6 min read

Interview with Screenwriter Casey Mensing

Casey Mensing
bciff team

March 01, 2022 6 min read

Script: Invitation to my own assassination

Writer: Casey Mensing

Tell us something about your love for stories. How important are stories in today’s world? 

Stories are an essential part of the human experience. How the practice of storytelling has evolved from a simple oral tradition of small groups to being able to share moments of our lives with people from all over the world in real-time is fascinating. It all comes from a desire to be understood and impart something of ourselves, not just as individuals, but as a part of humanity, that will outlive us.

 

Generally do you think the habit of reading books is slowly disappearing today. Would you like to suggest few books for the readers in us?

That’s an interesting question whose answer may not be as simple as we think. On the one hand, people probably read fewer books than previous because technology has provided us with more modes of entertaining and distracting ourselves than ever before. But I’d guess that more people were illiterate in the past, so the numbers might not be much different.

Since my script is satirical, a couple of writers I have to mention are Kurt Vonnegut and Philip K. Dick. Dick is an especially heavy influence on my story, “Judith.” A largely under-read writer, Terry Southern, was an inspiration when I wrote “Invitation To My Own Assassination.” I love the work of two contemporary writers: the novelist and poet Seb Doubinsky, whose City-States Cycle everyone should be reading, and the poet Ada Limon.

What are the movies you’ve admired over the years? Tell us about a few of them.

I have such a deep love for movies. There are films constantly playing when I’m home. A few I’ve always loved or have recently moved me are Fellini’s 8 ½ and Cassavetes Opening Night. Any of the Cary Grant/Katherine Hepburn comedies. The silent film, The Unknown, with Lon Chaney Sr and a young Joan Crawford. Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man. The film Memphis directed by Tim Sutton. Yorgos Lanthimos’ films The Lobster and The Favorite. Portrait Of A Lady On Fire is incredible. I watched it three times in one day after the first time I saw the film.

How significant is screenplay for a movie as an act of potent initiation? What would be your suggestions for the budding screenwriters?

Filmmaking is the most collaborative of art forms. Every element of the process is essential and carries weight. A great script can be a massive inspiration to the director and actors, just as a bad script can limit what they are able to do in their roles. The best advice I can give to budding screenwriters about writing is the tried and true advice I got, and that’s to read obsessively. All genres and all styles. Learn from everyone telling a story. Learn the rules of screenwriting, but don’t let them define how you write a script.

 

Tell us something about the Place of satire in the domain of cinema today.

Satire feels out of place in the earnestness of our contemporary culture. Though satirical humor is still everywhere, nuance and subtlety are gone. It’s in your face as if there’s a need to remind the audience that this is funny. Perhaps, too, it’s because our perception of the world is all dire and doom. The twenty-four-hour propaganda “news” channels haven’t helped this despite being parodies themselves.

 

Tell us something about the sensational nature of the title. Does it necessarily add to the excitement of the story?

The title, Invitation To My Own Assassination, is the kind of wry joke a person who has fallen victim to an incident that’s both life-threatening and totally absurd and manages to live through it can, would and should make.

 

In one of the earlier scenes Elliot talks about the time he was struggling in the industry. How authentic is the confession keeping in mind the plight of independent artists in general?

The story Elliot shares of his early struggles to make it in the film industry as he lives through new types of troubles is authentic of a time and place. He’s a director whose career began in a pre-digital, internet, and social media age. Also, a time before massive conglomerates purchased and then sanitized our culture. We’re at a place now where the ability to make a film and share it with the world is easier  than ever. The downside is there is an absurd amount of content coming out every day. It’s staggering to think about the number of artists of all disciplines fighting to be seen and heard by an already saturated audience.

 

Tell us more about your dexterous use of the tussle between the conservatives and the liberals in your script. Were you setting an Orwellian paradigm of sorts (the old man being Big Brother)?

It’s hard to escape Orwellian ideas when examining society. As frightening as the concepts Orwell and Huxley presented to us are, there is something amusing about how we all participate in a society of control so readily. There’s even a percentage of the population that welcomes the idea of giving control of their lives to forces greater than themselves. It’s why religion has been a continuous presence and why fascism lies just beneath the surface, waiting.

 

How would you describe the perversions and deviations in cinema, the way Elliot puts it? How can one categorise the aberrant from the general in terms of cinema?

Cinema is frozen moments of our hopes, dreams, and desires. Real-life love stories rarely play out like rom-coms. We feel powerless in our day-to-day lives, so we turn to heroes. Sexuality is manipulated, distorted, heightened, or virginally romanticized to give the act itself an ethereal quality. Elliot’s desensitized to the cliches of the Hollywood blockbuster movie culture; he loathes the path he’s on and his participation in this culture. He mocks the repressed, puritanical notions that drive the American audience’s impulses, the soulless money-grubbing that motivates the studios, the twisted nature of these ideas, and the desire for total control that guides his captors, causing them to imprison him.

 

You have impeccably satirized the political abductions and murders that take place across the globe where in most of the cases artists and journalists fall victim. Did this message lurk behind the making of Elliot’s latest venture?

The stories of politically based abductions and murders were a guiding presence through the whole process of writing this script. Lorca being shot by Franco’s henchman. Roberto Bolano shining a light on the recent past in Mexico and Chile. We can reflect on the long history of these brutal actions while still witnessing these crimes happening with frightening regularity worldwide. It’s important to tell stories that examine this type of desire for power and control and how it leads to the crushing of anything in defiance of it, whether it be an overtly political act like demonstrating or the simple act of an artist thinking and existing independently.  

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