Filmmaker Interview

by Anthony Picerno

Taylor Grant

Dark Comedy Productions Spotlight

Taylor Grant is a two-time Bram Stoker Award-nominated Author, award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker, as well as an Active Member of the Horror Writers Association and International Thriller Writers Association. His work has been seen on network television, the big screen, the stage, newspapers, comic books, national magazines, anthologies, the Web, and heard on the radio. Several of his works have sold or been optioned by major Hollywood studios such as Imagine Entertainment, Universal Studios, The Firm and Lions Gate Films.

 

From creating animated TV shows to producing and acting in feature length films to writing prose fiction and music videos, Taylor Grant has established himself as a powerhouse multi-threat human Swiss army knife of Hollywood.

 

Dark Comedy Productions: 

“How did you get your start in the business?”

 

Taylor Grant: 

“As so often happens in Hollywood, it was a matter of right place, right time. I had a friend who had just landed her first writing assignment: a script for the animated series Beetlejuice.

 

She was quite nervous about writing her first professional script, and so I helped her with it—quite a bit, in fact.  She was impressed with my ideas and asked me to co-write some scripts with her. We ended up working together on both Beetlejuice and another animated series created by Rosanne Barr called Little Rosey.

 

That jumpstarted my career in children’s entertainment, and I ended up writing scripts and developing plotlines for several different TV series over the next few years—both live action and animation—and later the Web.

 

Eventually, I created a short-lived animated series called Monster Farm that aired on the Fox Family Channel.”

 

DCP: 

“Do you have a favorite genre to watch/read? And is it different from a genre you like to work in?”

 

TG: 

“In terms of film, I love any genre if it is executed well. The same goes for TV. But as a general rule, I gravitate toward darker material, and if the premise is imaginative or has dark fantasy elements, even better. I particularly respond to morality tales, or work with social commentary and themes of the human condition. The original Twilight Zone is my favorite TV show of all time, which says volumes. More recent favorites include Game of Thrones, Mr. Robot, and American Gods.


When it comes to reading, I tend to like darker material as well, and if it is imaginative, even better. I was a comic book geek long before it became mainstream; I own over 50,000 comics.

Novels that I’ve read recently and enjoyed include Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, and both Neverwhere and American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

DCP: 

“You wear many hats, from screenwriter to producer, director, actor, author…Have you had a favorite role so far, and why?”

 

TG: 

“Ideally, I’d love to do them all! But ultimately, the most important thing for me is storytelling—period. Filmmaking is terribly cost-prohibitive and requires endless compromises for a myriad of reasons. And it often takes years to see your work realized after writing the script. 

 

Working as an author is what works best for me now. For one, the creative process is more gratifying. There are less creative compromises involved and there are none of the inherent logistical hurdles of filmmaking.  Plus, the time between writing fiction and getting it in front of an audience is much faster with the written word compared to film.”

 

DCP: 

“Earlier in your career, you have a lot of credits for kids TV shows. What was it like creating stories targeting young audiences?”

 

TG: 

“Fortunately, I’ve always been a big geek, so fantasy is part of my DNA. Getting into that mindset was quite easy. A part of me has never grown up, and I hope I never do.”

 

 

 

DCP: 

“You have three shorts you’ve worked on. What was the appeal you found in working on them, and what was your goal in pursuing them?”

 

TG: 

“I was a full-time, professional screenwriter for a few years. After I left television, I sold several scripts to major Hollywood studios. At one point, I had projects set up at Universal Studios, Imagine Entertainment, Lions Gate, The Firm, and a production company called Original Voices.

 

Also, I had developed projects with development execs at Dreamworks, The Donner Company, Original Film, and Outlaw Productions.

 

DCP:

 

“You have three shorts you’ve worked on. What was the appeal you found in working on them, and what was your goal in pursuing them?”

 

TG: 

“I was a full-time, professional screenwriter for a few years. After I left television, I sold several scripts to major Hollywood studios. Between 1999 and 2003, I had projects set up at Universal Studios, Imagine Entertainment, Lions Gate, The Firm, and a production company called Original Voices.

 

Also, I had developed projects with development execs at Dreamworks, The Donner Company, Original Film, and Outlaw Productions.

 

The most difficult reality I faced after breaking into feature film screenwriting, was that while getting an agent was hard, and selling a script was even harder—getting your script produced was damned near impossible.

 

So years later, I made a personal promise to myself that I would create some films of my own.  Obviously the market for short films is negligible in terms of making any real money.  So, I do it for the enjoyment and artistic expression. I love telling stories in multiple mediums, lengths and genres.

 

I have been fortunate, though. Two of my films: Sticks and Stones and The Vanished both screened at the Cannes Film Festival and both were picked up for distribution by Shorts TV, which has over 11 million subscribers.  They have been accepted in to multiple film festivals, and Sony distributed both films on special DVDs that came with purchases of their 4K cameras.

 

Distribution opportunities like this for short films are rare indeed. so I have been extremely fortunate in this regard. 

 

Sticks and Stones was awarded the Jury Prize for Best Short at the NUHO Online Film Festival, and Crows, a film in which I starred, was accepted into several prestigious festivals, including Dances with Film, and premiered at the famous Hollywood Chinese Theater.”

 

 

DCP:

“The Muse was all yours—you wrote it, produced it, directed it, and acted in it. What made this project so special to you?”

 

TG: 

“It was something I had to do for my own mental health. I had just spent several years working as a full-time screenwriter, but not seeing any of my work produced due to variables completely out of my control. It was incredibly frustrating to the artistic side of me. Sure, it was wonderful to get paid for my scripts, but having all of that painstaking work collecting dust in a drawer was soul crushing.

 

I made The Muse purely to satisfy…well, my muse.  I had an utterly ridiculous and pathetic budget of $5,000, so originally it was going to be a 10-minute short film.  But miraculously—and I’m mean miraculously in the literal sense—we managed to turn it into an hour-long feature for that same amount of money.

 

We did this with blood, sweat, tears, passion, prayer--and a lot of favors and caffeine.”

 

 

DCP: 

“What were you out to accomplish with The Muse, and do you feel as though you accomplished it?”

 

TG: 

“Honestly, I wanted prove to myself that I could make a film—even if I had almost no money to do it. I had no delusions that anything would come of it.  It was too long for short film festivals, and it was too short to sell as a feature. 

 

But I am incredibly proud of what we accomplished—and it’s quite good, I think.  There are several reviews up on IMDB.com from the screening we had at a theater in Beverly Hills with about 300 people.  It was a dream come true to see my film up on the big theater marquee facing the street.

 

The response was unbelievable.  The audience truly loved the film and several wrote to me later and told me how much it had affected them. Some of them told me they would never sleep again (music to my ears).

 

I may release the film as a special limited edition one of these days. And I’ve also considered expanding it into a feature length script or even turn it into a novel.  It’s quite special to me.”

 

DCP: 

“How did you get into writing music videos? How was this a different process (or not) than writing for other mediums?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

TG: 

“I answered an Ad in the Hollywood Reporter.  A production company that specialized in music videos sent me a song and asked me to write a video treatment as a test. I don’t recall what it was—an unsigned band, I think.  Apparently, my treatment beat out several hundred applicants and the next thing I knew I was writing music videos for some of the biggest artists of that time (Diddy, the Fugees, Whitney Houston, Chaka Khan, Aaliyah, etc).

 

Writing a music video is a strange hybrid of a film treatment and a piece of advertising collateral.  On one hand, you have to be extremely creative with your ideas, and it’s all based on visual storytelling. On the other hand, the treatment has to sell the director, production company, record label, and ultimately the artist, on a particular vision for the music video. 

 

Making it even more challenging, I usually had to turn them around in 24 to 48 hours. That meant coming up with several concepts for the song, pitching the director, and then writing the treatment—all within that short time frame.

 

My favorite video I wrote is “Ready or Not” by the Fugees. It was one of the few that had a decent budget.”

 

DCP: 

“Hypothetical: A major studio wants a new project from you and they're giving you a blank canvas. Money is no object, you have all the resources you need at your disposal, and a perfectly workable timeline—what kind of project would you work on, and what role do you have in it?”

 

TG: 

“I’d write, direct, produce and co-star in a high-concept science fiction film with plenty of action and dark themes.  Something that would stand proudly next to The Matrix, Blade Runner, Inception, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Thing.

DCP:

 

“What are you currently watching/reading right now? What stories have you hooked?”

 

TG: 

“In terms of novels, I’m currently reading the wonderful Pendergast series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, which started with Relic. And I just started reading the Repairman Jack series from F. Paul Wilson. 

 

 

As for film, I’m watching and re-watching a lot of Asian cinema: The Chaser, The Man from Nowhere, A Tale of Two Sisters, The Yellow Sea, and of course Park Chan-wook’s “Vengeance Trilogy” (Old Boy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance).

 

I’m all over the place with TV: Better Call Saul, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, The OA, Black Mirror, Mr. Robot, Mad Men, American Gods, etc. 

 

DCP: 

“What are you currently working on that fans should be excited for?”

 

TG: 

“I always seem to have a lot going on, but due to contractual reasons, among other things, many of my current projects are still hush-hush. However, here’s what I can tell you. I’m thrilled about all of them!

 

My story “The Dead Years” will appear in Volume 9 of the successful “Dark Screams” series from Random House, alongside the great Peter Straub amongst other well-known authors, in January 2018.

 

My story “A Thousand Rooms of Darkness” will appear in the forthcoming Random House anthology “Halloween Carnival” coming October, 2017.

 

A new novella called “The Many Deaths of Cole Parker,” which will be published by Cemetery Dance Publications in the near future.

 

I have a couple of TV projects in the works. Both have a working TV producer to shepherd them along, and we’re in the process of attaching showrunners now.

 

A long overdue novel in the works.

 

A screenplay I sold years ago (military thriller genre) has recently received new interest, and a successful film director would like to make the film.

 

Lastly, I plan to publish a follow up story collection to my Bram Stoker Award nominated book “The Dark at the End of the Tunnel.”

 

Be sure to save a spot on your bookshelf for more of Taylor’s work in the future. In the meantime, visit Taylor Grant online at http://www.taylorgrant.com/ for news, updates, and social media.

 

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