Karl Mather and Jack Wareham are two very talented Australian screenwriters (Karl (left) and Jack pictured above just prior to hoisting a pint with “Mr. Fourex”).
Karl and Jack recently penned a gritty one hour teleplay entitled “Born to be Wild”, which won top prize in Filmmatic’s TV Pilot Awards. We asked the boys to answer a few questions for us, their responses are below:
1) How long have you each been writing?
Karl: Well, I’ve been an advertising copywriter for thirty years, so I guess you could say all my working life. I wrote my first attempt at a film script about 15 years ago (I’m still rewriting that one from time to time), but in the last couple of years I’ve been really trying to spend more time on my film and TV writing.
Jack: I’ve been writing film and TV scripts with Karl for about 10 years. Like Karl, I started writing in the advertising industry writing treatments and ideas as a TVC director.
2) What screenwriting training have you received?
Karl: No formal training. I’ve read all the books and watched a lot of movies, the good, the bad and the ugly. I think the single most useful piece of advice I got was from a screenwriter called Philip Shelby who told me to read How not to write a screenplay by Denny Flinn. Instead of imposing unbreakable rules about storytelling arcs and when to save the moggy, it simply points out basic mistakes that inexperienced writers make so you can avoid them and allows you to develop your own voice.
Jack: Also no formal training but a lot of hands on experience as a cinematographer and director transforming scripts into motion picture images. I’ve been fortunate to work on classic films like the The Thin Red Line and that is a script that I’ve held onto and cherished. I’ve also experienced a lot of bad scripts and no matter how much smoke and mirrors you create you can never make chicken salad out of chicken shit. So I understand the value of the script and this piqued my interest in screenwriting and getting involved early so the film production becomes the icing on the cake.
3) How long have you been writing together as a team? Is this your only co-authored work?
Karl & Jack: Not sure when we first started collaborating. We’ve known each other for more than 10 years now and we’ve got a few projects that have our names on them, ranging from short films to TV pilots to two completed feature scripts and a third on the way.
4) What writing habits work for each of you? Do you write in short or long shifts, binge writing or scheduled sessions?
Jack: The way we work tends to be that we come up with the storyline together, then Karl does the first draft and then we get together again and talk about revisions. My role is more about the broad strokes of story themes and plotlines.
Karl: I write when I can fit it around the day job. I tend to write in longhand in notebooks during the week and type it up at weekends. I like to know what the beginning and end of a story is before I start, but I don’t mind if the way we get from A to B develops differently from our initial idea as the characters come to life. I don’t write a set number of pages a day or for a set number of hours, I prefer to set myself a deadline of a date that I have to be finished by. That probably comes from working in advertising for so long, it provides the discipline you need as a writer.
5) What genres do you lean towards? Are all of your works gritty action pieces?
Jack: In general, yes. That’s the kind of thing we gravitate towards. We’ve got stories about law enforcement in the Straits of Singapore, pioneering frontiersmen building a railway in the middle of a desert and a TV pilot about a no-job-too-dirty Mister Fixit for the men who built modern Australia – a sort of Ray Donovan set in the 1920s but with Hugh Jackman’s accent and far more blood. Having said that, the script we’re working on now is a little bit different, more of a gentle emotional piece.
Karl: But it has big set piece action scenes in it.
Jack: Yeah. Gentle, emotional, big action scenes.
6) Our judges loved “Born to be Wild”, how would you describe the pilot to our readers?
Karl & Jack: The logline we use is: In 1970s Las Vegas, brothers Nate and Jed lead the Dirt Bike Desperados on an adrenalin-fuelled ride of robberies, heists and hold ups that has the cops confused and the public hooked. But one wild girl is about to change everything.
Jack: We were talking about films we love one day and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a mutual favourite. We started wondering how we would update it. Born to be Wild came out of that. It developed into something quite different but at its core is the relationship between two brothers and that was inspired by Butch and Sundance.
Karl: The pilot is all about drawing the initial gang members together and laying the seeds of intrigue and confrontation. We know Nate and Jed are career criminals but they’re likeable rogues, so we’re happy to go along for the ride. The local cop is one mean son of a bitch and he’s out to make their lives hell, but the most dangerous character by far is Sandi Munro, who comes into the story as Jed’s love interest but who will stop at nothing to escape the life she was born into. She’s a whip smart, manipulative, conniving, genuine femme fatale.
7) “Born to be Wild” seems like a very viable project. Any 3rd party interest thus far? Where/how are you shopping it?
Karl: To be honest, all we’ve done with it so far is entered it in a few screenwriting contests to see how it was received. So far, the pilot has won at the Rome Prisma Film Awards 2019, been a semi-finalist in Creative Screenwriting Unique Voices Screenplay Competition 2019 and of course won the Filmmatic TV Pilot Awards 2019.
Jack: So if anyone out there would like to help us take it to the next level, ask Filmmatic how to get in touch.
8) What are you working on now? What do you plan on writing in the near future?
Karl & Jack: We have a couple of projects we’re working on. We’ve just finished the script of a big budget action feature set in Singapore that tells the story of an idealistic young Asian female US DEA agent who has to work with a hard-nosed Chinese Customs Officer and his elite squad to take down a drug cartel, but the investigation also leads her to discover the truth about the murder of her grandfather – think Die Hard meets Crazy Rich Asians.
And we’ve begun the first draft of Lonely Planet, a story set in the future about love and relationships and what happens when an AI programmer smuggles his eight-year old daughter aboard the space station he works on when his ex-wife decides to get married again.
8) Any advice for those about to write their first TV pilot or feature?
Karl: Keep at it. The hardest part isn’t starting a script, it’s finishing one. Once you know you can write sixty pages or a hundred, everything else is just craft and practice.
Jack: Adding to that, once you have a completed script, competitions and festivals are great ways to validate and improve them, so I would advise to get your work out there and take on board criticism that can improve your work.
Congratulations once again to Karl Mather and Jack Wareham, the Season 4 TV Pilot Awards winners. All contact requests for Messrs. Mather and Wareham will be forwarded to their attention.