We are thrilled that Larry Doyle will be joining us as a panelist for the 2010 AFF Conference.
Larry’s first novel, “I Love You, Beth Cooper” won the 2008 Thurber Award for Humor Writing. He wrote the screenplay for the subsequent film, released in 2009. His new novel, “Go, Mutants!” will be released in June 2010; he is adapting that book for Imagine Entertainment and Universal.
Doyle was a writer and producer of “The Simpsons” for four years, and is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker. He also wrote the films “Duplex,” and “Looney Tunes: Back in Action.” More, mostly reliable information is available at larrydoyle.com.
We recently sat him down at his computer and had him answer a few questions for us.
AFF: Was I love You Beth Cooper based on personal experience? It was set at your alma mater, Buffalo Grove High School. Were the settings, such as Old Tobacco Road, real spots where you spent time?
LD: The book, per se, didn’t happen, but I would have liked it to. I set it at my high school mostly so I wouldn’t have to come up with a terrible name for a high school (e.g. Spiro T. Agnew H.S., Fawning Meadows High) and that tied me into using the local geography. The Buffalo Grove in the book is a mix of the town I grew up in (Tobacco Road), and the town it became (the strip malls are current), and some satirical invention (the McMansion subdivision.) The Buffalo Grove in the movie is Buffalo Glenn, and it’s Vancouver.
By the way, if you go here, you can find an annotation I had to do for Fox legal, describing everything in the first draft of the movie that was real, invented, or some combination.
AFF: You’ve written for television, magazines, movies, and novels. How does the focus of your writing change between mediums?
LD: It’s all writing for me. The important things are the same. Story and Character. (Even in journalism). The differences:
People in TV and movies don’t like prose. Unless you’re Tarantino, you keep your writing out of the stage directions.
In TV and Movies, somebody else is the Artist. You have to create your stuff within theirs.
Writing novels is the most fun, but living in a house with heat and electricity is more fun.
AFF: It seems most of your television credits are for animated shows. Is there something that attracts you to that style of show?
LD: I love cartoons, but that wasn’t what drew me to “The Simpsons.” I wanted to write for them because it was the best comedy writing being done anywhere.
AFF: You wrote the screenplay for 2003’s “Looney Toons: Back in Action.” Is it easier to write for original characters, like Brendan Frasier’s character, or pre-established characters, such as Bugs Bunny?
LD: If it’s a great character, like Daffy Duck or Homer Simpson, it’s much easier because all the hard work has been done. It always sounds new-age creepy to say this, but the characters really do seem to speak to you. When I was on the Simpsons, after awhile I could pitch lines as a character and it would feel as if I was hearing the line for the first time as I said it. This can also happen with original characters, but it takes much longer for their personalities to sink into your subconscious. And of course, I haven’t created a character as great as Daffy Duck or Homer Simpson.
AFF: What was your first big break?
LD: My girlfriend broke up with me, and I went crazy. I subsequently wrote a piece about it, and it became my first New Yorker casual. This lead to many great things, in a very roundabout way. I wrote at length about that here and here.
AFF: This will be your first time at the Austin Film Festival. What are you most looking forward to? Any panelists you’re looking forward to seeing or meeting?
LD: There will be several great writers there I know — Derek Haas, Jeff Lowell, Craig Mazin, John Turman — and a couple who I’ve only met online — John August and John Lee Hancock — who will be great to hang out with. I’d also love to meet Mary Coleman, because I goddam love everything Pixar does.
Want to know who else is coming in for the 2010 AFF Conference? The panelist list is up here and new names are being added every week, so be sure to check back with us regularly.