Interview: Josh Dobkin

December 5th, 2009 by has a couple of new interviews. This one is with screenwriter Josh Dobkin:

Josh Dobkin was born in Wheeling, West Virginia, but grew up in Pittsburgh. He graduated from the film school Full Sail in Orlando. A month after graduation he moved to Los Angeles and started working as an on-set production assistant on Without a Trace. Shortly after that he landed at Scrubs and has been the Art Department coordinator since the end of Season 5. His sale of The Field to Stone Village hit the trades this past January. Josh and his writing partner are repped by Langley Perer at Benderspink.

The interview covers how Dobkin wound his way into The Biz. This excerpt is particularly relevant given the question we tackled yesterday about the importance (or lack thereof) of a a college education re a screenwriting career:

Did you study film and writing in college? Where did you go to school?

I didn’t originally, because I didn’t know you could actually make a living in this business. For me, and I think most people can relate, Hollywood was so distant, so exclusive, a club I’d never get invited into. As far as I knew you had to be born into that lifestyle. So when I went to school I picked something reasonable and more attainable, computer science. It was about a year and a half into it when I realized I loathed programming and was horrible at it… but I was having a fun time writing for my lit classes and getting great grades in them.

I was never really a “great” student. But I could usually bullshit my way through a report by manipulating the words on the page. I might not really know what the hell I’m writing about, but bet your ass it’s going to seem like I do on paper.

I quit school and moved back home to work and sort through some personal stuff, e.g., what the hell do I want to do with the rest of my life. I still haven’t figured everything out. But one day when I was watching cable a movie came on called Clay Pigeons, and in the opening, the credit was “A film by David Dobkin” and I just about shit. I thought to myself, “Who the hell is this guy and how is a guy with my last name making movies?” I started looking at film schools and programs with the thought that I could do it too. I had someone on the inside, a Dobkin. This guy can get me the golden ticket. I can make it!

So I picked an “intensive” film program (i.e., “expensive”) down in Orlando called Full Sail. While I was there I had some correspondence with his assistant, which I completely geeked on at the time. In my mind I was making headway, people were going to know me when I moved out to L.A. I’d have no trouble finding work… What the fuck was I thinking!? Right about halfway through film school Wedding Crashers came out and did HUGE money. All of a sudden this guy who might be my eighth cousin twice removed was a hot director. My correspondence went from “Hey, how you doing” to “Hey, what the fuck do you want?” in the blink of an eye. And to clarify, I didn’t expect to be catapulted to the upper echelons overnight. My real thought was this guy knows the ropes—maybe dude can shed some light on how to get started getting an entry level job. I’m a dreamer but I’m not delusional.

Here’s how they came up with the idea for their selling spec script The Field:

In January 2009, you and your writing partner Sean Wathen sold your spec script The Field to Stone Village Pictures. Can you tell us a little about the script? What was the genesis of the idea? What was the collaborative process like?

The whole idea came about while we were sitting in traffic to and from the San Diego Comic-Con (and that is a long-ass time). We just started talking about old horror movies and the things that used to scare us when we were younger. One of the experiences we both shared was wandering off into a corn field at night and getting lost. Your mind races out there in the dark when you’re young. Anything and everything is possible, the scariest creature from a movie you watched could be sitting right in front of you. So we just ran with it. We sat down and threw every idea out there, a whole book of “what ifs.” Once we had that, we started working out the story. Why are we in this field, who are these people we’re with, and what is the outcome when and if we reach the end of this journey?

I think the reason the script resonated with people is the setting and simplicity of the situation the characters are in. It’s a setting most people can visualize when they’re reading through it. Everyone has an idea in their head of a “field,” and everyone knows what its like to feel lost and alone. Layer in the horror elements—a group of strangers, something in the darkness hunting you, obstacles with tragic consequences—and the thing kind of writes itself.

This was truly our first collaborative project together. We would always work through our individual projects together, but never once had we sat down and started a brand new concept together. So in essence all the previous scripts were just dates, and this was the first one where we, uh… did it.

Interesting to note that even though Dobkin sold The Field, he’s still working on “Scrubs.”

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