Phillip Gellat is the screenwriter of Europa Report, and wrote a film adaptation of Laird Barron’s short story 30. I’m sure you’ll be hearing his name a lot in the coming months.
What’s been the hardest thing for you to write so far?
The hardest thing was a screenplay I was hired to write. An adaptation, though not of a short story or of a comic or a novel. I’ll leave it at that. The experience was – it was like having a bunch of nails fucked into my eye holes, while I slowly inserted rusty wire hooks under my fingernails so that a team of maniacs could manipulate my typing without my seeing.
What’s the most challenging part of adapting a short story into a screenplay?
The dread is the most challenging part. Dreading that.
Shaken or stirred?
Are you trying to get me to talk about Bond? I’d love to talk about Bond. Because listen to me here and now: George Lazenby and Timothy Dalton might not have been the best Bonds but they are in two of the best Bond films ever. Living Daylights does globe-trotting so god damned well. Bond and the Mujahadeen! It’s amazing.
And On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is such a special movie. A Bond movie that ends with emotional devastation! It’s incredible.
And also stirred, please.
Do you like oatmeal?
Yep. I eat it every morning. I’ve developed various ways of making it. I used to put a ton of powdered ginger in it. Now I put peanut butter. I like to think of it like my morning witch’s brew. Strength for the coming day.
How do you like your coffee?
Dark roasted and black. Two cups a day.
Favorite short story?
Oh sweet Jesus. Favorite of all time?! This interview is sadistic. The first short story I remember loving is The Lagoon by Joseph Conrad. Though, in all honesty, I remember very little about the story itself, just the feeling of having loved it.
Lovecraft’s short stories are probably the ones I’ve re-read the most. Though I’ve also spent a lot of time with Barker’s Books of Blood.
I can say that over the last two years I’ve been reading a lot of short fiction most of it in the weird and horror vein. I recently found myself floored by Robert Aickman’s work.
Ever fired a gun? I haven’t, unless you count one of those tiny little rifles they let Boy Scouts shoot at camp. That’s more like a pellet gun though, I think…
Yep. I have. I grew up in Wisconsin farm country and there were guns around. So I got to fire them. I have one particularly crazy story of getting taken to a weird little one room shack somewhere over the hills that bound my home town explicitly to fire guns. The shack was, at the time, covered in right wing propaganda (Limbaugh photos, anti-Clinton slogans, this was the mid-90s) and guns. Lots of guns.
I spent the afternoon firing said guns with a bunch of hunter types, all of whom were there to both shoot and get drunk.
One of them told me that the only way to ensure a hand gun is accurate is to dry fire it constantly. Like I should buy one and just walk around the house pretending to shoot things with an empty gun. Then he told me about how he’d accidentally shot a hole in his fridge that way.
It’s a very strange memory.
How did you get into writing comic scripts? Was it hard for you to get your foot in the door with that?
Compared to the time other people have breaking into that world, I had a relatively easy time. The artist on my first comic was also working on The Venture Brothers. When you say that to publishers, they perk up a bit and listen.
Have you ever actually got your foot caught in a door?
I haven’t! But I have knocked my two front teeth out on a bathtub.
What would you do if you came home, and there was a severed foot stuck in between the front door to your place?
Ask it politely to leave.
Who do you think would win in a fight, Robert E. Howard, or Howard the Duck?
I… I… I’d love to say “The duck” and justify it in some epic fashion. But I’d have to say the Robert would win. Then again, I don’t actually know that much about Howard the Duck… except that he’s trapped in a world he never made.
If trees scream, does that mean grass would too when you mowed it?
One cannot assume such, no. They’d be entirely different species. Perhaps the grass suffers silently. Perhaps it weeps. Or perhaps it just bides its time, cataloguing every blade we trim, and waiting for its moment.
What’s your favorite part about living in Providence? You do live in Providence right? I hope I didn’t just pull that out of my ass…
I do live in Providence. I’ve been here for about 5 years. Providence is a weird city. It’d be a weird city even if it didn’t have the Lovecraft connection going for it.
My favorite part is my house. We moved from Brooklyn so having a house felt really special. I have my office in the attic. When we moved in we found old chiropractic back braces under the eaves. It made the whole thing special.
What kind of comics have you read which inspired you? What kind of films have inspired you to write films?
I am and will forever be an Alan Moore apologist. From Hell is my favorite comic of all time and it is something I am always coming back to as a high watermark of storytelling. When I was a teen, I was all about Dark Horse’s “Legends” line. So the Mignola, Chadwick, Miller, Allred, Byrne stuff. Then in college I was all about the Vertigo books of the ‘90s and ‘00s (Preacher, TransMet, The Invisibles, Sandman). Lately I haven’t been reading many comics, sadly.
As for film, I’m not exactly spouting a radical theory when I say that American film of the 1970s was something special. I find myself constantly inspired by that era. It was radical and philosophical and poetic and felt hand-crafted. Each of those movies, even the bad ones, is special in some way.
Because if there is a god, he hates us all. And if there isn’t, then it’s just us and our luck versus the clowns down here and isn’t that an upsetting thought.
Go anything to pluggy-plug? Do it now!
Well, I started shooting that adaptation of a Laird Barron short story last week, so everyone should keep their eyes peeled for that! Feel free to follow me on twitter (@pmjeepers) or instagram (philipgelatt) where I’ll be posting pictures and things from behind the scenes.