SPOKANE, Wash.-- KREM 2 has introduced you to the band of "tag brothers" whose never-ending game of tag is now hitting the big screen. It took another Gonzaga Prep alum to get the project off the ground.
Hollywood screenwriter and producer Mark Steilen, from the Gonzaga Prep class of 1977, said he first learned of the group by reading about them in the Wall Street Journal. and knew right away that it was big screen gold.
"The story kind of landed that morning with me. I kind of thought of a way to frame it, and who the hero could be, that kind of thing," said Steilen. "So that one kind of came easy to be honest. At least, it’s oddly so similar to the movie, after all the development, it’s unique in that sense. But yeah, I kind of knew pretty quickly."
So usually, when you write a script and you send it off to a studio, they end up changing it a lot from your original idea, but you’re saying with this one it stayed pretty true to the original script?
Yes and no. ‘Pretty close to the original script’ means not as horrible as most experiences I guess is the way to describe it. So, you go through variations.
How much of a role do the actual guys play in this process? Are you talking to them to get their story? Are you talking to people who know them? What does that look like?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean early on, I just picked their brains for a while on different specific events they’d had. You have to get an idea, personality kind of drives stories. So, it’s always good to gather as much material as you can, and then let it stew in your head. And then you sort of have to kill your children because you have to take 30 years and make it 90 minutes. But the starting point is important. And, to know you could write them. I’d just call the guys up and I’d run an idea by them or anything my head bumped on. They were always terrific. They were always really helpful.
Is being a writer like being an on-camera talent, where it’s hard to watch yourself on TV, or your work on TV? Do you like watching the pieces you’ve written?
That’s a good question. The answer is: I almost never look at my work when it’s done, because it’s like watching a litany of your sins or all your missed opportunities. So I don’t watch a lot, but when they’re a heavy lift like this, and it was really kind of a joyful process--"Tag" was a hard gig, but it was a lot of fun, too--and so I was excited to see it. To see it with the first time audience at the premiere and really see the reaction, that really makes you feel good. You go, ‘Oh, dude, they laughed.’ You know, I was sitting there alone for four years hoping they would laugh and now they are, so that’s terrific.
"Tag" the movie premieres Friday, June 15. KREM 2 is hosting a special showing of the film Wednesday, June 16.