Getting the Goods from Oscar Winning Screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher
Oscar-winning screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher made noir films and documentaries as a student at Harvard, and as a graduate film student at NYU, his short, Magic Markers, caught the attention of both John Singleton and Lee Daniels, who later asked him to adapt the novel “Push,” by Sapphire, otherwise known as Precious, for the big screen.
Fletcher’s directorial debut, Violet & Daisy, which he also wrote, follows two teenage assassins (Alexis Bledel and Saoirse Ronan), who have taken their latest hit (to kill James Gandolifini, who happens to be dying already) in order to buy party dresses. It was released on June 7 after premiering at the Toronto Film Festival.
Fletcher is also the screenwriter for the upcoming Attica, to be helmed by Doug Liman. This is a personal project for Liman, who’s father was the then young lawyer who ran the investigation during the infamous uprising at Attica State Prison. Fletcher and Liman took a trip to Attica to research the project together.
We talked to Fletcher about celebrity sensationalism, late nights, and the magic of shooting a film in New York City.
The Credits: Visually, this movie is quite stunning. It kind of defies characterization. What did you have in mind when it came to the look of the film?
Fletcher: I’ve always been influenced by fashion and photography. I started taking pictures when I was 12. I’m influenced by old foreign films from the 50s and 60s, plus American films from the 70s. There are so many things one can do with cinema that I wanted to explore some of those and try and tell the story as visually as I could. The film starts and ends in starkly different places, and the style of the film changes with the characters. I wanted this to be a dynamic and layered experience.
How did you come up with the story?
I’ve always been fascinated with the crime genre and with coming of age films, and I thought it would be interesting to combine those two while following two young women in extraordinary circumstances. At the end of the day, the film is very much a fable. It’s got one foot firmly planted in reality, and deals with a number of themes: friendship, love, and redemption. There are also currents of celebrity sensation and materialism, of trying to become whole looking outside of yourself.
Your young femme fatales are obsessed with a pop star named Barbie Sunday. Do you think celebrity obsession has reached a new level?
Indeed. There are a lot of things being sold to us, and more channels through which they can be sold. I’m fascinated by how a young person would process all of this because we’ve never seen the extent of this before in our history.
Generally, what is your writing process?
I find myself thinking about whatever piece I‘m writing throughout the day, but I usually get most of the work done at night. As the pieces come together and the momentum grows, it gets later and later…
Do you work in an office?
I work in lots of places: the park, two public libraries…In New York, sometimes a change of scenery is really stimulating.
What can you tell us about your student film, Magic Markers?
It was a 22-minute surreal love story influenced by French new wave films, films from the Italian neorealist movement, and comic books. I hadn’t been living in New York for very long, and I found it to be such a remarkable backdrop — one of the greatest backdrops on earth. It was this constant stimulation of sights and sounds and humanity, and it really
had a great impact on me. Being so young and curious, I was just taking it all in, shooting in older parts of New York, and having these two dreamers running around this place that was both magical and grim.
Did anything surprise you about directing?
There are just a lot more logistics. I used to run around with a camera and no crew, and obviously it was very different. I’ve found that every single film is so incredibly hard, but I had a great crew and the privilege of shooting in New York City. And I was happy every day. It has been a lifelong dream I’ve worked very hard towards, so I felt grateful. And I would do it again in a second.
Featured image: Alexis Bledel (L) and Saoirse Ronan from Geoffrey Fletcher's 'Violet & Daisy.' Courtesy Cinedigm.