For me, one of the treats of this year’s film festival season was hearing the saga of my friends’ short film The Raftman’s Razor first getting accepted at the Sundance Film Festival, then barrelling through the festival circuit, reaping not only audience awards, but critics’ awards as well. Screenwriter Joel Haskard happens to be an old pal of mine, so I thought it would be fun to check in with him to hear the perspective of a screenwriter’s first experiences with schmoozing and boozing with the big boys.
MOVIEPIE: So, Joel, shortly after your short film won the Golden Space Needle (Audience Award) AND Grand Jury Prize (Critic’s Award) at The Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), you found yourself at the Nantucket Film Festival to accept the Showtime Tony Cox Award for Screenwriting (for a short film). I talked to you on the phone before you flew out there, noting that the fest’s website listed various “luminaries” that had attended in the past. Did you feel like a luminary? Did you vomit when you heard that Steve Martin was hosting the fest? How’d it go?
JOEL HASKARD, SCREENWRITER: It was great. A little stressful at first—24 hours before my flight it seemed like the festival didn’t have a place for me to stay—but once there, people were really nice. I checked into the festival headquarters and they gave me a bag of assorted junk—pads of paper, tiny bottle of vodka, a towel, Bowfinger DVD etc from various sponsors. And a laminated tag that read, “Joel Haskard, Artist.” I immediately bought a black beret for my newly-swollen head, and at restaurants began shouting “You call this…!?!” at the staff and throwing whatever it was on the floor and huffing. Huff. Huff. That kind of thing.
We were the opening night short before the US premiere of the Jim Jarmusch/Bill Murray movie, Broken Flowers, so we were literally the first film shown at the festival. Mr. Jarmusch and Murray weren’t there, sadly, so Keith (Bearden, director and co-writer) and I got to go up in front of 2 packed showings and do a tiny jokey intro. We had fun with it. Then off to be plied with free booze and munchies, which is what happens every night at these things apparently. Highlight was getting in a hors d’ouevres snagging contest with the director of Murderball. Nice guy. Quick hands.
MOVIEPIE: It sounds to me like the big break for Raftman’s Razor was when it was accepted at the Sundance Film Festival. Did that resume-builder seem to open doors to other film festivals?
JOEL H: Keith was very savvy about which film festivals he entered it in. At Sundance I just sort of clomped around in the slush and people-watched. It was the first time I’d met the cast and crew, and the first time I’d seen the movie on the big screen. It was really great, and a real honor, to hear people laugh in the right spots and react as well as they did.
MOVIEPIE: As the screenwriter, you originally wrote the short story that serves as the narration for the film. Talk about the role you played from there in the creation of the movie, and about the background of your relationship with Keith Bearden, the director.
JOEL H: My part in the filming was nada, zilch. I worked with Keith on the script and that was it. Keith and I have known each other—and the fantastic Linda Gwilym of Moviepie—since college at The Evergreen State College. Since then Keith and I have written four feature length screen plays, all of which just sat on our shelves. Keith had the moxie and the talent to make the film.
MOVIEPIE: At SIFF, Raftman’s producer Brad Buckwalter attended the screening, and he said that Raftman was just the opening chapter to a feature length film. Give me the scoop.
JOEL H: Yup. There is a feature Raftman’s Razor out there. It follows the trials and tribulations of the two main characters a little further down the road. We’ll see if anyone wants to see further down the road…
MOVIEPIE: You can’t help but wonder if, with all these festival awards, that there is an Oscar nomination coming up next spring. Do you and Keith whisper about that possibility in private?
JOEL H: I have no idea how that works, to be honest. That would be the wackiest damn thing.
MOVIEPIE: Finally, do you feel like a rock star, Joel? Because I think you’re a rock star!
JOEL H: The night when we got the Tony Cox award was pretty odd. Steve Buscemi came up to us and said he really liked the film—I had seen him every day of the festival somewhere, but just felt too weird about getting in his personal space—and Ben Stiller also talked to us for a bit. Both seemingly nice guys. I asked Chris Matthews of TV’s “Hardball” where he had served in the Peace Corps. Nearly spilt a drink on SNL‘s Lorne Michaels. Talked some with Patty Jenkins writer/director of Monster, who was very cool. Drank a cosmo next to Macaulay Culkin and talked labor organizing with old actor Seymour Cassel. So that was my big “rock star” evening. 24 hours later I was dropped off at Logan Airport in Boston by college friend Gregor (whom Linda and Keith know, too!) and was told by a nice Albanian woman who worked the newspaper stand where I could sleep on the floor (behind the escalator) until my 7:30 AM flight to Minneapolis. There was a long hissing noise as my head deflated and the beret fell over my eyes. Rock star no more, Linda.
MOVIEPIE: Well, thanks, Joel! Any last words?
JOEL H: Keep on rockin’ Moviepie!