While many people believe that screenwriters have to live in Los Angeles in order to have a successful career, New York native, Alexander Dinelaris and the rest of the Golden Globe and Oscar winning writing team of Birdman, prove that it is becoming easier for writers to develop and produce their original stories from locations all over the world.
After establishing a career in theater, Dinelaris decided to pursue his interest in writing. His work caught the attention of acclaimed director Alejandro González Inarritu (21 Grams, Babel), when his stage play, Still Life premiered at the MCC Theater off Broadway in 2009. Impressed with Dinelaris’ writing, Inarritu then invited him to work on the early drafts of the hit film Biutiful, starring Oscar winner Javier Bardem. In the years following Biutiful’s success, the award winning writer-director has called upon Dinelaris to collaborate on various new projects.
“Birdman started with Alejandro calling up Nico and myself, explaining that he had this idea about making a film in entirely one take. We were totally intrigued by it. He wanted to do something a little more lighter with a lighter tone,” said Dinelaris.
Using Skype, Dinelaris was able to collaborate on the script with his writing partners Inarritu (Los Angeles), Nicolas Giacobone and Armando Bo, both of whom are based in Buenos Aires.
“Once we had some ideas, Nico would come to New York and we would hammer out a draft. Then he would go back to Buenos Aires. I think Skype has changed a lot. You can collaborate from a distance. It feels more personable, more creatively beneficial to be able to see somebody rather than just have a phone conversation,” said Dinelaris.
Set during the days leading up to the opening night performance of his new play, famous actor and former film superhero Riggan Thomson struggles with his ego, career, and personal life.
“Theater is always live back stage, so there was a lot of room to roam and prowl with the camera. We could extend scenes with dialogue. It just seemed to be the perfect fit.”
Despite the fact that former Batman star, Michael Keaton, comes across as the perfect fit for the role of Thomson, the screenwriters penned the script without having a particular actor in mind.
“We had a conversation about Michael (Keaton) and thought he was perfect for the role in that he had the tools necessary and a sense of humor. He’s extremely likeable, so we knew he would have the audience’s sympathy. Of course his tact and elegance with comedy was clear. We got really lucky.”
Shot on location in NYC, the actors faced the unique challenge of filming scenes in a series of long takes, most ranging from between 10-12 minutes in length.
“Actors love to work with Alejandro because they know he brings the best out of them. We all did it out of the passion of making the film together. The cast was stellar from top to bottom.”
The intricacies of the one-take camera method allowed the screenwriters the opportunity to maintain an important presence on set during filming.
“Because of the one take method, there were times where the camera needed a few extra seconds or we needed to brush in some extra dialogue. It was all about developing a sense of continuity. Basically, we had to be around all of the time. We rehearsed for three to four weeks with the camera. Not much of it was going to change because it was so dependant on the choreography. Sometimes we had to be there for a change or to do some quick line edits.”
The passion they have dedicated toward the film has resulted in unforeseen raves from the critics and an enthusiastic, universal audience.
“It’s been surreal. If you had told us six months ago that we would be this well-liked by the critics, (including winning The Gotham Award and 7 Golden Globe nominations), nobody would have believed that. We thought it was a quirky and personal film. It’s very bizarre on the page.”
Hot off of Birdman’s success, Dinelaris is currently involved in developing three different projects for stage and screen. Along with the Birdman team, as co-creator and executive producer he is busy writing the first season of The One Percent, a new series for Starz starring Hilary Swank and Ed Helms. He also collaborated with Gloria and Emilio Estefan on the Broadway stage musical, On Your Feet.
This feature was originally written by Erin Coughlin for Thrive Wire Jan 13, 2015. For more of Erin’s celebrity interviews and film related content, subscribe to this blog. To learn more about the author, upcoming guest speaking spots, look signings and more, visit her Official Author Site!