I recently got a chance to talk to C. Robert Cargill as part of a class assignment. I was very fortunate to have this chance and am happy to post a transcription of the conversation here.
C. Robert Cargill is an Austin Texas artist who has been writing for more than ten years. He was a critic and journalist with Ain’t it Cool News and Spill.com before writing Sinisterwith Scott Derrickson. Since then he has written two novels of gritty urban fantasy,Dreams and Shadows and Queen of the Dark Things. He is also working on the to be released projects: Sinister 2, Deus Ex, and The Outer Limits: Demon with a Glass Hand. He can currently be found once a week dispensing love for the forgotten classics of the silver screen on Junkfood Cinema with Brian Salisbury. He can be found on Twitter at@massawyrm
Steve: There seems to be a significant use of poetic and lyrical language in Dreams and Shadows; do you feel that poetry and music are a part of what forms your voice and if so how?
Cargill: Yeah, I believe, very much, that there is a music to language and writing. It’s how we distinguish the difference between good writing and bad writing is that it has its own sounds and rhythms and poetry to it that is almost musical. I very much believe in that and so I’ve always found that listening to how it makes sounds and how it sounds out loud and focusing on that and getting that rhythm. I hate reading books where the author, no matter how good a writer they are, doesn’t have that sense of music and you read passages that just feel clunky. Then you read someone like Neil Gaiman, who clearly hears the music, whose book are almost symphonies in how those words go together.
Roots in poetry and the sounds of how things go together are very much influential on my writing and not just on Dreams and Shadows but even in screen writing dialogue. I recently wrote a screenplay and I was watching scenes being filmed and one of the actors had decided to change around the dialogue to the way they speak. Watching the scene was just so clunky because while it was the way they speak it wasn’t the way the line was supposed to sound. So, it does have a big impact on my work.
Steve: In Dreams and Shadows there is a kiss to Bottle Rocket on the first page and several other little pebbles from film, literature, music, and myth sprinkled all through your story; who are some of the artists that helped influence your style and voice as a writer? I know you named Neil Gaiman in your last answer was he one of them?
Cargill: Not so much. He actually had a direct influence in that I met him when I was a young writer and we had a really great conversation that was very encouraging. He influenced the content of Dreams and Shadows. I had the base core of the story but I wasn’t sure of how to tell it and I met him at a convention. He asked me, “Hey, are you coming to my reading tomorrow?” I said, “Yeah. Sure. Of course I will.” He ended up reading the first half of Dream Hunters, which is a graphic novel that had yet to been released at the time. It was very urban fantasy but it played around with what he was at the time selling as actual myth, which he later admitted was not a real folk tale. But, seeing that, seeing the presentation of that, gave me how to put that content together in a package.
But my voice itself comes from a combination of a number of writers. The most influential ones I could name are William S. Burroughs, Franz Kafka, Hermann Hess, Robert A. Wilson influenced my comedy and my world view quite a bit, and then I would say, any number of poets, over the years, also influenced me heavily. Stephen King also had a huge influence on me as a child, not only in terms of his writing style, in terms of his pacing, and character building but in terms of genre.
You put all that stuff together, mash it up in a bowl, and you get me.
Steve: You worked for several years as film critic, which is to some extent is deconstructing multiple stories on a weekly basis; when you set out to start your own long-form writing how was your experience as a critic helpful in finding what worked for you in storytelling?
Cargill: I always wanted to be a long-form writer. I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was eight and I didn’t know if I wanted to make movies or write books. At one point it dawned on me that there were these people that actually made a living watching movies and writing about movies and I was like, “Oh, I want to do that too.” I happened to meet a film critic, it was total luck, it was not something I was chasing at the time. It was the golden age of the internet, the word blog wasn’t a thing yet, and one of my new friends, Eric worked for Ain’t it Cool News and saw a review I’d written for someone else because I’d seen not only one but two early screenings of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. He asked me to write a review. I wrote a review. Eric really liked it and saw some of the stuff I was doing just for fun and asked me to come over to Ain’t it Cool News. I went because it was a chance to write and be read. What I set up to do then was, I was a college drop out, and what I decided to do there was to use the critic career, which was just a hobby at the time, as an extended college experience. Where essentially, I was tasked with watching movies, writing up a paper on it, deconstructing it, and offering it to the masses to be graded. I look at that entire ten year experience as a film critic as a masters class in storytelling.
When I sat down to start writing, it was a chance to expound upon all of the theories I had developed as a film critic. All the things I’d learned, everything I wanted to experiment with, everything I came to believe and preach I put into that first script and that first book as my grand thesis paper. Those were my thesis film and my thesis novel showing what I had learned over my ten years.
So, Yes, everything I did as a critic informed and it continues to inform who I am as a writer.
Steve: How do you feel your years of working as a critic for Ain’t It Cool and Spill effect the way you view criticism of your own work?
Cargill: Absolutely. To actually use a personal experience. I recently was in London for the World Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention and ended up on a panel with someone who I had worked with for several years at film.com and we were both critics there. I’m very familiar with her writing, she’s very familiar with my writing, and then she saw Sinister and slagged it. She really disliked it. We sat on the panel together and it was the first time we’d ever met. After the panel she leaned over to me and was, “Hey, by the way, I didn’t entirely hate Sinister, I think if you go back and read the review. I hope it didn’t bother you that I negatively reviewed it.” I looked at her and I said, “You know, I’ve read your writing for years. I don’t agree with you on movies that I have no stake in. You and I don’t agree on film as a general rule. How could I ever expect you to like something I wrote? I can’t be offended by that. You and I have had arguments about different films where we both had completely different experiences. We don’t come from the same place, so it’s not a movie I would expect you to like.”
My critical experience very much has a bearing on that. There are a lot of people, a lot of reviewers, whose reviews I just wouldn’t read because I know their opinion differs from mine, or I don’t like where their opinion is rooted, or any number of things. It makes it very easy to discount some reviews and not take them seriously and not have them weigh on you.
At the same time, one of the other things that happens is, having been a critic and spending so long doing it, I’ve learned the difference between a good critic and a bad critic and it has nothing to do with opinion. Opinion has nothing to do with whether you’re a good critic or not. There are just a number of really terrible critics out there. It’s one of the problems you have when you remove the gatekeepers from any system. All of a sudden, without a filter, the thing becomes flooded with people who want to do it but don’t actually know what they’re doing. That’s where criticism is right now. Anybody who enjoys watching movies and has a keyboard at hand, believes they can be a film critic and doesn’t understand what the responsibilities are, doesn’t necessarily have to have a good sense of the history of film, doesn’t understand how films are made, and you end up with people who essentially write book reports. That’s one of the biggest frustrations with having been a critic is going through criticism, especially of your own work, and it’s like looking at the matrix with all the code flowing down. Here’s the introductory paragraph, there’s not going to be anything in there but a thesis statement. Here’s the second paragraph, it’s just work telling us that you watched the movie. Here’s two paragraphs on your opinion of the movie but your not actually deconstructing the movie. Here’s the wrap up paragraph summing up your opinion. You start seeing that stuff and then you juxtapose it against the legitimate critics. The real critics who dig in deep and understand that the job of a film critic is to enrich the experience of the audience who is reading that review. That someone who has seen the movie or is going to see the movie is going to gets a richer experience having read that. They’re not just getting an opinion they’re actually getting something that broadens the film for them and helps them wrap their mind around it, understand it, enjoy it more, gets some of the jokes, or anything.
Having been a critic you and reading criticism of your own work, you’re exposed to so many people who don’t do that latter part and who don’t understand that writing a review of my book or my movie. I should, even as the writer, should come away seeing something new about the book having seen it through someone else’s eyes. Rather than just saying, “well, I really didn’t like this character and I was kind of hoping the story would go in this direction because I like those kind of stories.” That stuff can be a little bit of a help, sometimes, if enough people make the same comments. You certainly take that to heart. But you really end up sifting through a lot of reviews that just disappoint you and the quality of the reviewer.
I think that’s the greatest curse, having been a reviewer, you then get to step on the other side and see it from the perspective of the people you’ve been criticizing for so long. And seeing that so many people on the other side really don’t have it together.
It’s something you do see when you’re there. When you’re a critic long enough you start to learn who the good critics are and it really doesn’t come down to opinion. Some of my favorite reviews of Sinister were negative reviews, because they were negative reviews written or spoken by guys who really knew horror and deconstructed the movie and told it in a way where I stated examining my own film through their eyes. I was just fascinated by those. There’s one guy in particular who did a five minute radio breakdown of it and I just wish it were twenty minutes. Even though he only had a few nice things to say about it I wanted to hear him tear it apart, take it apart and put it back together because I felt like that would make my next movie better. I was always disappointed that he never did anymore one that.
Steve: You said you listened to people who had negative views, did that alter anything when you set out to do the sequel?
Cargill: Yes and no. One of the things you learn in writing, period, even with your beta readers, the people who read it before anyone else sees it, before even your editors see it, is that when one person makes a complaint it’s an opinion; when five people make the same complaint it’s a problem. That’s what you look for in any sort of criticism. You’re looking for complaints across the board. There were two complaints across the board with Sinister. One of them was something I had actually addressed in the original script but got cut from the film. It was one of those things where after the fact I could say, “I told you guys we needed that scene.” The second part was there were people who were unhappy with the ending. The problem with that was you have a segment of the audience who was like, “That movie was really good up to the ending, I hated the ending.” then they talked to people and other people go, “Wait, what are you talking about that ending, I love that ending. If that movie had ended any other way I would have hated the ending” So, you just have to understand that what we were offering was something to a narrower batch of people. With the sequel I wanted to give something to the other camp, the camp that did not like that ending. We wanted to work an ending where they could have an ending that they were happy with and maybe the other camp wouldn’t be so happy with it. Hopefully, if the other camp doesn’t like the ending, if they’re like, “Oh, man I loved until that ending. Why can’t it have an ending like the first movie?” Then the first camp can be like, “Yeah, well this is the ending I like.” Then I can go, “Well you each have your own movie. You watch Sinister and you watch Sinister 2 and you get the ending that you want.”
What I wanted to do with that was I wanted to make sure people who really enjoyed the film but didn’t enjoy the ending might have something they enjoy this time around. Aside from that, there wasn’t a lot of criticism of Sinister that was really constructive. If you go through the negative published reviews of Sinister, most of them have the phrase, “I really hate found footage movies”, or has the phrase, “there’s nothing new here but…” and then they go on to list a bunch of movies, and they list a completely different bunch of movies from every other review. If you go through the negative reviews of Sinister, you’ll find that we apparently ripped off every horror movie ever made just by collecting those reviews together. Which just tells me that the critics are just naming the three movies off the top of their head that it reminded them of. We actually only visually reference two other horror movies and those are kind of obvious. There wasn’t a whole lot to take from those reviews. It was like, “Okay, if you don’t like found footage movies then your not going to like the sequel.” We can’t really change anything there.
We took what criticism was there that did have some constructive nature too it, and tried to offer the audience that enjoyed most of the first film an experience that hopefully they’ll love this time around.
Steve: In your film writing with Scott Derrickson; are there certain things you find you do differently when preparing to write with someone else or conversely when you’re writing by yourself?
Cargill: The only difference is you have somebody to bounce things off of and clean up your bullshit early. Scott and I are very structured. When I’m writing on my own I’m not as structured because I’m in my own head and can change things on the fly. I never write anything without knowing the end. I never start on something where I don’t know how it ends, because that’s a terrible, terrible way to write things. I’m not a big fan of what they call pantsing. I’m not as structured, generally when I write a novel I’ll sit down with some note cards and I’ll write each chapter, the basic beats that happen in that chapter and any important notes for that and I’ll put that together and have the book in card form. There’s nothing really specific in that.
When I write with Scott, we sit down, we discuss all the ideas, we kick it around. We discuss for any amount of time, it all depends on how quickly we need to work on the script. Then Scott writes a detailed outline. I give him notes on the outline. He passes me back the adjusted outline, with the understanding that I may not stick to the outline depending on how the writing goes. Then we go from there.
So the preparation is different, but it’s mostly different in that you have somebody else to help clean up a lot of the problems that you would run into and would have to clean up in your editing process. Writing with someone else is a lot different and a lot faster than writing alone.
Steve: As both a screen writer and a novelist, what do you feel is significantly different in the way someone should approach writing for the page as opposed to writing for the screen?
*The following answer contains some spoilers for the novel. In order to read them simply highlight the portion of the text between the Spoilers tags.*
Cargill: Different stories require different mediums. If you have a simple story that can be told in an hour and a half to two and a half hours and it doesn’t have a lot of ideas that you really have to sit and explain then you’ve got yourself a movie. If you’re going to deal with things of a more esoteric nature or have the kind of ending that isn’t cinematically satisfying, that has downer elements to it. When you look at Dreams and Shadows, it could never have existed as a film first because the studio would sit there and stare at you and go “(SPOILERS) Wait you’re seriously going to kill off most of the cast by the end of the movie? Really? That’s a thing you’re doing? You can’t kill the best friend. You can’t kill the girlfriend. Everybody wants to see them live happily ever after.”( END SPOILERS) You can say, “Well that’s the point.” They’ll say, “We’re not making that.” So that’s the type of thing you write in novels.
Then at the same time, I don’t like to make cinematic style novels. I don’t want to sit and write a fast paced, quick read that was clearly meant to be a movie, because I can write a script for that and jump right into making that movie. That’s the crux of it.
I do the same amount of research on every topic. Whether it be a book, whether it be a movie. I usually spend several weeks, if not several months, just reading research materials on whatever it is. Whether it may be folklore encyclopedias or several hundred issues of Doctor Strange. You sit down, you do your research, and then you start putting things together to tell the story.
Steve: In Dreams and Shadows you describe Austin with the practiced care most men reserve for the discussion of old familiar lovers, tell me about Austin and why it’s important to you as a writer.
Cargill: The thing is, originally when I was going to write the book it was going to be set in some nebulous, vague city that could be Chicago, or it could be New York City, we’ll probably just going to end up shooting in Vancouver anyway, type of thing. While I was putting the book together, I realized that’s boring. At first I was fine with that be boring it’s just a setting. Then I realized that nobody really writes stuff about my part of the country. I live in this great town, it’s got an interesting history, it’s got an interesting culture, and it’s exactly the type of setting that would work for this book. Then I was like, “Okay. Let’s write about my town.” Then it was, “Okay, let me write about the town warts and all. Let me talk about the bad parts of town. Let me talk about what’s amazing about it.”
It’s funny, I felt that I put more things in the book that were negative about Austin than were positive. Yet, everybody comes away thinking it’s some love letter to my town. It’s kind of a love letter to my town in which I also call her fat and not the prettiest girl I ever dated. Which is weird, but that’s what it is.
I’ve kind of given myself over to it. You have that point when you start off where you think, “I want to be this erudite, kind of esoteric, well known writer, who could live anywhere.” Or you buy into one of the myths, like the New York City writer, young, hip, living in an apartment in the upper east side, and drinking coffee in some New York coffee house kind of writer. You can buy into that. I finally settled on the idea, I’m a Texan. I spent most of my life living in Texas, I was born here in Texas. I’m from this very interesting, very different part of Texas that’s kind of a mixing of everything that’s great about this state and this part of the country.
I finally realized, I can let that be my voice and I can give over to that. I don’t have to fight against that. I don’t have to try and be more mainstream. By embracing that I come across as more real and a bit more authentic. There comes that point in your life as a writer when you have to figure out what your voice is and finally when I did Dreams and Shadows I figured out I’m an Austin based writer. I’m a central Texas boy. I may as well write that way and so far it’s been working for me.
Steve: In your pod cast with Brian Salisbury, Junkfood Cinema, during the episode on George Lucas’s version of Flash Gordon where you talk briefly about fan fiction and you seem to be against the idea; do you think there is ever a place where fan fiction is useful or do you feel it’s something to be avoided and why?
Cargill: You know what the difference between fan fiction and an adaptation is? It’s whether or not you’ve got permission. I’m fine with people playing around in other people’s universes as long as that other person approves of it. Essentially, what you’re doing is you’re borrowing power from somebody else’s work to lend power to your own. Sometimes, you can do really great things with that. Look at what a number of people have done with Arthur Conan Doyle, you look at the BBC series Sherlock and see how they’ve added this great amount of creativity and put a very new twist on these great stories. You look at what Guy Ritchie did with Sherlock Holmes in his films and you can see the performance from Robert Downey Jr. and what great stuff came out of that material.
Then you look at the bulk of fan fiction and the bulk of fan fiction is, somebody had a really good idea that was inspired by something they read. Then they go and they plug in all of these things that have already had this work put into it, into that story and then create this story that can never actually go anywhere and can’t be anything more than something lurking on the internet to be passed around by fans who want to read other fan fiction.
It feels like there is a disconnect from the understanding that every writer does this. We all get inspired by this other work and then we spend all this time disguising where that inspiration came from so that it seems that it came from a fresh original place. Then we put that work out there and it is something else entirely. In that process of disguising our influences you end up with something that is new, fresh, and original that plays to that same audience that loved that stuff that you loved as well. I feel like writing fan fiction is generally robbing yourself of the ability to write that stuff.
There are a lot of great fan fiction writers that by simply taking those ideas they have and plugging them into their own thing and going, “It’s a Harry Potter story but how do I write it without Hermione, Ron, and Harry? How do I do that?” Then they have to make their own characters and those characters can’t look like Hermione, Ron, and Harry or else the jig is up. Now you’ve got to create these new characters. Now you have to create these things to make the magic work right. Now that you’ve done that, this fundamentally alters the villain, so let’s change this. Here’s this cool new thing. Then all of a sudden you’ve got this new fantasy story that bears no resemblance to Harry Potter and it’s kind of awesome. I think that fan fiction writers are robbing themselves of that.
I have two stories I would love to do that are essentially fan fiction. I would love to do if I could get the rights, a movie series and a book series. You know what I’d really like to do? I would love for Suzanne [Collins] to put out a call to other authors, and have other authors write short stories and novels set in the Hunger Games universe. Wrapped around other Hunger Games. I would love to write a Hunger Games story. Not about her characters but sometime in the past or potentially sometime in the future after the third book. That’s a universe I’d love to play around with.
There’s a movie series that I have a shot at potentially doing something with that I think could be really cool and I love that kind of stuff. Playing around with someone else’s ideas, with their permission, when they’re saying, “Here’s my toys. Do something cool with them.” That’s something that can broaden things and go out in the world and be its own thing. There’s nothing wrong with drawing on that creativity but when you do it without permission you paint yourself into a box where you’ve got something that’s absolutely not canon and you’ve got something that can never really be a story with stakes because nobody believes the that outcome is going to mean anything to these characters.
It’s also something that can’t really be passed around in the way other things can and live forever. That’s one of the things about this fan fiction that’s floating around out there. Eventually the forums there on are going to go kaput and be erased. They might live in a Wayback Machine on a file somewhere but it’s never going to be a book. It’s never going to be sitting in the Amazon store indefinitely waiting for someone to come along and discover something that you put a lot of time and effort in to. I feel like it’s a waste of a lot of very real creative potential.
I don’t hate fan fiction but I feel that there’s other better things you could do with your time, especially as a creative. I feel like the big propulsion of fan fiction in this generation is potentially robbing us of some really great stories that had they been massaged properly could have come out really fantastic.
Steve: Looking back over the years you’ve worked as a writer and critic what one lesson did you learn the hard way that you wish someone had told you about going in?
Cargill: The biggest thing is probably about cage rattling and what has become rage porn. I wrote a review of Happy Feet, and a lot of people haven’t actually watched it because it’s, “Ah, it’s dancing penguins.” Happy Feet is an incredibly political movie, that isn’t just liberal, it’s ultra-liberal in how far it leans with its ideas. And I thought it would be funny, at the time, to write a kind of reaction to it, going full retard if you will (A Tropic Thunder reference). And just arguing as if it’s the most offensive thing imaginable and kind of do it from the point of view of an ultra-conservative, who I’m definitely not. A lot of people got the joke and found it very funny and it caused them to go and examine the material and go, “Holy shit. He’s not kidding around, he’s not making anything up, this movie is really, really kind of liberal.”
A lot of people didn’t get the joke, a lot of people took me dead serious. What happened is after I wrote that I received e-mail about that review every day for two and a half months. I’ve never had that happen before or since. I’ve never known anyone who’s had that happen before or since. It was a really absurd anomaly that just hit at the right time on the internet; back before things could really go as viral as they do now.
Someone would write about it on Daily Kos once every few days because they’d just stumbled upon it. It got to the point where Daily Kos had to post a sticky saying, “Please stop writing about this review. There are three other very long threads about it. Go talk about it there.” Conservatives celebrated me as a hero. Fox News saw the review and ended up re-reviewing it because the day it came out they didn’t care about it at all and one of the anchors sent their 65 year old mother to go see the movie and do a review of it. They so didn’t care and then when they found out what the content was they re-reviewed it and went after it. Liberals came after me in a hard way. Most people didn’t get the joke.
I got to see first hand the bubble that people like Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, and Bill O’Reilly live in because all of the e-mail I got fell into one of three camps. One was the middle of the road, which is, “Hey. Maybe you shouldn’t use so many swear words in your review and more people would read them.” Which is just always funny. Then you have the liberal rants against me which often refer to me with clichés. Calling me, “Jack-booted wearing, Fox News watching, ultra-right winger.” They were all filled with misspellings, leaps in logic, and they were rude and offensive, and written by awful angry people. Then you have the conservative ones, which were always well composed, always very well written eloquent celebrations of me, calling me a hero standing in the face of liberal Hollywood.
The thing is, if you give into that bubble, if you believe in it. You begin to believe that conservatives are smart and well intended and liberals are just angry and ignorant. And really, in truth, the liberals who are more well meaning or get the joke or even read it and just dismiss me and go, “This is just one assholes opinion.” They didn’t send e-mails, it was the angry idiots who sent me e-mails. The only people who sent me e-mail on the conservative side were the people who were, “I want to see more of this. We should encourage this kind of behavior in critics. So, I think I’m going to spend some time writing this guy and letting him know he should do more of this.”
I looked at all of this and I said, “Never again. I do not want to be this guy.” I realized at that moment I could make a career being the guy there still really isn’t. This loud , angry, possibly even funny voice writing for conservatives. I knew that, especially at the time, there was a lot of money flowing into bloggers who were conservative leaning. So, it was a job that could probably pay really well but I’d be selling my soul to do it. I was like, “I don’t want that, I want to be who I am.”
That was the last time I did that gag and from that point on anything I wrote politically was more in tune with really who I am, which is a dyed in the wool moderate. I dealt with everything in moderation and seriousness and wrote much more eloquent things about the importance of the political nature of what the movies are. Of course, none of those ever went viral again because that kind of stuff isn’t what people want. People want the knee-jerk stuff. I learned the hard way just how ugly and insulated that world is.
There’s part of me that wishes that I hadn’t learned that the hard way. That I could have known that before hand and avoided it. Then wrote a more down to Earth, honest, straight up, “hey guys, this is a little messed up, but check this movie out,” kind of review. Spared myself two and a half months of getting yelled at and being a villain online. At the same time, the life lesson I got out of it really, really worked and helped define my voice as a writer and define who I wanted to be.
Steve: I’m now picturing a parallel reality where you’re reviewing movies for Fox News.
Cargill: Well, it would honestly be Breitbart is where I would probably end up. That’s the conservative leaning site that is tied in with that whole. The triangle of ultra-conservatism is Matt Drudge, Rupert Murdoch, and then Breitbart. Who has passed away but whose empire continues to make Republican’s worse everyday. I say that as a Republican. I would probably ended up at one of Breitbart’s blogs or something of that nature.
That would be a weird alternate universe where once a week I show up on Fox News and talk about liberal Hollywood. That’s a strange universe. I kind of want to peer into that universe, but I don’t want to visit that universe.
Steve: As a fan of Junkfood Cinema I have to ask this question; if you could pick any project, film or television, to write the reboot for what would be the best fit for your skill set and how would you do it differently? I will admit I wrote this a week before I heard the last Junkfood Cinema where you talk about your newest project.
Cargill: Yeah, Demon with a Glass Hand is up there. It was on a short list of things that I very much wanted to do. So, when they came to me for doing an Outer Limits movie, I was like, “Can I do Demon with a Glass Hand?” They were like, “okay.” And so it’s like, “All right, well there you go. Bucket list, checked that off.”
The problem is there are two movies that are on that short list, that have always, always been on that short list and I’ve been up for both of them and something happened that pulled me away from both. We were supposed to work on the Changeling, which is one of Scott and my favorite horror films. George C. Scott, 1980, amazing film. The problem is, it’s just a little bit dated, even for 1980. It’s in the era Spielberg and Lucas kind of took over Hollywood. This was still several years behind stylistically, which is part of what I love about it, but it doesn’t totally work with modern audiences. I’d love a crack at that, and we were offered that, and there was a rights issues, and the rights fell through. The company ended up not having the rights, then later the company ended up folding a year or two later. Then I was offered a chance to work on Firestarter, which was the very first novel I read when I was eight years old. Then again it fell into a weird rights issue. Both times, we really wanted to do the project, they were bucket list items of mine, and the production companies we were working with wanted us but there were just things that came up. It’s very hard for me to come up with something else because I’ve had a crack at several of my bucket list movies.
Trying to find something else. You know what I think would be good, let’s go back to one of the original Junkfood Cinema’s, the inspiration for it, I think skill set wise, I’d love to do Battletruck. Battletruck would be a really, really fun movie to tackle because it’s such a great concept and can be updated really well, shot very cheaply, and still be fucking awesome. But everyone would think it was a new movie because nobody’s fucking seen Battletruck.
Steve: Having heard you talk about it, it’s still one of the ones I’d really love to see but have not been able to find.
Cargill: It’s on Youtube. You can find old DVD’s. It was out on DVD for a while as part of a two pack, you can go to Amazon and it should still be available. It’s been on Youtube forever, and nobody seems to care that it’s on Youtube. You can very easily sit down and watch it and it is well worth watching because it is a cool fucking movie.
I have always found the following questions incredibly revealing and decided if I ever gave an interview I would use them. In that sense please answer the following questions originally posed by James Lipton, host of Inside the Studio.
Steve: What is your favorite word?
Steve: What is your least favorite word?
Steve: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Cargill: 2 in the morning. I love 2 in the morning.
Steve: What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Steve: What sound or noise do you love?
Cargill: The kettle whistling
Steve: What sound or noise do you hate?
Cargill: My alarm clock
Steve: Everybody hates that.
Cargill: Yeah, but it’s the first thing that comes to mind.
Steve: What is your favorite curse word?
Cargill: My favorite cures word. Bug-fuck. I got to go with the Harlon Ellison creation. Bug-fuck.
Steve: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Cargill: That’s a hard question. I’ve done most of the jobs I’ve always wanted to do. I’d like to be a theatre owner. I’d like to own my own movie theater
Steve: What profession would you not like to do?
Cargill: Road kill retrieval.
Steve: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Cargill: The first showing is at 7:00 second showing at 9:15.
Steve: What movie is playing?
Cargill: Whatever awesome movie is showing in heaven. I would assume, since this is my heaven and I get to create it, it’s all the movies that should have been made and never got made for one reason or another. All those wish list movies. Like, “Oh my God. We’re going to get to watch this version of this movie. If the movie had been directed by this director. And we get to watch all of these perfect films as they were intended to be made.”
Steve: The old theory of, what if Dumb and Dumber had been directed by Alfred Hitchcock?
Cargill: Something like that. Personally, I’ll go with what I’ve got right here on my wall next to me, but I will say one of the first things that better be playing is Jodorowsky’s Dune.
Steve: As soon as you started talking about a poster I was going to say Dune.
Cargill: I keep this poster next to me as a fantastic reminder and piece of art. It’s a fantastic reminder that you can dump years and years of work into something and it can never happen. And that it even happens to the masters, so don’t take it personally. I keep that right here next to my desk. Up high I’ve got all the movies that I love whether their great or whether people hate them. But right here next to my desk I keep Jodorowsky’s Dune to keep me humble and understanding and get me through the harder nights. As I said, I’ve had a number of projects fall through. I’ve written six scripts professionally, I’ve been this close on half a dozen others. There are a number of alternate realities in which I have these other movies under my belt that are wither great or not. You have to wrap your mind around the fact that some of these things just aren’t going to happen. I keep Dune next to me to remind me, but in Heaven, that’s what’s playing.
I want to thank Cargill for taking time out of his schedule and talking to me. I learned a lot from the interview and in the interest of brevity I will keep my thoughts for later. Thank you all and have a great day.
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