Spotlight: An Interview with LAFA winner James Bock ("Love, Beer, and Children")
James, congratulations again on winning Best Drama Screenplay with Love, Beer and Children! Before we dive into the screenplay, please tell us a bit about yourself, and what influenced you to become a filmmaker? My influence to becoming a filmmaker comes deep from within due to the bullies I encountered in middle and high school. I hid from them, until I discovered acting. I found my niche and my new friends. Not only, did they show me acceptance, they opened up a whole new love...performing.
You began your way into the entertainment industry with a BFA in Theatre Arts from Valdosta State University and then continued on to a BFA in Film from Long Island University, as well as an MFA in Film and TV From Savannah College of Art and Design. What were your main takeaways from the college experience, and would you say education is as important as hands-on experience when it comes to filmmaking?
Ya know, there are 2 sides to education. I found some parts of filmmaking, you don't need an education. However, I found education key in my screenwriting success. I mean, nobody is going to explain paradigm, character arc, SFX just by asking. So, in my case, the MFA and BFA in acting helped me.
Who are some of your favorite filmmakers, and what do you like about their work? Do you feel studying film influenced your writing and directorial style?
I have too many "likes" of directors, writers, and actors. -But, I like seeing films that obviously break the rules. However, my education taught the rules, so I could learn to break them. If one breaks the rules without knowing the rules, the work comes across as if you don't know what you're doing.
Can you take us through your creative writing process? How do you normally start working on a new screenplay? Do you first come up with a concept, a character, a general outline?
I usually get my ideas for writing by what makes me laugh, cry, or if I just want to say something. Then, I come up with characters: Age, body size, how they hold themselves, how they speak, wants, needs, and what they really want. I believe everyone has a want they don't talk about. -I mean, I don't tell anyone my true desires. Last, I come up with plot points and how they work together. Foreshadowing. Then I start.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I find my inspiration through this "calling." I can't stand jobs that don't allow me to express myself or jobs that I can't stand to go to. Also, I want my children to see you can achieve goals if you try. If you fail, get back up! Some people want to see me fail. Some people are just haters. I want them all to see my fly!
The screenplay feels very authentic throughout. Is any of it based on personal experience? Also, part of what makes Love, Beer, and Children such a great story is that your characters are quite colorful and unique. For example the character of Lucas, a 45y/o substitute teacher, professional disc golfer, and very much an alcoholic. Is he based on someone you know? How do you "get to know" your characters?
Love, Beer, and Children hits very close to home.I have this fear. My child is Autistic and does whatever she wants. I hear horror stories of Autistic children wandering off and nobody sees it. Honestly, I love beer. I can talk and talk about gravity, hops, clarity, etc. And, well, yes-duh it can make me impaired. So, I am constantly counting my children. One, two, three, four...whew! And, well, liquor...forget it. I have to be a functioning father. I must be coherent, so no booze for me. So, my concept was what if you had too much to drink, and the Autistic child wanders off. Now, put it in a horrifying location. Like the beach at night. OMG, the fear!
What research did you do before approaching the screenplay?
My research was learning the way the Department of Children and Families works, sitting in court watching and listening to families, and of course all the lingo and of beer making.
What message were you hoping to convert with this story?
Alcoholics don't change. They might adapt, but they look forward to that drink. That's why I call the lead role a bookaholic.
What's next for Love, Beer, and Children, are you looking to produce it or to have it optioned?
I wish it were as easy as optioned or sold, so, I've decided to make it short and make it. I wish I could meet the right person.
Alongside writing, you're also a college professor at The Art Institute of Charleston (South Carolina). Can you talk about your teaching experience there, and do you ever find yourself learning from your students?
Well, I was not only a professor of screenwriting for 7 years, I was also a chair of filmmaking at Five Towns College in NY, and the SAE Institute in Atlanta. The pandemic hurt higher education in filmmaking, and I had to downsize to travel trailer and move to a very small town in Florida. Somehow, I've had more success in writing once I left teaching. I miss the students, but I don't miss the politics of higher education.
As a father to a special needs daughter, how do you balance your career with your personal life?
You know, it still seems so difficult to balance my life as a father of a special needs house. All I can say is if it were not for my beautiful wife, I'd pull my hair out. -If I had any.
What are you currently working on?
Right now, I am currently writing a comedy based on the colorful characters I meet at trailer parks. I am amazed at the people I meet. -Colorful.
Would you like to add anything/thank someone?
Of course I want to thank LAFA for this great opportunity and recognition. Also, I want to thank my wife, Alison, for believing in me. I love her so!
Where can our readers follow more of your work? (website, social media, etc?)
If anyone wants to reach out to me on Facebook, my link is: https://www.facebook.com/james.bock.12/