On Monday, Nov. 30, byteclay.com was on the red carpet for The Independent Filmmaker Project’s 25th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards. The glamorous ceremony was held at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City. The Independent Filmmaker Project champions the future of storytelling by connecting artists with essential resources at all stages of development and distribution. Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson hosted the evening. They were hilarious. The evening was presented by euphoria Calvin Klein, the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward Office of Film, Music and Entertainment, FIJI Water, Maestro Dobel Tequila and Line 39 Wines.
Winning the Best Feature, Best Screenplay, and a Special Jury Award for Ensemble Performance was “Spotlight.” The powerful film was directed by Tom McCarthy. It recounts the story of the Boston Globe investigative unit’s coverage of the Archdiocese’s handling of the Boston sex abuse scandal in 2002. McCarthy shared Spotlight’s Best Screenplay win with co-writer Josh Singer. Cast Liev Schreiber, Billy Crudup, Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, Brian d’Arcy James, John Slattery and Mark Ruffalo were also in attendance. Read our exclusive interviews below:
Shaina Moskowitz: How did you get involved with “Spotlight”?
Josh Singer: I was approached by Nicole Rocklin and Blye Pagon Faust through my managers Michael Sugar and Steve Golin, who are also producers on the project. Tom was already on the project. I had a Skype call with him. I had just written the script for “The Fifth Estate,” also about journalism and I certainly had more to say. Tom fortunately decided to bring me on board and it was a pretty great collaboration ever since.
SM: Speak about the process of writing this?
JS: The thing that was challenging is that we didn’t have a book, so there was no real road map. But what we did have was the reporters. I spent a week with Mike Rezendes sort of getting the basic facts. Then Tom and I started going to Boston and sitting with Robby and Marty and Sacha and the whole gang, and it was through those interviews that we really got a sense of how the story broke and also the personalities. What was fun is as Tom and I were doing that research and we talked to almost everybody you meet in the film. We were also learning how to work together. So it was a pretty great experience of us breaking the story by talking to all these people who had broken the story. So in that way I guess it was art imitating life imitating art.
SM: What were some of the challenges?
JS: I think on the one hand we were very fortunate from the moment we hit production onward. Tom and cast were an incredible group, and they’re getting recognized tonight because they all brought it, but getting to that point was pretty challenging. We had a script that made the blacklist back in 2013 and it was very touch and go in terms of whether this film was gonna make it, and I think it’s just hard to make ensemble films these days. I think it was a real challenge to get it financed, but now that we have, hopefully the film will do well and continue to connect with audiences.
SM: How did you get your start in writing?
JS: I went to law school, and knew pretty early on I didn’t want to be a lawyer. I sort of found the writing bug while I was there, and I started just writing on my own, and very quickly moved out to LA after grad school, and was fortunate enough to land a gig at “The West Wing” and was mentored by some incredible writers … I was very fortunate to be in a writers room where I spent three years learning from a lot of great folks.
SM: Speak about making the transition from TV to film.
JS: For me TV was writing other people’s worlds and other people’s characters and I loved writing on “The West Wing” and I loved writing the other shows I wrote on. But I started wanting to spread my wings a little bit, and trying write my own stuff. I wrote a spec feature, which got noticed and it plugged me into “The Fifth Estate.” It was a lot of luck and me just trying to do more than I was doing on TV.
SM: What does this win mean to you today?
Brian d’Arcy James: Well it’s an extraordinary honor for me because I’m a part of this incredible group of actors with or without a recognition as an ensemble. Then to have the right to say that I’m a part of that group and what we’ve done is making people take notice for me is a huge honor. I have so much respect and regard for Mark and Michael, Rachel and Billy. We have all of these incredible actors. To be just a small part of that equation is just a huge deal for me.
SM: How did you create that energy of the newsroom?
BDJ: I have to give credit to Tom and Josh who created the words on the page and created a template for us and of course we have this set that is already there that basically replicates it to a T. Those are huge components obviously and then what we can bring to it as actors is having familiarity as much as we could with getting to know the people that we were portraying in real life. In my case Matt Carol, trying to understand how he did his job, why he did his job. All those questions that actors ask particularly when you’re representing a real person. I think we felt duty bound, I’ll speak for everybody, to really honor what these people did in all of the mundane and all of the exciting ways. There’s more of the former than the latter when you’re working in journalism, not a very sexy depiction of the workplace. But the result is also paradigm shifting in terms of the impact in can have on society so I think that’s what this film does. It shows that these people who did that particular story and long lead investigative journalism is a necessity for us to flourish as a society.
SM: Given the serious subject matter, how was the set?
BDJ: But to your point about the set it was also quite a pleasant experience which is a strange way to think of it because it was so dreadful and dark but I think we all were on the same page and we all had such a great time together and such a high level of respect for each other that it was really quite pleasant and fun. We’re always looking for that release when we weren’t actually doing these scenes to kind of balance out what it was that we were living with day to day getting in to that story.
SM: What was it like for you to sit down with the real man?
BDJ: An honor, nerve-wracking in a way because you want to inspire confidence in him to make him believe that he’s going to be represented in the right way. I think what I took away from that and I’ve talked about it many times is how I’m a family man, he’s a family man and it’s hard for anyone man or woman to balance the professional life and the personal life especially when it comes to raising children. I know it took a big impact on his family because this story just inundated him. So I really was able to key in to that and I really respect that in terms of what he did to get this story and how he had to deal with that with his family and the love they gave him to support him and go through that with him.