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February 4, 2004

Five Question Marks
So, here are the questions I got from Mearls as part of the Interview Meme. Most of the folks that I know to be participating aren’t folks I really know, but I like this idea enough to go knocking on some doors. But first…

1. What’s the allure of screenwriting? To me, it seems like the writing is lost in the prism of director/actor/sets and so on. What’s the appeal?
Showbusiness, man! Really, the two things that attracts me to scripts, be they teleplays, stage plays, or screenplays, is the fun of telling a story almost totally through dialogue and the idea that outrageous stunts and impossible visuals could be made to look real and presented to a million strangers. Why wouldn’t I want to get in on that? It comes from a love of collaborative storytelling (where my love of RPGs comes from) and of the craft. Like everyone, I want to direct. Unlike directing, a spec script can attract attention on its own merits without my having to invest $10,000 in a short film.

Any working writer who’s never written a play should do so now. Telling a story through dialogue is a vital skill, so far as I’m concerned. Plus, I think I’m much better at dialogue than outright prose. If nothing else, it’s terrific fun to write.

It’s worth mentioning that I’d probably rather work on series television than write screenplays for a living. I’ve got a love of serialized storytelling that can’t be fulfilled just by watching anymore. Besides, it’s fun to play variations on a theme and take characters through funny or dramatic odysseys for four or five years. Again, it’s what I love about gaming: Taking a theme, a cast, or a premise and designing different adventures around it for people to play out, explore, and bring to life each week. I just love it.

2. If I had two hours to spend in Chicago, where should I go and what should I do?
That’s not a lot of time for any city. My love for Chicago really requires time for restaurants to open and close, for people to be met and known, to be able to look out onto an important place and say I’m a part of it. I love living there; visiting always depresses me.

But we’re talking about you, which means we’re talking about a short visit. Assuming you don’t spend your two hours in traffic to and from the airport (and you will), I recommend hitting the Art Institute or the Field Museum, if that’s not too touristy a thing for you. Be absolutely sure to get on the L and ride the Loop. Then take a line north (Brown or Red) and a line south. This is a great way to see a lot of the city, fast and cheap. Then, Mearls, because it’s you, I say you get Hite on the line and eat wherever the hell he tells you to.

3. What do you think is the biggest problem with the RPG industry?
Spite.

4. If you were in a band, what kind of music would you play and why?
Folk-rock with mixed world influences, Femmes-style acoustic bass, and a percussion section that ruled the world. Because there’s more music than a man can love in a lifetime and you asked.

5. If you could create an archive of five television shows and movies to preserve for future generations, which ones would you choose and why?
(You asked for five total, right? Otherwise we’ll be at this all day.) Reserving the right to regret or resent this collection later, my archive would contain:

Raiders of the Lost Ark, because after the bomb humanity will need blueprints to make more adventure films.

Batman: The Animated Series, all of it, because no other show has covered so much ground without getting lost.

The entire run of Homicide: Life on the Street, because it changed the vocabulary of narrative camera work and because there wasn’t anything happening in one-hour television drama that wasn’t happening better on Homicide.

Ghostbusters, because I want people to think I’m funny and I’m pretty sure this and Night Court are where I get my material.

The Rocketeer, for the jet pack and Jennifer Connelly.

(The complete Warner Brothers cartoon collection, Star Wars and Star Trek just missed the cut, because I’m sure someone else will take care of them.)
Noise: Justin Achilli, “Serpentime”

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