Spotlight on writer, photographer, and musician Gabe Karkovsky
You're a writer, photographer, and musician- talk about a Renaissance man. Is there a creative outlet that you've recently found yourself enjoying more than the others?
First of all, I wouldn't call myself a Renaissance man. There are plenty of areas that I don't know or master badly like sculpture, natural science, or housekeeping. And if I work in several artistic disciplines, it is because I like diversity. The monotony kills me… But I must say that my greatest passion is always writing scripts. I've spent the past five years pitching scripts and pilots all over the place, sometimes it worked well, sometimes it didn't, but it didn't put me off and I still love screenwriting.
Take me back to the beginning; what inspired you to enter the world of storytelling?
As long as I remember, I always wanted to be an unemployable, suffering artist, of course… No, I somehow think it's the fault of my father who is a big fan of literature and cinema, especially old French films. It was him who often took me to the movie theater when I was little; I saw a lot of films with him, even those which were forbidden to children. Like once, my father convinced a clerk to let me see one of the Alien movies in a local film theater... A fantastic memory of a Hollywood blockbuster and an all-nighter.
You recently finished production on the short film Full Support, which you co-wrote and produced. Can you tell us a little bit about the film?
It's a comedy about two TV writers — slightly inspired by me and my dear colleague and friend — who co-organized a writers' strike. They both believe themselves to be superior, the elite of the nation, which has the full support of society and the media. But on D-Day, it turns out that the truth is elsewhere. I like to make fun of authors or artists in general, of myself indeed, because I know how much we are sometimes snobby and pretentious.
The film is based on a short story you wrote, what inspired you to write it? And why did you feel that the story would benefit from being on screen?
Although the topic is current, I wrote this short story four years ago. A friend — writer — told me that authors are indispensable, necessary for society, and I wrote a very mean and witty short story about three different strikes: London sewer workers destroying the city and the whole country; Rome Lazio footballers who plunge the whole of Italy into chaos; and the strikes of Hollywood screenwriters that nobody cares about. Recently when I saw the strikes and demonstrations follow one another, I somehow recycled the idea in the form of a scenario. Which for me is much more natural than writing a short story. Scenarios have always suited me better since I am a very visual person.
Filming is never easy. Were there any obstacles you and your team had to overcome that made this production different from previous ones? Did anything, in particular, stand out?
Oh, the shooting itself is very easy when you're a writer or a producer. You do very little on the set. It's before the shooting itself that you tear your hair out thinking, "But what did I think?!" This time was no different. A week before shooting, we lost the director and two actors. We had to look for new faces at the last minute, but everything turned out well…
This shooting was a bit special because, with the exception of Sophie Bouvier, with whom I've been writing for some three years, the whole crew and cast were new. I didn't know anyone and, naturally, as a producer, I had my doubts. But in the end, we loved every minute of the shooting and, after watching the final cut a few days ago, I must say that everyone did a good job.
Being a musician, what role does music play in your overall creative process?
I'm worried that my music career is dead just like skinny jeans and DVDs. I actually never had any musical or acting career, except for a few musicals and plays in high school and college. And that's not a complaint. I love music, it's an essential part of my life... I never go out without headphones, I always have music at home, and I never relax more than with one of my guitars. But apart from a few tracks that I composed and published, I don't have too many musical ambitions anymore; today, my only listeners are my girlfriend and my cat… and my neighbors to whom I send a big apology.
I wonder if music plays a role in my creative process. Maybe yes... I write a lot outside, often in a cafe where I have my headphones or I listen to the music they stream. So maybe yes. But I don't choose a particular music for this or that activity. All I know is that I hate silence when I'm working.
You frequently collaborate, what do you believe makes a fruitful collaboration?
Not long ago I learned that collaboration is necessary for me. For two reasons... First, I'm quite social and I don't like to be alone. Secondly, because I seriously think it's better to write in tandem, especially the scenarios which, in their principles, must be clear and intelligible. I had the chance to meet a very good writer, Sophie Bouvier, who also became my friend and with whom we teach creative writing and film history. We get along well on a personal level as well as on a creative level, we are each gifted in different aspects, so we complement each other. That’s important, I guess.
On the flip side, how do you handle creative differences with collaborators?
A boxing match between us used to help before, but I lost way too often, so now we decided to talk about it instead… Say things with a smile on our faces and drink a lot of wine. Speaking seriously, I must say that we manage the differences well. When we have two opposing opinions or ideas, we test them both or ask a third person for their opinion. I believe that the professional partnership of two writers is somehow similar to the romantic one. It’s all about having chemistry, making compromises, and... figuring out how to divide the pizza evenly.
You and your writing partner are creating a podcast, what is it about?
We decided to launch a podcast for anyone who wants to understand the key concepts of literature, theater, and cinema in a few minutes. We created it because it's our specialty: we both studied liberal arts, literature, and cinema in my case, theater in Sophie's case. So we wanted to share our knowledge; we mainly target high school and undergraduate students who need a clear insight into the field, but also those who are interested in their spare time. It's called LES FRENCH INSIGHTS and the first episode will soon see the light of day.
Why did the two of you decide to venture into the world of podcasts?
For me, this is not completely uncharted territory. I have already written — even hosted — a few episodes of various podcasts. But this time it was a practical decision. We wanted to shoot a series, but with all the ongoing projects that we're doing together or separately, we decided on a form that was technically less complicated.
Is there anything you've learned about doing a podcast that surprised you?
Many little things, but mostly in a good way. There are so many possibilities and almost no limits. You can talk about everything and reach anyone in the world.
You have three upcoming films, what can you tell us about them? Is there one you are most excited about?
We talked about FULL SUPPORT which will be released soon. Another is titled BOSTON FLY & TWENTY YEARS OLD MACHETE. It's a short comedy based on one of my short stories too. Inspired by my own misadventures of a few years ago, the film is about a novelist, Robert Epstein, who can't fall asleep and so watches a video with fast sleep techniques that turn out to be stupid and more and more absurd. I really like the script that we also co-wrote with Sophie, but we've been struggling a bit with the production for a while.
Another project is called ON AIR IN 60, also co-created with Sophie. It's a multinational documentary co-created — for the moment — by some four or five directors from around the world, each of whom is shooting a short segment. In short, it's a film about good childhood memories. I can't say more.
Aside from your creative endeavors, you also teach. What do you find to be the most rewarding or the most challenging aspect?
The most gratifying is certainly the contact with the public. After all, it is the public who sees the films, reads the texts and goes to exhibitions. It is better to know them. Also, I told you, I'm a pretty social person and I don't like the image of a writer isolated from the world. It's not me, and neither is Sophie. By the way, this is also how I started to photograph, walking around the city to avoid staying stuck to the keyboard and writing for too long. I walked around town and photographed streets and strangers. Plus, students have amazing ideas. I never understand why so many teachers complain about their level or ability; the majority of my students are bright and surprisingly hardworking. At their age, I was so lazy… I still am.
There are certainly a lot of difficulties. It is a job requiring a lot of preparation. But I honestly think that every job is sometimes difficult when you want to do it well.
Do you find that helping others hone their craft has made you better at yours?
I sense a trick question and feel slightly embarrassed because it seems I have no wisdom to share. I honestly don't know how much of a better writer and photographer I am thanks to teaching. I know I have a certain talent, but I remain very critical of myself.
I never see myself as superior or better than my students; in fact, I try to erase the slightest trace of hierarchy because, frankly, I am still young, I am some ten or eight years older than them, and it is rather ridiculous when a young man wants to pass for a respectful old professor. My motto is to be polite, friendly, and open-minded with students, and that has always worked. Or I hope.
Where can readers keep up to date on your work?
In fact, I publish very few texts if you don't count a few articles on film and television. My most recent photos and quotes can be found on my Instagram. To keep up to date on projects, I have a portfolio with quite a few links, so readers can visit it and butter me up.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
My favorite meal is pizza. And I think whoever invented mint chocolate deserves a special place in hell.