"We have a rule: you have to finish writing anything you start. If you get stuck, you just have to force yourself to write it through to the end." - David and Janet Peoples
The old adage "location, location, location" is generally alive and well in Hollywood that, when pursuing a career in the film business, aspiring film industry mavens need to live, work, and schmooze Hollywood's players and pretenders. Far way from Hollywood's hazy sunsets and arcing spotlights, however, nestled in the lush green hills of Berkeley, California, screenwriters David and Janet Peoples have successfully rooted themselves in the film industry as artists with myriad impressive credits. Their removal from the factory that is Hollywood gives the Peoples the advantage of not being forced to churn out scripts but provides the breathing space for their meticulous writing technique and detailed work towards writing perfection. Noted for writing dark, complex characters in Unforgiven and Blade Runner, as well as 12 Monkeys, the Peoples have helped set the stage for a generation of morally ambiguous characters - which would be seen reflected in works by filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino or the Coen Brothers.
David and Janet's collaboration as scriptwriters began on the Oscar-nominated The Day After Trinity, a documentary about the making of the first atom bomb that examines the "human potential for self-destruction and the dangers of blind faith in technology." In 1982, David's feature script was brought to the screen in the Ridley Scott directed Blade Runner, an adaptation of Philip K. Dick's much admired novel; a film that would raise the eyebrows of not only science fiction fans everywhere, but studio executives as well. In 1992, Unforgiven, a script that floated around Hollywood for nearly twenty years, garnered an Oscar nomination for screenwriting and gave actor and director Clint Eastwood his finest vehicle in years. A modern Western, Unforgiven presents a somber view of humanity where good guys are rarely simply 'good' while bad guys are redeeming, even human, while responsible for despicable deeds. A few short years later, the Peoples would see their 12 Monkeys (dir. Terry Gilliam) on the screen - a film inspired by the 1962 French short film La Jetee. As in Blade Runner, the Peoples "returned to their themes of trials of strength, ruined futures and fight against malevolent bureaucracy."
Enormously versatile storytellers who always challenge and respect their audience, the Peoples have displayed their imaginative work in such films as Hero (dir. Stephen Frears, starring Dustin Hoffman and Geena Davis), Leviathan (starring Peter Weller and Amanda Pays), Soldier (starring Kurt Russell), Ladyhawke (dir. Richard Donner, starring Matthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer) and The Blood of Heroes, an amazingly intricate post-apocalyptic story which David Peoples also directed - and quite frankly puts almost all other films in the genre to shame. "Despite this healthy output, neither David nor Janet sees themselves as genre writers. Their varied and idiosyncratic film projects reveal them as moving targets, never settling in one esthetic place and refusing to be pegged. Though their films are invariably distinguished by the presence of dark underlying themes, the Peoples always ensure that they also contain a strong storyline. Their films manage to be both pessimistic and optimistic allegories of mankind bent on self-destruction, yet offering characters who, against the odds, find the inner fortitude to go on.
Cinequest is proud to honor David and Janet Peoples as Maverick Spirit Award recipients for telling compelling, thought-provoking stories that make audiences consider multiple points of view. Please join us as these successful, celebrated artists will share personal perspectives on screenwriting and filmmaking. - Mike Rabehl