LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Interview with Conor Stechschulte writer of Ultrasound
By James Whittington, Sunday 5th September 2021
Based on his own graphic novel 'Generous Bosom', Conor Stechschulte has written a tight and tense script for Ultrasound which is showing today at Arrow Films Fright Online Edition. We chatted to him about the process of bringing his original idea to the big screen.
HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to become a writer?
CS: I did! At about 7 or 8 I went from wanting to be a fighter pilot to wanting to be a writer. My formal education is in visual art, but I've always had narratives at the heart of all the creative work that I make and have never really stopped writing in one form or another.
HC: Was there any one person who inspired you?
CS: I can't say there's one person that's inspired me since there have been so many. When it comes to writing, I had some instrumental teachers early on in school that went out of their way to make a safe space for me and my friends to be creative. My 7th grade English teacher, Mrs. Gold formed a club for my friends and I so we could work on our Star Wars fan fiction together, I would have otherwise lost my mind in middle school (still did in large part! Haha). Another huge inspiration for me was the group of friends that I found in art school. We all started self-publishing comics together and they're still my dearest friends to this day. The author, Kobo Abe had a huge influence on this story. In particular his book, Secret Rendezvous.
HC: When did you first come across the graphic novel 'Generous Bosom' which the movie is based on?
CS: I drew the graphic novel! Haha, so I was there right at the start. I started working on it in early summer 2012. I've been publishing it serially with London's own Breakdown Press since 2014. The last part is just about to be released! I was less than halfway through what I'd planned for the story when Rob got in touch about adapting it for the screen, so I effectively laid out the latter portion of the story in the screenplay first, which was an interesting way of working. By the end, it got really confusing trying to parse what I'd put in the books versus the script versus all the discarded versions.
HC: How long did it take to complete the script?
CS: The first draft took about 4-5 months in the summer of 2016. I was in grad school at the time so then I got to work on it with some brilliant writers and film makers like Beth Nugent, Janet Desaulniers, Jesse Ball, Chris Sullivan, and Jim Trainor. In January of 2017, I flew out to LA and Rob and I worked on it intensely for a week: I'd spend the mornings writing, we'd spend all afternoon discussing stuff and trading ideas then repeat the next day. From then until they started filming three years later, we were working on it with varying levels of intensity.
HC: Did you have a cast in mind when you were writing?
CS: I didn't really. I had sort of concretized the characters as the drawings I'd made of them in the comic, so it was sort of hard to imagine other people occupying those roles. I think Rob and Mandy Sherman did an incredible job of finding actors, now I can't imagine anyone else playing the characters!
HC: This is your first feature, what was it like watching your words "come to life" on set?
CS: It was truly one of the most psychedelic experiences I've ever had. It was unbelievable to walk on set and see objects, characters, settings that I'd had in my head for eight years at that point occupying actual physical space. It was humbling and ecstatic. I was lucky enough to be on set to see 60+ pages of the script get shot and it was an absolute highlight of my life. Seeing everyone who worked on the film from the actors to the costume designers to the script supervisor all really showed me in a thousand different ways how to level up as an artist and writer.
HC: You must be happy how the movie has turned out?
CS: Of course! I'm so grateful that this community of artists came together around these ideas I'd had and made something totally new that I never could have predicted. Everyone involved added so much depth to the material that I could never claim.
HC: What advice would you give to new script writers?
CS: I'm an utter noob, I'm not sure anyone should listen to my advice, haha. That said, being involved in this movie drove home two things I think are worth sharing as advice: build a mutually supportive community of artists around you and don't wait for anyone's permission or approval before making something. The more I make things, the more true I find these to be. At the end of many years of looking for funding, Rob ultimately decided to just go ahead and make the movie himself by whatever means. What made that possible was the twenty-plus years of relationships he'd built up with other creative folks in LA. It was beautiful to see.
HC: So, what are you working on at the moment?
CS: I'm working on edits for the collected version of Generous Bosom that will be published by Fantagraphics next year, along with taking notes and drawing up plans for future comics and screenplays. We're also working on a zine of artwork inspired by the film with an incredible line-up of cartoonists and illustrators involved!
HC: Conor Stechschulte, thank you very much.
CS: Thank you! I'm so glad you liked the movie and really appreciate you taking the time to interview us!
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