Black List Interview: Milan Tomasevic

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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.

The Past:

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.

The Present:

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.

The Future:

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.

The Week in Rep: 8/28-9/4

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Girls on film take center stage this week, with features from Coppola, Altman, Miyazaki, and Arnold leading the way.

Cinefamily: Throughout the week, Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow-up to THE ACT OF KILLING, THE LOOK OF SILENCE, screens at Cinefamily. On Sunday, artist Alia Penner brings Robert Altman’s hallucinatory 3 WOMEN (seriously: you’ll never forget the last fifteen minutes) to Cinefamily for their ongoing series, Women of Cinefamily. Doug Benson interrupts ENTOURAGE on Monday evening — this event is very likely to sell out. The Lost & Found Film Club brings Canadian rarities to Cinefamily on Wednesday. SpectreFest kicks off this Thursday at Cinefamily with a FREE SCREENING! of COOTIES. Pre-register for the film’s Los Angeles premiere now! SpectreFest runs throughout September at the Cinefamily and beyond.

The New Beverly: The weekend kicks off with two from Hitchcock, with SUSPICION and NOTORIOUS showing on Friday and Saturday night. Throughout the rest of the week, A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS screens on a double-bill with MINNESOTA CLAY on Monday, CRY OF A PROSTITUTE on Tuesday, and LAST MAN STANDING on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Egyptian: The Guadalajara International Film Festival takes over The Egyptian this week, starting on Thursday. Screening information is available on their website.

The Aero: The Studio Ghibli invasion continues this week at the Aero! SPIRITED AWAY, an Oscar winner for Best Animated feature, screens with PONYO tonight, followed by a English-language matinee of KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE, perhaps Ghibli’s most empowering movie for young women, on Saturday. HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE and CASTLE IN THE SKY show Saturday evening. On Sunday, MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO takes the matinee spot, with the decidely more mature PORCO ROSSO and THE WIND RISES showing that evening. The series closes on Wednesday with GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES and FROM UP ON POPPY HILL.

Cinespia: Come sail away with Sofia Coppola’s magnificent debut THE VIRGIN SUICIDES this Saturday. Air’s incredible score and soundtrack (recently reissued on vinyl) is sure to sound incredible on Cinespia’s brand-spankin’ new sound system.

LACMA: This Tuesday’s $4 matinee is the 1953 adaptation of THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, kicking off a month long series of retro sci-fi at LACMA.

Pick of the week: WifeyTV takes over Cinefamily for a screening of FISH TANK, an incredibly frank portrait of contemporary class struggles in Essex and teenage female sexuality. An Oscar-winner for her short WASP, filmmaker Andrea Arnold joins TRANSPARENT’s Jill Soloway for a post-film Q&A! This film is a must for fans of THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL, with outstanding lead performances from Katie Jarvis (who stuns in her feature debut — she was discovered at a train station in Essex) and Michael Fassbender.

The Week in Rep: 8/21-8/28

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This week, jazz on film, a celebration of Studio Ghibli, Ozploitation, and the unruliest of teenagers come to LA screens!

Cinefamily: All week, 2014’s GUEROS, a black-and-white look at contemporary Mexico City, screens, with director Alonso Ruiz Palacios in person for the Saturday evening showing. On the 27th, DANNY SAYS, a doc about the life of music industry renaissance man Danny Fields, screens as a part of Don’t Knock the Rock. Cinefamily continues its series on Roy Andersson throughout the week.

The New Beverly: If you can’t wait for the home video release of FURY ROAD, be sure to check out the New Bev’s Ozploitation double feature of MAD MAX and THE ROAD WARRIOR this Friday and Saturday, as well as grindhouse favorites STONE and DARK AGE on the 25th.  Two by Chaplin, MODERN TIMES and THE CIRCUS, screen Sunday and Monday. The week closes with two from provocateur Lina Wertmuller (the first woman ever to be nominated for Best Director, for SEVEN BEAUTIES) with SWEPT AWAY and LOVE & ANARCHY screening on the 26th and 27th.

The Egyptian: Beat the back to school blues by taking your kids to an awesome Studio Ghibli double feature at the Egyptian this week — MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO and THE CAT RETURNS show Friday, THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA and PRINCESS MONONOKE screen Saturday, NAUSICAA VALLEY OF THE WIND and TALES FROM EARTHSEA debut on Sunday, and POM POKO (shape-shifting raccoons with magical scrotums — seriously!) and MY NEIGHBORS THE YAMADAS finish up the series on Wednesday. This Friday, celebrate female filmmakers on the fringes with Subversive Women: A Low Key Night of New Underground Films Made by Women — these shorts don’t ever screen!

The Aero: The Aero’s series on Jazz on Film completes its run with ANATOMY OF A MURDER (the film with the most cinematic utterances of “panties,” Otto Preminger’s middle finger to censors) and ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW showing Saturday, and a double-feature on Latin jazz, CACHAO…COMO SU RITMO NO HAY DOS and CALLE 54, screening Sunday with Andy Garcia in person! The Aero also gets in on the Studio Ghibli celebration, with WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE and ONLY YESTERDAY showing Thursday night.

Cinespia: Did somebody say…tequila? Cinespia celebrates the thirtieth (really?) anniversary of PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE this Saturday, but the screening is unfortunately SOLD OUT. Special guests have been promised — we’re hoping for Large Marge.

LACMA: This week’s $4 matinee is the live-action Disney classic, FREAKY FRIDAY. This film is a total delight, and it shows how much range Jodie Foster had even as a young actor — this and TAXI DRIVER were both released in 1976.

Pick of the week: If you’ve never seen OVER THE EDGE, one of the ultimate looks at the diametrically opposed forces of teenage suburban malaise and anger, now’s a great time to check out the seminal coming-of-age flick as a part of the Heavy Midnites series this Saturday. Come for 14-year old Matt Dillon, stay for the totally bananas climax. This film was one of Kurt Cobain’s favorites, and clips from it appeared in this year’s MONTAGE OF HECK. Screenwriters Charles S. Haas (GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH) and Tim Hunter (RIVER’S EDGE, a cult favorite featuring young Keanu and the always fascinating Crispin Glover, very much in the vein of OVER THE EDGE)  are scheduled to attend the screening too!

 

 

The Week in Rep: 8/7-8/14

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Welcome to week two of The Week in Rep! Seeing as um, it’s a pretty slow week for new summer releases, you have no excuse not to go to a repertory screening this week. Classic VHS horror, 60s spy films, and a documentary about the Fantastic Four (Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four, fear not) — why not take yourself on a movie date!

Cinefamily: Still can’t shake that feeling of being…followed? Join director Robert David Mitchell and Disasterpeace for a LIVE performance with a screening of IT FOLLOWS tonight at 10. On Saturday, the Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls LA brings last year’s totally radical WE ARE THE BEST to Cinefamily, while Heavy Midnites presents PSYCHO BEACH PARTY with director Bob King in person! As a special treat, Cinefamily screens RINGU on Sunday with the filmmakers from SINISTER 2 in person — this event is FREE, first-come, first-serve. Continuing its series of screenings for Don’t Knock the Rock, Cinefamily celebrates cult hero Michael Des Barres with a screening of a new doc on his life WHO DO YOU WANT ME TO BE? featuring a discussion with rock journalist Legs McNeil, Des Barres, and director J. Elvis Weinstein following the film on Thursday. Cinefamily’s series on Roy Andersson continues throughout the week as well.

The New Beverly: Cowboys, vampires, and spies, oh my, The New Bev’s got it all this week! FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and DEATH RIDES A HORSE finish up their run 8/8, and are followed by two more Westerns, THE NAKED SPUR and RUN OF THE ARROW through the weekend. The New Bev then pays tribute to the late, great Christopher Lee with a pair of his classic genre features, COUNT DRACULA AND HIS VAMPIRE BRIDE and SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN on 8/11 and 8/12. The week closes with a pair of 1960s European crime films, SOL MADRID and THE VENETIAN AFFAIR, on 8/13 and 8/14.

The Egyptian: The Egyptian’s celebration of horror films from the 1980s continues this week, and their choices will…slay you! Head over to the Egyptian tonight for perhaps best filmed example of practical effects ever thanks to the amazing Rob Bottin, John Carpenter’s THE THING, on a double-bill with Chuck Russell’s criminally underseen 1988 remake of THE BLOB (co-written with Frank Darabont!) Tom Holland stops by Saturday night for a double-feature of FRIGHT NIGHT and CHILD’S PLAY, he’ll discuss both films at a Q&A between the films. Giallo fans, fear not — on Sunday, BURIAL GROUND and NIGHTMARE CITY bring the ultra-vivid blood and guts of Italian horror to the Egyptian. And closing out the week on 8/13 is THE HOWLING, another stellar example of Rob Bottin’s masterful effects work. Writer-director-TFH guru Joe Dante will appear for a post-film discussion.

The Aero: See pick of the week!

LACMA: This week’s $4 matinee is THE PARENT TRAP, one of Disney’s all-time live action classics. Yes, we love the 1998 version too, but the original has charm for days!

Cinespia: Tickets are still available for tomorrow’s screening of IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, the OG rom-com and first film to ever win the Big 5 Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay). Prepare to be amazed at just how sharp the banter in this eighty-year old film is — it certainly makes you want to demand more from all rom-coms.

Pick of the Week: Grindhouse ubermensch Roger Corman has over 400 credits as a producer, but only one of his films was never released — FANTASTIC FOUR. DOOMED: THE UNTOLD STORY OF ROGER CORMAN’S FANTASTIC FOUR screens this Thursday, 8/13 at the Aero. Cast and crew will appear for this screening, and based the doc’s trailer, there are MANY stories from Corman’s failed foray into comic books yet to be told. The Roger Corman school of no-budget filmmaking helped foster future Oscar-winners like Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, and Ron Howard, and he’s got an endless array of stories from his 50+ years in the industry. DOOMED is the perfect ending to the long, hot superhero summer.