Writer/director Josh Boone made his feature film debut at Toronto with Writers, a semi-autobiographical film about a family of writers dealing with a difficult divorce.
What was your inspiration for the film?
Greg Kinnear plays a novelist who is estranged from his ex-wife. I guess I used this to work out feelings that I had about my parents’ divorce and the character that Nat Wolff plays, Rusty, is exactly who I was when I was 16 years old. The movie is fiction, but it very much has a lot of me in it.
What elements of your own life did you insert into the story?
I was raised by Baptists and I always loved Stephen King when I was young because I wasn’t allowed to read him. I would tear the covers off Christian books and glue them to Stephen King books so I could get away with reading them without getting busted. … My parents found them once and burned them in the fireplace. [When] I was 12 I wrote King a letter just telling him how much I loved his books and how much they meant to me. I came home from school a couple of weeks later and my dad [said], “There’s a box here from Stephen King.” And he had written me this beautiful letter inside the front cover of these books and he sent me a signed limited edition of one of his books. He was just so kind and my parents were so moved that he took the time to do that they [said], “It’s cool. You can read Stephen King now.”
That’s not exactly what happens in the movie, but I did a version of that in there just to try to tell that experience that happened to me when I was younger.
What was the most difficult part of filmmaking?
There’s nothing I hate more than writing. It’s a means to an end. It’s the hardest part of the process. Truly, making the movie is like summer camp compared to the writing part. It’s just a struggle every day. You sit down and you do it and you’re by yourself and you’re doing it just so you can go actually hang out with other people and be social and make a movie together.
So how did you approach the writing process?
I spend a lot of time writing notes. I sit down and just write stream of consciousness notes and try to figure out what I’m trying to say and write down ideas for dialogue. Spike Lee kept these journals while he was writing a script and when I was a kid I would get [them] from the library. I loved reading these journals where you would kind of live that creative process with him and understand how he got from point A to point B. So I have always written notes ever since then and it just is a good way to figure out what exactly you’re trying to do.
When you were writing the script did you have any actors in mind to play these characters?
It’s funny because I usually write very specifically for actors. I have in the past and was able to get casts on board that way. I think this was so personal that I didn’t see people in the roles that much. Jennifer [Connelly] I thought about because she’s been my favourite actress for years and years and years. I never thought we would got her in this.
What was the process of bringing the film from script to screen like?
I was represented by a small agency, Good Guys. They had sold Judy [Cairo of Informant Media] Hysteria. So I wrote this script and I knew I wanted to direct it and it just didn’t go to her. After about a year of hoping that [my agency] would get this done and get it out to people and help put it together, I sat down and wrote letters to about 50 producers that I knew worked with first time directors. I just asked them, “Please read this script. I want to make this movie. This is my dream.” Judy was one of the people I wrote a letter to. I met her first and we just hit it off. I remember her telling me in an email, “This genre is my favourite genre.” I had told her that the movies that I like that are family films are Hannah and her Sisters, The Ice Storm and ones like that. She really loves that genre but she said, “They’re very, very difficult to get financed. So, if you don’t hear back from me don’t take it too harshly.” And she called me back a couple days later and said let’s meet. I think just a little over a year later we were shooting the movie.
What’s next for you?
I became pretty good friends with Logan Lerman, so I’m writing [a script] for him and literally one of my favourite actresses, Imogen Poots, who I became friendly with over the last year.
I’d also very much like to do a Stephen King adaptation at some point. And that’s something he and I have been discussing. Hopefully at some point I can do that and just finish off my childhood dream.