It has been too long since his last appearance and we are thrilled that Randall Wallace will be back at the Conference this year! A champion of storytelling based on the classic values of love, courage, and honor, Wallace wrote the Academy Award winner BRAVEHEART and the blockbuster PEARL HARBOR. He also wrote, directed, and produced the critically acclaimed WE WERE SOLDIERS and THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK. For his work on BRAVEHEART, he received the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay as well as Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations. Wallace is also the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels and the lyricist of the acclaimed hymn Mansions of the Lord, performed as the closing music for President Ronald Reagan’s national funeral. And, in 1999, Wallace founded Wheelhouse Entertainment. The guy works non-stop.
His most recent project was directing SECRETARIAT, the life story of Penny Chenery, owner of the racehorse Secretariat, who won the Triple Crown in 1973. The film stars Diane Lane, John Malkovich and Scott Glen (who will always be URBAN COWBOY‘s Wes to me) and will be in theaters October 8th, so be sure to check it out!
Check out our interview with Wallace below. Buy your Badge to the Conference now and ask him your own questions in October!
AFF: What recent movies have you liked?
RW: I haven’t had time to see many movies while I’ve been directing Secretariat, but I think that John Lee Hancock did a superb job in designing The Blind Side. The hardest I’ve laughed at any movie in a long time was at The Hangover. I saw Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World just the other day and thought it was fantastically creative.
AFF: How do you approach adapting a novel like Atlas Shrugged into a screenplay?
RW: It’s a challenge. But I don’t shrink from a challenge—and neither do the characters of Atlas Shrugged. The studio wasn’t sure whether it was going to be two movies or three or maybe even a mini-series. When I signed on to write the screenplay, they already had a script of 169 pages, and it only dealt with the first half of the story! I told them “I don’t want to see it or anything else anyone else has written. And it’s either one movie or it’s nothing.” The essence of any great story is lost if it’s not focused, and what was required here was my saying, “this is the narrative spine of this story.”
AFF: What attracts you to tell specific stories?
RW: People ask me how I choose the stories I want to tell. The answer is simple: I look for something that will cause my heart to pound and my soul to soar. My latest movie, SECRETARIAT, which comes out October 8, has those qualities. And that makes me rejoice.
AFF: Would you please describe your writing schedule?
RW: For years I got up every weekday morning to write at the same time, usually at about 5:30am, sometimes earlier if I couldn’t sleep. Now I sleep as long as I can — for 8 hours minimum — before I get up, but I still follow the same routine every morning. I get up, get dressed, and sit down at the computer. I always have a set goal for page count (no more than 5 a day for a screenplay, usually 3 or 4 if I’m not facing a deadline) that I have to hit in order to stop, and I never go over. If I feel like there’s more to write once I get my 4 pages, I jot notes to myself on where I’m thinking the story might go, questions I have, etc. For me, after 4 pages I hit the point of diminishing returns, even if I’m full of thoughts. Once I’m done with my pages, then I eat breakfast and start the rest of my day. Early mornings work well for me because it’s pretty much the time of day when no one is calling on the phone and there’s nowhere else to be. Especially when I’m directing, the only time to write is before the day starts, because once things get rolling, it’s non-stop all day long.
And questions from two registrants:
When you got your big break as a writer was it because of your agent or, did do all the foot work of marketing your writing yourself?
RW: Agents are an anomaly in this business in that the people who don’t have them need them the most. I did a lot of foot work marketing myself early on — sending my manuscripts out to various publishers and facing the wall of rejection until one finally bit — and at the time I did not have an agent. But I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that to someone today. At least in the film business, these days people are so afraid of getting sued that they usually won’t read anything sent to them directly unless it’s sent via an agency. My company is even more strict — we do not take any submissions, whether represented or not — because we develop everything in-house. My first really big break in writing for TV was because a mutual friend set me up with a meeting.
I am a college student studying the art of film through broadcasting. I have dreams of becoming a film producer/director. The directing and acting in Braveheart was amazing and very inspiring. I look forward to the release of Secretariat. I dream of becoming a film director/producer like yourself.
I do have a few questions for you from a student’s standpoint. Where did you go to school? What did you major in? I went to Duke University, and majored in religion, with a minor in Russian How did you get connected into the community of filmmaking?
RW: I’d written several screenplays before I got paying work writing for TV, working for Stephen J. Cannell productions, but in all honesty, it took a long time before I felt connected to the community. I’d written and sold several screenplays before one of them was green-lit, shot, and released. Through all of that, I got to know a lot of the people in the community, and it was one of those people I met early on who ended up giving me a chance to direct.
Check out the full list of panelists here. See you in October!