Know Your Craft, Check Your Ego: Q&A with Acts of Desperation Director Richard Friedman
With over 40 feature film and television directing credits, Richard Friedman knows a thing or two about how to make a movie. His extensive credits include 5th and Alameda (found on InkTip), Born starring Alison Brie, Baywatch Nights, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and Silk Stalkings, to name a few. His latest film, Acts of Desperation, has been accumulating awards on the festival circuit. Richard discovered Nathan Illsley’s script on InkTip and optioned it quickly, as it was the style of project he’d been looking for. Since then, Richard and Nathan have hit it off, perhaps due to their East Coast connection—Richard’s from New York, and Nathan’s based out of Boston. The film stars Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas, The Goldbergs), Jason Gedrick (Backdraft, Iron Eagle), Treva Etinne, and Kira Reed Lorsch. It will see a worldwide release in early March on most streaming services, DVD, and Blu-ray. We spoke with Richard about Acts of Desperation and how writers can best form working relationships with directors.
InkTip: How did you get your start in the film industry?
Richard: A long ways back, when I was in graduate film school at NYU, during my third year, I naively decided that I was going to make a feature film and raise half a million dollars for my thesis project. It turned out not to be an easy task, but I managed to do it and made a film entitled DeathMask, based on a true story. The film premiered at Cannes and then opened theatrically. Since then, I’ve directed and produced 15 feature films and over 30 episodes of TV.
InkTip: You’ve been using InkTip’s service for years. What about the service for producers and directors keeps you coming back?
Richard: InkTip has outstanding writers in every genre imaginable. It really is an invaluable resource for discovering excellent scripts and writers that I could have immediate access to.
InkTip: As a director, what do you look for in a script?
Richard: The first thing that I look for in a script is a unique idea in a genre that I feel is sellable at the time. The next thing is that it is written competently and that the writer would be capable of executing a really good rewrite and polish.
InkTip: What attracted you to the script Acts of Desperation on InkTip?
Richard: Acts of Desperation was just the kind of script that I enjoy making. It centers around three different stories and ensemble characters who all come together in one larger compelling story. It’s kind of like Pulp Fiction and Crash put together in an intense crime drama.
InkTip: How was working with Nathan, the screenwriter?
Richard: Nathan is fabulous. He’s a fast writer with great ideas, and he is a dream to work with. I’m currently working on another project with him right now that we are in the midst of shooting.
InkTip: Can you tell us more about that project?
Richard: We are working on a feature documentary project entitled Brothers Broken: The Story that Stopped the Music. It’s an incredible project that reaches out into many intriguing areas. We’ve already shot a ton of interviews and other footage, and should be done shooting by the end of February 2019.
InkTip: Acts of Desperation is collecting awards on the festival circuit. Congrats! What do you think was the strongest element of the film?
Richard: Without a doubt, the strongest element is the writing and the great cast that was assembled. When you put great actors together with a great script, then magic can happen.
InkTip: Besides a good script what makes you want to work with a writer again?
Richard: A writer’s personality and ability to work with producers is very important. In addition, the writer’s capability of executing what is discussed in meetings is a very important element of the development process.
InkTip: What advice would you give writers who are looking to get their scripts produced?
Richard: Think out of the box. In reality, everything has been done before, but try to find a new twist, a new angle, a new approach on your subject matter. For me, being derivative is one of the worst sins that a writer can commit. Capture the interest of the reader immediately, don’t let pages go by without something of major consequence happening. Film is and should be heightened reality. A writer must treat it like that.
InkTip: You have worked as a producer and director in both TV (Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman; Baywatch Nights) and films. What is the main difference between the directing experiences of the two mediums?
Richard: Directing film and TV is very different in many respects. When I come onto an episode of a TV series, I’m just a journeyman as a director. In essence, I’m the new kid on the block amidst a group of crew and cast who has been together on numerous episodes before I got there and all know each other very well. The showrunner is the boss and the major creative force behind the show. Directing a film is very different in that the director runs the creative show. It’s all about the director executing his or her vision from creating characters, visuals, and rhythm of editing, to make the film their own.
InkTip: Any tips for aspiring directors?
Richard: Know your craft. Know how to get the best performances from actors and come up with a very firm vision for the project and prepare yourself to execute it. Be confident in your abilities without being egotistical. Preparation is everything.
InkTip: What is next for you?
Richard: After I complete “Brother’s Broken: The Story that Stopped the Music”, I’d love to return to horror. Much of my career has been doing horror, but in the last few years, I’ve done five thrillers and I’m getting the urge to do horror again. When I find a very unique script that can be shot on a reasonable budget, I’ll be all over it. It really has to be something different and unusual, and scary.
InkTip: Anything you’d like to add?
Richard: Having a great script makes it easy to direct a really good movie. It’s all about the script.