Zack talks about the inspiration for Rim of the World, working with a cast of young actors, and writing Big Trouble in Little China script starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson inspired by the cult classic!
My advice to writers trying to break in? Hone your craft. Study the movies and tv shows you love, break them down and analyze what makes them work for you. Then try and find your own unique things to say. Oh, and move to LA. You need to be here to break into the industry, which is very much about personal contacts and networking.Zack Stents advice to writers looking to break into the field.
I had the pleasure to send Zack Stentz a few questions about working with Netflix on Rim of the World, new projects and writing advice.
Was the inspiration for ‘Rim of the World’ from your childhood? I went to camp a little as a child, but the inspiration for the movie came much more from my own kids’ camp experiences. Two of them actually go to an adventure camp in the San Bernardino Mountains on Rim of the World Highway, and it was on one of the many trips up and down those mountains that the idea for the film came to me.
Is Rim of the World a Goonies comedy about misfit kids? While the film begins as more of a broad, Goonies-style adventure-comedy, in my mind the tonal touchstone for the film was more Stand By Me. Kids on a journey learning things about each other and themselves. I think audiences are going to be surprised by the emotional places the film goes.
I love the cast did you write it with inclusion in mind? In updating the classic kid adventure movies for the 21st Century, I really wanted the kids to reflect the population of Southern California and the US in the 21st Century, where half of all American kids are non-white. It also gave me a chance to put a fresh spin on classic characters. Dariush, for example, begins the movie as a classic rich kid bully…the kind of character who would have been played by a blond James Spader or Billy Zabka in the 80s. It felt much more fresh & interesting to make the character half-black and half-Persian, and it let us cast Benji Flores, who’s both incredibly funny and capable of going to deep emotional places which you’ll see in the movie.
You’ve worked in Geek Movies with your turn in MCU what did you learn from writing those scripts that you brought into ‘Rim of the World’? Honestly, the lessons I brought to Rim of the World came much more from writing for genre TV shows like The Flash and Fringe. I always knew this wasn’t going to be a 150 million dollar movie, and TV really taught me how to use action and spectacle strategically while relying on drama and character for most of the movie
Was McG the director you had in mind while working on the script? Were you hands on during filming with updating the script as filming went on? McG came onboard pretty early in the process as the film came together, and was a wonderfully collaborative director. He and a very talented young writer named Jimmy Warden did their own pass on the script to reflect his sensibilities, but McG was incredibly generous about including me in the process throughout, and I was on set every day doing rewrites and consulting with him about emotional intention and story logic.
What’s it like working with such a young cast of kids? Working with kids was simultaneously great and challenging. Our kids were wonderfully talented and great at taking direction, but kids have very strict regulations on the number of hours they’re allowed to work, so we had to rush to make our schedule and not run over– an extra challenge because McG and the DP Shane Hurlbut worked incredibly hard to make the film look like a much bigger movie than it was.
It must be exciting to have your first Netflix movie released on the platform. What’s it like working within the game change of streaming platforms? It’s been tremendous working with Netflix. And while it’s a strange adjustment having my film debut on a streaming platform instead of in theaters, it also makes it much easier for it to reach a big audience, and of course I wrote this film for people to see!
What’s your writing process? My process for writing is pretty simple. I take an idea I can’t get out of my head, build out who the characters are and then let them tell me what kind of a story they want to be in. In this case, it was a group of troubled but likable 21st Century kids on a journey together.
Working on cult classic like Big Trouble in Little China how do you respect the original movie but still make it your own? When my former writing partner and I wrote our Big Trouble In Little China remake, we saw it as an opportunity to both do a tribute to a film we loved and take the story in new and fun directions, both in tailoring the hero to Dwayne Johnson’s unique persona and taking advantage of 2019 technology in helping realize the fantastical world beneath Chinatown.
I am excited about the new platforms offering opportunities for more original content that up and coming writers and actors can get experience similar to the ‘movie of the week’ in the 80’s. Are you planning to take advantage of the need for original content to pitch small budget projects to Netflix, Amazon and other platforms? Absolutely I plan to! I’m waiting until hopefully this one is successful but I have several other movies either in script or outline stage I’d love to take to the SVOD platforms. It’s a huge opportunity and they need original content, especially as the big studios are starting their own platforms and taking their back libraries behind their own paywalls (a la Disney plus.)