Josh Merrit described as a neurodiverse scriptwriter and is one of The Guardian’s “5 to look out for”. Josh has worked with the BBC, the BFI, Barbican. hes a playwright (National Theatre, Arcola Theatre, Chichester) and a filmmaker Josh took the time out to speak with me and answer the Spending Time With questions.
So without any more typing from me.Here is Spending Time With Josh Merritt
What’s the most ‘starstruck’ you have been?
Meeting John Lithgow in Chichester whilst he was filming ‘The Crown’, which my partner and I both love.
Steve Coogan, because he has been involved in moulding and shaping me comically since I was about 10.
Though I could say the same about Chris Morris taking the time to chat with me for 15 minutes (in fan years, that’s hours) – we had been to see American Werewolf In London with Edgar Wright introducing (that was quite a day, getting to meet two heroes in one night) and discussed it, plus I had the pleasure of meeting his wonderful sons.
Matthew Holness is a HUGE influence of mine in terms of writing-directing (I adore Garth Marenghi, but his ouevre is so much more than that), so meeting him at FrightFest and getting to interview him for Dark Side Magazine last year was a real honour! He is the loveliest, most patient man.
Fred Dekker – writer-director of Night of the Creeps
, one of the films I’m most influenced by – gave graciously of his time when I interviewed him for Dark Side Magazine (joshmerritt.co.uk/magazine-writing
What was one of the most memorable films you saw as a child?
I’ve always been very sensitive to ambience and music, so anything with an awesome soundtrack and tons of atmosphere. Gremlins – a favourite film of mine. I have just recently become a proud owner of a life-sized Gremlin from Trick Or Treat Studios; in the UK, courtesy of Mad About Horror.
The Lost Boys.
Halloween (I had nightmares about Michael Myers for about a year).
Basically, my obsessions can be traced back to pre-adolescence (like home invasion – thanks, Home Alone!).
What is one of the best pieces of advice you can remember being given?
Just write, even if it’s only one page a day; it’s better than doing nothing, even if you hate what you’ve written, because you can always rework it or chalk it up to practice. I have in the past had a tendency to set lofty goals, overwhelming myself out of ultimately doing anything. At the same time, self-care is important; don’t force yourself (I’ve made myself ill with the workload before).
Have you ever gotten someone’s autograph? Which is the most memorable for you?
Stephen Fry, because he appeared to be asleep at the time.
Do you have any traditions that you have when you are involved in a project?
Consume beta blockers.
I need to be of healthy mind and body, so I try to eat very small and plain portions, stay hydrated (people severely neglect this, probably because being dehydrated can give you a bit of a buzz), combining this with daily exercise (running, gym, even if filming). However, I have not been keeping on top of this recently and am now paying the price! Let this be a lesson: never have a day off.
What was the most recent book you read?
I love factual books. I have a real penchant for autobiographies, and I LOVED Rebel by Nick Nolte, even reading it a second time. I’ve just read Don Coscarelli’s brilliant autobiography True Indie, am currently reading You Don’t Know Me, But You Love Me: The Lives of Dick Miller by Caelum Vatnsdal (thank god I can spell, because I wouldn’t know where to begin with pronouncing Caelum’s surname!) and Coreyography by Corey Feldman because both are legends and have been in some of my favourite films of all time! Soon I’ll be reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret (a gorgeous hardcover with the most wonderful illustrations inside) by Brian Selznick, adapted for the screen by John Logan & Martin Scorsese.
Out of all the projects you’ve been involved with, which one do you feel the most proud of?
Echoes was my first time directing a full piece, and it’s still the thing that gets me the most feedback (including from a BBC producer recently, who said it was impressive for a directorial debut). There’s actually an event being organised by two psychology professors from University Of Salford based around my film, with little old me in discussion with social scientists and the head of a local Manchester age charity.
However, Maddie – a play I’m currently developing with England’s leading mental health theatre group – is – alongside The Story of Betman – the easiest, most enjoyable writing experience I’ve had because I feel I’ve managed to balance genuine laughs with raw evocation of two very delicate subject matters that I’ve had personal experience with. I’m very excited for people to see it!
What film scares you?
JOSH: Now? Threads, about a nuclear attack on Britain and the dystopian wasteland that follows, the effects it has psychologically, sociologically. I watched it once, and it still traumatises me to this day; I haven’t been able to watch it again since, which is awkward because I was supposed to review the new Blu-Ray/DVD release last year (the extras are amazing, though; a FANTASTIC release from an awesome company known as Simply Media)! However, it is one of THE MOST powerful pieces of filmmaking. All world leaders and those in immense positions of decision-making power and influence should be made to experience it.
What is the ONE single coolest movie geek thing you own?
Three things. An actual strip of film celluloid from Four Lions, signed by Chris Morris himself. And a shirt signed by THE Clint Eastwood! Plus a life-sized Gremlin, a recent acquisition.
When you are being interviewed, do you prefer ‘interviews’ face to face, over the phone/podcast or by email?
This is nice because I can take my time, though I’ve come to enjoy the podcast experience; I’m actually recording one via Skype with the B-Movie Bros.
When a film or TV show comes out that you are in, what one person do you want to watch it first?
My lady love partner.
What was the last album you listened to?
The awesome soundtrack to Fright Night (1985), the original and best suburban vampire film, which completely contemporised the genre.
With regards to your own projects, what are you working on that you can tell me about?
I’m working on a coming-of-age feature that deals with neurodiversity (based largely on my experience of living with autism and dyspraxia) at the request of a very well-known film/TV director.
I’m penning a couple of sitcoms for a BBC producer. And obviously there’s Maddie. I might be directing a short I’ve written for the BBC later this year with a VERY well-known actor.
There’s also a farce play called Incongruous Congregation, tackling the subject of anonymous funerals. Apart from the Mischief Theatre Company, who else in theatre is doing pure comedy?!
I’m also extremely excited about a horror film I’ve written called 25 Hurst Road, which deals with childhood trauma and camaraderie. There’s interest from an American horror producer, responsible for a couple of the most influential films of the 21st Century so far.
I’ve just started developing a “B-movie” with a head and a heart, in the horror-comedy genre. Inspired by the industry’s hunger for low-budget, single-location scripts. Think Buried meets Shaun of the Dead crossed with Night of the Creeps, Tremors, The Stuff (Larry Cohen and a recent trip to a Spanish lagoon my main influences for this one).
What’s the most difficult thing about your creative journey?
I suppose coming to terms with my disabilities (if we have to label things, I prefer the term “neurodiverse”), which caused me a lot of loneliness and depression throughout my twenties (I have just turned thirty); I felt estranged from society and human experience. My work output may seem impressive, but it was sporadic. It’s only since I met my wonderful lady love partner that my life has dramatically improved, and so has my work/output as a result. It’s an ongoing struggle (see question about best advice). My partner tells me I’m a workaholic and has to talk me down/snap me out of it sometimes, as the insular/obsessive/hyperfocus/tunnel vision nature of autism especially can lock me into a cycle and prevent me from living my life or basically taking care of myself. This is a gift and a curse, though the stress of not being able to let go of a world or its characters even after finishing (it can feel like a neverending queue that people continually join or ants multiplying in my head) can require a few days of coming down.
Echoes: a 2016 short film from writer/director/editor and producer Josh Merritt. Based loosely on and inspired by Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd’s “missing years”, as well as Ginger Baker from Cream, Echoes attempts to broach and question subjects like crises of identity, dementia, celebrity, the nature of guilt, and the hallucinogenic powers of repression through the visage of psychedelic rock mythology and intrigue, spinning on the age-old question of: Where are they now?
And, the flipside. What’s the most enjoyable for you?
The satisfaction of having created a world I can control, and being good at something: storytelling. Getting to meet and work, talk with amazing people. Connecting with something wider than yourself. Subversively communicating what you would struggle to otherwise or what would be frowned upon as “taboo” usually and having fun doing so!