An interview with 2018 Universal Studios Canada Screenwriter-in-Residence, Pat Mills

August 13, 2018 by Denise Ing

The Cinema Studies Institute is pleased to announce that Canadian director, screenwriter and actor, Pat Mills is the 2018 Universal Studios Canada Screenwriter-in-Residence. Pat has written and directed two feature length films: Guidance (2014) and Don't Talk to Irene (2017). With Don't Talk to Irene, Pat won the Toronto International Film Festival's Pitch This competition, as well as Best Comedy Screenplay at the 2013 Austin Film Festival. During his time at CSI, Pat Mills will be teaching CIN349H1Y - Screenwriting.

We asked Pat to tell us more about himself.

What influences your work?

This is always a hard question to answer, because it comes from everywhere. But, any person, whether real or a character, who can make me laugh out loud while making me feel a sense sadness at the same time, usually does the trick.

You were director and screenwriter for both of your feature length films and a majority of your short films. Do you prefer directing movies you have written?

Absolutely not. There’s freedom in bringing another writer’s work to life. When you direct your own work, you bring along the baggage of the frustrating screenwriting process. When you direct another script, the possibilities are endless, because you haven’t exhausted any ideas, yet. It’s always exciting to find the right visuals to move the story forward that aren’t necessarily on the page.

What advice do you have for aspiring screenwriters?

Never be afraid of your voice. When you’re starting out, you tend to worry if you belong, if your writing is too different, or if anyone will “get” it. It took me far too long to realize that all of those negative voices in your head are the only voices you should ignore. The most important lesson is to find your voice and devote yourself to it.

What will you be working on during your term as Screenwriter-in-Residence?

I’m in the early stages directing a social horror film, sort of a ‘lesbian Get Out’, an exciting screenplay I didn’t write. I’m also developing several TV projects, including a workplace comedy with a production company, as well as a pilot based on my first year of high school. I am also working on two book adaptations for feature films, and mentoring a fun web series about ridiculous drag queens.

What do you have in store for the students in your course, CIN349H1Y - Screenwriting?

I want everyone to find their individual voices and gain confidence as writers, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. I will take them through the not-so-easy process of getting a screenplay on its feet - from idea to draft.

Your favourite movies?

Despite the speedwalking scene, I really think When Harry Met Sally is a masterpiece. I have a dark sense of humour, so love films like Welcome to the Dollhouse and Young Adult, but I’m also a sucker for slick feel-good movies from the 80s like Working Girl. Recently, I loved Get Out. I am a huge horror fan - I think The Shining is perfection. We can all thank Shelley Duvall for that. She needs to be thanked more. Thanks, Shelley Duvall!