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Comments on "The ABC of ROFFEKE" Screenings (September 2015 at iHub)

I liked all the films especially the one for Superman [“This is Joe”] and the last one which was longer [“ Frontman ”]. I look forward to at...

The Indie Bible

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Interview: Giancarlo Fusi, screenwriter of "Hell Hound - The Legend of Robert Johnson"

ROFFEKE: You are a "not black" guy who - as you put it in your Moviebytes interview - "grew up in New Jersey on a steady diet of American sitcoms and action movies." So why write about "a black sharecropper surviving during the Depression under brutal work conditions and crushing racism?"

Giancarlo: You pose an interesting question as to why a Latino from New Jersey would want to write about a black sharecropper living in Mississippi during the Depression. And I think it has a lot to do with the universality of Robert Johnson's legend. After all, famous deals with the Devil can be traced back to Eve in the Bible and probably even before that. And the site of Robert's legendary pact, a crossroads, is a great metaphor cause we've all been faced with tough choices and often wonder if our lives would be different if we had just gone in another direction. So I think almost everyone can relate to the difficult decision he had to make, even if his life seems foreign to our experience, cause one asks oneself what would I do if the Devil offered me all the riches of the world in exchange for my soul. Would I make that deal?

ROFFEKE: In the same Moviebytes interview, you mentioned that you wrote Hell Hound "in fits and starts over the course of a year". Do you remember when you got that initial spark? Was it an image, a song, a line from a book etc that triggered that initial idea? Or had the idea been percolating in your mind for a while before you sat down to write the story for the first time?

Giancarlo: I have to credit my father for indirectly giving me the spark to write the script. My dad's a huge rock n' roll fan and his favorite guitarist is Eric Clapton. I love digging into the roots of music so I wanted to find out who Eric Clapton's favorite guitarist is and it's Robert Johnson. Not only was he Clapton's favorite guitarist but Robert is also Eric's personal hero. So I had to find out what it was about Johnson that had such a profound impact on Clapton's life. I vaguely knew about Johnson supposedly selling his soul to Satan, but as I read more about the events that led up to Robert's fateful encounter at the crossroads I thought that this, whether it really happened or not, seems tailor-made for a movie. And that's how the initial idea for the script started percolating, but first I knew I had to do more research to make it authentic. So I must've researched for a year before I even typed a single word.

ROFFEKE: What are some of the things you had to research while writing "Hell Hound"?

Giancarlo: I had to research everything about Robert Johnson cause I knew very little about him other than his music and his supposed deal with the Devil. He was born over a hundred years ago. I've never stepped foot in Mississippi and I can't play a lick of guitar. So I had to familiarize myself with things like the geography of the Delta and learn what it was about Robert's technique that made him such a revolutionary guitar player. To do this, I read every book and magazine article available about his life. But I refused to read anything about him online cause we all know what a black hole the internet can be where everyone's an expert and can write anything they want on a blog. So I only drew my research from reliable sources.

ROFFEKE: Fill in the blanks: If you were not a screenwriter, you would be a _______________ or a __________________.

Giancarlo: If I were not a screenwriter, I'd be a rock star or a race care driver. Obviously these are also dream jobs so clearly I'm not one that makes very practical career decisions.

ROFFEKE: Your favourite film by a female director?

Giancarlo: I admire many female film directors and it's a disgrace that more women are not given the opportunity to direct. My absolute favorite film made by a female director has to be Fast Times at Ridgemont High by Amy Heckerling. It was only years after watching the movie that I realized it was directed by a women, which goes to show that the sex of the person behind the camera has nothing to do with the quality of what's up on the screen.

ROFFEKE: Advice for upcoming screenwriters?

Giancarlo: My advice to upcoming screenwriters is the same advice that the great Norman Mailer gave to all writers when he said, "It's not easy to write about a man who's a stranger or braver than yourself. All the same you have to be able to do it. Because if every one of your characters is kept down to your level, you do not take on large subjects. You need people more heroic than yourself, more enterprising, less timid, sexier, more romantic, more magic." Robert Johnson was all those things in comparison to me and almost anyone else for that matter. And that's why I believe I was drawn to tell his story.