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Holy Innocents' teacher moonlights as screenwriter
by Bobby Tedder
February 26, 2014 10:59 AM | 2761 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Special Photo
From left, producer Sarah Green, co-star Jason Isaacs, director Saar Klein and writer Joe Conway work the red carpet as part of the premiere of 'Things People Do' at the Berlin Film Festival.
Special Photo From left, producer Sarah Green, co-star Jason Isaacs, director Saar Klein and writer Joe Conway work the red carpet as part of the premiere of 'Things People Do' at the Berlin Film Festival.
Joe Conway’s professional narrative may be every bit as interesting as the stories he crafts.

By day, he guides the next generation of reporters and creative writers as a broadcast journalism, media literacy and film instructor at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Sandy Springs.

Outside the classroom and lecture halls, Conway is an accomplished screenwriter and continues to make his mark on the movie industry.

Case in point: he penned the script for “Things People Do,” set for a North American premiere at next month’s SXSW (South by Southwest) Film Festival in Austin, Texas.

Conway’s other ties to academia include a current stint as a screenwriting and scriptwriting professor at Emory University in DeKalb County.

The Neighbor Newspapers recently caught up with him in transit from Germany, where his latest movie screened to crowds of several hundred patrons at the Berlin Film Festival.

The exchange centered on an array of talking points, including how playing hoops with an industry heavyweight engendered a career writing for the big screen.

o On Malick and basketball

“My friendship with writer/director Terrence Malick [director of “The Thin Red Line” and “The Tree of Life”] led me to my career in screenwriting. I was teaching English at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin [Texas] and I met Terry [an alumnus] on the basketball court. He called me up and said, ‘I heard you were the guy to talk to if I wanted to come out and play pickup basketball with some of the teachers on Wednesday nights.’ Terry and I became friends and after he’d seen a play I had produced in Austin, he suggested I try my hand writing a screenplay. ‘Undertow’ was my first screenplay, and my first produced film.”

o On collaboration and patience

“On both ‘Undertow’ and ‘Things People Do’ the director became my co-writer. Making a film is a very collaborative process — beginning with the writing — and it’s also a long process. It was almost five years from script to screen for both film projects. ‘Paradise, Texas’ was about three years in the making.”

o On results

“I’m pleased with how all my films have turned out. But it’s very surreal to stand on the set of a movie that you wrote and see dozens and dozens of people running around trying to bring something to life on screen that started out in your head many years earlier.”

o On the new project

“‘Things People Do’” started out as the germ of an idea that Terrence Malick brought to me and the director/co-writer, Saar Klein. We took the idea and fleshed it out. It went through many drafts on the way to the final shooting script, but the project came together quickly once we had Wes Bentley [‘American Beauty,’ ‘The Hunger Games’] and Jason Isaacs [‘Harry Potter,’ ‘The Patriot’] onboard to star in the film.”

o On Germany and Bill Murray

“The Berlin International Film Fest is one of the top five festivals in the world — Cannes, Sundance, Toronto, Venice the others.

“This year ‘Things People Do’ was one of only a handful of American films to make the cut. It’s a great honor to be chosen for Berlin. Being here at the festival has been a lot of fun. My one complaint — and I mean this very tongue-in-cheek — is that my triumphant arrival in Berlin was overshadowed just a bit by the fact that Bill Murray was on my plane. He got most of the attention from the paparazzi when we left the airport together.”

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