My guest this week is filmmaker, screenwriter and theologian Craig Detweiler who is based in Los Angeles. Craig grew up in North Carolina and went to film school in California where he has lived since. He has taught Destin Daniel Cretton, the director/screenwriter of Just Mercy (2019) which was the first movie in Hollywood to be made with an inclusion rider. We talk about Destin’s next project which will be a superhero movie.
Craig discusses Black Lives Matter and the Equal Justice Initiative and the role of nostalgia in charting our lives from childhood. He explains that people who work in the film industry don’t take their successes for granted and see it as a privilege to tell stories for a living. We discuss how some of the best films have been made about people on the wrong side of Hollywood, e.g. P.T. Anderson’s Magnolia.
We talk about the artifice and green screen dimension to films and compare it to the big Hollywood sets in previous generations recreating, say, ancient Egypt, and the repurposing of sets that takes place.
We find out why Craig grew up with an attachment to cars and racing and we learn why the comedies of Norman Lear were informative and preconditioned him to seeing all people as equal. We discover that Craig kept rigorous records of Casey Kasem’s Top 40 and how the eclecticism that is America was presented through the various genres of music.
Craig talks about the time he spent in Cambridge in the UK and how the music scene there influenced him. He brought the sounds of the UK back to Davidson College in North Carolina. He first encountered REM who hailed from a college town in Georgia when they tried out their sounds in the College pub. We also learn that Craig was into rap when he was young and has his original records.
We talk about how the time we were ostensibly ‘wasting’ as youngsters were actually investments as well as why films are memory making machines. We learn that Craig doesn’t mind trafficking in nostalgia provided he isn’t trapped in it. We discuss how we tend to grow with the artists we watch – for example from the young gangsters of Mean Streets to their older, more reflective counterparts in The Irishman.
At the end of the interview Craig talks about why it is the challenges in life that are the most formative, what happens when one papers over the past in the light of what has happened with issues around civil rights and George Floyd, what he considers to be nostalgia’s long term bite, and why Americans are always looking forward in their disposition.
Please note: Opinions expressed are solely those of Chris Deacy and Craig Detweiler and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the University of Kent.