Character Driven Drama
Malik Deanes is a recent Film Connection graduate, who is set to head off to California to pitch his first script, a crime drama entitled, Lonely. I sat down with Malik to discuss his script, film, and the program.
How did you become interested in film?
I love to write and to tell stories. I started writing music, but I’m from Chicago, and everybody you know makes music, and I wanted to stand out. I took a personality test, and was trying to figure out what I wanted to do as a career. The test told me I was best suited for a creative field. I looked into a few fields, but I was most comfortable with screenwriting. It’s the best decision I’ve made in my life.
Who are some of your favorite screenwriters and filmmakers?
I’m studying Ice Cube. John Singleton is a big one for me. Spike Lee. Jordan Peele. Ryan Cooglar.
You said you enjoy storytelling, what kinds of stories do you like to tell?
My first feature-length is entitled Lonely, and is a crime drama. But, I want to get to a point where I can write for a broad array of audiences. I’m currently writing a psychological drama that deals with mental health. I’d love to write comedy, that’s why I’ve been studying Ice Cube. I want to do it all.
Can you give us a brief synopsis of Lonely?
A young boy’s parents are killed in a car accident when he is a baby, and his grandmother is left to raise him. The grandmother passes away due to cancer while the boy is only a teenager and now he’s stuck trying to figure life out on his own.
That’s super brutal. What draws you to something this sad?
The way I approach this type of film is through the character. He’s relatable. He’s just going through life and life is hard. A lot of people end up in the streets. Sometimes they choose to, but a lot of the time they’re forced to through circumstance.
“The way I approach this type of film is through the character. He’s relatable. He’s just going through life and life is hard.”
When it comes to how this film would be made– obviously this is kind of a false dichotomy– but do you see it being executed more along the lines of Belly by Hype Williams or Moonlight?
I compare this film to Menace II Society, Fruitvale Station, and Boyz n the Hood.
Both those films are technically melodramas, though. Your film feels slower and more realistic in a lot of ways.
That was my whole idea for this film. We don’t have those types of films anymore and I want to bring them back and modernize them. The characters are products of their environment.
Do you have a personal connection to this type of story?
My connection is more creative, and comes from enjoying urban dramas. Those are the types of films I like the most. Bring back those classics. I know people who have been forced into that life, but not me. It’s just around.
You mentioned an interest in lighter cinematic fare, as well. When you are writing something this intense, is it emotionally helpful to switch and start writing a comedy to get away from it?
I don’t want to be only known for these types of films. A lot of filmmakers are only known for one genre. I don’t want to be placed into a box.
“I don’t want to be placed into a box.”
How did you discover Film Connection?
When I decided to get into screenwriting, I began looking up screenwriting schools online and I came across the school.
Who is your Mentor?
Richard Brandes! We have a close relationship, he’s a great guy, he’s very helpful. He’s given me a lot of knowledge. What stands out to me is that he’s real. If he’s reading your script and sees something the audience won’t like, he’ll let you know. He is a great mentor!
Are you a current student or a graduate?
I actually have my graduation call at five o’clock, in 30 minutes!
What happens after you graduate?
Once I get my screenwriting certificate, I will start applying for jobs. I want to get into my field. I’m getting ready to pitch Lonely in California in the next few weeks.
Oh awesome! Yea, I know that’s something they set up for students they think are particularly hard-working and talented. How have you been preparing?
I’ve been practicing my pitch. I’ve typed it out and been going over it, constantly, just to make sure it’s perfect. I’m very excited. I’m not nervous yet, I might have some butterflies in my stomach when I get in the room, but I’m confident when I start talking that it will start to subside.
Do you have any advice for someone entering Film Connection?
Be authentic, be original. It’s okay to look up to people and borrow things, but always put your own twist on it. I don’t want to be John Singleton or Ice Cube, I want to be me.