Boaz Yakin on the Process of Screenwriting, Directing and Happiness

Boaz Yakin is an American screenwriter and film director. He is also a longtime friend and creative mentor of BOONJI founder Brendan Murphy. Boaz has worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood including Clint Eastwood, Denzel Washington, Ryan Gosling and Renée Zellweger. His film “Fresh”, starring Samuel L Jackson, which Boaz wrote and directed, won critical acclaim and earned him the Filmmaker's Trophy at the Sundance Film Festival. Boaz also directed “Remember the Titans” and many other great films. He has a new film coming out this fall called Boarding School, which he wrote and directed. Check out this BOONJI 1 on 1 interview with Boaz, a real inside look at the life and thoughts of a big time writer and director in Hollywood.


Your parents met in Paris while studying the art of mime. Did you grow up in a very creative and expressive environment?


I did... very strange environment, though. My parents were these very creative, offbeat theater people; my father was a director, directed "Jaques Brel is Alive and Well in Paris", taught movement and Mime, and my mother performed and taught Mime as well, they had a company they performed with for most of my life. But they also sent me to this very conservative Orthodox Jewish school ( we were not at all orthodox at home), where I basically was taught that everything I did outside of school was awful and wrong and sinful. So it was kind of a schizophrenic youth.


Do you remember how old were you when you wrote your first story and wanted to turn it into a movie?


Well, I told stories all the time, as a kid, and when I was thirteen and my brother was eight I started telling him real stories, serialized stories that I made up on the spot, all the time. So I've been telling stories most of my life. The first script I actually sold was based on a story I told my brother.


Could you talk about the difference between directing and just writing, from a process standpoint.


Writing is solitary, you're communing with your own thoughts and spirit in the quiet and space of your own room. Directing is an interactive, communal process, it's management of many personalities, many creative perspectives, and trying find a common voice and movement.

What’s your favourite part in the process of writing a screenplay?


Hmmm... just the solitude of it, I guess. The feeling of speaking to the self, of seeing and feeling stories in my own my mind, hearing voices in my head.


Looking at your whole body of work, is there a specific screenplay that you feel most deeply connected to?


Different things at different times, I think. Some things that meant so much at the time I was writing them seem so far away and strange now...


What would you say allows you to express your creativity more - writing or directing?


They're different, and they tap into different parts of one's personality. I do feel most connected to myself when writing.


Do you ever get interesting ideas from your dreams?


I'm sure I do... but I rarely remember my dreams when I wake up anymore…

How important is it for an artist to have a group of friends to accomplish things?


I came to Hollywood alone. I made friends once I got here. I was young, and met other people who were interested in the same things I was. I left college early, so all the friends I made here were older...eight, maybe ten years older than me. But it was great because we were all hungry and often supportive of each other. I think it's crucial to be part of a group of creative people. Ultimately I wish we were a little bit more supportive of each other and a little less competitive, but hey, that's life, right?


If you could work with any actor, who would it be?


William Shatner.


If you could change one thing about your profession what would it be?


Cowardice.


What is your idea of happiness?


Being grateful for all things and being connected to creation and to God.


What would you like to say to your 16 old self?


When you're thinking about having sex with that girl who just said she's feeling something funny down there, just say no.


Could you tell us about what you are currently working on?


I'm making a strange and colorful movie called "Boarding School." It's kind of a horror movie, in the world of 'Night of the Hunter', influence by Mario Bava and Pedro Almodovar, David Lynch. It's cool.


Check out Boaz's website and his full filmography on the IMDB.