SHAWN BERMAN on film with Rebecca Gransden

What film, or films, made the first deep impression on you?

I’m a huge comedy fan so a lot of the movies that made a huge impression on me when I was younger are all the Adam Sandler ones. I remember being about 10 or so and watching Billy Madison on VHS. I watched it so many times that we had to get a new tape. There’s something special about those ‘90s Sandler films–Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy, The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy. They have a way of comforting me and making me laugh even when things are tough. I guess I would say that the impression they made on me is that to not take things so seriously all the time. Have fun. Be yourself. All that live free Target store bullshit. But it’s true. 

What films first felt transgressive to you? Do you remember being secretive about any films you watched growing up?

My dad is a huge movie buff so I never really had to be secretive about the films I watched growing up. We would often watch them together. That being said, the Saw franchise and Kill Bill were probably some of the first films that exposed me to grittier shit. The first Saw is such an amazing film with so many moral conundrums. People credit Saw for being the grandaddy of the torture porn film genre. Sure, it’s that. But it’s also a slick thriller with incredible writing.

Are there any films that define your formative years?

I’m gonna give a totally Tumblr-film-bro-esque answer but Eternal Sunshine totally blew my mind as a teenager. It was one of the first films that I watched where I was like “Bro, you can do this shit with movies?” Charlie Kaufman really wrote this incredible script filled with existential loneliness and heart. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet have this incredible chemistry on-screen too. That film will forever be on my mind.

What directors, film movements, or particular actors have been an influence?

Charlie Kaufman, Richard Linklater, Terrence Malick, M. Night are some directors that have definitely influenced my writing. All of them share such a strong sense of storytelling and tight scripts.

Thinking about the places you’ve lived, are there any environments that are cinematic? Have you lived anywhere that has been regularly depicted onscreen? If so, has this had an influence on your perception of the place, or how you’ve depicted it in any of your writings?

I live in New York City. It’s so cool to walk outside my apartment and think that there have been so many films that were made just right here. Hell, Home Alone 2 is personally responsible for making me want to move here in the first place. I still get pretty giddy whenever I see the city depicted on the big screen. It’s definitely inspiring. Interestingly, I really don’t write about NYC that much. Not sure why. I always find myself returning back home to where I grew up in Albany. There’s something a little more personal about smaller cities to me.

Are there films you regularly return to, and do you know why?

Her, Tree of Life, Boyhood, Before Sunrise, and 50 First Dates are some I return to a lot. I write a lot about relationships with people and growing up. These films never fail to inspire me.

Are there individual scenes that stay with you?

Probably too many, but here’s a few:

  • Joel and Clementine waking up on the beach in Eternal Sunshine 
  • Happy Gilmore teeing off for the first time
  • Welcome to Jurassic Park
  • Peter Parker and the train scene from Spider-Man 2
  • Samara coming out of the TV in The Ring
  • The twist in The Sixth Sense
  • The ending of Her
  • The midway point of Parasite
  • ALL OF TREE OF LIFE
  • The water scene in Moonlight
  • Bullet time in The Matrix

Which of your writings would adapt most successfully to film?

I’m currently DEEP into the editing process on my YA rom-com novel. I tell people it’s a cross between You’ve Got Mail and High School Musical. I think it would be fun as hell as a film.

Can you give some film recommendations for those who have liked your writing?

  • Her
  • Boyhood
  • Synecdoche; New York
  • The Wedding Singer
  • Chunking Express
  • Before Trilogy
  • Eternal Sunshine
  • Punch-Drunk Love
  • Tommy Boy
  • Yes Man
  • Beverly Hills Ninja
  • Toy Story
  • When Harry Met Sally

Rebecca Gransden lives on an island. She is published at Tangerine Press, Burning House Press, Muskeg, Ligeia, and Silent Auctions, among others. Her books are anemogram., Rusticles, and Sea of Glass.

Shawn Berman runs The Daily Drunk. He is brave enough to admit that the Star Wars sequels rule. Twitter: @sbb_writer.

Art by Crow Jonah Norlander.

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