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.