POP INTERVIEW: Screenwriter Walter G. Meyer on His Tippi Hendren Days and His New “Gam3rs”

Meyer, who has been in the real world Hollywood writing game for quite some time, is among the few writers turning out work for any audience range: men or women, straight or LGBT or old or new generations.

Some people write novels. Some write Hallmark cards. Walter G. Meyer does it all; he calls himself “a writer of books, screenplays, novels, plays and for newspapers and magazines.” His latest project is Gam3rs, which he has developed into a play and is in the works for a web series, as it turns out, being produced by the team behind Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World! Meyer, who has been in the real world Hollywood writing game for quite some time, is among the few writers turning out work for any audience range: men or women, straight or LGBT or old or new generations.

walter g meyer

Your play, GAM3RS, challenges the gap between reality and video games. What was your inspiration for this story?
I wasn’t so much inspired to write about video games, as asked to. I was sitting at home one night and a friend-of-a-friend called and told me he had a play due the next day for grad school. He said, “I have this great idea, but I’ve never written anything before and after working on this for two weeks, I have 17 words on paper and I think 14 are bad. I know you’re a professional writer. Can you help me?” For whatever stupid reason, I went over to his place at 10 o’clock at night and we pulled an all-nighter to do the first draft of what would become GAM3RS. I didn’t actually play World of Warcraft until after I had been working on the play for about three years. As I have often said, he had all these beautiful Christmas ornaments, but no tree to hang them on. I created a tree–story arc, character development, plot points. I trusted that his jokes worked for the context and really didn’t have to understand the game to write the structure.

In recent years, a lot of movies are coming out about video games. One I can think of right away is “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World.” That said, it’s soooo much easier putting this to work in a film format. How can a gaming-related play succeed?
GAM3RS is a one-man show, so much of the action and characters has to take place in the heads of the audience members. You can envision the most evil boss you’ve ever had when our one character talks to “Ms. Krakower.” Early in the play, we use a plot device where our character Steve explains to the (unseen) guy, “Bob” in the next cubicle the entire game, the massive raid Steve is launching (“it’s the largest raid ever in the history of video games–well, as far as I know!”) so the audience can follow the action and the battle through Bob’s eyes. The web series based on the stage play is being made by the same company that made Scott Pilgrim, so there will be some elements of Scott Pilgrim in the series–rage meters above characters’ heads, the cubicle farm becoming a PacMan board, and other pieces of games.

Of your work on television, what memories stick out to you? What was your favorite show to work on?
The first television show I worked on was “Tales from the Darkside” and it was exciting as a kid fresh off the turnip truck from Pennsylvania to work with Hollywood legends like Keenan Wynn and Tippi Hedren and hear their stories. But of course I have to say my favorite show to work on is GAM3RS. During casting it hit me that I had moved to Los Angeles 25 years earlier to sell scripts and make TV shows and movies and now here I was having real actors come in and read lines I wrote to try to impress me for a part in something I had created. It took a long time, but it was finally happening.

How is television a more difficult medium than writing a novel?
There are pluses and minuses to TV and writing novels. Writing a novel is lonely work. Until you are done, there is no input from anyone else. But that also means that you have absolute control. Those characters are exactly who I want them to be. With the web series, my co-writer Brian Bielawski has a great deal of input and then the producer, director and even the actors get to weigh in. Sometimes they have great suggestions and make scenes much funnier. And it is very gratifying to see an actor perform something you wrote. People can tell me how much they liked my novel “Rounding Third,” but I can’t really see their reaction. I can’t watch them enjoy my work.

Let’s talk about you as a person. In your coming out article for The Los Angeles Times, you talked about how in the 1990’s, a friend giving you an AOL free hours disk, warning you about men seeking men on the Internet. Do you think as time has passed, it is still easier to come out online first and actually helpful to go about it this way?
I think for many people it still is easier to come out anonymously. Internet sites are no longer as popular as they were when I came out, but the few times I have been on Grindr, I have seen profiles for men saying they are married and experimenting, or looking for their first experience with a guy. I think the world has changed a lot and societal acceptance has made it easier for lots of people to come out. When I came out, zero states allowed gay marriage, for instance. But the homophobia expressed by members of the San Francisco 49ers (in that, the gayest city in America) make it clear that there is still a lot of acceptance that needs to happen for everyone to feel comfortable coming out and if hiding behind a keyboard or smart phone makes it easier, people will still use those devices.

You said, “The only gay men I knew were nothing like me.” Do you think people should guess whether someone is gay based on what a man looks like? And gay people included, doing the guessing game? Do you feel people can ever really tell if someone is LGBT or is it all in people’s heads?
In saying that I didn’t know any gay men like me, I was expressing more my own limited version of the gay world, not that all gay men are so stereotypically “gay” that everyone could spot them. I later learned that there were lots of gay men around me, I was just too clueless to realize that gay men take all forms. Some of the “gayest” men I know are straight and I know many gay athletes and Marines. I do not think people should make assumptions. If someone is a good Marine or mechanic or hair dresser or florist, does it really matter who they date in their own time? I have terrible “gaydar” and that is probably just as well. It keeps me from stereotyping.

Another quote: “Feeling too gay for the straight world and too straight for the gay world, I felt like a man trapped on the ledge of a burning building, terrified of the flames but even more afraid to leap.” Have you now met a lot of men who *are* just like you?
I have met lots of men like me. Many of whom got married because the pressure not to was too great. I think as LGBT people are more accepted by society those pressures to spend time dating a gender you have no interest in will diminish and fewer people will waste time on pursuits that don’t interest them. I think of how much more I could have done if I hadn’t spent so much of my life fighting my own urges and fighting a rear-guard action against the world. Since I came out to myself I have been able to concentrate on moving forward with much greater success.

How did you end up coming out offline? You talk about it in the article, but what really made you do it? What feelings? Events?
Once I know there could be acceptance–maybe not even from my family and old friends–but from someone and that I didn’t have to go on feeling so alone, the choice seemed easy. After I kissed my first guy, I understood what I had been missing–why people wrote poetry and love songs and talk about violins and fireworks. I didn’t care if I ever saw another girl let alone kissed one. There was no turning back to the dark age I had escaped.

And right, uh, write, back again! What does being a writer mean to you?
I recently told the father of another writer friend that being a writer is sort of like being an alcoholic. No one would really chose to be a writer. You are born that way. And you suspect life might be easier if you did something else, but you can’t stop, so you go on doing it. I read once that people used to often tell Ernest Hemingway, “I want to be a writer.” And his response was something like, “Then you never will be. If you had told me ‘I have to be a writer’ or ‘I am a writer’ I would say you can be.” I never really chose to be a writer and it so much a part of me that when I have tried to do other tings, it has never worked out. I love watching people laugh as they view GAM3RS and this is from my web page about writing:

“I did a reading/signing the other day and the post reading/talk discussion was amazing. Not so much because of me–I just was the facilitator, but because so many had read the book and were able to make really great comments and give amazing insights. And all were careful not to give away too much to those who had not read the book. I felt like I was a professor conducting a PhD course in literature, the comments were that intelligent. Moments like that are why I want to be a writer. To have people so excited about my work and my writing and to really get the message and want to debate its finer points—wow. It felt great. To have people get teary-eyed as they talked with such passion about characters I had created…it was awesome.”

I’m all about self improvement at home, no matter what, no matter if it is working out or cooking! How can someone improve themselves as a writer without taking a writing course?
To be a great writer, you have to read a lot. A lot of good writers. But also some bad ones to see what they did wrong. And write. A lot. I have taught some writing classes and been a guest lecturer for some writing classes and I always preach that I come from the Nike school of writing: Just do it. If you wait until you’re in the perfect mood, or perfectly inspired or the tea is just the right temperature and there is nothing good on TV….if you’re looking for excuses, you’ll find them. If you want to write–if you need to write–write!

If people grasp anything from your work across all platforms, what should they remember you for?
For a class many years ago I was asked to write a mission statement for my life and I created one that said, “To use my writing to better the world.” Whether reading my novel helps someone come out or accept a gay family member or my book about Alzheimer’s helps people understand that horrible disease or my play not only makes them laugh, but inspires them to do what they need to with their lives–face up to life’s challenges and surmount them…I hope to be remembered for writing that helped change the world. In my first book I make reference to changing the world. No one individual can. Not even Gandhi or Martin Luther King changed the world. They changed a piece of it. A much bigger piece than most. But if we each do our part to change a piece of it, the world will be a much better place. I hope to be remembered for improving my little corner of the world.

Nicole Russin aka. Richárde

Nicole Russin, also known as her alter ego Richárde, is a bestselling chef, experienced print journalist and beauty/editorial model. You may visit her official website at NicoleRussin.com.

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