WRITERS' ROOM Q&A: GIULA SANDLER
Giula Sandler has two series in post production, Savage River for the ABC (co creator and lead writer) and The Winter Child for C5 UK (creator, sole writer). She is also developing an adaptation of The Geography of Friendship with Aquarius Films and Dollhouse Pictures for Stan/Lionsgate. Other credits include The Murders at White House Farm, Glitch, Bloom, Nowhere Boys and Wentworth.
Who are you heroes in writing?
Damon Lindelof, The Leftovers and Watchmen had my jaw on the floor for every episode. I aspire to that level of audacity and poetry in everything. Joey Solloway, for Transparent and the criminally underrated I Love Dick. Both were so human and messy and perhaps the polar opposite of The Leftovers. Phoebe Waller Bridge, see below. She brings a magic to her scripts that can’t be quantified - someone else can take the very same ingredients and make something that just doesn’t have that spark and it’s so hard to explain what that is. And it’s the spark that we’re all always chasing.
Favourite piece of screen dialogue?
“Kneel” - Fleabag, Season 2.
Sometimes all it takes is one word, from the right character in the right moment.
Or basically any line from Succession. Am I allowed to say ’the Cunt of Monte Cristo’? If I had written that line I would have built a whole scene around it. Multiple scenes, with callbacks. But they have so many brilliant lines they can afford to practically throw it away.
Best excuse you’ve used (or heard used) for missing a deadline?
I am unfortunately one of those people who is physiologically incapable of missing a deadline. I get anxious just at the thought. I have no concept of how people do it and no excuse barring bereavement seems adequate to me.
Worst note you’ve ever received?
All notes are the worst note I’ve ever received. And yet, not getting any notes is worse. I want my scripts to get better than the first draft. I want feedback. I hear about some, possibly apocryphal, writers who don’t even read the notes and I can’t even imagine it.
What song best represents your career?
Probably, “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John. I’ve been a TV writer for a long time and there have been so many ‘thanks but no thanks’, so many ‘almost but not quites’, so many reasons things didn’t happen that were out of my control, a matter of timing and luck or someone having the same idea at the same time and just getting it made fractionally earlier. But there’s never been anything else I’ve wanted to do, or been good at, so I haven’t had a choice really, I’ve kept going. I do think that’s half the battle.
Favourite cinema hero and villain?
My favourite characters in cinema are hero and villain both at once. Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood, Sergey in Burnt By The Sun, Jackie in Red Road. People who do bad things that we understand on a gut level, or are compelled by psychologically. There’s also Suzie in I Hate Suzie (I watch a lot more TV than movies these days…) People who can’t easily be put in either the hero or villain box. Though as I mellow with age, I do appreciate a genuinely good person on screen, Merritt Weaver in Unbelievable (another TV show, sorry) made the trauma of the subject matter palatable. Someone who cares and does the right thing is almost revolutionary after so many years of anti heroes.
If not a writer, what would you be?
I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember, so if I wasn’t a professional writer, I’d be an unpaid one. My parents, horrified at the thought of me not being a doctor or a lawyer, gave me one piece of advice when I jettisoned university for film school - if you can not write, then don’t. I can’t not.