20 Questions with Caroline Thompson! | Tarreyn Land: 20 Questions with Caroline Thompson!

Friday, May 31, 2013

20 Questions with Caroline Thompson!

Movie-Maker Caroline Thompson has been igniting the imaginations of viewers young and old for over two fascinating decades. Able to jump between genres, make magic come alive, and create characters of true impact, her work makes her an enchanting artist.

Her unique style of writing, direction and more has resulted in modern classics including Edward Scissorhands, Homeward Bound: An Incredible Journey, The Secret Garden, Black Beauty, Buddy, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, The Addams Family, and others!

Having the pleasure of knowing her personally, I was lucky enough to snag an interview with this talented and inspiring woman. 

T: At what age did you know you wanted to make movies and why?

First of all, I want to say what a privilege it is to be invited into Tarreyn Land.  It is a beautiful place.

Okay… to answer the question.  Movies actually scared the shit out of me when I was a kid.  I was four years old when I went to my first movie.  It was my brother's 8th  birthday party.   We were late.  My mother shepherded God-knows-how-many kids to the only available seats left in the theater -- in the front.  In the chaos, I wound up separated from my mom and had to sit between two sneaker-smelly boys I'd never met.  The movie was THE TIME MACHINE.  It was so scary to me I couldn't cry out; I couldn't close my eyes; I couldn't move.  I didn't go back again to the movies for many years.  To me, they are not entertainment.  They are powerful visions that invade your brain.  Who wouldn't want to invade peoples' brains???

T: What films influenced you growing up?

THE TIME MACHINE scared me.  MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, which I saw on tv, enchanted me.  Still does.  In college, CARRIE struck me as the perfect movie.  Still does.  Later, THE ELEPHANT MAN made me bawl like a baby.  Still does.

T: What draws you to specific stories?

I love to laugh… then I love to cry my eyes out.  Those are the stories I want to read, watch and make.

T: How would you describe the difference between adapting a story and creating an original?

In adapting a story, you need to do everything you can to honor the intentions of the original author.  Doing your own story, you are accountable to no one but your muses.

T: What are some of your favorite things about writing? Directing?

I love writing.  Words are libidinous to me.  Directing, I hate.  I don't like so many people looking at me.

T: You work in so many different tones, how would you describe your style of writing?

Actually, I work in one tone.  Whimsical.

T: Do you have any specific rituals for writing, or a particular process?

I go to my office -- a shed outside of the house -- first thing in the morning.  I write five pages, rain or shine.  More pages are too much and throw off my rhythm for the next few days.  Fewer pages doesn't feel right either.

T: Any tips for writer's block?

Write.  Ray Bradbury had a ritual of 1000 words a day.  Do that and you'll discover your voice and your obsessions.

T: Your scripts always have such powerful characters and relationships. - What do you think the key is for writing strong characters?

My best characters have been based on creatures I've loved.  The character of Edward Scissorhands was based on my beloved dog, Ariel, who has been gone for a long time now.  She was so present she could practically speak.  I miss her every day.

T: What made you want to write scripts as opposed to something like prose/novels?

To me, writing scripts is like writing sonnets.  The formal constraints somehow liberate me.

T: What artists inspire or influence you?

All true artists turn me on.

T: You've had such an interesting course professionally, what has been one of your biggest challenges in navigating your career? Any major lessons you've learned or AHA moments?

I am sometimes considered 'difficult.'  But I stick to my guns and fight for the work, not for myself, not for my ego -- for the work.

T: What advice do you have for people aspiring to succeed in your line of work?

Be stubborn… but also be smart.  Know yourself.  Know when you're right.  But also know when you're wrong.

T: After years of working on more "mainstream" projects, you anticipated the major shift towards shorts, independent projects and internet features early on. How do you feel about the different ways movies are being made and distributed today?

The technology has made making and distributing movies accessible to everyone.  That is ridiculously exciting.

T: Anything else you'd like to mention?

Did I mention that Tarreyn Land is a beautiful place?

T: And now for my Five Fundamental Questions:

- What is your favorite cocktail?
I don't drink cocktails.  I drink whiskey.  Irish whiskey.  Bushmills.  Neat.

- What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
Ummm… no one came forward to give me much advice.  I had to make it up as I went along.

- What 3 items, other than food and water, would you take to a deserted island?
My beloved husband, Steve; my horse, Chester; my favorite book, TO THE LIGHTHOUSE.

- What's your biggest Pet Peeve?
I hate lumps in oatmeal.

- If you could befriend one fictional character, who would it be?
Please don't say just one.  I want to be friends with too many!

Thank you, Caroline for your sweet words, excellent advice, intriguing feedback and more! 

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