What are you working on right now?

So I’ve been working on Alien Nation like for two years, the screenplay. And I’m still … I’m almost done with it. I’m hoping this draft that I’m working on now will be my last. And the studio seems to really love it, and we’re working on conception design of the aliens and everything else, and it happens to be a studio that’s being bought by Disney right now. I’m working with Fox on it, so it feels a little bit like you’re one of those monks or whatever that’s doing those giant murals in sand.

It might just blow away, which would be a real shame, but everybody at Fox has been so good to me about it. They’re so positive about it, obviously I’m trying to stay in the positive zone, and hopefully knock out this last draft. It’s epic. I mean, it’s the biggest canvas I’ve ever painted on, but it 100 percent feels like a Jeff Nichols film. Which I’m sure there are gonna be some Alien Nation fans out there that are like, “What the fuck?” But my hope is if they … If people come to it just ready for a new story, that they’ll like it. And I put my heart and soul into it, it is like … To be the project that’s supposed to be me being a sell out, it is like the least … I’m not saying that to save face or be cool. I put so much of myself into it, it takes place in Arkansas. There’s so much of me in it.

When you’re making something that big, there’s just so many things that are out of your control. In a weird way, all you can control and concentrate on is the creative aspect. The winds will blow you where they blow you, but as long as you’re telling to where you want to tell, and whenever that stops, then you gotta raise your hand and go, “Guys, this isn’t gonna work for me anymore.”

But so far, that’s not been the case. So hopefully Alien Nation goes, I’ve got a couple of things that I won’t say are more serious films, because Alien Nation is actually pretty serious, but there’s a lot more traditional kind of adult movies. I’ve got a couple of those but I haven’t settled on one, and then I’ve got a really another big PG, PG-13 kind of like summer blockbuster family film, which makes it sound real lame, but it’s not. It’s more like Mud, but with some bigger fantastical elements in it.

That one, I’m super excited about. But I can’t speak to any of it now, mainly because I’m just so in Alien Nation work right now, which might be two more years of my life, but I’m gonna … Yeah, there’s this other script I want to write, and then I’ve been developing this animated children’s film that I really want to do.

A lot of exciting stuff.

There is. I feel like I’m in this period that’s kind of around between 2008 and 2010, when I was writing Take Shelter and Mud during the same summer. It felt like Loving was the end of a chapter of those five films. You know, I’d done a studio film with Midnight Special. And I went on the award circuit kind of for Loving. I accomplished a lot of things with those five films just personally and professionally, and I came out of Loving without the next script done.

It was like, “Okay, I’m gonna take this time to not only take on this big project Alien Nation, but really think about who I am and what I’m … I have a microphone now for better or worse for a little while, what I want to say with this stuff, what I want the work to do, how I want to challenge myself professionally, personally.” And I feel like Mark Twain talked about it. For a story, it’s like a well of creativity that you empty, and you gotta wait for that well to fill back up. And my well is full, and I’m ready and I’m putting a lot of that stuff on paper now, so that you can then have another run where you’re making things in a bit of both.

It’s a run, you know? Because it’s hard being a writer/director. It’s just slower. I really envy … I certainly think later in life I’ll do this, I just really envy people that read a great script, and they’re like, “Oh, let’s go do this.” Then they’re making a movie. You know? It’s just different for me because these things are all so personal to me. And I try to make them about life, you know?

Not just my life, but my point of view on life, and when you do that they just take on more weight, more gravity. That doesn’t mean they’re better films, it just means they take more time and they really feel like these kind of personal … All of them. Even the ones like Alien Nation that are based on existing property and completely out of my control with a studio. Still mine.

Random question, but I’m just curious, what have you enjoyed watching lately? 

Man, whenever they ask that question, my mind just goes blank. I’ve been binge-watching a few things, currently I’m almost done with season two of Atlanta. It’s pretty fantastic. I don’t know quite what to make of it, I’m just kind of enthralled. Trying to think of the last feature film I saw, probably in the theater was Mission – Impossible: Fallout. It was okay, so many impressive stunts and things. I wish the dialogue had been a little bit better. It was just kind of like you put all this time and effort into these stunts, and then it’s like the dialogue is so … It’s just like a sledgehammer hitting me in the face. I wonder, huh, maybe that’s just all you had time for, I’m not sure, but that kind of bugged me a little bit.

I’m trying to think of the last big movie that I was really floored by. My producing friend Brian just produced this film Operation Finale that I liked. But I’m just trying to think of the most recent stuff I’ve seen. I do this thing called the Arkansas Cinema Society, I kind of helped create it. And we’re trying to bring famous people to Arkansas to talk about their experiences and stuff, and kind of give people access to people in the industry. We just had our big event in August, and we had Will Forte as a guest, and I re-watched all four seasons of Last Man on Earth, which was pretty incredible. Pretty hilarious.

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