screenwriter to watch
Darren Curtis was born in Montreal Canada where he currently lives and works. He studied Liberal Arts and Communications in CEGEP and university. During this time he founded the comedy collective ‘Kidnapper Films’ with a group of childhood friends. They wrote, acted and directed short comedy films inspired by Canadian comedy legends ‘The Kids in the Hall’. The films played festivals all over and after a bunch of failed attempts to upload the videos to the “web” in 2005 – before YouTube, the group decide to produce a feature film – ‘Who is KK Downey?’ Co-directed/written and starring Curtis, the film was acclaimed for its off-beat humour and punk aesthetic. Darren has continued to work in commercials and fashion to pay the bills while developing various screenplays. In 2015, he shot his directorial solo debut ’Boost’, which has played numerous festivals, including Austin, and has been nominated for five 2018 Canadian Scrreen Awards
How did you break in?
Being Canadian we are fortunate enough to have access to government grants to develop projects. After my independent feature’Who is KK Downey?’ received strong reviews, I qualified for Telefilm money. On a whim I wrote a treatment about Montreal’s notorious car theft problem and focused the story on two teenagers living in a neighbourhood never seen before in a Canadian film. The film was called ‘Boost’ and it was completed in 2017. Without Telefilm’s support early on, the film would never have seen the light of day.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
For small budget films where locations, set decoration and additional characters can quickly eat up your budget – think about conveying an idea with a prop rather than more elaborate elements. At the end of my first film ‘Boost’, we needed to convey the protagonist’s growth within the criminal underworld and wanted to have him and his family now living in an expensive apartment. Budget and time wise it wouldn’t work with our schedule so in the final film we opted for an expensive watch on the protagnoist’s wrist we see in closeup. It ended up being stronger visually and saved the production a ton of money
What has been your hardest scene to write?
My first film ‘Boost’, since it was outside of the genre I had the most experience with – comedy. As a drama and thriller the film needed to be very taught and build towards some intense moments. I was extremely worried it would comes off as flat if people weren’t yelling and crying every other scene. Through the process I relized the most important aspect of the story was for the audience to sympathize with the hero, Hakeem, and making his relationship with his best friend feel authentic to get the audince invested in them early. Using some comedic touches and moments in the opening scenes allowed the audience to laugh with these two goofy teenagers and see them as real people. Injecting comedy into the first half of the story helped give dramatic weight to the second half by making us truly care about the well-being of these two relatable kids.
What do you feel was your turning point?
Writing and directing my first feature ‘Boost’ – it was my first solo time directing in a genre I was not known for, drama. I realized how much I loved taking a project from script to shooting as well as working with actors that weren’t my friends from high school. The film has been nominated for five Canadian Screen Awards, three of them are acting noms and I feel a lot of industry people are seeing me now as a director who can get strong performances, especially from younger actors without a ton of experience
What are you working on right now?
A stoner teen comedy based on my parent’s divorce called ‘Flophouse’, a PTSD war vet horor thriller called ‘All Fall Dead’ and another true story about the Hell’s Angels in Quebec
What are your favorite movies?
The Insider, Die Hard, Goodfellas, Flirting with Disaster, Grand Budapest Hotel, Punch Drunk Love, La Haine, Un Prophet.
Who are your favorite screenwriters?
Paul Thomas Anderson, Steve Zaillian, Scott Frank, Eric Roth
What is your most Memorable AFF Moment?
Almost any awards luncheon for the amazing and hilarious stories. Also, cornering the writer Dan Fischer for two hours in a bar right after Wedding Crashers came out asking him in excruciating detail about the process of getting the film made. He was insanely gracious and I remeber thinking these Hollywood people are actually quite approachable and friendly