Thursday, April 15, 2021

Daniel Emery Taylor: It's the ADHD

We're going to change things up a bit for this writer interview. We're going to talk with Daniel Emery Taylor, an indie movie producer and scriptwriter. He's still a hardcore genre writer (horror being both a genre and hardcore), albeit in a different format. 

Plus, he's just a straight-up, awesome guy and he worked with Heather Locklear (which is definitely a plus). 

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

If you mean actual, completed work that has been brought to fruition, my film It's Just A Game is currently available to view on most of your favorite streaming platforms. It is your standard "bullied girl wishes her tormentor was dead and then gets kidnapped by a theatre cult who wants to use her body to summon the spirit of an ancient witch" tale. Because there are so many of those, right? In all seriousness, I wanted to try to meld different elements together to create a new genre of scary movie - part slasher, part home invasion, part supernatural thriller, part cult horror - a unique film experience. Constructing a linear narrative was not necessarily my prime objective. I just wanted to evoke emotions. Most of the reviews have been very kind, though many of them say something like "I have no idea what was going on but I couldn't stop watching!" And, honestly, I consider that high praise. I've said the same thing about some of my favorite Fulci films.

What happened in your life that prompted you to become a writer?

I suffer from maladaptive daydreaming - I have entire universes in my head and they all demand an exorbitant amount of attention. The only way to exorcise them is to get them out onto the page. I'm being somewhat tongue in cheek, of course, but that isn't too far from the truth. I have always had an overactive imagination and a desire to bring these imaginary people to life via storytelling. I have been writing stories, and later scripts, since the second grade.

What inspires you to write?

Anything. Everything. I know that sounds like a cop out but it's true. Sometimes I will think of something - a scene, a striking visual, a horrific death, whatever - and then my brain immediately goes to work filling in the rest of the story. I could get a random flash of a visual in my head - a beautiful woman, standing on her balcony, staring down at a swirling black fog below. Who is she? Why is she there? What is in the fog? It goes from there. Every story I write begins with the visuals. The story fills in around them.

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

I tend to write a lot about outcasts - which I don't suppose is particularly unique - and the choices they make in light of their hardships. So, someone is bullied as a child - does that make them more likely to become a hero, because they know what it's like to be victimized and they want to save others from the same fate, or do they become a villain, because they want the world to suffer as they did? Really, it could go either way, depending on a variety of other factors. We each have choices to make in life and it is fascinating just how quickly our entire situation can change based solely on our reaction to it. Plus, there is the splendid duplicity of man - the fact that most humans are basically good but also carry within them the potential for the gravest forms of evil. I'm not saying we're just a bad day away from becoming homicidal maniacs ... but I think we would be shocked to discover what we would be able to do given the right set of unfortunate circumstances.

What would be your dream project?

I have a few - the first being a film I would simply call "Yeshua," a historically accurate depiction of the life of the Messiah. Every Jesus movie we watch presents Him solely in the Western European/American presentation, hitting the same story beats (whether they be Biblical or simply based on our own folklore and tradition), giving the same perspective. I would love to write and direct that picture that restore the Jewishness to the Jewish Messiah, the King of Israel. I would love to hear some proper historical context for His teachings on film. As 21st century Americans, we tend to either assume His Words in the abstract and mystical or we try to apply them literally but are absolutely ignorant of the cultural subtext. I think to be able to see His story, in His land, and with His people, would perhaps help people see Him in a different light. Perhaps, they would get a much fuller picture.

The next is much less lofty - I would love to take a crack at Marvel's Man-Thing. I got my acting career started in The Return Of Swamp Thing so I think it would be appropriate to jump the aisle and help bring Swampy's Marvel counterpart to the silver screen. With the MCU now getting into the mystical side of their universe, with the Scarlet Witch, Doctor Strange, Agatha Harkness ... the Nexus of All Realities, the Multiverse ... now is the time for a proper Man-Thing film! And there are other Marvel characters I would love to work with - Werewolf By Night, Moon Knight, and, for something silly, Gwenpool.

And, finally, I would love to write and direct a Friday The 13th film. I know there are current legal issues keeping Jason at bay but I think it would be such a fun character to play with. I feel like, with a lot of similar characters, writers want to try to overthink them or reinvent the wheel. Jason X showed us that all you need for a fun, successful picture is just to drop Jason into a new, interesting situation and turn him loose. Imagine, Jason loose in a ski resort in the snow. Jason battling redneck militia men on their private compound in the woods. Jason accidentally gets boxed up and shipped to the Middle East where he ends up killing a bunch of terrorists. Jason in Greenwich. These stories write themselves. How does Jason get to Connecticut? It doesn't matter. We just want to see him wreaking havoc on a yacht or a golf course.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Because, to me, the act of writing and filmmaking tend to become one - since I primarily write screenplays for my own use - the writers that most influence my style are writer/directors. Brian De Palma, Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, Sam Raimi... they each have such a distinct style, gloriously visual, and often chaotic. What I pick up most from these individuals is less about the mechanics of their writing and more about being true to your own vision, telling your own story, and giving the audience something that thrills or intrigues.

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?

I would love to remake my film Fat Chance (which the distributor released as Camp Massacre). It was a horror-comedy about a group of overweight guys on a weight loss reality show (like The Biggest Loser) who find themselves stalked by a masked killer. There was a lot of good, funny stuff in the script but a lot of it didn't work. A lot of it definitely doesn't work in 2021. Sometimes things sound much better in your head than in reality. Sometimes you know what the joke is but the audience doesn't. It's a script that was close to my heart and there is enough good there to salvage - though I don't suppose I will.

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?

Writing, as we're discussing it, is an art. You can teach the science of writing - the mechanics of it - but you can't teach someone how to tell a story. You can't teach creativity. I have read very beautifully written scripts and stories that were also dreadfully boring and of absolutely no consequence.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Actually doing it. Sometimes, I get so lost in all of the "great" ideas I have (which are mostly trash, I assure you) that I can find it hard to commit to one. I am notorious for getting twenty pages into a script and then jumping to the next thing. It's the ADHD.

How do your writer friends help you become a better writer? Or do they not?

I have a couple of folks I let read my scripts while I'm still writing - mostly to see if my story is being properly conveyed. It is good to have folks you trust, who know their stuff, who will give you honest feedback. 

What does success look like to you?

As long as I am telling the stories I want to tell and am able to get them out into the world, so they can find their audience, I consider that a success.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

I have about five different things in various stages of the creative process but nothing I can really plug, hahaha.

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