John Meadows is a man who believes in those golden
moments. The 1st act of his Indie film Wisegirls
popped into his head while he was walking
across the Burrard Street Bridge in Vancouver, back
in the late 90s and that act has remained relatively
intact ever since.
But thats not to say that its been an easy road for
Meadows as a screenwriter.
"You have to have the patience and the diligence in
screenwriting," says Meadows, "to wait for those
golden ideas that make your script."
Like many people in the film business, John Meadows
wanted to start out as an actor, but gradually found
himself leaning towards the behind-the-scenes side
of the industry. Upon graduating from high school, he
decided to go the filmmakers route and went to
university in Toronto. After returning to Vancouver,
Meadows knew that he was going to stick to writing,
though he thought he would go about it in more of
a "James L. Brooks" way.
"I figured out that I would try to break in with a
script first, then move on to directing, then move
on to producing -- I didnt want to volunteer to be
AD, miles from the camera. Id been on a few sets
and it wasnt enjoyable. I could learn so much more
about movies by working on my screenwriting career,
as oppose to making minimum wage as a pylon guard."
Meadows gamble paid off. While working at a
restaurant that was frequented by various shady
Italians in spiffy suits, Meadow was inspired to write
Wisegirls, a female mafia movie starring Mira
Mariah Carey and Melora Walters, that received a
standing ovation at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival.
The Wisegirls script, as well as one called
the Elf, was sent out to agents and optioned in a
relatively short amount of time.
"After the option, I was away and running. But at a
slow pace, I still had to waiter for a few more years.
It drove me crazy."
But, the patience, that is such a virtue in Hollywood,
paid off and eventually Wisegirls was made.
Because Meadows had received payment for his
option agreement, the filmmakers were more invested
in his film.
"The big thing with getting an option is that you
have to get money for it," says Meadows. "Then
people are invested and they are hooked on and
have to recoup on their money and money in
Hollywood talks. If they really want to make the film,
you have to make them make the film. They cant
just say I love it."
Meadows wrote Wisegirls with a budget-friendly slant
in mind and believes that in order to break into the
business as a new writer, you have to keep the
script as Indie-focused as possible.
"I knew that if I couldnt sell it, I wanted to make it
myself. So, to keep the costs low, I had minimal
locations and it felt more like a play. I was heavily
influenced by Dog Day Afternoon. Very
character friendly and really actor friendly. I had lots
of voice-over narration, inner monologues, that sort
of thing, which directors dont necessarily appreciate
but actors love a nice big monologue."
"For writers breaking in, write something that is A)
actor friendly, because that is the top of the totem
pole, B) is independent in spirit and C) if it comes
down to the end of the day and you want to make it
yourself, it should be doable. And do something edgy,
something we havent seen before. Its very
important to have your own voice."
Meadows also believes that in order to attract the
top talent to your project, you have to write your
script with the casting in mind.
"Anytime you want a film made, the first thing people
ask is whos in it? I pictured very specific actors in
the roles and I think Mira Sorvino was number two on
Being true to your inner voice is also very
important, especially in Indies where originality is
more prevalent than in formulaic studio pictures.
"Im convinced that the big thing is the originality of
that will attract great actors. Great parts in great
stories bring great actors. Actors bring in the box
office more than any writer could ever hope for, so
your best friends are actors, and the originality of
concept and passion. But the other thing is that you
cant make a film without thinking internationally."
He believes that in order for films to reach a global
audience, the theme must be able to translate
through subtitles, appealing to the human condition
on a worldly scale.
"At the end of the day you have to think micro and
macro. Micro in terms of this individual character in
my world, what is the truth I can bring into it and
beyond that, in the whole world, what is the
universal truth? How does this character resonate?
For example, The Squid and the Whale was
about a very small borough in New York, and I loved
that about it, I felt like I could relate. It was so
personal. And I could relate to Whale Rider.
Who doesnt dream about greater things or escaping
and doing good by their parents and their family?"
Meadows himself shouldnt have to dream about
greater things -- hes already achieving them. He
part-time at Vancouver Film School and is developing
a script about his sister, a trampoline champion. And
although hes also writing a romantic comedy with
Vancouver writer Ken Hegan, hes looking to start
writing edgier material while he waits for those
golden ideas to keep coming.