Today, we chat with Milan Tomasevic about how The Black List has affected his life as a screenwriter, and how the past, present, and future shape his writing process.
What was the first film that had a major impact on your life?
I was thirteen, searching through my cousin’s VHS tapes when I popped one in that was unlabeled. It was blurry and I was about to eject it when De Niro, Pesci and Liotta showed up on screen right when they hear a strange sound in their car trunk. I still believe GOODFELLAS is a perfect movie.
Was there a single film that made you want to be a screenwriter? How else did the decision to pursue that career evolve?
I don’t think there was one exact film, but I remember seeing GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS and RUSHMORE around the same time which made me rethink what a “great movie” was. I thought a story had to unravel a crazy twist ending or be a sprawling epic, but it was the distinctly contained worlds that excited me. From that, I felt I had my own specific stories that I wanted to tell while still remaining inspired by high concept movies. My learning curve revolved around the basics and still very much ongoing; I read more, watch more and write more. I stuck to that until someone said “Not bad. You should keep doing this.”
Most writers have to have “day jobs” in order to stay afloat. What was the strangest job you ever had before becoming a writer?
I worked at a pork processing plant during the summers. By the time my shift ended, I felt like Martin Sheen in APOCALYPSE NOW. I’ll let you use your imagination.
How do you find ideas and how do you choose which ones to work on?
Typically, it starts from an emerging trend that’s hard to ignore. The growing foodie culture and the strange obsession over Michelin ratings inspired my dark comedy script CONSUME. If you can see various scenes playing out in your mind then that’s usually a good start; If that leads to a brainstorm of ideas to a point that it’s bugging you that you’re not writing it then that’s probably the one. Other inspiration stems anywhere from an obscure personal interaction to classic genres reinvented in different contexts.
Walk us through a normal day of writing for you. Any special habits to keep the muse happy?
I’m pretty consistent. I down a coffee before writing four to five hours. Afterwards, I run and have an inner monologue on everything I did wrong then tackle it again at night. It sounds boring, but so far the routine works.
Which films are keeping you inspired at the moment?
Dan Gilroy’s NIGHTCRAWLER is a staple millennial film and Louis Bloom will be dissected in film theory classes for many years to come. The script itself is just as much of an eye opener, both narratively and esthetically, which serves as a refresher course on what modern screenwriting should be. Also, Nic Pizzolatto’s TRUE DETECTIVE made me love TV again. Regardless of the negativity surrounding Season 2, I have faith that Season 3 will win everyone back.
If you could make one film, with no restrictions in place, what would that film be?
I’ve always been interested in a retelling of Highsmith’s Ripley series. There’s a complexity to that character that would work well in the current state of interconnectivity. The need to seek identity defines us through social media and the ability to shape identities, online and off, is getting startlingly easier. This ties to the heart of Tom Ripley and could be uniquely explored in a contemporary way. It could also work as a TV series since there are six years worth of story between THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY and RIPLEY UNDER GROUND.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?
Most likely re-applying to the pork processing plant.
Dinner with three of your favorite writers and/or filmmakers, dead or alive. Who’s coming to dinner? Who picks up the check?
Tony/Dan Gilroy (can they count as one?), Brian Koppelman and David Mamet. They each have very clear-cut opinions and voices, so to see that play out in person would be the best writing class I could imagine. I’ll pick up the check because that’s the least I can do for having a story I can share my entire life. Plus, I wonder if Mamet swears as creatively as he does in his work.
The Black List:
How did you first hear about The Black List?
I was in York University’s film program when I heard about it. It seemed like a chance to get alternate opinions from industry readers and have a wider viewability on scripts outside of the classroom. I’m glad I gave it a shot.
Since using The Black List, how has your career been impacted?
I landed a great LA based manager Bernard Kira of BMK|ENT who found my specs on The Black List site. Since then, I optioned my first TV project HARBORAGE to Todd Cohen and Laura Terry of Full Fathom Five and my feature CONSUME is with Peter Pastorelli, Marshall Johnson and Eddie Rubin of Long Road Films. Along with other TV and feature specs, I’m involved in a dystopian Western project with Canadian writer-producer Cameron MacLaren and up-and-coming director Rob Grant.
Any tips for writers interested in the site?
Every script is a new life. More so, every draft is a new life. You might have one screenplay that doesn’t quite click and another one that gets a response. If you know this going in then you will be more inclined to share your scripts to find out what works and what needs tweaking. After a few more drafts you can throw it back in the ring and see if it holds up. Lastly, I encourage writers to put their best stuff out there because you never know who’s reading it.