Screenwriter/director Chris Sparling had a couple false starts in L.A. before he eventually was awarded the Best Original Screenplay by the 2010 National Board of Review for his Buried screenplay.
The Rhode Island native said he trying to do too much in his first attempts to make it in L.A. (taking acting classes, waiting table, going to school) when he was younger. So he headed back east where he earned his undergraduate degree from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, and his graduate degree at Bridgewater State, in Massachusetts.
And he kept writing. And kept making mostly short films in his home state where they played at The Avon Cinema in Providence. So he was keeping busy, persisting a few bumps in the road, when he finally came up with this little idea:
“I had made a feature beforehand, and it suffered because it had way too many locations, way too many actors. All these characters, all these locations, all this stuff that I couldn’t support with my budget.
“You learn from the mistakes you make, you know? You try to, anyway. So with BURIED, I realized, ‘Well, this time, I’m not going to star in it. I just want to direct it. I want to write something. I want to have something produced, in a pretty meaningful way, that I wrote and I directed.’
“The intention was to come up with a story that I could shoot for about five grand. I had been working, probably at a job I hated – because I hated almost all of them back then, put aside a little bit of money and said, ‘All right. I can make a movie for five grand and not completely turn my life upside-down.’
“So, naturally, with that small of a budget, I had to keep thinking smaller and smaller and smaller in scope, and also find a way to have less and less and less characters – which all ultimately left me with a guy alone in a box for a whole movie.”
Go Into The Story interview with Scott Myers
I guess you could say he failed there, too. He didn’t direct Buried, and it wasn’t made for $5,000. Some would call it failing forward. The film got made for $3 million, starred Ryan Ryan Reynolds, was well received at Sundance, and made $19 million world wide.
Sometimes it’s wise to just step back, reevaluate the situation, and simplify things.