Five Questions with Charles Evered
By Heather Hubbard
Charles Evered is a screenwriter, television writer, and playwright. He has written for Universal Pictures, NBC, Dreamworks and Paramount Pictures. His published plays include, Running Funny, The Size of the World, The Shoreham, and Celadine, to name a few. He wrote a double, black and white episode for the USA Network hit television series, Monk, titled, Mr. Monk and the Leper. Mr. Evered wrote and directed his first feature film, Adopt a Sailor starring Bebe Neuwirth and Peter Coyote, which premiered at The Williamstown Film Festival in September 2008. Itwas chosen as the Official Selection at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. He also wrote and directed the short film Visiting starring Amy Locane and James Waterston. Visiting will premiere at the 2009 Palm Springs International ShortFest. Mr. Evered is an assistant professor of screenwriting and playwriting at the University of California, Riverside. He teaches at UCR’s main campus and UCR Palm Desert.
1. You are a screenwriter, television writer, and playwright. Do you find that the writing process varies greatly between these genres?
Actually, I find they have more in common than anything else. The common thread in all of them is story. If I find a great story to tell, I frankly don’t care which media I present it in. But, sometimes you realize that some stories lend themselves to being told in one form over the other. If I want to tell a story based in the times of Charles II in England, as I did with my play Celadine, I have to be reasonable and think: “Okay, 5 or 6 characters, lots of period dress, theatrical dialogue and lots of it—-this should be a play.” Because the chances of a network or studio buying a story like that are almost nil, especially in today’s economy. My work in film is the same way. I’m in pre-production on a new film now called Ride—about a mysterious limo driver who is on the road with a prom queen. Yes, on paper, I could make that a play, but what beckons me about the story is the potentially wide vistas I could shoot. Shooting in the Eastern Sierras, diving into a real road movie. The colors, the gritty contrasts in all of it. Something about the story to me, screams: “Get out and make it” rather than constrict the story to a corner of the stage. You just have to go project by project and see how it speaks to you. As for television, my only experience has been being a guest writer on an already existing series, “Monk,” and writing a pilot for NBC/Universal that wasn’t picked up. In general, I try to avoid television as much as possible, because I can’t stand to watch it—-and when I do, it depresses me.
2. What does a live performance offer that a film does not, and vice versa?
A live performance is ethereal, passing, holy in a way. You understand you’ll never see that done that way again. In that way, it’s beautiful and magical. Film performances are a real art. I remember directing Bebe Neuwirth in Adopt a Sailor and thinking on the set: “Wow, is she doing anything? Is this going to translate or read on screen?” And then when I saw it for the first time on a sixty foot screen in front of 500 people, I thought: “Wow, what a brilliant film performance. It’s all nuance and shading.” Bebe I believe, is going to develop into an even greater film actress than I think anyone has thus far given her credit for being.
3. Do your ideas for a script begin with a character, story, or both?
Usually for me it begins with a character, and I draw a story from the person I’m inventing on stage or on screen. But to me, Character plays directly into plot. Once I know the person I’m writing, what they would do, how they would talk, what choices they would make, etc, that starts to lead me to plot. That’s why I think I’ve been able to work with amazing actors—-because they realize I start with their character. Even in my directing, I try to keep the technical mumbo jumbo down to a minimum and start with the human being we’re dealing with. Because if you don’t start with the humanity, it doesn’t matter how cool the explosions in the background are, no one is going to care. How many times do we see 200 million dollar movies with amazing effects, and characters we couldn’t give a flying you know what about? I’d rather see a film with an interesting character that costs $5000 to make, then a $200 million dollar extravaganza with a character in the middle of it that I couldn’t give a hoot about.
4. What was the most challenging part of creating your first feature film, Adopt a Sailor?
The most challenging part of it was post production, because it really was never figured into the overall budget. And, we were working with an experimental digital camera, so there were a lot of issues to figure out just technically. And we had to change editors mid-stream so it was really somewhat of a challenge. Fortunately, David Ho and Marty James came along and basically rescued the movie in the post phase, helping to enable me to find the thread of the story. The great thing about your first film is, you learn a hell of a lot of stuff. No doubt I’ll make a mistake or two in my next feature, but I know for sure I won’t make the same ones!
5. If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Don’t be a victim. Don’t be passive and stand up for yourselves. Really start to understand the new media and new technologies, because all of it is working to empower writers and creators of original content. Don’t write scripts, send them to agents or studios and wait to be discovered. The people who succeed don’t wait around for approval. The business is changing in a million ways, a million times a day, and you have to not live in the “hope to be discovered” bubble that so many people get caught in. You only have a finite amount of time on this earth, and don’t spend it waiting around for people to like you or your work. If you’re going to write plays, set up readings with fine actors in your living room or stage them in garages or VFW halls. If you’re going to write movies, write them to make them and go out and shoot them. If you’re going to write for television, my main question would be: why?