You might not know Eddie by now, but you’ll certainly hear from him in the next few years. Still, O’Keefe has directed three short films in the course of his film studies, including the VIMEO Award nominee and Short of the Week winner The Ghosts, which we reviewed here in the blog. Besides that, Eddie recently sold a spec script, under production, When the Street Lights Go On, along with his partner Chris Hutton. Street Lights also featured in the second place at the 2011’s Black List, a relation of the best non-produced screenplays of the year. The partnership also rendered another screenplay, The Final Broadcast, which recently got an “impressive” rating at ScriptShadow. And the best part of it? Eddie is like you and me, former film student, below 30’s, fighting for his spotlight. I would like to be on his shoes and grab a spark of his talent, let’s see how this goes:
I. When did you decide to get into this sort of business?
– I decided to get into this business out of laziness. Unlike every other facet of my life, writing is a skill I don’t have to work hard to be any good at. Not that I’m Faulkner or anything, but I can string a sentence together okay I guess. I failed in pretty much every subject in school growing up except writing. So it was either be a writer of some sort or wash cars. It’s still not too late for me to wash cars though should this all not work out.
II. You’ve done film school, right? What do you believe is the most important thing film schools should offer?
– The most important thing film schools can offer you is the chance to experiment and create. I’ve learned much more while making films or writing scripts than I ever have listening to lectures.
III. What were your expectations when joining film school? How did they change along the years?
– I expected to become a better filmmaker by going to film school. I guess at the end of the day that expectation was met. It only took 6 years.
IV. What was the feeling when you directed your first short film?
– The first short film I directed was called “Blind Billy Rudolph.” It was about a rich white kid in the American suburbs who discovered the delta blues and decided to become some Dyaln-esque wasp martyr. The Graduate meets Robert Johnson meets the most pretentious black and white student film ever made. Don’t try looking for it, it has been scrubbed clean from the Internet. It was totally ridiculous.
V. You have a few short films under your sleeve, including the wonderful The Ghosts, yet you also sold a feature film screenplay recently. What do you believe to be the greatest differences between working on shorts compared to feature films?
– The biggest difference between writing a short and writing a feature is length and momentum. A short film can sustain itself on its sheer style and velocity. Not true with features. Plot and structure matters much more the higher the page count. Not to say that a short can be shapeless and haphazard, but I’ve seen many shorts that work because of their genre and attitude; not their narrative. I think The GHOSTS is one of those.
VI. What do you believe to be the biggest mistake short film writers commit?
– Not doing anything new. Repeating stories we’ve seen hundreds of times in the ways we expect.
VII. You seem to be a big fan of voice-over. What do you think this resource has to offer and why do you think so many writers fail to apply it properly?
– I think there’s something comforting about being told a story. I enjoy the lulling auditory quality of a narrator. I also think there’s a freedom that a narrator allows for a movie to move forward in time; backward; left, right, sideways. Films can be less linear with narrators. Less restricted. And they can also provide poignant counterpoint to the images on the screen.There’s a piece of narration in Stand By Me that’s always stuck with me. “The train had knocked Ray Brower out of his Keds just like it had knocked the life out of his body.” Totally brutal. That metaphor makes the dead body we’re seeing on screen so much more vivid and heartbreaking. And the mention of Keds. It evokes the dead boy’s youth and innocence. You can see him tying his shoes before leaving his bedroom for the last day of his life. It makes him relatable in a way he wasn’t earlier. At least to me it does. I have no idea why narration has such a bad wrap. People have all these rules against it I guess. Hot air.
VIII. How did you manage to finance your short films?
– Kickstarter and family. I’m very lucky.
IX. Do you believe short films are still a good “business card” to get into the industry?
– Yes. They got me representation.
X. Do you think that some ideas fit only in the short format?
– Absolutely. Some stories can be told in 10 pages of a screenplay and some take three volume novels.
XI. What does it take to make a great short film?
– A distinct point of view. Something that feels different. New.
XII. It’s really hard to find a short film with character development, however, The Ghosts does that quite well. Do you think that more short films should have characted driven plots?
– I wasn’t drawn to making The Ghosts because of character. For me it was about trying to capture an attitude and style. It was about trying to make a movie feel like an old garage rock song. Imperfect and rough around the edges. Loud. Bold. Character was secondary to The GHOSTS’ general spirit for me.
XIII. You’re already selling spec scripts and getting together into the feature film world, will you stick to the road and try to direct a feature film by now or will we see another short film by Eddie O’Keefe soon?
– Both hopefully. Stay tuned.