To celebrate the arrival of Delivery Man, HeyUGuys caught up with writer-director Ken Scott, who conceived this comedic tale about fatherhood – to give you a heads up on what you can expect from the bundle of joy that will soon be yours to take home…
Why a career in filmmaking? Was there that one inspirational moment?
The earliest memory I have is of watching Star Wars and being blown away by the story – just the scope of the film. I loved the whole experience, and it was in that moment that I fell in love with film. But I would say the first moment was when I was in my mid-teens, and I actually started to consider working in the industry.
You’ve spoken of the impression Star Wars made, but was this the source of your interest in storytelling or does it lie outside of film?
In Québec where I come from there is something popular called theatre sports [improvisation on stage], and that is where I first became interested in storytelling. It’s actually the reason why I got into comedy. Being on stage and communicating with an audience gave you an opportunity to learn what an audience reacts to, but also how to get people interested in a story.
When I was in college I was in a comedy troupe, but I knew all along that I wanted to find a way into film. Looking back it was a great experience, and it was a good way to learn how to tell stories and communicate with an audience. When you are live on stage in front of five hundred people, if they laugh you get to know it’s working, and if they don’t you get to know it’s not. So that for me was a great education in terms of learning how to communicate with an audience.
But before taking the step to direct I started out as a script writer. I had the chance to write four or five feature films which were produced, and it was then that I decided to take the next step to direct.
Speaking with filmmakers they often talk of directing whilst they write. How would you compare and contrast the process of writing and directing.
In one way they are the same job, but in another they are very different. They are the same in the sense that you are telling a story. The writer will be sat in front of the computer writing the story, and the director’s job is to also to put all the elements into place in order to tell the story. So that’s where the two jobs are similar. Where they are different is as a screenwriter you are sat in front of your computer and you can write about anything, because anything is possible; there is no limit. You can write ten thousand soldiers come over a crest of a mountain, and that’s not a problem because they are just words on the page. But when you are a director you’re telling stories with all the real elements. So the producer may ask if you can cut that down to five thousand soldiers came over the crest of a mountain. It is a very different process where you will be working with actors, working on location, and working against time. The skillset you need to direct is not only an ability to tell the story, but to communicate your vision to all the different people who you will work with. Not only do you have to put a story together, but you have to communicate it to all the people you need working towards that one unique vision.
Delivery Man is a remake of Starbuck which you only wrote and directed in 2011. What motivated your decision to remake Starbuck?
The movie was a great success at the Canadian box office, and it was sold in many countries across the world. But since it is in French the success of the film in other countries was always going to be limited because it was subtitled. So the original Starbuck was more of an art house success around the world. Whilst that was great, it felt that the story had a certain appeal that meant it could be a success in the English language. With that in mind I believed there was an audience out there who had not had a chance to see this particular story up on screen. I always felt that my job was to tell stories to an audience, and seeing as I had a great time making the original and there was a new audience out there that would enjoy this story, then why not? This was the mind frame that I went into this remake with.
Did the opportunity to remake Starbuck present you with any insights that influenced you on a professional level both whilst directing Delivery Man and looking ahead?
Obviously going into the second I was richer because of the experience of having seen people react to the original. But once I became involved in the process of making Delivery Man it was very important to me, and this will seem a bit contradictory even though it is not, but I never wanted our discussion or the creative process to be focused around the original. Of course everyone on set had seen it which was fine. But I was afraid of focusing on the original, which I believed would take away the creative magic of that little spark that you get when you have just created something. I wanted everything to come from the creative process, and even though the original existed, I wanted us to go through the process of making the film with the goal of telling the story in the best way possible for this new audience. The second thing I didn’t want was for things to be different just for the sake of being different. This second movie was for a new audience, and I didn’t want to say, “Let’s not do this because we did this in the original.” So it was trying to forget Starbuck and just make decisions based around what was the best way to tell the story for this new film.
Was Starbuck or Delivery Man inspired by any true life stories?
What was surprising to me and my co-writer Martin Petit when we began writing the first film, was that we got into a mode of let’s tell a story of a guy who has all these kids. We thought it was a great way to explore what fatherhood is all about. So that was our motor and we had decided that Starbuck would have 150 kids. I remember we would come into the office each day and would ask the question whether this was going to be believable or is it going to take people out of the story if it’s too many kids? We were struggling with our situations believability. But we wanted to make a comedy and we wanted to explore this particular situation. We were a month into the process and it came out in the news that there was a guy who had 400 plus kids. We were blown away because we were thinking 150 kids is a bit over the top, and reality had exceeded our fictional scenario. So that’s when we made the decision to pump it up to 533 kids. But it’s not based on anyone in particular, though there are many cases of men who have donated and ended up with tens or hundreds of kids.
Looking back over your filmography you seem to gravitate towards comedy.
It’s something that I appreciate, and I enjoy a good story. I find that it is a great way to explore subjects, to tell a story and to get people to want to come and see it. Delivery Man is about fatherhood, but it’s got something to say. But at the same time it is enjoyable and it makes people laugh, and I like to entertain people in a good way.
Delivery Man is available to buy on DVD on June 9th.