or write one screenplay, and think, “Now I’m ready for the world!” It doesn’t work like that. It’s about a body of work. You keep going. Projects rise and fall – things catch and then die. I have released sixty-four records, knocked out a couple dozen screenplays, ten stage plays, scored a dozen movies, directed a bunch of shows, and only a cult handful has heard of me. But if I had stopped at just one or two projects, not only would the work kinda suck, but I wouldn’t have been able to explore all that artistic territory. As well, I wouldn’t always have irons in the fire. That can help you psychologically when you have a project die out. Well, you think, at least I have this other thing… Pivoting keeps your spirits up.
DG: Great advice! Anything else you'd like to say?
DC: Shriekfest and other LA-based competitions are important places to grow as a screenwriter. The Page Awards, Cinequest, or some others are great, too, as they give you the judge’s feedback, which allows you to tune your script. Attending is also wonderful networking. If you can afford the submission fees and the travel costs -- do it! If you can’t afford it, start a GoFundMe page. I’ve never attended a SF where I didn’t meet someone who was interesting and could potentially help bring my work to a larger audience. I met a director in 2012 and she later landed a producing job at a major indie; now we’re working on bringing a female-driven haunted house picture to the screen. It might take years of friendship and networking, but if you think of it as “cool people working on a fun project” and not “convincing others” you’ll have success, and much more fun.z
PS – My dream project is to remake THE MAN THEY COULD NOT HANG, a 1939 pic starring Boris Karloff. I have a great adaptation that would be massive.
DG: Thank you for the sweet words and I'm thrilled that you have collaborated with people you met at Shriekfest! That is my favorite part of the festival! And your adaptation sounds cool! ! It was great chatting Darren!