Storytelling First, Screenplay Structure Second by Ric Roman Waugh, Writer/Director of SHOT CALLER
in Select Theaters and On Demand August 18th, 2017
Film Courage: Ric, SHOT CALLER explores the cost of trying to survive in prison. If we look at everything in life, everything has a price. Sometimes it’s simply time versus money. What are the costs of being a screenwriter? I realize the stakes aren’t as high as being in the prison system, but what are the costs of being a screenwriter?
Ric Roman Waugh: Hopefully the cost of me being a screenwriter (at least for me) is being authentic. You know the movies that I try to portray is “Do I entertain you?” Heck yeah. If you are going to pay money to sit in a seat and watch my movie, I want you to be entertained. I want you to be thrilled, but I also hope that you are getting something out of it. To where it’s not so much about the message of the movie, but it makes you think about it. It makes you think about your own life and see the movie in a way that makes it feel like it’s so grounded and authentic that this could be us navigating this world and this world is very real with what we are seeing. So to me that is probably the scariest part is all three of my movies FELON, SNITCH and SHOT CALLER, the first thing that I showed this to were law enforcement and gang members. Because it either lives or dies there, right? This is either authentic to them saying that yeah I know that these three stories are fiction (well, SNITCH is a true story), but if you look at these three things and say yeah most of these characters in the world are fictional but it’s a 100% accurate of what this is. This is our world that we live every single day. So that’s the type of validation I am looking for in the stories that I tell.
Film Courage: In terms of screenplay structure, is there a certain format that you follow when you start writing?
Ric Roman Waugh: Yeah…I don’t. I don’t follow format. I think that for me I think a lot of screenwriters now and a lot of filmmakers are getting too caught up with the structure of things and I like to kind of mess that up. I like to be unconventional and I like to think ‘If I’m sitting here watching this movie, am I moved forward at every single moment? Am I learning something new, am I sucked into this world, whether the first act break came at page 30 or 70.’ Whatever it may be, it’s this thing that propels itself and moves it forward. So for me it’s about storytelling first and formula and structure second.
Film Courage: So there are not certain beats that you’re trying to hit at different points?
Ric Roman Waugh: Yeah…I think when you’ve written as many things as I’ve written at this point in my life, it all comes kind of intuitively or instinctively? You know where these things are going to be whether it is you where this movie is going to go in the first 10 minutes, it’s not meandering and you’re sitting in the theater for 30 minutes going ‘What the hell is this movie going to be about?” So yes, there are certain bullet points that I’m trying to hit throughout it, but at this point it’s just extinctive to good storytelling. At least I hope it is. That is what my intentions are.
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Film Courage: So SHOT CALLER is your fourth script?
Ric Roman Waugh: Fourth…no, I’ve written countless others.
Film Courage: And that’s since 2001 you’ve been writing or earlier? How many script would you say you’ve written, even shorts, even something in a drawer that no one will ever see?
Ric Roman Waugh: Between all of the studio movies and scripts I’ve written, over 50 (as far as jobs), things that were either produced or payed for or developed, at least over 50.
Film Courage: Your process for writing SHOT CALLER, you became a prison volunteer?
Ric Roman Waugh: I became a volunteer with the California Department of Corrections working with parole to where it could give me an unflinching look at the prison system without somebody knowing I was a filmmaker and trying to be bias or protective or holding back. I got a candid look at the prison system from the inside out.
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SHOT CALLER follows the harrowing, often heart-rending journey of successful businessman Jacob Harlon (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who is transformed into Money, a stoic, ruthless prison gangster after a DUI sends him down the rabbit hole of the American prison system. As he navigates the brutality of his new home, adapting to its violent codes of ethics and rites of passage that will ensure his survival, he slowly loses his previous identity and his relationship to his former life, including his wife and son. The grip of his new family, the prison gang, extends beyond the prison walls. Upon his release, chased by the law enforcement, threatened by his incarcerated “protectors,” Money must orchestrate one last dangerous crime. All is not what it seems. The ruthless process of fulfilling his obligations also becomes his path to sacrifice, retribution and self-definition.
Directed by: Ric Roman Waugh
Written by: Ric Roman Waugh
Produced by: Michel Litvak, Gary Michael Walters, Jonathan King, Ric Roman Waugh Executive Producer: Lisa Zambri, Matthew Rhodes, Tucker Tooley
Casting Director: Mary Vernieu
Cinematographer: Dana Gonzales
Cast: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Omari Hardwick, Lake Bell, Jon Bernthal, Emory Cohen, Jeffrey Donovan, Evan Jones, Benjamin Bratt, and Holt McCallany
SHOT CALLER in Select Theaters and On Demand August 18th, 2017
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