Kiss Me Quick Before I Shoot: A Conversation with Filmmaker/Memoirist Guy Magar

by Lisa J. Jackson

Guy Magar was nine years old when he left Egypt in 1958. His family immigrated to the U.S., where he grew up in Middletown, NY. Graduating from Rutgers University, Guy began his film career at the London Film School. “Soup Run,” his first short won a Special Jury Prize at the 1974 San Francisco Film Festival. In 1978, Guy relocated to Los Angeles to attend the American Film Institute. His first short, “Once Upon an Evening”, made for $500, got him a 7-year deal at Universal Studios. Guy went on to earn over 100 film credits including episodes of “La Femme Nikita,” “Sliders,” “The A-Team,” “Blue Thunder,” “Fortune Hunter,” “The Young Riders,” “Lawless,” “Hunter” and the CBS pilot/MOW “Dark Avenger.” He also directed 35 shows of the daytime drama “Capitol.”

Guy’s film credits include “Lookin’ Italian” (starring Matt LeBlanc of “Friends” acclaim and singer Lou Rawls in their first film), “Stepfather 3,” which launched HBO’s World Premiere Series and the cult thriller “Retribution,” which was released for the first time on DVD on its 25th anniversary in 2012. His recent feature is “Children of the Corn: Revelation,” based on Stephen King’s original story.

Magar is the founder of the Action/Cut Filmmaking Seminars, which for the last ten years, has provided the acclaimed “page to screen” 2-day educational industry workshop. Action/Cut has taught thousands of filmmakers during seminar tours around the world. His seminar is available as a 12-hour DVD most acclaimed home film course. Guy is also founder of the annual Action/Cut Short Film Competition, which provides an opportunity for young filmmakers to showcase their talents. Action/Cut was one of the first to stream films on the Internet, which can be viewed year-round on its website. MovieMaker reviewed Action/Cut as one of the “Top 10 Shorts Festival in the World for Filmmakers.”

Guy lives in the Hollywood Hills with Jacqui, his beautiful wife of 28 years.

Welcome, Guy, please tell us about your current release.
“Kiss Me Quick Before I Shoot” is an unconventional memoir because it deals with diverse topics such as the magic of making movies and the magic of finding true love. I’ve been blessed to have had such a kaleidoscope of experiences starting as a child in Egypt and immigrating to America, growing up in New York and learning to speak English, going to college at an incendiary political time in the country (late ‘60s), and then setting myself on such an unlikely journey to become a film director in Hollywood.

That career adventure was a story I always wished to share because it’s been rich with wild and crazy experiences such as my first producer turning out to be a Mafia assassin, almost decapitating Drew Barrymore right after ET, and coming close to derailing James Cameron’s career though he is so talented I doubt anyone could have altered his storied destiny. Everyone loves to look behind the curtain of the movie world and this memoir takes them there.

Finding true love for me is all about falling in love with Jacqui, and having a Camelot wedding where I got to duel for her hand (a la Errol Flynn) in a romantic union that has blossomed to this day, and this journey was also worthy of sharing especially with the extreme dramatic turn of Jacqui suddenly being diagnosed with leukemia three years ago.

That unique medical journey to heal her through a cutting-edge clinical trial was a triumphant story of the human spirit – of her great courage – that deserved to be shared with the world. Everyone knows someone with cancer, and so I wanted to write a book about our experience that would inspire folks to get through their illnesses. For me, the grateful feedback from caregivers and cancer patients who are enjoying this book has been the most emotionally satisfying response to this memoir.

What inspired you to write this book?
This book was a surprise. I never had an intention to write it. After the difficult seven months it took to treat Jacqui’s illness and do the transplant that healed her, and after sleeping on a cot next to her and living in a tiny hospital room for months, I had gone to see a therapist looking for ways to unwind. She told me I was going through post-traumatic stress syndrome which surprised me since I thought only veterans coming back from wars suffer from such illness. She pointed out that I had just gone through my own emotional “war” to heal my wife. She told me I needed to find a “release” and encouraged me to find it immediately.

The very next morning, I just sat down and started writing. Somehow I knew I needed to write about this journey as my release, and without an outline or any plan whatsoever, I just thought to start at the beginning and see where it took me. I was waiting to get stuck or lost and have to go back and outline the story properly but somehow I always knew when to end a chapter and how to begin the next. In the most amazing organic process I’ve experienced, this went on for four months until I reached the end of the story. Then, like with all writing, it was a matter of rewriting over and over and I believe I did over 20 full rewrites over a period of 15 months until I was happy and done with it.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m actually quite excited about adapting this memoir into a stage play which is what I’m presently doing. To take this material and use my visual talents as a filmmaker to write the stage play of Kiss Me Quick Before I Shoot and structure the basic story into a set of scene montages that actors can perform on a stage is quite an ambitious endeavor. Readers and reviewers have commented about the humor in the book, the crazy stories, and the voice telling them. If I can capture that into an exciting and comedic evening at the theater, it would be a whole new challenge and visualization of this memoir.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Though there are some people who are just directors, and some who are just writers, the so-called hyphenates who manage to be director-writers I believe have the most exciting experiences of writing stories on paper and then visualizing them – translating them – to the screen. For me, it’s the ultimate job and I came to that realization when I fell in love with filmmaking while in film school. My first story as a screenwriter was for a very short film idea called Bingo and it turned out to be a 90-second film which proved so exciting to be able to write and direct the material, that I devoted my career to doing both. I’ve written all the shorts and feature films I’ve made but one which was Children of the Corn: Revelation based on Stephen King’s original story. I consider myself a screenwriter first because it all starts with story, there is no movie until there is a script. I’ve been a private consultant to screenwriters for years in Hollywood, and looking at projects from a writer’s point of view has been very helpful to my directing work.

Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
When I work on a screenplay, I really do focus and get deeply into a writing rhythm. I’ll try hard to write every day and for many hours if I can isolate myself. It’s difficult because I have quite a few meetings every week on various projects in different stages of development and as a filmmaker and also a producer I have a responsibility to keep all those moving forward to hopefully green light status.

Structuring a story, creating characters, figuring out all the twists and turns, and finally the climax and resolution are the skills you need when creating a story and making it as exciting and entertaining and original as possible. Pacing and style, and especially great snappy dialogue are of huge importance in screenplay writing. This memoir was an 18-month writing journey. It required 4-months to write the basic storyline from start to finish and another 15 months of rewrites and over 20 revisions till the manuscript worked for me. Then I had to find and layout over 125 photos I included in the book to bring the narrative to life. It took me longer to write this book than any movie I ever made.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was real lousy in English because I was 11 before I started to learn how to speak the language. Because I was good at math and science it became a natural progression to go to engineering school at Rutgers College in New Jersey. But the late sixties were quite turbulent and due to the many side interests at that time, it became apparent this was not for me and I switched to philosophy. Since I didn’t want to teach or write it, my degree was useless and I ended up living in a tent on the beach in Provincetown, MA. So I was a content, happy, broke, beach bum with no ambitions. Then, I turned 25 and decided I better do something. Since going to the movies was my favorite hobby, I decided to go to film school and find out if I liked making films and if I had any natural aptitude for it. And that’s when I fell in love with filmmaking and my road to Hollywood began.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I wanted this book to be a good friend with which you curl up with while sipping a hot chocolate because writing this memoir was a celebration of life. For me, it’s about following your dreams and making them come true. And that’s magical, as it is for all of us, and I was hoping to share that universal commonality. I encourage my readers who share my story to be inspired to celebrate their own unique life experiences. It was my desire and hope that by sharing my magic it would inspire folks to reflect, to take the time to appreciate their own great life journeys. This is why the last parting line in my book is “Dare to dream. . .I did. From one magician to another: Peace.”