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Exclusive 19w Interview: A First Look at Left Clique

Eric Espejo is a busy man these days. The 19th & Wilson VP is also the writer/director of the upcoming feature, Left Clique—the first full-length film undertaken by the independent studio. In this exclusive interview with 19w.com, Eric sheds some light on the eagerly anticipated geek comedy.

LET’S START WITH THE NAME, “LEFT CLIQUE”. GIVE US SOME INSIGHT ON ITS MEANING.
A brief synopsis of the story would be to say that it’s about a guy who’s been faced with being labeled and associated with a certain clique of people throughout school and later on even in the corporate world of office politics. Then it’s just a matter of play on words with regards to a left click button of a mouse, and the story being centered on a group of ‘techies” at the office.

TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT I.T. NEVER ENDS, AND HOW IT INSPIRED THE WRITING OF THIS FILM.
When 19th & Wilson was just starting out we were so eager to start learning and experiencing filmmaking that we wanted to start shooting anything. We would exchange emails and vote on what would be a good subject for a short film. Most of us at 19th & Wilson are in the Information Technology field and going on the sound advice of ‘write what you know” we decided to film a sort of day in the life of a stereotypical Help Desk guy. When we all started sharing war stories it was evident that stuff that happens at the office from the IT side of the house can be hilarious. It was also funny with regards to the type of characters that are in IT to the actual customers, the USERS. With the success of a film like Office Space we felt that a story about IT guys could definitely be marketable, and when people told us they enjoyed ITNE it justified going forward with Left Clique.

IT IS MORE THAN MERELY A FULL-LENGTH VERSION OF I.T. NEVER ENDS, THOUGH, CORRECT? ELABORATE A BIT ON THE GENERAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TWO.
In some ways a short film has a lot less restrictions as far as story and structure. You can get away with a nonlinear method of entertaining an audience when the running time is a mere 5-10 mins. When you’re going to attempt to entertain and keep an audience’s attention for at least 90 mins. then it has to have a solid story. Everyone knows that the most important thing is the story so to me it was about finding the story within IT. It’s still about a group of IT guys but there’s going to be a lot of support in characters from people involved with office politics to non technical people such as the Users. While ITNE didn’t have a specific story, (it basically followed around a ‘techie” for a day), Left Clique will have a clear central character and a story unrelated to ITNE.

LEFT CLIQUE INTRODUCES A WHOLE NEW CAST OF CHARACTERS. CARE TO TELL US ABOUT ANY IN PARTICULAR?
I think Phil the security guy is one of my favorite characters. He’s paranoid because he feels like anyone at anytime can read his email or see where’s he’s been on the web, etc. However, it also amazes me how little people know about security and their own personal PC’s and while Phil can exaggerate at times, he isn’t far from the truth when it comes to some particular organizations.

YOU’VE STRESSED THE IMPORTANCE OF “WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW.” YOU’RE VERY FAMILIAR WITH THE I.T. INDUSTRY–CAN YOU ELABORATE ON WHY THIS WORKS SO SUCCESSFULLY?
Robert McKee is a very well known “guru” of screenwriting and a good chapter in his book about story and structure describes what is and why there is CLICHÉ. Filmmakers, especially Indies, will always try to avoid being cliché. Well, cliché as Robert McKee describes it, is when a writer does not know enough about a subject and attempts to write about it. The character he creates and the dialogue that he writes then becomes cliché because that writer will turn to what he’s seen in film or television to guide him in writing for that unknown subject. That’s why you’ll notice, (if you watch “behind the scenes” or “making of…”), a lot of the great Directors and/or Writers talking about all the extensive research they’ve done in regards to the subject of that particular film. Having said all that, it has definitely helped me in writing the script because my research is my day job.

DESCRIBE THE PROCESS OF WRITING THIS SCREENPLAY. WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST DIFFICULT ASPECT?
The process is rewrite after rewrite. Once you have the skeleton of the story then you have to really try draft after draft to get the flow and the content to a comfortable level of having someone else set eyes on it. The most difficult aspect has been time. Since I’m not a full-time writer, finding time to write and get into a rhythm without interruption is tough. It can definitely lead to writer’s block when you step away from the story for over a week.

IN THE SAME VEIN, WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST ENJOYABLE PART OF THE PROCESS?
Collaborating with the team and visualizing scenes and characters are the most fun. Writing comedy is tricky. What’s hilarious to me might not be to someone else so you have to trust your instincts and you have to tell stories or jokes to your friends…if they laugh at it then you hope you’re on the right track.

WILL THIS FILM SHOW THE I.T. FIELD IN A PARTICULARLY GOOD OR BAD LIGHT, OR CAN WE ASSUME THAT THE SETTING IS REALLY ALL IN FUN—IN OTHER WORDS, YOU WON’T HAVE TO BE AN I.T. GUY TO ENJOY IT.
The goal is definitely for everyone to enjoy it and yes it’s all in fun. There isn’t a hidden agenda to present IT in a negative or positive light. I will say that I have tried my best to stay true to the industry as far as the language and technology is concerned. After we screened ITNE we had “techies” come up to us and say that we got it right as far as their jobs were concerned. Another concern of mine was to not get too technical or else you lose the non-technical audience. However, again to borrow from Robert McKee, people go to movies to experience the unfamiliar and I think I needed to stay true to the technical side to get the audience interested, but present it in a comical way. As for the ‘techie” audience, I think they’ll enjoy it too because they can empathize with the main characters and while it’s not the Backdraft for IT guys it certainly tries to clear up some of the stereotypes of their profession.

HOW MUCH OF WHAT WE’LL SEE IN LEFT CLIQUE IS BASED ON YOUR ACTUAL EXPERIENCE? ANY PARTICULAR WAR STORIES?
There are a lot of traits that I’ve integrated into certain characters that have derived from co-workers. A lot of the dialogue is what I hear everyday. There is one particular scene that actually happened exactly the way I wrote it but I don’t want to give it away…you’ll have to find out or even guess which one it is.

Left Clique is scheduled to be in pre-production in late 2005. Be sure to visit the official Left Clique site for updates in the coming weeks.