Writer Kyle Killen‘s new drama The Beaver premiered last month at the Austin film festival SXSW. Mel Gibson stars as a depressed family man who uses a beaver hand puppet to improve his life. Killen sat down with us and spoke about writing The Beaver, and how it‘s affected him.
“It just went from years of outgoing phone calls and random jobs doing crazy things to suddenly incoming phone calls…and I’ve been lucky enough to be dining out on it ever since. My twins were born first, and then it was actually four or five days later (that it got bought). I find that when the chips are down, people really become who they are.
I wanted to do my thing, and it would either work or it wouldn’t but it felt like this was the best example of who I would’ve been as a writer had it not sold…and it would have been easy to walk away at that point saying, if there’s no interest in that kind of stuff that’s what I would have been interested in doing. So it actually made it easier to do that as a sort of Swan Song then it would’ve been to take another crack at the big commercial spec and miss the mark.”
In talking about the psychological issues of the character Walter Black, Killen said, “I didn’t look at it so much as a depression coping mechanism, the way I looked at it was that he had what’s called a psychic break, and that’s an extreme form of coping mechanism. It’s sort of when all else has failed, and he kind of goes off the rails in a way that actually sort of saves him briefly.”
About his future projects and the popularity of his un-produced screenplay (which made the Blacklist), “I certainly rather people wondering if what I do next will be any good rather than not caring what I do next. Right now I’m doing a pilot for NBC. We’ll start shooting in eight days and it will probably take over my life, as TV tends to do. It’s called REM and it’s about a detective who’s in an accident and loses a family member and becomes incapable of separating his dreams from his reality.”
On branching out to TV Killen said, “TV and cable in particular have become really attractive to writers. Because you get to get away with…in a weird way it’s more open because it’s so fractured now and there’s so many outlets where you put something on AMC and it gets a million viewers a week that’s a good number, that’s survivable.
So you get to keep telling these stories that it’s ok if they just find a niche audience, and that’s kind of the opposite of what’s happening in indie film…an indie film needs to be Juno or it’s a waste of everyone’s time, and it’s hard to find Juno and some things just aren’t Juno and that doesn’t mean they’re not really valuable they just cost a fortune to make. So I think cable has saved a lot of those things. So for writers and creators there’s just nothing like television.”
He added, “we had almost wrapped on The Beaver when I sold Lone Star, then it got made into a pilot, got picked up, we put it on the air, then cancelled all before The Beaver even came out. I mean that’s just the difference, another great metric…that’s just the time compression that TV requires.”