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An Interview with Matthew Papadopoulos on the 'The Real Thing' Script

Please tell us about your background. What made you fall in love with cinema? How did you become interested in writing screenplays?

I’m a film buff: I’ve watched movies from an early age (pre-teen) and have seen just about anything – from the 1930s to now – that’s worthwhile (and a lot that wasn’t).

I fell in love with cinema when I saw the comedy shorts and films of Laurel and Hardy.

Screenwriting is something I’ve tried recently (The Real Thing is my first screenplay). However, I’m no stranger to fiction writing: my short stories were deemed ‘exceptional’ and publishable by my high school English teachers, and the only downside was the nerve-wracking experience of reading them in front of the class!

Which filmmakers and screenwriters influenced you? What are some of the films and screenplays that affected you the most?

With regard specifically to my screwball comedy screenplay The Real Thing, the work of Laurel & Hardy, Buster Keaton, The Marx Brothers, Preston Sturges, Hepburn and Grant, Ernst Lubitsch, and Woody Allen have all been influences - if not consciously, then certainly by osmosis.

In the genre of Comedy the films that have influenced me the most are: Animal Crackers (1930), Sons of The Desert (1933) Bringing Up Baby (1938), The Shop Around the Corner (1940), The Philadelphia Story (1940), The Lady Eve (1941), The Palm Beach Story (1942), The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944), Some Like It Hot (1959), Annie Hall (1977), and When Harry Met Sally (1989).

Screenwriters, however, are a different matter: I’ve only read a handful of screenplays after I wrote The Real Thing. Mon Dieu! Yes, this is something that I should rectify… but I can’t help feeling that if you have a story to tell, find your own ‘voice’ to tell it (as long as you’re fully acquainted and confident in using the ‘grammar’ of screenwriting).

What are the themes/issues you try to reflect in your work? What, in your opinion, is the most important quality of a screenplay?

I’m fortunate that my academic background in Philosophy allows me to delve into most themes and issues that are considered ‘deep’ – the trick, however, is to embed these in a screenplay in such a way to avoid didacticism and appear organic to the story.

Finding a way to resonate with the reader on an emotional level that invites thought and action is the most important quality of a screenplay (no matter what the underlying themes and issues of the screenplay may be).

What do you think is the most challenging part of being a writer? How can one overcome it?

Ideas are easy, but structuring the story of a screenplay in a manner that does full justice to an idea and elicits a strong emotional response from the reader… that’s the challenge.

The best way to achieve the requisite structure that a screenplay demands is to outline in detail. Most problems can be seen and fixed at this stage without getting near to typing FADE IN.

Where did the idea for The Real Thing come from? Was it from your own experiences?

The Real Thing may be a narrowly focused screwball comedy, but its themes are deep and wide and relevant to now, and involve a certain type of technology and its human impact that I wanted to tackle - before the technology reaches the level that I’ve portrayed.

I won’t deny that some of the issues regarding ‘love’ have an autobiographical element – and as far as that goes, it was an emotional high to write these scenes and revisit these feelings.

What is your creative process? Do you visualize each and every scene when writing a script?

1) Finding an idea or theme that interests me and, if properly developed, would affect most people on an emotional level;

2) Develop the characters that can bring this idea to life;

3) Combine the two together and write a logline (one or two sentences) that elicits your story (if you can’t do this satisfactorily then you won’t have a good story for Hollywood);

4) Outline the story’s structure to best effect;

5) Write the screenplay;

6) Re-write, re-write, re-write…

Mercifully, re-writing won’t be an ordeal if you’ve done the previous steps well.

Visualizing each scene when writing the screenplay (‘the movie playing in your head’) is a natural thing that I do and is one of the best ways of gauging if a scene works.

What do you think about having a career as a professional screenwriter? Is it easier now to be a screenwriter and find producers for your work?

Thanks to The Real Thing, I’m now repped by a terrific literary manager. The next step (for both of us) is to find the right producer who will love the screenplay as much as they should…

It shouldn’t feel easier to be a screenwriter now, but it does: good representation means that your future work will get out there to producers without first having to be validated by screenwriting contests.

Tell us about your festival run. Have film festivals provided you with the experience and exposure you needed? What is your opinion about how festivals can help screenwriters with their career?

Since starting its festival run in June 2019, The Real Thing has notched up 40 Winner, 36 Finalist, 16 Semi-Finalist, 11 Quarter-Finalist, 2 Other, and 16 Official Selection awards… so it would be an understatement to say that film festivals have provided the exposure I needed.

Film festivals are a good indicator to see how your screenplay fares against others and, most importantly, can provide an avenue to finding good representation.

What was the reaction of those who read your work? Was the feedback what you hoped for?

The Real Thing’s most prestigious win was at the New Media Film Festival (15 August 2020), where award presenter and judge for screenplays Chelsea Lo Pinto (Director of HBO Program Strategy & Planning) stated that the winner of Best Script "exemplifies these qualities [innovation and vitality] and, most importantly, adds something to the genre that is unexpected and new".

And, more recently, The Monkey Bread Tree Film Awards (12 July 2021) had this to say in their review: “Hilarious, solid concept for an easy sale. With the right director this could be a seriously fun experience to watch.”

MANY readers have had a blast reading the screenplay, and these comments highlight the general reaction that it has received. Of course, you can’t please everyone – and this is especially the case in the Comedy genre where variations in personal taste are extreme!

Overall, the feedback has ranged from those who completely misunderstood what the screenplay was about to those who ‘got’ it and waxed lyrical about its virtues.

What do I think? It’s a page-turner – but behind the screwball comedy facade, you won't find a more contained or grounded Sci-Fi screenplay with the most urgent and weighty themes that will be hotly debated.

Please tell us about your future project(s). What are you working on?

I’m currently doing research for a political thriller/coming-of-age story whose premise is original and high-concept… and that’s the best way I know to avoid any possible polarization issues.


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