The Write Stuff
By Michael Bertin
MARCH 16, 1998: The most essential people to the storytelling process are often the most anonymous. The Mavericks are here, or rather they are over there, but they are coming here, to change that. Founded and run by Irishmen Gerry O'Boyle and Frank Murray, Mavericks is a writing and film festival held in London. Its primary purpose is to honor, nay, even glorify, writers. Mavericks co-founder O'Boyle elaborated a bit on his motives. "We do writers as opposed to directors introducing movies, because it's a very writer-driven thing. It's about people who don't get a good deal. Nobody knows who they are. Everybody knows who the director is, everybody knows who the actor is. Everybody knows Matt Dillon, Cameron Diaz, Richard Linklater, Quentin Tarantino, Joel and Ethan Coen... but nobody knows who somebody like, say this guy [Irish writer] Pat McCabe is, or someone like that. So we're here to change it all.
"Because if the writing is strong it's going to blow everything away, isn't it? It's going to carry the thing. We personally believe and we've always gone by the maxim that great writing and great stories will always stand up on their own, more so than all of the special effects in the world, all the settings, and all the sunshine, actors, and actresses as well. You need the story. Without the story there's nothing. You need to have the story and of course the story has to be well-written."
With its debut last October, Mavericks is just an infant as an organization. Nonetheless, it was able to snare some respectable talent, some of whom, oddly enough, do have some name recognition. Ironically though, two of the three bigger names achieved fame not through film but through their work in the music biz. Australian musician Nick Cave and Dale Drummond of the KLF both participated in the inaugural Mavericks shindig. The other name that might be familiar to pop culture devotees is Eddie Bunker. Bunker played Mr. Blue in Reservoir Dogs.
The fact that Cave and Drummond were two of the bigger name draws at Mavericks, however, was merely coincidental. And while directors Murray and O'Boyle are looking to include a music component to Mavericks, it is a festival that celebrates and showcases writing.
"Basically, it's a normal festival with movies - shorts and features - plus we have a lot of writers doing shows in clubs. So they're reading in bars and clubs as opposed to in libraries or in book stores," said O'Boyle. "A lot of these writers are with books that became movies. So you'll go across the road and you'll see the guy reading from a book. Then you'll cross the road and see the movie adapted from that book."
For South by Southwest, Mavericks is bringing in three feature films and a program of shorts. The films have all debuted at other international festivals and have shown to positive reaction in Britain and the rest of Europe, as well as North America. "I love the three movies," gushed O'Boyle. "We're very proud of them. They're three Maverick movies - not mainstream, not studios, very well-written. They highlight everything that we are about."
I Went Down, written by Conor McPherson and directed by Paddy Breathnach, is an absurd comedy borne of mixed genres that highlights the talents of two emerging Irish actors, Brendan Gleeson and Peter McDonald. Upon release from jail, Git (McDonald) finds himself performing a "favor" for his old boss to whom he is still indebted. With Bunny (Gleeson) in tow, Git kidnaps his boss' former partner. As the impossibly annoying and talkative hostage schemes to escape his predicament, Bunny and Git become bound to each other as allies in order to save themselves. I Went Down was recognized with a special jury prize and the award for best new director at the last San Sebastian Film Festival.
Also part of the package is the Ted Demme-directed Noose (née Snitch), which recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Starring Colm Meany, Billy Crudup, Ian Hart, Famke Janssen, Martin Sheen, and Denis Leary, who also shares screenwriting credit with Mike Armstrong, Noose is a study about the habitual activities of a group of petty thugs and small-time criminals in the Boston enclave of Charleston.
The characters are forced to re-examine their behavior patterns and undergo some quasi-moral awakenings when one of their own is gunned down. While the testosterone-driven story is familiar ground, Ted Demme's handling of the story keeps it powerful and unapologetic (incidentally, Ted's uncle Jonathan will also be around for SXSW in conjunction with his new film Storefront Hitchcock).
The final Mavericks film, TwentyFourSeven, is perhaps the most talked-about and lauded of the lot. TwentyFourSeven is the feature-length directorial debut of Shane Meadows, who also co-wrote the script with Paul Fraser. Meadows, whom O'Boyle described as "a genius," is only 24 and already has 25 films to his credit - 23 shorts, one hour-long movie, and one feature.
And that feature is something that O'Boyle cannot speak about highly enough. "It's got irony and sadness. It's a very human movie, it's a very personal movie," he says. "It will probably become like a cross between The Full Monty and The Commitments. It's a really fabulous, well-written, very funny, feel-good movie." While that last bit sounds the plug of death for celluloid snobs, the film has garnered nothing but stellar reviews.
Shot in black-and-white, TwentyFourSeven uses the blight of the Thatcher years - a virtual hope black hole for the youth in Britain - as a springboard for the present-day settings. A nondescript Midlands town has been left completely untouched by the invisible hand of wealth that has spurred the country's recent growth. So Alan Darcy (played by Bob Hoskins) sets out to revive a boxing club that provided him with a sanctuary during his own futility-addled youth. Darcy ropes some youths into signing up to release their hostilities in a more constructive arena and one in which brute physicality is not enough to succeed.
Filled with the relentless reality of drugs, abusive home lives limited to nonexistent prospects for breaking class ranks, and general economic and social blight, TwentyFourSeven reportedly never loses intelligence and wit and never degenerates into unappealing self-pity.
In addition to the three films, there will also be a program of shorts. Included among them is one called "Milk." Directed and written by Andrea Arnold, "Milk" is on the surface a very simple story about a woman and how she loses a kid; yet, she ends up dealing with her predicament in a very unorthodox fashion.
Another short, "Flying Saucer Rock 'n Roll," is by the Hughes brothers. O'Boyle describes the two guys who have a cinema in their back kitchen as "the Coen brothers of Ireland." The comedic short is a Fifties Americana film crossed with a very Irish storyline. Another of the notable shorts includes another Shane Meadows production called "Where's The Money, Ronnie?"
While it is unlikely that Mavericks will bring over a full slate of writers this year, O'Boyle and partner Murray have resigned themselves to expanding the project back home as well as overseas, and they anticipate having more writers and readings in conjunction with future SXSWs, as the duo is fervently committed to exposing those deserving more credit.
"Two hundred thousand people is a lot of people to buy a book. That's good sales. That's Top Five for a book in England. Five million people see a movie, you know. So we want to say, 'Look at this guy, he wrote this book and this is the movie that came from the book. This is how it happened," said O'Boyle. "We're into changing things and breaking down barriers and stuff like that, but more so we're into highlighting the writers and their words - the great craftsmen that they are and a craft that's, by and large, sort of not given its full due."
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