Exclusive Interview: Director Cydney Griffin
In this interview, we get to know Cydney Griffin, a screenwriter and director who is passionate about character development and story structure. He shares his background in narrative production, his creative process for making his first feature film, “What Ever Happened To Dinner?”, and the message behind it.
HI, WELCOME TO ABOUT INSIDER! THANKS FOR TAKING THE TIME TO CHAT WITH US! CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF, WHO IS CYDNEY GRIFFIN IN YOUR OWN WORDS?
I am your average-mannered guy hoping one day to quit his day job and jump full-time into a life of writing and directing movies. Screenwriting has been a serious hobby since I graduated Long Beach State in Narrative Production in 2013. Since then, I have been reading screenwriting books, reading scripts, watching movies, and writing scripts every waking hour of my day. To me, watching a movie is like a race-car driver popping the hood to a car. I need to see how it works, the mechanics that make it move, its strength and weaknesses, and how different concepts produce different results. Just like any other job, I guess. I have spent six years of my life saving the money I used to shoot my first feature, What Ever Happened To Dinner? I hope to get the movie shown at film festivals, but in the mean time, I am still writing other projects I hope to shoot in the future.
CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND AND HOW YOU GOT INTO FILMMAKING?
I love the mechanics behind character development and story structure, the cause and effect behind character psychology, and how they impact the story. I find it interesting how a persons upbringing, and environmental stimuli can trigger people differently, making them into who they are. Storytelling is the complete indulgence into the lives of other people. Seeing this world through the lens of another, I find it very therapeutic, and I have come to develop empathy into the plight of others because of writing. I find writing movie scripts very much like Jack Nicholson looking down at the green-hedge maze in The Shining, sure I could lose myself and go insane in the process; but oh, what fun.
WHAT MESSAGE OR THEME WERE YOU HOPING TO CONVEY THROUGH YOUR FILM?
My movie, What Ever Happened To Dinner? The main message is the effect technology has on the nuclear family. In the story, we see three generations of family members at a dinner table and watch how they react to technology versus how a family is supposed to respond to one another face-to-face. The conflict plays throughout the movie much like a stage play. This is a movie of character dialogue, action, and reaction based upon their upbringing being raised in different generations. What Ever Happened To Dinner? is a testament to the nuclear family–what it was, what it is, and what it could become.
CAN YOU WALK US THROUGH YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS WHEN MAKING THIS FILM?
It started with a single idea. At first, I simply wanted to show how hard it is for a stay-at-home-mother to hold her family together. The movie takes place in a single day, and I wanted to push the idea of Wendy, our main character, not being able to catch a break or connect with her family due to their lack of attention. This single day should convey the difficulty of everyday life, and how we take the jobs and tasks of others for granted.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ASPIRING FILMMAKERS WHO ARE LOOKING TO GET THEIR WORK SEEN ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT?
I just got my seventh rejection TODAY! You cannot focus on what is beyond your control because it blinds you to the forest through the trees. There is a bigger picture, and failure and setback is part of it. Do not let it stop you, it is here to make you stronger. There is a festival out there for you. It is not about your project as much as it is about finding the right fit, and making connections that will move you to the next step. Most of the bigger festival, you almost always need a name or connection on top of having a stellar project. But fear not, if you have the determination, drive, and commitment it takes, you will get to where you want to be…eventually. A wise man once again, ‘if you hang out at a barber-shop long enough, sooner or later you’re going to get a haircut.’
WHAT’S SOMETHING WE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT YOU THAT MIGHT SURPRISE US?
I tell people I write and direct movies, and they find that concept fascinating and exciting. But in reality, I am a very disciplined person. You can set your watch by me. I have been on the same schedule since I graduated college. Sticking to a schedule enables me to achieve the best results in my writing. At this level, I have to write all my projects, therefore I need time to flesh out ideas, and write through countless hours of trial and error. This is the main reason why I have the utmost respect for directors that write their own movies. I believe it is extremely difficult to achieve the level of great directors, like Billy Wilder, or Paul Thomas Anderson, without knowing how to write effectively. Writing is also a lot cheaper than the millions of dollars you would spend on your garden-variety movie. Director Akira Kurosawa says, ‘writing cost almost nothing to do compared to what you spend making the movie.’ The structure of the movie is in the writing. You would be amazed by the movies that get green-lit with scripts lacking a cohesive plot. Welcome to Hollywood, it’s more business than art, and right now it’s in the business era of reboots and franchise films.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE, BOTH IN TERMS OF YOUR FILMMAKING CAREER AND UPCOMING PROJECTS?
Once in film festivals, I would like to find distribution for my upcoming movie, What Ever Happened To Dinner? I am looking to fund my two upcoming projects. Also, I am in the process of writing my fourth feature.
WHAT IS ONE MESSAGE THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO GIVE TO YOUR FANS?
I do not have fans, only like-minded people who appreciate the work I do. I have been working for a while and I believe my work is finally at a point where it can be appreciated, although I am always looking to improve my craft. Simply put, never give up. If you find certain goals easy to walk away from, these are not the goals for you. Writing and directing is a part of me, movies are a part of me. I have been doing it too long to relearn anything else. Even if I stopped for a day–which I have tried, something will come to me, and then I am right back to writing again. What you are meant to do is what you cannot do without.