An Interview with ScreenCraft Comedy Winner Jared Frieder!
1. What inspired Three Months?
A gay and Jewish protagonist from Miami? I have NO IDEA where that came from (insert photo of me bathed in glitter wearing a tallit on South Beach HERE.) But, in regard to the actual story, I think everyone knows what it's like to wait for medical results. Sitting on the floor, waiting for that phone call, that email, that tweet (I imagine that's how Michael Jackson's doctor relayed medical updates) in one of the most terrifying experiences a person can go through). But I'm fascinated by how people and characters cope during those periods of unknown, when they're pushed to the brink of mental and emotional sanity. My intention was to create a project that broke that down. I find that, in these periods of Great Waiting, people aren't passive as one might expect; instead, they're incredibly active and I wanted to put that under a microscope.
I've also always been interested in HIV narratives and how those types of stories have developed over time. There are so many moving and phenomenal pieces of work about HIV (Angels in America, The Normal Heart, RENT, Philadelphia, Dallas Buyers Club, to name a few.) These narratives have not only been foundational for film, TV, and theater as art forms, but also foundational in the sense that we, as a community, have partially acquired our perception of HIV and AIDS based on how they're portrayed in these works. But what I didn't really see in these pieces is how HIV plays a role in society and in people's lives today, in 2014, in a world of sexual education and PEP and Truvada and the other technological and medical strides that we've made in HIV research. In the United States with solid healthcare, HIV isn't a death sentence anymore.
People living with HIV can (should and WILL) fall in love, get married, have families, follow their dream careers, be the boss, attend their daughter's sweet sixteen to see her inappropriately grind against a football player to the cool vocal stylings of Miley Cyrus. HIV makes life more difficult and is still dangerous when not dealt with responsibly, but you still get life: all of it. But, because of the history of HIV, people still view it with so much shame: whereas cancer is something that happens to someone, many people think of HIV as something that people do to themselves because of the way it is transmitted. Many still wrongfully view it as a kind of modern leprosy. And that's awful, that's irresponsible, and it's just not human.
That tiny monster of shame that festers in the word HIV when people say it out loud is still very real and I truly believe that will be the last hurdle we have to jump in overcoming this disease. That's what I wanted to show with Three Months: how that shame can spread like wildfire, how that shame can ruin someone, and how that shame can be the masked villain, holding up someone's sanity at gunpoint.
2. What has it been like to have so many people embrace your story?
It has been, for lack of a better term, "koo koo bananas." Never in a million moons did I imagine that Three Months, this little screenplay I was writing in the middle of the night after long days of PA-ing, would be so welcomed by so many. I thought I might have a chance of getting it into the Outfest Screenwriting Lab (one of the greatest experiences of my existence. To all LGBTQ screenwriters out there, you should have sent your script to them yesterday! What are you doing with your life right now!?) But the fact that Three Months won your awesome comedy screenplay contest, the Big Bear International Screenwriting Grand Prize, and the Austin Film Festival Comedy Screenplay Award (which I still kind of can't believe) is just insanity.
I don't know what everyone's been drinking, but I'll take double shot of it, yespleaseandthankyou. Mostly though, I'm really happy for Caleb (my protagonist.) He's a fucking great kid and his story means a lot to me. So all of this means a lot to me.
Jared (right) at the Austin Film Fest with John Rhodes (left) from ScreenCraft
3. What's the best feedback you've gotten?
The best criticism I've gotten was from a festival reader who said that, around page 77, the script dips into gay porn. The best praise I've gotten was from a festival reader who said that, around page 77, the script dips into gay porn.
4. How has your life changed since the script won the ScreenCraft Comedy Script Contest and Austin Film Festival Screenplay Contest?
I can't go to the supermarket anymore, you know? (I mean, that's because I tried to juggle misshapen tomatoes in the produce aisle, but that's a story for an entirely different time.) I guess my life is pretty much the same except for the fact that Winnie Holtzman now has my homemade business card and David Mandel of Seinfeld fame now knows that I'm a person who exists. Outfest helped me get management and, because of all of these contests combined, there is a lot of interest in taking the script to the screen. It also opened doors for lots of meetings and has greatly inflated my self-esteem. So, if you ask my therapist, she'll tell you Everything Has Changed (by Taylor Swift ft. Ed Sheeran.)
5. What are you working on now?
I'm working with Bento Box Entertainment (home of Bob's Burgers, The Awesomes, Brickleberry, and Bordertown) on getting my animated half-hour pilot called Marathoners off the ground. Marathoners tells the tale of a fat family from Long Island who decides to get healthy and train for the New York Marathon after their patriarch is diagnosed with diabetes.
I'm also working on a new dance feature and a few new pilots. I'm just trying to write as much as humanly possible. I'm a "what's next" kinda guy, so onward march.