by John Bucher (@johnkbucher)
Bob Farkas has been working for more than 30 years to see one of his stories make it to the screen. In January, that dream is finally coming true. His script Crazy Famous explores the idea of how far someone would go to find notoriety and stars Gregory Lay (Casual Encounters, Blue Bloods), Richard Short (Vinyl, 666 Park Avenue), Ajay Naidu (Office Space, Bad Santa) and Catherine Curtin (Orange is the New Black, Stranger Things) and was directed by Paul Jarrett (Deadly Devotion).
LA Screenwriter’s John Bucher sat down with Farkas to talk about the journey that brought his script to the screen.
John Bucher: Let’s talk about how this story idea came to be. Are you the Bob in the film?
Bob Farkas: No, it’s not autobiographical. Actually, the germ of the idea came about because of my years as a volunteer coach for youth travel basketball teams. I would come across so many helicopter parents that wanted their kids to be famous. They were taking them to trainers and sport psychologists — all this crazy stuff. And as you’ll notice in the movie, what drives Bob, the lead character, is that his parents planted the seed that you really don’t have much value unless you’re famous for something.
That’s what I wanted to get across to the audience — that it really wasn’t Bob’s desire. He’s trying to fulfill the whims of his parents. That’s really what drives him to become famous, to the point where he gets out of a mental institution and talks to his parents, and they’ve moved on by adopting other local kids that have a better shot of being famous than him.
John Bucher: That’s a great premise to work from. It doesn’t sound like that you were camped outside of the studios here in LA to sell a script to make things happen. What was the writing process like? How did you decide to try and bring this story into script form?
Bob Farkas: I’m in my early 50s right now, and since my early 20s I wanted to be a screenwriter. My older brother went to USC film school, and he was editing films in the same trailers as George Lucas, who also went to USC. He made a feature film back in the 80s called Prime Risk and it was financed by my father. It was on HBO and it had a limited theatrical release. It was a success because they made their money back. But my brother didn’t like criticism, and you can’t be a movie director if you don’t like criticism.
So, he came back to the DC area and ended up doing training videos and such. He didn’t like the Hollywood lifestyle, but I, as the younger brother, was watching what he was going through on this film. I was immediately attracted to the screenwriting part of it. My cousin, who worked at Paramount studios back in the day, showed me a reading room with thousands of scripts piled on top of each other. She basically told me, “Don’t be a screenwriter. The only way you’re gonna get a script made into a film is if you do it yourself. It’s too competitive. You can’t raise a family on this. Don’t even bother.”
I said to myself, “Well, I’m not gonna give up on this dream because this is something I really want to do.” So I put that ambition on the shelf and I started a business in marketing in a completely different industry. Fast forward 30 years later. I have the resources and the financing to make a film, and so I took one of the five scripts I wrote over the 30 years late at night while the kids were sleeping called Crazy Famous. I took that and I said, “This is the one. If I have one shot to make a feature film. I want it to be about something that I think everybody can relate to,” versus my other screenplays, which were more for niche audiences. That’s basically why I’m a first-time filmmaker/screenwriter at the ripe old age of 53.
John Bucher: I think that’s going to be encouraging and inspirational to a lot of people, though. I know a lot of people that are trying to figure out how to bring their story to an audience. You’re someone that didn’t go the traditional route, but you got your movie made and you’ve got people talking about it. Can you talk about why you think this film resonates with people psychologically? What is going on inside people that we need fame? Why is that part of the cultural psyche right now, do you think?
Bob Farkas: Well, social media and the internet has given birth to exactly who Bob, the lead character, is — an average person with no special talent or skill that wants to stand out for something. In the old days, people wanted to stand out and be famous for something noble, like curing some disease or creating a song that shakes people’s soul and makes them feel better and lifts them. Nowadays, people don’t care whether it’s noble or not.
Actually, it is very topical. You have guys jumping the White House fence right now to get their 15 minutes of fame. And some people are risking their reputations and livelihoods to be known for anything. It’s concerning. The need to be famous must address some deep-rooted psychological need in order for so many people to be chasing after the same thing, I think.
If you’re an accountant who’s worked for a firm for 15 years, you get a gold watch and maybe you stand in front of your fellow co-workers and they recognize you, and you’re happy. You’re recognized within your own little world. And there’s a lot of people like that, that want to be recognized just with their own family or their community. But with social media, with the Bubble Boy, with “Charlie Bit My Finger” and all these viral videos that you see, it seems like almost everybody with a Facebook account is posting videos with a deep-seated ambition that maybe this will go beyond my 500 friends, and maybe millions of people will see it. And it seems like so many people all over the world now are just doing anything and everything to get noticed, to get famous. Hopefully the movie will be not only entertaining for folks, but will also be something that will start a conversation after they watch – to make them ask, why do we want to be famous?
John Bucher: What advice would you give to those who are not living in Los Angeles, but still trying to get their work seen and their films made?
Bob Farkas: My advice would be, whether you’re on a shoestring budget, no budget, or you have some resources, get your film made. And most likely, if you want to get a film made, you have to do it yourself. For talented screenwriters, there’s going to be an audience and there’s going to be people in the industry that will want to work with you. But for most of us, even if you have talent, a lot of times you have to promote yourself and your work and get it out there. If you don’t have the resources to do it, find somebody who does have the resources to do it, and get that film made. Even if it’s an ultra-low-budget film, because again, there are so many outlets for your work that, once it’s made, if it’s quality, it’ll get picked up, and that’ll be a chance for you to do other films on a bigger and broader scale. So, do it. Don’t just talk about it. Do it. Get it done.
CRAZY FAMOUS will be available on VOD, Digital HD and DVD on January 9, 2018.
John Bucher is a writer, speaker, and story consultant based out of Los Angeles. He is the author of several books including The Inside Out Story and Master of the Cinematic Universe: The Secret Code to Writing in the New World of Media. He has written for entities ranging from HBO to U.S. Ambassadors. He teaches at The LA Film Studies Center and has conducted story seminars on five continents. He can be reached on Twitter @johnkbucher and through his site, tellingabetterstory.com.