Reel Montclair: Dialogue with Screenwriter George Pelecanos

By Babee Garcia, Entertainment Editor

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Students, faculty and fans of George Pelecanos’ work awaited his first arrival to Montclair State University.                      Babee Garcia | The Montclarion

“I don’t mind conflict and argument. Good comes out of that, but to a certain extent,” expressed award-winning screenwriter and American crime author George Pelecanos Monday night about his latest HBO series “The Deuce” at the new School of Communication and Media’s Presentation Hall.

The Film Institute at Montclair State partnered with the Writers Guild of America East to introduce its first conversational series colloquium, Reel Montclair: Dialogue with a Screenwriter.

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College of the Arts Dean Dan Gurskis introduced Professor Susan Skoog and George Pelecanos to the Presentation Hall stage. Babee Garcia | The Montclarion

“This is the first time that the Film Institute has brought a high profiled screenwriter on campus,” said Film Institute Program Coordinator Denise Shannon. “[Pelecanos] wanted to come speak to the students. It’s a really big deal.”

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Daniel Ferrar, senior film major, is a huge fan of George Pelecanos’ HBO series “The Wire” and “Treme.”                        Babee Garcia | The Montclarion

“I am a huge fan of his HBO series ‘The Wire’ and ‘Treme,'” Ferrar said. “These shows are interesting, timely and socially relevant.”

At 7:30 p.m., Dialogue with a Screenwriter commenced with both Director of Film Institute Programming Susan Skoog and screenwriter George Pelecanos on center stage. The event consisted of a one hour in-depth discussion with key scenes from HBO’s new fall series “The Deuce,” “The Wire and “Treme,” followed by an audience Q&A.

“The Deuce” takes place in Times Square during the 1970s where the pornography industry was booming, racism was common and mobs were prominent. The cast includes notable actors such as James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

“Actors are essential in bringing words from a screenplay to life,” Pelecanos said. “Some of our actors are even involved in the production and writing process. For example, James Franco had an equal vote in selecting the leading female role.”

Starting out as an American crime author at age 30, Pelecanos grew up with immigrant grandparents and parents in Washington D.C. Pelecanos had always been passionate in learning about people and neighborhoods more than the crime aspect within his work. His eagerness to study people, ability to be engaged with current events and elements within his own personal life has helped expand his writing creativity.

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Professor and Film Institute Director of Programming Susan Skoog asked George Pelecanos questions about his creative process in HBO series “The Deuce” and what intrigued him to become an American crime writer.                                                                                            Babee Garcia | The Montclarion

Evan T. Johnson, a junior also majoring in film with a minor in creative writing, enjoys watching twin brothers Vincent and Frankie Martino played by James Franco the most.

“I really like James Franco’s characters because they have a fascinating character arch,” Johnson said.

Vincent Martino is a hardworking bartender trying to support his children while his twin brother Frankie is in a financial rut due to gambling. Both brothers become slowly suckered into working for a mob.

Pelecanos describes the show as a locked away time capsule, revealing some important moments in New York’s history.

Although Pelecanos loves writing for television, he says it is much easier to write a novel than a screenplay. However, his advice to aspiring film writers in the room was to not be a production assistant or be in charge of props but rather to start out as a script supervisor. A person appointed in this position takes notes on details within a motion picture, including wardrobe and actions displayed by the characters.

“Golf clubs are not in my future,” Pelecanos said, closing the dialogue. “I will write until my death.”

Evan Dickerson (as seen in the Montclarion Twitter video clip above), a 2014 Montclair State alumni, shares his thoughts after Dialogue with a Screenwriter ended.

“I thought this event was awesome,” Dickerson said. “I hope the Film Institute offers more programs like this.”

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