What’s your name? Where were you born? Where do you live? And what’s your hobby?
My full name is Anders James McGrane Lee. I was born in Washington D.C, where I currently live, but have spent many years in New York and Minnesota. In addition to screenwriting, I am a standup comedian, podcaster and avid fan of American football.
Where did you come up with the concept that just placed as Finalist in the screenplay contest? How long did it take you to develop it into the screenplay it is now?
After 16 years away from the D.C area, which my family left when I was 12, I returned at age 28 for a job. Reengaging with the region reminded me that while there are many movies that take place in Washington D.C, very few of them are really about the city itself, outside of Capitol Hill. Politics is, of course, core to D.C’s identity but there is a rich cultural history that often gets overlooked. I knew that I wanted to write something about Washington, but also to set it in the 1980’s which I’ve always found to be a fascinating era in the District’s history. I wanted to combine seemingly disparate elements like the Iran-Contra scandal, Marion Barry’s Mayoralty, the rapidly growing Punk and Go-Go music scenes, and weave them together into a compelling story. Hopefully, over the past year and a half, that’s what I’ve been able to do.
From concept to finished draft, can you take us through your screenwriting process?
I began with a strong idea of the opening scene and the two main characters, though it did take me a while to figure out what their relationship was. Once I did, and had a general outline, I took it scene by scene. I allowed myself some flexibility, to add scenes and characters that I hadn’t thought of ahead of time. Eventually I had a first draft. As with subsequent drafts, I knew there were problems, but not always what the exact problems were. It really helped me to take some time away from writing between the drafts, to reflect and process what specifically needed to be changed.
When did you realize that you wanted to become a screenwriter?
As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to make movies. I had an overactive imagination as a child and was constantly thinking up movie ideas. That much has not changed.
Who are your biggest filmmaking/screenwriting influences? What about their style do you like or borrow?
The Coen Brothers. I love history and deeply appreciate their period pieces. Their characters are distinct and interesting, their dialogue excellent—each movie leaves the audience with several memorable lines. They’re not afraid to blend genre and themes, from farcical to darkly morbid; and you can never predict how their stories are going to end. I strive to emulate all of this.
Have you ever been obsessed with a movie or TV show? If so, which one? Why?
Out of many, one that sticks out is The Sopranos. There’s so much to laud about it, but what really captivated me is how well they portrayed members of a very specific, obscure subculture interacting with characters from the outside world. Just about every character was believably written, no matter their background.
What’s your favorite moment in cinema history? Why?
The final scene in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, when Chief Bromden throws the fountain through the window, escapes the institution and runs off into the distance. I can’t really put into words why it affects me.
Who’s your favorite character in cinema history? Why?
Chauncey Gardener, played by Peter Sellers in Being There. Not a particularly complex character, but one who was used effectively in telling a great story and posing provocative questions about our society. Not to mention, incredibly funny and unique.
If you could talk to anyone from any era, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Right now I’m still pretty obsessed with New Columbia and consider it a work in progress. So it would have to be someone from DC in the 80’s like Marion Barry. I would ask him what he thought of his city’s Punk scene.