Earlier this year, FilmDebate was lucky enough to interview Hollywood actor/director Jon Gries, discussing his new picture ‘Another Man’s Gun’ (To read this interview, click here). Now, three months down the line, FilmDebate has caught up with the film’s writer; Derek M. Walker.
Derek grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, and spent his early career writing music. When he moved to California he naturally make the switch from music to theater and film. Derek first worked with Jon Gries in 2011, and after sending him the script for ‘Another Man’s Gun’, the pair joined forces to put the film into production.
Quick Synopsis – A feature length western telling the story of Buck; a teenager in 1840 Nebraska; following the death of their father, Buck, his two little sisters and their mother are forced to move into the home of a cruel rancher. Deciding he must do something to help his family, Buck volunteers to pick up a newly hired teacher in exchange for a reward that could buy his family their own land – thus sending Buck on a long, dangerous journey across America, competing with dangerous terrain, bandits and much more!
Adam: First, lets talk about yourself, what is your background and how did you get into writing and the film industry?
Derek: I’m originally from Lincoln Nebraska. I spent most of my life playing and writing music. I played and toured with some groups over the years but as time went on I felt I had to make the move to CA. I continued to play and record music here in Los Angeles but considering the broad variety of arts available I think it was a natural transition for me to move away from music into theater and film production. I made my first movie when I was like 10 years old, it was a promotional tourism video for Jamaica, completely ridiculous and funny but my interest in film making has been a life long dream. Not sure if I’d consider myself in the Hollywood “industry”, I think with technology the way it is the film making “industry” is anywhere anyone wants it to be. The film distribution “industry” is a different story though, but when AMG gets picked up I’ll be sure to let you know how then.
Adam: Following our previous interview with Jon Gries – You are the writer of ‘Another Mans Gun’, how is everything coming along?
Derek: Yes sir, I wrote the original story and screenplay for Another Man’s Gun. Everything is still going great. The machine that AMG has become continues to move forward and we are just trying to keep up with it. We have our first investors on board now and word of the opportunity seems to be reaching further than it has before. Last month the state of New Mexico brought Jon and I out to tour some locations and assist us with their great film tax rebate programs. The wining and the dining wasn’t necessary because we were going to film there anyway but it was a great opportunity and the people there are great. We still have a few key things to put in place which should encourage the rest of our funding but we are well on our way.
Adam: Tell me about the original idea, where did it come from? Does it have any particular meaning or connection with your own life?
Derek: I think the original idea came from a combination of my long time obsession with Westerns and my desire to create something with as little ego as possible. I was getting frustrated with the ingrained self focus, the “look at my clothes, look how cool I am in this video, look how cool I move on stage, I’m such a rock star, etc.” attitude that the music industry seemed to be so full of. I wanted to make something about the selfless type of focus that isn’t so easily found in today’s world of instant and on demand gratification through social media. So much attention is diverted back to the self in almost every aspect of our lives. I wanted to create a story about someone willing to do anything he could to help someone else, going against all odds, without any consideration of his own feelings, with only the care and desire to help something or someone at any moment, to make a positive impact on the people and things around him with the sole intention of the other “things” well being. The simplest way I can describe the story is it’s a strange amalgamation of Jeremiah Johnson and The African Queen. As with those stories I hoped to maintain a story that transcended it’s genre and could work in any time period. I hope that people will relate to the story as a representation of the things they do in their own lives for their families and the ones they love. It really is the story of this country and the people and dedication that has made it what it is today. And as far as my personal connection with AMG goes I would probably have to say that the story is slightly more of an autobiographical personal reflection than I will get into here, lol.
Adam: Tell me about your writing/creative process
Derek: When I begin a script I usually have a good idea whats happening and what will happen. I generally throw down the skeleton outline fairly quickly, the sequence of scenes, basic to the point dialogue, etc., and I’m a believer in knowing my ending so I get that in early as well. Then I’ll spend months creating the world. And then more months cutting it all down, adding again, and cutting again. An important part for me is walking away from the script for a bit. Sometimes the better result comes from forgetting about it. I’m not sure the process is ever finished though. For the most part I wrap it up and move onto the next one but am always thinking of my stories and the characters even years later. For example I wrote Another Man’s Gun in 2008 and was still making changes literally today.
Adam: Have you always been a writer, or have you worked in other aspects of cinema?
Derek: I’ve been writing narrative and short stories most my life. I believe my experience in music has given me a good sense of character improvisation as well as story structure and arrangement. I am really hoping for the opportunity to begin writing AMG into a book and expanding the story. I have worked in various roles in different aspects of film making as a director, AD, as a grip, a PA, an editor, composer, I’ve acted a little in various things. I executive produced an independent film about Douglas Macarthur which was distributed by Kultur Releasing. I’ve produced two theatrical stage productions with and starring actor Patrick Warburton as well as a Gilbert and Sullivan production of Ruddygore in addition to some commercial work.
Adam: What other projects/films have you written, and how do they compare to ‘Another mans Gun’?
Derek: I have four or five other scripts that I feel, similar Another Man’s Gun could be made someday. I believe they share the same market appeal but in nature the stories are very different from each other. The main consistency with my scripts is the character interaction and dialogue. I have a spy flick, a buddy comedy, a drug crazed travel pic (based on true events) and even though the genres are very different I’ve always tried to create a sense of reliability …like when you sit to watch a Bogart movie, you kind of know what you’re going to get and if you like that, then you’re always in for an enjoyable experience. You never really know what the hell you’re going to do with a script or piece of music when you write it so ultimately I just try to do it for myself and create the type of ideas and things that compel and entertain me. The only other film of similar genre to AMG is AMGII, haha kidding…or am I?!
Adam: Tell me about your relationship with Jon, how did the partnership come about?
Derek: Jon and I met when I was playing music here in Los Angeles. He let my band borrow some instruments when we were recording an album. Jon is a pretty great musician himself so we’ve always found plenty of common creative ground. I knew a little about Jon’s experience with Westerns and his father’s amazing career in the genre. I thought about it every which way I could and came to the conclusion it would be great to have him be a part of the film. I originally approached him to play one of my lead roles but the more we worked together the more I thought he would be perfect to direct the picture, much more suited than myself. He was up for the challenge and I believe that choice has helped the film find footing on a much larger scale. He has given me the confidence to take the script and story where it’s needed to go and the the creative partnership that we have created shares a very complete vision about what Another Man’s Gun could become.
Adam: Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
Derek: I have worked on a few projects in the last few years since development has begun on AMG. Since things have been ramping up and getting closer to production I have put my full focus and attention into getting AMG funded and distributed.
Adam: Finally, a very tough question – as a writer, what do you think the best-written film is?
Derek: Oh man that’s a tough one! In my meager opinion I’d probably say Chinatown, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Searches, Network. I’ve always loved Woody Allen’s writings like Annie Hall, Interiors, Husbands and Wives, and Hannah and Her Sisters. Dog Day Afternoon, Lawrence of Arabia, The Maltese Falcon, and Casablanca are also greats. I could never pick!