Threads: Ryan Lindauer on his Screenplay “Hammer through Daisies”
Interviewed by Monica Solis
The first weekend of Austin Film Festival, AFF, has come and gone. The annual, week-long event focuses on and celebrates the producers and writers behind the film industry rather than the actors. That’s the tricky part. I mean most of us know the writers or producers of our favorite shows or films by name, but maybe, not by appearance. Their very job, after all, is to make the tabloids love the character they created, not to be a character themselves. But some screenwriters can’t help it. They are characters; they are sometimes stronger than the characters they create.
His name is Ryan Lindauer, a tall man in a tan suit sporting a black, straw Fedora and an inquisitive smile. He’s a screenwriter from New Orleans, whose script titled ‘Hammer through Daisies’ made it to the second round of AFF’s screenplay competition. It turns out ‘Hammer through Daisies’ is sort of a cross between the films V for Vendetta and God Bless America. He tells me his pitch.
“There’s a gunman who carries around a gun, an unloaded gun (people don’t know it’s unloaded), and a polaroid. He was once a photojournalist. That’s why he knows to be at the right place, at the right time, how to scout locations. He knows when something bad is going to happen. He has a sense of intuition. So he goes there, photographs it at the right moment, like the Edi Adams photo, stuff like that. Then he handcuffs the person, he puts a gun to their head, but he doesn’t hurt them physically. That’s another theme that’s exlored – we are so whipped by guns, that if I just show it to you a gun, you’ll do anything. So these people are just like ‘sure, I’ll put my hands behind my back.’ He handcuffs them, puts the polaroid on their chest, writes a little note on it like ‘I like to beat dogs,’ ‘I like to put cigarettes out on children,’ something like that, and leaves it up to the people.”
Lindauer says the point of his protagonist, the former photojournalist, is,
“He’s not playing ‘jury, judge, and executioner;’ he’s just playing prosecutor, essentially. Here’s the evidence, here’s the accused. You all make the decision.’ And we do.”
Lindauer says he was inspired by two things: an internet photo that went viral and a classic poem, which we’ll get to in a minute. He says the photo he saw was awful – it was a photo of a man who was holding a dog up against a wall. The man looked like he was about to beat the dog. He says the mass of negative reactions to this photo got him thinking about injustices that occur daily. He wondered how people would serve justice if it were up to them, if they didn’t have to face consequences for it.
Lindauer says anywhere you live, there are horrible things happening, and if you choose to care about it, you can probably do something about it. But are you going to? Or are you going to look the other way? Lindauer says, in New Orleans, where he’s from, people take care of it. Hence, Lindauer found the base plotline for his screenplay ‘Hammer through Daisies.’
Today’s episode: write and make right. This is Lindauer’s story.
“It’s up to us, whether we call the cops or not, whether we trust the cops. And that’s the thing, a lot of people, especially in New Orleans where I’m from, don’t call the cops if something happens. They deal with it, whether it’s retribution or just walking on.”
Lindauer never shows his protagonist’s face, known as the gunman, in ‘Hammer through Daisies.’
“I call him the gunman because I don’t know his name, I don’t even know what he looks like, you know. He’s got a voice and an outfit.”
He says it is about the message, the symbol, and the action. There is a deeper message behind “Hammer through Daisies,” too. He had a friend who believed in it and who was going to help him get the screenplay off the ground.
“My best friend growing up was my writing partner. But he wasn’t as much a writer. He was going to law school, going to be an entertainment lawyer. He was going to handle that. Unfortunately, when he went to law school, as happens a lot of the time when you have that gene waiting, Schizophrenia kicked in. Almost immediately, the plan was derailed. As happens, a lot of the times with schizophrenics, he committed suicide.”
Lindauer says his friend’s death was incredibly hard for him – emotionally, creatively, and professionally.
“Not only do I not have him, but I thought I would. 2011 was sort of like grieving, grieving, grieving. Not only do I not have him, but I thought I would. Then I was like ‘Alright, get back on the freaking horse. That’s what he would want you to do.’”
2012 was the year Lindauer could really begin to write, he says, and the year he could be proud of his work because it wasn’t riddled with total grief.
“By the time I got to ‘Hammer through Daisies,’ I felt like I could write without it all being about Charles.”
Yet, Lindauer’s screenplay title is taken from a line of the Dylan Thomas poem, ‘Death Shall Have No Dominion’. He says he connects more to the piece now because of the loss of his friend Charles.
Here’s the last stanza of the poem:
And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.
“That quote is, for me, about Charles. What it meant to Dylan Thomas, even though it’s ambiguous was, ‘heads of characters’ meaning on a typewriter, the heads of the characters. ‘Hammer through daisies,’ being pushing up daisies, meaning even if people around you are dying, keep writing. Keep, you know, whatever you do, but don’t give it up.”
Click here for the full interview!