Chris Esper’s Hollywood Journey Pt. 2

For Part 1 of the interview, click here.

Chris Esper at iconic Hollywood sign

Chris Esper at iconic Hollywood sign

What did writing script coverage teach you about the filmmaking process?

It taught me a lot about storytelling and having a more critical perspective when watching a movie. You think you know what to look for at first, but it truly opens your eyes to more that’s in the story. It also taught me about the development process and what it takes to get a movie made in Hollywood. It’s very difficult. Quite honestly, I think during my time at OddLot, I turned down more scripts than I actually recommended. It can be few and far between to find a screenplay that’s satisfying all across the board. Sometimes the story idea could be great, but the characters aren’t well defined or vice versa.

Who were some of more interesting/colorful industry people you encountered during your stay?

I met tons of great people out there, but perhaps the most memorable for me was meeting Kenneth Johnson, who is another director whose work I admired through the years. His credits include TV shows and movies such as “The Six Million Dollar Man”, “The Bionic Woman”, “The Incredible Hulk”, “V” and “Short Circuit 2”. I had e-mailed him a few times before so he remembered me, but I e-mailed him and told him how I was in town and wanted to meet him and maybe pick his brain a little. He was very kind and invited me to his office. I walked in and the first thing I see are a bunch of photos, posters and memorabilia from his work. My eyes lit up. Anyway, we sat down for about an hour and I talked about some of things I liked about his work and he explained how did certain things in them and had some great stories, especially working with Bill Bixby on “The Incredible Hulk”.

Chris Esper with director Kenneth Johnson

Chris Esper with director Kenneth Johnson

He also mentioned that he had seen “Still Life” after I sent him a DVD a while back and he really liked it. He thought it was heartfelt and emotional. At that moment, I didn’t think this could get any better with a high compliment like that, but it did. He invited to be his guest at a three day directing class he was going to be doing in Burbank. I had heard about the class for a while, so I was very excited for this. I went and it was great. He would show a clip from something he did and explain how he did and all the cheats and tricks of the in saving time on set, working with children, animals, bad weather, etc. Very, very useful information. He asked that I keep in touch with him, which is great.

Another great event was seeing “Life Itself” at the American Cinematheque in Santa Monica. First of all, I love Roger Ebert so I was excited to see this in the theater and it’s a fantastic documentary (the best one of the year I think.) Anyway, when the film ended, I got to briefly meet director Steve James and Ebert’s wife, Chaz. Both were very nice folks and I expressed my love Ebert and how I used to watch him on television and write my own reviews in a notebook I kept as a kid. They appreciated that. In addition, I also got to meet the director of “Dear White People”, Justin Simien, also a great guy.

What were some of your favorite professional experiences?

One of my favorite professional experiences was working at one of the major studios. I can’t really get into too much detail about the gig, but it was terrific experience that could hopefully lead to more work with them. This is all thanks to a good friend of mine out there who I met at the MPI seminar.

Another great experience was volunteering at John Truby’s screenwriting workshop. He’s a script doctor in Hollywood and has a few credits including writing the original “21 Jump Street” series. I was also given access to sit in on the class and take notes much like everyone else that paid to be there. So, that was very rewarding and I learned a lot. John is also one of the nicest guys you could meet. He was very supportive of every student and has an amazing ability of making it look so easy and letting you know that anyone can do it.

The Incredible Hulk Memorabilia, Kenneth Johnson's office

The Incredible Hulk Memorabilia, Kenneth Johnson’s office

Part of my internship was taking place at Sony Pictures since we were not far from them. For me, not only was this exciting because we would be on lot, but also because I sent my script at age ten Columbia and here I was getting to go inside. It was like it all came full circle and it was a wonderful feeling.

One last thing that was great was seeing two of my films, Always a Reason and Steak Knives, play at my first West Coast festival, Culver City Film Festival. Not only were both films accepted, but Steak Knives took home the prize for Best Comedy Short, which I was really thrilled about.

What projects do you have in development?

Now that I’m back on the East Coast, my plans are finish my latest short film, Please Punish Me, that’s been in post production and now nearing the end of it. I’m really pleased with this film. It shows a continuing growth in the work I’m doing which I’m excited about. It’s a comedy about a businessman who’s life is too good and everyone around him receives the negative side of his positive gain. So, he seeks to be punished for his “curse”.

In addition, I have some short films I wish to make, thanks to a few scripts that were handed over to me, but my ultimately goal now for 2015 is to develop and begin planning my first feature film.

Chris Esper with Dear White People director Justin Simien

Chris Esper with Dear White People director Justin Simien

What are some of your future plans?

Aside from my developing projects, my plan is stay on the East Coast for a little bit and keep working on my craft and freelance and save some more money so I can go back to LA and perhaps make it a permanent stay.

Here’s to a prosperous New Year, hopefully one full of creative endeavors.

3 thoughts on “Chris Esper’s Hollywood Journey Pt. 2

  1. Mary DeBerry

    I’m so impressed by both of you, Adam and Chris. Way to dive in and make it happen. Wishing you further success! I’m proud to know you.


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