I first experienced the genius of Larry Blamire entirely by accident. Back in 2002, I took my daughters to a movie called THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA. I honestly don’t know why – I wasn’t prepared for it, hadn’t heard a thing about it.
We were mesmerized. It was one of the funniest, oddest, most bizarre movies I’ve ever seen. A wonderful homage and love letter to 50s science fiction movies, it pulled off the seemingly impossible – it was at once a tribute and parody.
Since then he’s done it again with TRAIL OF THE SCREAMING FOREHEAD, THE LOST SKELETON RETURNS AGAIN and (most wonderfully) in DARK AND STORMY NIGHT.
I was lucky enough to meet Larry at a screening of SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD hosted by Ray Harryhausen at the Aero Theatre in Los Angeles. I’ve counted him a good friend ever since. (I even wangled my way into a cameo appearance in LOST SKELETON RETURNS AGAIN.)
Me: Larry! Do you have a writing routine? What is it?
LB: I have several, depending on the tone of the project and how well I’m tapped into it. For something scary I often play dark ambient music, and for something like STEAM WARS I play movie soundtracks geared to action and adventure. For the LOST SKELETON movies I listen to appropriate vintage scores, especially library music. But other films and especially stage plays, I have nothing playing since it interferes with the “music” of the dialogue.
Aside from mood though, one important technical thing I try to keep reminding myself is; just start writing, don’t be afraid of writing a piece of shit first draft–it’s the only way to know where your script is heading, what it’s about. This is really hard to stick to–our natural inclination is to write something wonderful right off the bat. Fuck that. Another tool I sometimes use is the 3X5 card a la the late Syd Field; basically jotting a few words on a card for each scene then laying them out and rearranging accordingly. It’s a great way to get an overview and help organize your thoughts.
Me: What was your first produced piece of writing?
LB: On stage it was my first play IN THE NATIONS, a dark western that was very well received. It was also my first directorial effort, performed outdoors at the Open Door Theatre in Boston. My first produced piece of film was THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA.
Me: You worked in theater for a long time. What is the biggest difference between theater and movies?
LB: The longest learning curve I’ve ever experienced was transitioning from stage to film. The obvious difference is that stage is dialogue-driven (though I wish film paid as much attention to good dialogue as it once did). As I started writing movie scripts I was always conscious of keeping the action moving, switching locations, etc., including when adapting my plays to screenplays. IN THE NATIONS has probably had 7 or 8 different versions over the years. At one point the producer it was attached to guided its expansion to such ridiculously epic proportions that I lost sight of what the hell the thing was. Nowadays I enjoy the differences in the forms and just recently wrote a new play, and converted one of my screenplays (THE RESTROOM) to stage.
Me: How is directing different from writing?
LB: Wearing those two hats is not nearly as conflicting as the producer hat which can really constrict your writing. But writing and directing I find fairly simpatico since when I’m writing I’m seeing how I’m going to shoot as I go. I also tend to write for specific actors which is extremely helpful in visualizing, and hearing a specific voice. Once on set though you have to be just the director and send your writing self over to craft services to graze and keep his mouth shut.
Me: What is your favorite production of your work?
LB: That’s an easier question than one might think. I like them all for different reasons but as a production, DARK AND STORMY NIGHT was supreme because we were completely immersed in a vivid period set on a soundstage, as close to old school as you can get. It was nice to be contained, sans time-consuming company moves, and there was a richness to it. Perhaps next to that, TRAIL OF THE SCREAMING FOREHEAD, shooting 35mm with a super saturated palette. The director’s cut of course.
Me: You’ve worked with a lot of legends from film. Who was one of your favorites?
LB: This is difficult. Favorite trouper and all-around joy: Betty Garrett. Favorite unpredictable wild man: Kevin McCarthy. Hardest worker: H.M. Wynant (talk about prepared). I am so fortunate to have worked with all these folks.
Me: What are you working on now?
LB: Just finished revising THE LOST SKELETON WALKS AMONG US. I’m so so glad we did not do the Kickstarter for this last year as it is invaluable to have some distance and fine tune. I was happy with it, now I’m very very happy with it. Also overseeing the production of my STEAM WARS graphic novel; four great teams of artists bringing my dream project to life. And that’s just the beginning. Also have a script in the works with my buddy Kyle Rankin (we have another one currently out there getting interest).
Me: What were your major influences as a young writer?
LB: The Scholastic Books editions of Poe short stories I got in school. Blew me away and taught me so much about the value of economy in writing. And a terrific English teacher named David Altshuler encouraged me. Aside from that, seeing every movie I could, and some TV shows. I recently was able to meet writer Bill Wood online, who turned out to be a friend of my pal Jim Beaver. Bill wrote an episode of CIMARRON STRIP called “The Roarer” with Richard Boone. It was absolutely masterful and brilliant and I was able to tell Bill what a huge influence his words had on me, particularly when writing my Irish gang play WHYO.
Me: How do you like performing your own work?
LB: Ah, love-hate. I really enjoy acting. I do. Have since I did stage. But when you come to set and realize you’re not in front of the camera that day, I cannot tell you the sense of relief. It just means it’s that much easier to concentrate on everything else, not worry about lines or anything (and don’t think actor-Larry knows the dialogue already cause he wrote it–different brain there entirely). And what do I go and do? Make myself Dr. Paul Armstrong, at first by default, I thought it would be easier cause I knew what was needed. Now he’s back again in the upcoming LS3. My God, what have I done…?
Me: How long have you been doing science?