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A Script in 2 Hours: Ron Falzone on “Typing”

March 28, 2011 | By | 2 Comments

Jordan Poast

Given two hours of free time, many people would choose to watch a movie.  It takes a unique brand of person, though, to write a movie in just two hours. Screenwriter and Columbia College Associate Professor Ron Falzone is one of these unique individuals who not only wrote the script for his short film, Typing, in two feverish hours, but who excelled at it so that it was selected to be exhibited at last year’s Chicago International Film Festival.

Scribed in 2004, the ten-minute long Typing features two screenwriters (played by Steppenwolf Theater alums Tim Kazurinsky and Francis Guinan) given the impossible task of composing a script for the blandest leading man in Hollywood (Robert Montgomery) with the only requirement being that it include sex, adventure and a dog.

Inspired by his “film gods,” Billy Wilder and Preston Sturges, Falzone wove a tale centering on the madness and futility of the creative process. Along with the challenge of writing a film for a star that Falzone likens to “walking white milk,” writers Harry and Al (who are based on director Wilder and his screenwriter, Charles Brackett) become crippled by an unenviable case of writer’s block.  Exacerbating their inability to commit to a singular idea is a fellow screenwriter typing madly in a neighboring room, the ease of which inspires the goofy pair to concoct an incredibly idiotic and blatantly racist story for their star.

Ron Falzone

In this case, art seems to imitate life, as the screenwriter acting as Harry and Al’s foil could easily be a surrogate for Falzone himself, who wrote the script in a non-stop two hour inspired blitz.  While at Ragdale, an artist resort in Lake Forest, Falzone wrote Typing not as his central work, but rather as an exercise to cleanse his creative palate.  Fresh off the first draft of a full-length feature script, Falzone needed do something to distance himself from his work before beginning a second draft.  Drawing on his vast experience working on films, plays and operas, Falzone employed a creative technique to get a fresh perspective, a device he calls a ‘word play.’  “I give myself exactly two hours, and I think of a word and I just start writing a script that examines every conceivable angle of that word.  I have two hours and ten pages on my hands, and I just go.”

Having just committed two of his three cardinal sins on his feature script (making a mafia comedy and treading on stereotypes), Ron threw caution to the wind and broke his final rule by writing a story about Hollywood. With no time to be bogged down by writer’s block, Falzone constructed a script that he recognized was special from the onset. From the first line, he “felt completely comfortable with these two guys. One of the things that’s so great about writing is that ability all writers have to settle inside the heads of their characters.  And that’s what I wanted to do with these two, is put them in a position with something I understood.”

Falzone has come to make a career of writing about, and experiencing, the difficulties of inspiration his characters face in Typing.  According to Falzone, seventy-five percent of his scripts deal with characters in the throes of a creative crisis.  That makes the irony of Typing, that a film centering on the futility of writing being tackled by a writer without so much as a creative hiccup, so much more pronounced.  “Well, I always say I put the ‘Ron’ in irony.”

In his career, Falzone has become all too familiar with the inevitable mental tumbleweeds associated with his work.  In fact, the screenplay for his historical drama, Coriander and a Penny’s Worth of Lonesome, about the funeral of silent screen star Rudolph Valentino, took 27 years to complete the first draft.  Thinking about that moment in history every week over the span of those years, Falzone opted to patiently wait, mining for the golden moment when his historical research matched up with the theme he was committed to examining.  “As soon as that happened, all the sudden I knew who my characters were, the plot hook, I knew everything I needed to know.  Then it was just a matter of having fun putting it on paper.”

Still from "Typing"

Given the long process of making Coriander, which Falzone is currently adapting into an opera, the two hours it took to make Typing take on added impressiveness. Despite how harmoniously the theme of artistic stagnation and the historical context of 1939 Hollywood married together, though, Typing dwelled in Ron’s folders for years.  Having previously considered entering the piece into one-act festivals, Falzone only started to see Typing breathe with life when his good friend and former directing class pupil, Jack Newell, began raiding through his work in search of something that the two could collaborate on. From the moment he began looking, though, Ron had a strong sense which script Jack would chose.  His hunch proved prophetic as the two began filming Typing in 2010, the first project under their new partnership, Zaxie Films.  So impressed with the polished script was Newell that the director made no demands for rewrites, as every word written in that pivotal two hours appeared as-is on screen.

After completing the short, the co-partners entered Typing into the Chicago Film Festival and were later accepted.  The new role of exhibiting artist was a slightly strange departure for Falzone, who previously served as a volunteer on the education committee for the festival in years past.

Despite the success of Typing, though, Falzone has refused to rest on his laurels.  Zaxie Films is currently in the finishing stages of their second film, which finds the screenwriter with an even more daunting task than in Typing, writing a script to be performed in an improv style by actors in the Chicago community.

And as for his other ‘word play’ exercises?  Ron has merged them all into one feature, Loop’d, which was recently optioned by a director from Texas.

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Comments (2)

  1. Paddy Houlihan

    Ron was hands down the best teacher I had as a film student at Columbia College Chicago.

  2. Actually, there was one very important change as we went from script to screen. Jack Newell asked me to add animations. At first, I had no idea what he was talking about. When he explained, I kicked myself because I hadn’t thought of it. The projection of the animated versions of Harry and Al’s archetypal fantasies on the wall really made the cinematic side of the story come alive. Thank God for having a terrific director.

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