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Writer's block

Attending the premiere of your first feature is almost as terrifying as skiing off a cliff, according to screenplay writer Chris Grezo, who co-wrote the script for new British comedy How To Stop Being A Loser starring Richard E Grant.

They say a writer on set is about as welcome as bacon at a bar mitzvah. However, at the film premiere when there’s no chance the writer can get in the way or accidentally eat someone else’s sandwiches, things are different.

I co-wrote the original screenplay for How to Stop Being a Loser [which premiered at the Apollo, London on Tuesday night, directed by Dominic Burns and produced by Black & Blue Films] with Rupert Knowles. I also acted in the film, and as that meant people recognised me I ended up doing all the interviews and photos while Rupert skulked about. I was totally unprepared for the interviews, having assumed I’d be left alone, and I’m worried I may have come across as a babbling oaf. I’m particularly worried about the interview-to-camera, in which I may have appeared to be a wittering yuppie.

The experience of seeing your film for the first time in front of hundreds of people is terrifying. A few years ago I accidentally skied off a cliff, and I’d say the level of terror was about the same. The fear is made worse by the fact that How to Stop Being a Loser is a comedy. It’s about a lovable loser who takes seduction lessons from a mentally unstable womaniser.  With a drama, an audience will sit there in silence whether or not it’s good, but there’s nothing more humiliating than an audience sitting in silence watching a comedy. Fortunately, the audience seemed to find the film amusing, and we’re getting decent reviews.

Premieres tend to be a little self-congratulatory, and this was no different. At the after-party there was much shaking of hands and slapping of backs (my hand was crushed in the vice-like grip of a man who looked suspiciously like an East End gangster, although he may have been just a producer). One thing I noticed, which is obvious really, is just how disproportionate the congratulations are for the people in front of camera compared to the people behind the camera. I’m not complaining, after all I was the one getting disproportionate praise for my acting, but I can tell you writing the damn film took a lot more effort than acting in it.

This is the first feature length screenplay Rupert and I have written, and the process of watching it go from page to screen was a fascinating learning experience. The most striking thing is how different the final film can be from the original screenplay (a harrowing tale of socio-political upheaval during the Balkan Wars). In this collaborative medium, scripts are more like blueprints than the finished article. Another extremely important thing I learnt was just how attractive a produced writer is to glamorous background artists. I cannot stress enough just how absorbing this learning process was. 

As for the future, hopefully my acting career will benefit from this. I’ve been in plenty of small British feature films, but none with anyone as prestigious as Richard E. Grant in them. Post-production has just finished on a film I’m in called Chinese Burns, which is a Coen Brothers-esque indie comedy about a washed up old Hammer Horror actor, directed by the extremely talented Alan Ronald (Bordello Death Tales).

Writing-wise, Rupert and I have a new script ready. It’s a very dark comedy about a desperate actor who claws his way to the top of the showbiz world by blackmailing producers and selling-out his friends (not autobiographical). It’s receiving interest from a number of producers already. I’m very aware that we’re getting the interest solely because How to Stop Being a Loser is being theatrically released, and very grateful for the situation I find myself in. We’re writing our third comedy while we wait to hear back.

How To Stop Being A Loser is being released in UK cinemas by Crabtree Films on November 18.

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