Safety Not Guaranteed’s Colin Trevorrow On His Old Scripts That Might Yet Get Made

Colin Trevorrow‘s kinda-sorta-time travel comedy¬†Safety Not Guaranteed will finally reach UK cinemas next week, on Boxing Day. I give it until New Year’s Eve before it’s a bona fide cult film with audiences over here.

Trevorrow has been much discussed in the blogosphere this year for his apparent involvement with Lucasfilm and the Star Wars series – I got him to clarify exactly what’s going on there, and I’ll be bringing those comments to you later – but where did he come from? What was Trevorrow doing before Safety Not Guaranteed?

As it happens, an awful lot – and some of those old scripts could come back around and become movies now. Here’s some of what Trevorrow told me about his portfolio of spec scripts, about breaking into the business, and about striking up his writing relationship with his Safety collaborator,¬†Derek Connolly.

There are certainly no overnight success stories and everyone successful has been working for a long time. I sold my first spec script in 2006.

I went to NYU and I worked for a while and since then I’ve sold another couple of originals. I haven’t done a lot of rewrites but I’d come in and build things from scratch on properties that already existed.

They usually bring a young guy in to build a movie from scratch and then they have that guy rewritten and the script gets right to the doctoring level at the very end.

For me it’s a lot more interesting to build a world than come in and do a rewrite of something that already exists. Actually, Derek and I are just getting to the point where we’re asked to come in and rewrite things but we’re not keeping anything, we’re rebuilding from scratch.

It wasn’t necessarily that this work wasn’t creatively fulfilling, because it can be, and I made money doing it, but I’d just reached this point where I started to question my acceptance that screenwriting was enough for me.

Just screenwriting is not really what I wanted to do do. I wanted to direct movies and I always knew it.

Younger writers usually have success with original spec material, which I had a lot of luck doing. I sold four original things, one with Derek and three on my own.

Derek and I met at NYU and we were both interns at Saturday Night Live at the same time. We found that we were at comedy writing class together and we made each other laugh. We didn’t actually start working together as feature writers until 2008, a good ten years plus later. Until then we’d just been friends, and had read each other’s stuff. We had done a TV pilot [Gary: Under Crisis] together with a third friend of ours from NYU, which is the thing that got us agents and managers.

I then sold my spec script Tester and I started working as a solo screenwriter. Then I moved to Vermont and… I can only understand why I did this in retrospect, but I really missed the creative energy I had from being in the city and working with somebody else so I called up Derek and he had this great idea for a buddy cop comedy called Cocked and Loaded. The two of us got together and wrote it together and it was the most fun I ever had writing anything. So I basically just broke up with myself and joined a band – a reverse Phil Collins.

We sold another one of our spec scripts to Disney after we did Safety. That’s Hank, and it’s a sci-fi action comedy but we’re not able to say too much more about that one at the moment.

The first script I sold, Tester, was straight up sci-fi. It was really a post traumatic stress drama disguised as a sci-fi action movie and that’s actually still something I might direct. That’s still on the table and it might be something I do a little bit later. Walter Parkes has been attached to produce that.

I sold another script called World War X to Joel Silver. There wasn’t a lot of comedy in that one. These scripts were light and they were fun but they weren’t comedies. But Derek is an unbelievable comedy mind. The stuff that comes out his mind is just ridiculous. When we did Cocked and Loaded the reason it worked was that it had the momentum and the set-pieces of a real buddy cop movie yet it was also shockingly hilarious.

All of the hilarity comes from Derek. We have these really different skill sets that when you combine them, it goes to a different level than either of us are capable of.

Thanks again to Colin for his time.

Safety Not Guaranteed, with its script by Trevorrow and the “shockingly hilarious” Connolly will be in UK cinemas next week. A number of Bleeding Cool’s contributors have seen the film and we’d all recommend it.

Later: Trevorrow on Star Wars, on the visual language of Safety, and on his two other new, upcoming sci-fi projects.