Wearing a comfortable, light blue button-down and a fuzzy brown sweatshirt over top, Paul Brick sits comfortably in his chair with a warm, reassuring smile on his face.
“I never wanted to be a screenwriter,” explains Paul, a junior majoring in creative writing. “I wanted to be an author.”
This St. Louis native’s journey to the screen began in high school, when a few of his friends put together an independent film company called “Psycho Films” and arranged some screenings in the surrounding area. They needed a script, and Paul, thinking the whole venture was fun, decided to join in.
“So I pitched an idea and it was crap,” he said with a laugh. “It was a combination of a bunch of short stories I’d written and some miscellaneous ideas in my head at the time.”
The director, his friend Joe Weil, who is now pursuing a career in cinema at the University of Southern California, approved the project, to Paul’s confusion and delight, although the final draft of the screenplay was turned in a month past the deadline.
Written in 2009, his first movie was called “The Pascal Sign,” an existential drama about a mysterious sign that convinces the world the apocalypse will occur precisely six months after the sign’s appearance.
“We took the apocalypse and took it into a microcosm to look at the people included,” Paul said. “So the effects of the apocalypse were vague.”
When he writes, Paul is not so concerned with the potentially mythical backdrop of his stories, but instead with how humanity reacts when confronted with something unusual. He believes that by observing those things, we can tap into the inner minds of humans and see how their ethics and emotions are expressed.
And this thematic occurrence is reminiscent of various writers who have influenced him.
“Charlie Kaufman, Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater,” he said, listing his idols. “I love their style because they use fantastic things to express things that are real.”
His second movie, written in 2010, is called “Welcome to Shirley.” The film is still in production, but a trailer can be viewed online. Paul likes his latest work much better than his first.
“‘The Pascal Sign’ was developed with the director, but I worked on this one on my own,” he said. “The final product was totally different than I initially envisioned it, but it’s really good. And it was only 10 days late.”
“Welcome to Shirley” is a surreal drama-comedy set in the titular town of unknown location and population. The main conflict arises between an estranged brother and the rest of the family, all of whom contemplate their values after the family’s father dies. Although the plot seems somber, Paul insists that it’s funny.
“Hopefully, [Psycho Films] can arrange a screening in Binghamton during the spring semester,” Paul said.
His films so far aren’t the type of movies that generally rake in millions of dollars at the box office. Paul believes he has some blockbuster-style ideas, but he’s not as interested in them. And Jaimee Wriston Colbert, a fiction-writing professor in the BU English department, agrees that his unique ideas are what make Paul stand out.
“He’s willing to take risks,” Jaimee said. “He’s a young writer who will eventually go somewhere. He’s someone to watch.”
Jaimee’s prediction seems to have some merit. Paul’s next project, still untitled, ventures into more exhilarating territory.
“It’s going to be about cyberterrorists,” Paul said with a glimmer in his eye. “They’re a fascist, ritualistic, murderous cult of cyberterrorists and they want to destroy America.”
Benjy Shuter, a junior majoring in creative writing and Paul’s housemate, recognizes a recurring theme of virility in Paul’s material.
“The most prominent question his writing asks is, ‘What does it mean to be a man?'” Benjy said. “I think the change of that definition with the change of society really interests Paul.”
Paul agrees that he looks at the traditional values often associated with masculinity, such as bravery, personal strength and collected composure, and sees how they are defined in modern times.
“I’m really fascinated by the role of men now. What does it mean to be a man and how do we find masculinity in our world where most of the things we need to define ourselves as men are gone?” he said.
Since he so adamantly stated his original disinterest in screenwriting, he was nonetheless surprised when asked why he didn’t stop after his first script.
“I’m a writer,” he said simply. “I write.”