This is one of an ongoing series of interviews with contributors to The 3288 Review.
Gilbert Prowler is a freelance writer and independent filmmaker who has spent most of his life working, looking for work or running down checks. He was born in Brooklyn, New York at a time when you could use a public restroom without having to pass through security, the pornography was usually hidden in the attic by your old man and Pluto was a planet. His travels have taken him to the Alaskan oil fields, upriver past the French Foreign Legion in Africa as well as Hollywood, California, all of which required working in unforgiving environments with an odd lot of sorts. Gil’s credits include NBC’s “The Tonight Show”, BET’s “Comic View” as well as Oscar and Emmy nominated productions. You can find some of his work on his blog, baconplant.com. He currently lives in California with his wife, three children and a brown lawn. We published his short story “The Walk On Bye” in our inaugural issue in August 2015.
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3288 Review: How did you first decide to be a writer? Was there a particular moment or event which started you down this path?
Gil Prowler: Although there are some “firsts” you don’t forget (and I think you know what I’m talking about) there are others you don’t remember, and deciding to be a writer is one of them. But I can recall when I realized that words could bring about wildly opposite reactions within the same room of people. When I was about eleven or twelve my parents went on a trip to Europe and I was being warehoused at summer camp. One evening my bunkmates and I presented a skit that I had written in front of all of the campers and counselors at the talent show. Halfway through our seemingly popular act the head of the camp came onto the stage and herded us all off. He then admonished us about the nature of our content, a string of double entendres, few of which at that age I understood anyway, repeated in front of the mostly appreciative crowd. Tellingly, my reaction wasn’t one of regret but of accomplishment. Although that happened years ago I think that was when I understood how words, written or spoken, mattered.
3288 Review: When reading your story “The Walk On Bye”, and reviewing your website baconplant.com, the comedy roots are quite clear. The story feels like it could easily be a scene in a sitcom. Have you done any writing for film or stage?
Gil Prowler: Let me say I wrote more letters to the editor than for film or stage. One great place to get published is in the “Letters to the Editor”. Teaches you to write concisely and with a point. Try to be selected as a “NYT Pick” on the New York Times web site. That’s really the shit. What I did write for film and stage, “don’t amount to a hill of beans”, an apt summation derived from some film or stage production.
3288 Review: While acknowledging that it is probably not so easy to do in California, I have to ask: have you reached the point in your career where you can write full-time? Or do you still have a “day job”?
Gil Prowler: I don’t work full time, haven’t for years and nor would I want to. I have plotted a course of self employment in a field that allows for making a living working hard while working part time – filmmaking. That, plus lowering my expectations in those frequent lean years, has always kept me from the “day job”. Having said that, I wouldn’t care to write full time either. As for living in California, if you don’t know any better it seems normal. I, however, know better so it ain’t easy.
3288 Review: How did you come up with the Elvis Presley story within “The Walk On Bye”? It has an air of plausibility; the feeling of something that could have happened.
Gil Prowler: They say “write what you know” and if you write fiction you have to add “and make the rest up”. I think it’s important that if you’re a writer, or for that matter just crossing the street, you are aware of everything you see or hear around you. It’s there where even the slightest remark or event can lead to your next story.
I knew a guy who I called “Frankie Gump” (not his real name but you get the reference) because he told so many unlikely yarns that after a while I don’t think either one of us could tell fact from fiction. The basis for “The Walk on Bye” came from his telling me he had played for Elvis on one occasion and from that I penned my own tale.
“An air of plausibility” probably best describes the style I like to write in and I thank you for that observation. If you look at some of my other writing/ramblings on my web site (shameless plug, baconplant.com) it’s all fiction, but as I mention in the “About” section, we all believe what we want to believe. I often get asked if the posts and short stories on the site “are really true?” Well, no they aren’t, none of them, although there is a basis of reality in each. It can be a fine line between fact and fiction and the fun is in blurring the two of them…unless you get sued.
3288 Review: Does your extensive time behind the camera provide you with any of the material for your stories? Do any events which come to mind which were particularly inspirational?
Gil Prowler: Inspiration is certainly in the eye of the beholder. Each of us in our own way knows when something resonates.
I saw an example watching a news cameraman set up his shot. For the most part broadcast news shooters spend their days constantly coming or going so they don’t spend a great deal of time composing a shot. At this event, though, I noticed a cameraman going to great lengths to frame and light an interview. When I said to him in passing that his producer and reporter must appreciate the effort he put in he paused and said they rarely mentioned it. Didn’t matter anyway, he added. The reason he worked so hard, he told me, wasn’t necessarily to impress anyone else but for him knowing he done the best he could.
And I heard one when we were interviewing an athlete whose claim to fame was he held the record as the oldest triathlon champion (through attrition, I should add, as the previous record holder had passed away a few days before). Anyway, we asked for his advice for staying in such vigorous shape.
“Everything in moderation,” he said with a wink to the camera, “including moderation.”
3288 Review: Has your idea of what makes for a good and compelling story shifted as you invest more time and energy in your writing?
Gil Prowler: I’ve always felt that a good story has a lot to do with greasing the friction with penetrating dialogue and that hasn’t changed. Even a poorly conceived plot can be made interesting if the characters have a life of their own. What has changed is appreciating the effort needed to accomplish that and find the place where you can say you got it. Like lighting a scene in a film you can go on and on tweaking but at some point you gotta go with it.
3288 Review: Now that you are writing more, what’s next? Do you have anything planned for 2016?
Gil Prowler: For 2016 I’m looking forward to getting healthier, wealthier and younger. Realistically, I have a shot at maybe two out of three. And, of course, getting out alive.