It was an honor to chat with the talented writer/director who is having a busy 2017. He co-wrote the upcoming animated feature “Rock Dog” (Voiced by Luke Wilson, JK Simmons, Eddie Izzard, Lewis Black), and later this year his feature film “The Whole New Everything” will be playing at a cinema near you. A film he wrote and directed, it stars Julie Delpy and Kevin Dunn.
Matthew Toffolo: Tell us about “Rock Dog”. Why should everyone go see this film?
Kurt Voelker: ROCK DOG is an animated film about a Tibetan Mastiff who decides that instead of being a guard dog, he wants to play rock ’n’ roll. His decision leads him on a wild and very amusing journey. I think everyone should to see it because it’s original, imaginative, funny and has great music. The talent voicing the characters is also extraordinary.
MT: You were the co-writer of “Rock Dog” with the director Ash Brannon. How did this collaborative job work?
KV: I was hired to write a script for the film. Then, when Ash came on board, we collaborated on the story for a while, along with Zheng Jun, the Chinese rock star and author of the graphic novel that inspired the project. Then I moved on to other work, and Ash and Zheng continued working on it.
MT: Are you a director who also writes? Or, a writer who also directs?
KV: I consider myself both, but I suppose since I have done more writing than directing over the course of my career, it would be most accurate to say I’m a writer who also directs.
MT: You have another film coming up (THE WHOLE NEW EVERYTHING) that you wrote/directed. How was your experiences making that film? What are you expectations for it?
KV: It’s a drama starring J.K. Simmons, Julie Delpy, Odeya Rush and Josh Wiggins. It’s based on a script that I wrote about a father and son trying to start their life over after the loss of their wife/mother. It was an amazing experience being able to direct material I had written. We shot it in 24 days, and I am very pleased with how it turned out. In fact, I am going to watch the very final version of it for the first time today. The marketplace for independent films is very crowded of course, but I am cautiously optimistic that the film will find its way in the world. It’s a character piece, and though I am obviously biased, I think the actors’ performances are excellent. My hope is simply that after people see it, they will walk away feeling like it affected them in a positive way and that watching the film was time well spent.
MT: What film, besides the films you worked on, have you watched the most times in your life?
KV: THE BREAKFAST CLUB. It’s five kids stuck in a library for a day, and John Hughes managed to make it hilarious and powerful. Amazing.
MT: In one sentence, what makes a great screenwriter?
KV: To be a great screenwriter, I think you need to have an unending desire to create and a cockroach-like determination to survive whatever happens along the way.
MT: What advice would you have for people who want to be a screenwriter?
KV: This is not original, but I am not sure who said it first. Ass in chair. That’s what it takes. You have to write. Talking about it doesn’t get it done. You have to put your ass in a chair and do it.
MT: Where did you grow up? What working in the film industry something you always wanted to do?
KV: I grew up in Dallas, Texas. Working in the film industry did not occur to me until after I graduated from college and had ruled out all of the obvious career options that I could see around me. For the first time, I asked myself what I would genuinely like to do, and filmmaking was the answer.
Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.