by Len Lear
Talk about a dream come true. Millions of kids who go to the movies might fantasize about having their names up on the screen as a star or scriptwriter for a major Hollywood blockbuster. Well, for Andrew Barrer, 34, who grew up in Ambler and graduated from Germantown Academy (GA) in 2002, and his writing partner, Gabriel Ferrari, that fantasy has become a reality!
The writing duo penned the script for “Ant-Man and The Wasp,” starring Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas, the much-anticipated blockbuster sequel to “Ant-Man” (2015), which opened last Friday in movie multiplexes all over the country. The pair also wrote the script for “Ant-Man,” which produced box office receipts of more than $500 million, according to industry sources.
Last week we interviewed Barrer, who divides his time between Rockaway Beach, NY; Doylestown and Los Angeles and whose writing captures a character and a scene with a jeweler’s eye:
- When you were a child, what was your career ambition, if any?
“I always wanted to write. I used to dictate stories to my mom and have her write them down before I could spell.”
- I have read that after graduating from GA, you went to New York University but took only one screenwriting class there. Why is that?
“I didn’t actually focus in on screenwriting until the year after I graduated from college. I was always obsessed with movies, but when I was in school, I was mostly focused on essays and prose. So I took an introductory screenwriting class pretty much out of curiosity. It’s a really good thing I did. There’s a very technical component to screenwriting. There’s a specific format and structure to cinematic storytelling that you need to learn so you understand the expectations of the business. Beyond that, screenwriting is just like any other form of storytelling. A workshop can help, but the only way to get better is to read a lot, write a lot and, in the case of screenwriting, watch a ton of movies. There are differing philosophies on whether studying screenwriting is the best path for a screenwriter. I can’t speak to the benefits because I didn’t study it, but I think my education in other areas has gone a long way in informing the stories I tell.”
- How did you meet Gabriel?
“We met in the freshman year at NYU and became fast friends. We actually have one of those annoyingly lucky stories. Gabe and I were roommates sophomore year with Steve Beckman, who’s now at YouTube Red but landed a job with a production/management company right out of college. When Gabe and I finished our first script, Steve asked to read it. He loved it, so he passed it along to a manager friend. We landed a manager off the strength of that recommendation and ended up selling that script. Steve is still one of our best friends. Talent drives the movie business, but there is undoubtedly an element of luck involved.”
- What year did you graduate from NYU? With what major?
“I graduated in 2007. I went to the Gallatin School, which lets you design your own major, but I essentially majored in philosophy.”
- I read that your first script was called “Die in a Gunfight.” How did that come about?
“Gabe and I started working on ‘Die in a Gunfight’ while we were roommates in Chinatown the year after we graduated. At first, we were writing it entirely for ourselves, so the process was kind of insane and hilarious. We would work at all hours of the night, bouncing ideas off each other and writing the wildest story we could come up with. The first draft wasn’t even a movie, but we worked on it more and more seriously and went through a ton of drafts before we showed it to another soul. Then we had our closest friends read it and did some more drafts. We kind of broke ourselves down and rebuilt ourselves into serious screenwriters over the course of that year.”
- What was that movie about? How did the idea come to you?
“’Gunfight’ is about 20-somethings trying to forge their own identity. And that’s exactly where we were at that time in our lives. I remember the precise moment the title occurred to me. I had just broken up with a long-term girlfriend, and I caught myself having all these ridiculous heroic fantasies about being a tragically romantic figure in the big city. I laughed at myself and started thinking it would be interesting to tell a story about a guy who fantasizes about some heroic fate, like dying in a gunfight, and then is forced by fate to have a classically happy ending instead. I went home and started kicking the idea around with Gabe, and the next thing we knew, we were writing it.”
- Was “Gunfight” ever made into a film?
“No, but it’s also a project that refuses to die. It actually stands a reasonable chance of going into production this fall, with a team we couldn’t be more excited about.”
- After “Gunfight,” did you write more scripts on your own hoping you could sell them, or did producers come to you asking you to write scripts from their ideas?
“Both. Gabe and I have tried to keep a foot in both worlds, writing for production companies and studios while also generating original material. In recent years, the studio projects have taken up nearly all of our time, but we’ve sold a handful of originals, too.”
- How many scripts did you and Gabe write after “Gunfight?”
“It would be hard to give a precise answer because the job can take many different forms. We’ve written originals, studio projects, TV episodes, and we’ve also taken quite a few jobs rewriting preexisting screenplays. I’d say 20-something scripts.”
- Did any of them wind up in production before the first “Ant-Man?”
“We went into production on an original screenplay I wrote called ‘Haunt.’ It was kind of a personal story, so I wrote it myself. Gabe was a producer on it. I didn’t love the way the movie turned out, but it was a good learning experience.”
To be continued next week; how “Ant-Man came about.”