WRITERS' ROOM Q&A: DECLAN FAY
Declan Fay is an award-winning Writer, Producer and Director, who co-created Ronny Chieng: International Student. He has written for Rove, Dirty Laundry Live, Problems, You’re Skitting Me, and Retrograde. In 2019 he co-created the ABC narrative comedy podcast, Crossbread, which was nominated for an ARIA, won an Awgie and was named in Apple’s top podcasts of the year.
Who are you heroes in writing?
I know the second I hit send I’ll think of another thirty writers that I love, but this is who jumps into my head right now: Billy Wilder, Charlie Kaufman, Armando Iannucci, Michaela Coel, Kate McCartney, Greg Larsen, Coen Brothers, Vince Gilligan, Sam Shepard, George Saunders, Kurt Vonnegut, Zadie Smith, Patricia Lockwood, Charles Portis, Denis Johnson
Favourite piece of Screen dialogue?
Bloody hell, this is a tough one.
The first scene that ever made me lose control with laughter, was the Mr Creosote scene from Monty Python, which I saw when I was nine. I just love Cleese’s sick glee at feeding the last wafer to the huge guy, and then immediately running away, and diving behind the front desk before the guy explodes. I watched that scene until the Betamax tape wore out at our house.
The other scene that popped into my head is the final dance in Little Miss Sunshine. There is something so triumphant/beautiful/hopeful when the family all leap on stage together to support the daughter.
I fell on the floor of the cinema cry laughing during that scene.
Best excuse you’ve used (or heard used) for missing a deadline?
At a very low budget comedy show I worked on years ago they put five of us in a tiny attic and there was a leaky pipe over my desk, and just as I was about to hit send on a script, the pipe leaked straight onto the computer and shorted the whole thing out. They said they’d fix the pipe but the guy just tied a tea towel around the pipe and just slow dripped on my head for the next eight weeks. My script never made it into the episode.
Worst note you’ve ever received?
One producer would always suggest adding in the giant pineapple from Coffs harbour into your script. Even if your script was set in a grungy sharehouse in Melbourne he'd somehow wedge that fucking pineapple in there. I always wondered what happened to him at the Giant pineapple that it kept infiltrating his writing and everyone's writing who worked under him
Another producer would read your script and repeatedly suggest that it should end with releasing a live animal onto the set. Dogs, pigs, any kind of animal. The guy missed his calling, should have just worked at a zoo.
What song best represents your career?
Cloudbusting - by Kate Bush
I love the line, “I just know that something good is going to happen, I don’t when, but just saying it will even make it happen” I think there’s something when you sit down at a blank page, and just start typing, you have to believe something great will eventually appear, some small thought might tumble out of your head and connect to someone else.
And the lyrics have so much that inspires/haunts me: Dead dads, childhood memories, realising your heroes are fallible, how an object changes meaning over time, and working together for an insane dream which shouldn’t work but eventually does. And they actually create a machine that does make it rain. And then the dad gets arrested by the FBI and the kid is haunted by the memory for the rest of his life (I choose to ignore this last bit)
Also on a strictly musical sense, who manages to combine cello and marching drums on the same track. It's simply a superb song.
As a bonus here is Big Boi from Outkast describing why he loves Kate Bush's Running up that Hill so much. His giddy joy is wonderful.
Favourite cinema hero and villain?
Joe Gillis from Sunset Boulevard jumped into my mind, a hapless writer who stumbles onto the greatest story of his life when he meets Norma Desmond, but it eventually kills him. Apologies to anyone who hasn’t seen the film, but you have had almost 100 years to watch it.
And for villain I would say Gus Fring in Breaking Bad. The quiet, calm, menace is so compelling and unnerving.
If not a writer, what would you be?
A teacher. It’s a boring answer, but it’s true. I like working with young people who want to create, help them find their voice, and then eventually put me out of a job in ten years.