IBBA ARMANCAS - 10 Questions
10 Questions from the April 2014 Television Screenplay Winner.
1. Why is your episode just as good as the episodes written for the show?
Hannibal is a thematic, dark, and intelligent show that thrives, very literally, on the devil in the details. Like the best Hannibal episodes, "Honesuki" carries allusions both to the works of Thomas Harris, as well as the classical obsessions of Lecter. From the image of a shrike-gutted starling on B.H.C.I.'s chain-linked fence, to tableaux of living children made into caricature's of Shakespeare's Lavinia, to Harris' famous maroon envelopes penned in Will's hand instead of Hannibal's, every scene in "Honesuki" not only connects to what has gone before it, but introduces fresh concepts and cultured horror.
Even the title is loaded with reference and metaphor. "Honesuki" pays homage to season two's "Kaiseki" (which had only just been announced when the spec was written), but also foreshadows Will's transformation from victim into predator. In season one, episode titles were based off French dishes, presumably alluding to people Hannibal killed, served, and ate. My season two concept was that all titles would be based on knives, and be representative of Will's ascension from hunted to hunter, as well as Hannibal's transformation from chef to butcher. Within the script itself, Hannibal uses a Honesuki while preparing fish (an animal commonly associated with Will), while having a conversation with Alana Bloom that not only introduces the Japanese influences of his past, but discusses ancient knife-making as a metaphor for what he has done to Will Graham, and why.
My spec stays true to the twisted flavors of the show, while introducing it's own set of gruesome specifics. As the episode draws to a close and a noose begins to tighten around both the necks of Hannibal Lecter and Jack Crawford, "Honesuki" leaves readers shocked, satisfied, and anticipatory for what will happen next.
2. How long have you been writing screenplays?
I started writing screenplays in 2010, and have pretty much never stopped.
3. What movie have you seen the most in your life?
Honestly, probably The Lion King. As a kid, I wore out the tape. That, or The Secret of NIMH. As an adult probably Thank You For Smoking, Pan's Labrynth, and Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang. I was always more of a reader than a watcher growing up, so while I do keep up with movies these days, I don't tend to do a lot of repeat viewings unless a piece has a ton of nostalgia value or really moves me.
4. What artists would you love to work with?
Too many! I'm a writer/director, so I've got a list of actors as long as my arm that I'd be over the moon to work with. Idris Elba, Natalie Dormer, Gina Torres, Danny Pudi, James Callis, Enver Gjokaj, Christina Hendricks just to name a few, and of course, I think both Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy are absolutely phenomenal. As for directors, Steve McQueen, Quinton Tarantino, Joss Wheadon and Bryan Fuller; all for very different reasons.
5. How many stories/screenplays have you written?
I've written five feature screenplays (and a half), the Hannibal spec script, am in the middle of writing an original pilot, and have about twelve short scripts. When I was sixteen I wrote a pretty terrible novel, and a lot of self-indulgent science fiction. I always believed if I wrote enough quantity, eventually, I might end up hitting quality.
6. Ideally, where would you like to be in 5 years?
In a perfect, magical universe I'd love to be working as a show-runner, directing another feature film, or writing for groundbreaking television. I truly believe in the power of stories, and want a chance to bring as many of them into the world as possible.
7. Describe your process; do you have a set routine, method for writing?
I tend to write a detailed outline that includes character arcs, structure arcs, thematic arcs, and motifs, then sit down and bang out a 'draft zero' where all the flaws can percolate to the surface. Then I yammer someone's ear off about it, shoot out a couple more drafts, rinse and repeat until the structure and characters read the way I want. Then I make a dialogue and prettification pass, get some actors/friends together for a read, and call it done. Nothing is ever as good as the first time I get to write 'the end' though.
8. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
How to choose! Well, I was raised by a group of historical sword-fighters, so I've always loved history, battle theories, and how old-school political intrigue continues into the present. As I sci-fi nut, I also try to keep on top of Space X/NASA/space missions in general, and any theories or breakthroughs that might mean I can finally get that flying car or fight through that horrifically awesome dystopia. Physics of the Impossible by Michio Kaku is a favorite read of mine.
That said, people are probably my biggest passion. Everyone's got a story, everyone has some sort of adventure to take you on, and getting to figure out who and why we all are is something I work on everyday.
9. What influenced you to enter the WILDsound Script Contest?
I saw the WILDsound contest literally on the last day to submit, which happened to be the day I finished the final draft of my Hannibal spec. If felt like kismet, so I did it.
10. Any advice or tips you'd like to pass on to other writers?
Never stop living. I know a lot of writers who get caught up in the minutiae of creating a perfect piece, and stop accruing new stories and the passion with which to feed them. If you can seek out the interesting stories in your own life, they can't help but enrich your writing.