Thursday, February 27, 2014

LA FIRSTS: Brian Duffield

Brian Duffield is the son of missionaries who became a screenwriter one dark and terrible night. He recently finished adapting INSURGENT, the sequel to DIVERGENT, and hopes to direct his horrific romance VIVIEN HASN'T BEEN HERSELF LATELY later this year. He is repped by Circle of Confusion and Gersh, and is owned by a fiance and a puppy. You can ask him questions at his website and follow him on Twitter @brianduffield.
When did you first move to LA? What was the ultimate thing that made you pull the trigger?

My friend Matt Wells and I drove out to LA starting a few hours after we graduated college in 2008. We had a summer internship program starting a few weeks into the summer at the Oakwoods through Temple University, so we got a head start. I had just gotten my license a day before, so Matt drove most of the way in fear that I would kill him. As far as what made me pull the trigger, LA was always the place I had wanted and planned on moving as soon as college ended. It was a no-brainer.

What was your first job in LA?

My first non-industry job was at Storyopolis, then in Studio City. I'm not sure where it is now. It was a small children's book store/art gallery that specialized in story time and gift baskets. I did inventory and dabbled in the other areas. My co-worker Blake Harris is also a professional writer now, so it proved to be a fertile ground for us, even when the recession ruined everything. I felt my first earthquake there. Nannies were terrified, but the babies loved it.

Where/What was your first apartment like?

Our very first apartment was at the Oakwoods, which is this fancy place studios put up actors and parents drag child stars. It's located off Barham Blvd. We had classes there at night and interned during the day. Our neighbors were (literally) RJ Mitte and Robert Pattinson, but this was in 2008 so neither were really famous yet. Our first real apartment was this disaster hole on Laurel Canyon and Vanowen. It was two (small) bedrooms with four guys. We all slept on the floor for the most part.

What was your first general meeting like?

I don't remember who it was with, honestly. It was all a blur. It was after my managers sent out YOUR BRIDESMAID IS A BITCH which happened a few days after I met them. I was working at a clothing factory in Vernon at the time and would try to get out of work early so I could rush down for a meeting. This was probably October or November of 2010. Everyone was very complimentary about the script but I just figured that my managers were sending me to all their friends to make me feel good about them as reps. I had no idea people actually liked it and wanted to buy it until people bought it.

How about your first pitch?

It was for dinosaur set pieces for a dinosaur movie. Someone had read YOUR BRIDESMAID IS A BITCH and literally thought, wow, Duffield talks about dinosaurs a lot in this rom-com, then called my reps and asked if I was obsessed with dinosaurs. The answer is yes and they asked me to come up with some set pieces for a couple of weeks. I learned then that pitching crazy dinosaur set pieces is the easiest pitch in the world. I got the job and the set pieces were awesome but I don't think any of them were used. They were pretty crazy, to be fair.

How did you react when you found out you'd made your first sale?

I was sitting at my desk at the clothing factory. We didn't have wifi or internet and the phone signal was crap so I had daily check-in times with the reps where I would run outside and call and then run back. And then one time they said it looked like Skydance were going to make an offer, and I quickly said awesome and ran back inside to work and didn't really know how to tell anybody. That night my roommate Matt Mead and I hosted a small group from our church I think, and we got champagne and also had a strobe light and fog machine (I have a strange apartment) and welcomed friends to our apartment through a haze of smoke and epilepsy and alcohol.

What was your first screenplay assignment? What do you think you've learned since then?

My first feature assignment was actually INSURGENT from last year. Before then, I had really loved writing specs and had almost exclusively just done that, until I had a horrific experience with one of my scripts just getting destroyed and thought, well I'm either moving into comic books or taking assignments. And then INSURGENT came along and I think my manager pitched it as “Kate Winslet hunting Shailene Woodley” and I thought, well I'm reading that as soon as possible. And so I read it and really dug it, and the entire amazing cast that Neil Burger (who directed DIVERGENT) had assembled and pitched on that and was lucky enough to get it. I'm looking to go up on more assignments when I find the right project, and I'll eventually get back to writing specs and either directing them myself or finding the right director for it first.

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