ScreenCraft Exclusive: One-On-One with "Precious" Screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher
We are proud to have Geoffrey Fletcher as a mentor for the 3rd Annual ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship.
Initially working with a video camera and cast of action figures, Geoffrey began making films as a child. After graduating from Harvard University, Geoffrey received his M.F.A. in Film Directing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. He has also apprenticed under Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee. Magic Markers, a short film Geoffrey wrote, directed, shot and edited, received accolades from numerous organizations including the Directors Guild of America and the Sundance Film Festival.
Geoffrey is also the screenwriter of Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire and received an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2010. He is the first African American to win in this category. Precious was presented by executive producers Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry and released by Lionsgate in November of 2009. Precious won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Awards at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. It is only the third film to do so in the Festival’s twenty-five-year history. Precious also won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, making it the only film to win the top prizes at both Sundance and Toronto.
In addition to being honored by the Academy, Geoffrey was heralded by Variety as one of its “10 Screenwriters to Watch.” He also received the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay, the Black Reel Award for Best Screenplay, Original or Adapted and the Best Adapted Screenplay award from the Chlotrudis, AAFCA and the Satellite Awards.
Geoffrey has been an adjunct professor of film at Columbia University and New York University where he taught courses ranging from “Directing the Camera” to “Developing the Screenplay”. He now serves as the Honorary Chair of SCAD’s Dramatic Writing Program. Violet & Daisy, his feature directorial debut, was released in 2012 and received a SCAD Cinevation Award, which is given for imagination, inspiration and innovation in cinema.
Geoffrey is currently writing projects for directors Antoine Fuqua and Doug Liman and producer Allyn Stewart while developing several projects to direct.
ScreenCraft: When and where did your storytelling roots begin?
Geoffrey Fletcher: I've always loved storytelling. At a very young age, I used pen, paper and early video cameras to make adventure stories with kids in the neighborhood. That soon changed to animating old action figures because of scheduling difficulties with the other kids.
ScreenCraft: What was it like to apprentice under the likes of icons like Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee? What did you learn?
Geoffrey Fletcher: A lasting impression from my time working under those extraordinary artists came from witnessing how their love of cinema guided them through so many other decisions. Equally impactful was watching them exhibit grace and humility at all times.
ScreenCraft: What brought you to screenwriting?
Geoffrey Fletcher: I've always had a passion for storytelling. I can't explain it. It was always just there. Also, having made so many short films from start to finish, the boundaries between writing, directing shooting and editing became blurred. Perhaps they are all forms of writing or all forms of directing.
ScreenCraft: How did your attachment to Precious come about? Can you tell us about that overall process from first coming onto that project and through production?
Geoffrey Fletcher: Two of the producers saw a short film that I made back in film school. They offered me the job virtually on the spot. I didn't believe them at first because I'd heard "no" so many times for so many years. During production, I was off teaching at Columbia and NYU.
ScreenCraft: What was the Oscar experience like as a screenwriter and winner?
Geoffrey Fletcher: The Oscar experience was incredible. My family was there. I was convinced that I wouldn't win for every reason except for the work, though. Sometimes the work is enough, however. There were other forces whose efforts brought me to the conclusion that I didn't have a chance. That was all quite a journey and a great learning experience.
ScreenCraft: What films have influenced you the most in your career as a screenwriter and director?
Geoffrey Fletcher: Too many! French, Japanese, Italian, Eastern European and Swedish films from the 50s and 60s and American films from the 70s. I think you can see the influence of the same 60 or 70 films nearly everywhere. There are some fascinating new films as well. Tangerine is quite something.
ScreenCraft: In your time as a screenwriter and director, what are the biggest lessons you’ve learned along the way?
Geoffrey Fletcher: Inspiration and preparation are nearly everything.
ScreenCraft: What advice do you have for novice screenwriters looking to make their screenwriting dreams come true?
Geoffrey Fletcher: Work from passion, mind 3-act structure, know how your story ends before your script pages begin and write, write, write, reflect, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. In addition to that, carefully explore each seemingly wild idea that vaults out of you before dismissing that idea.
ScreenCraft: What upcoming projects are you currently working on?
Geoffrey Fletcher: Four feature scripts and a television miniseries. I'm crazy about all of them. The people I'm working with are terrific too. The stories range from gritty social dramas to fantasy sagas. Some are for me to direct. Others are for great directors whose work I love.
ScreenCraft: What’s your dream project?
Geoffrey Fletcher: Something that I write and direct that's trying its damnedest to get out of me. Actually, there's one in the queue already.
ScreenCraft: What types of stories do you respond to most?
Geoffrey Fletcher: Any that explore some truth about our shared existence. It doesn't matter if it's set in the distant past, the future, halfway across the world or on the bottom of the ocean.
ScreenCraft: What are you looking for in the screenplays for the ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship?
Geoffrey Fletcher: A voice and a sense of exploration!