Screenwriter and Producer: Mark Boal

Harper College was proud to introduce Mark Boal Sept. 15. Boal is a screenwriter, journalist, and producer which his film, The Hurt Locker, won Best Picture.

Boal explained how he became interested in journalism and his experiences in the field.

Mark Boal is the writer of the movie "The...

Mark Boal is the writer of the movie “The Hurt Locker.” Screening was at the Landmark Sunshine Theater, NYC. Director, writer, and actor were in attendance and held a Q&A session afterwards. This was an amazing movie about the EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal units) operating in Iraq. It’s an unbiased look at a very dangerous and fascinating job, I highly recommend everyone try to see this movie. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I know I shouldn’t be saying this since I am at a school, but, don’t let school get in the way of your dreams. Life is great, not everyone is made out for a concrete path,” Boal stated. Work outside the system, and make your own way.”

Boal’s inspiration for becoming a journalist was two of the most famous journalist who then became authors, Hemmingway and Orwell. He then went on in the lecture with his story of how be became the screenwriter and producer of The Hurt Locker.

Boal graduated from Oberlin College in 1995, with a degree in journalism, and then decided to travel to Europe. He traveled from Turkey to Bulgaria, and then finally to Hungry where he settled down to find a job as a copy editor of a newspaper.

“The only reason I really received the job was because I spoke English, so I was pretty grateful to have that under my belt,” Boal said.

His first story that he wanted to do was about a man who jumped in front of a train. He believed this would have been front page material, however, he soon found out that in Hungry, nearly ten people jump in trains ever two weeks. Boal stated:

“In New York that story would have made front page headlines, its not every day that someone jumps in front of a train in America,” he said.

After Boal’s second attempt in writing a story about a man who was lit on fire by his fire failed because he couldn’t speak, he ‘gave up’, and went back to New York. He then found a job as another copy editor at the Newspaper called Village Voice.

His first story published was about a Christmas Tree Exploitation. He discovered the Mafia selling New York citizens trees that were worth $20, however, they were selling them for nearly $100.

After his first story was published, he received rejection, however said,“I was extremely anxious to be apart of this world, and desperately seeking out to find more chances.”

Years late, Boal became a well established investigative reporter working at magazines and papers such as; Play Boy and Rolling Stones. One of Boal’s largest cover stories was when he was given the opportunity to go to Iraq and cover the war.

“I found that in order to cope with the tragedy of 9/11 and the war, I would have to go and write about it,” Boal said.

Playboy offered him to go to Iraq and cover the story of an Army Bomb Squad. Boal realized when he reached Iraq that there was no way of backing out of this mission because there was no way of leaving Iraq until the day he was scheduled to depart.

He went on to say how he was taken to his trailer which was two trailers down from one that was hit by a bomb.

“The man who showed him to his trailer said to me, ‘You will want to sleep with your helmet on your crotch. If you are hit there by a bomb you won’t want to be alive either way,'” Boal explained.

Boal’s inspiration to make his article into a screenplay came when he and his friends were talking about how many movies were being done about the War in Iraq, but nothing on the bomb squads. He then went into many hard days of writing the screenplay for The Hurt Locker.

Rejection after rejection, no one wanted to finance and take on his screenplay. There then came a day when a man founded the movie and raised $11 million for the film. They then went to film the movie in Jordan, which hadn’t been done since Lawrence of Arabia.

The movie then made its way to top, with almost no criticism or disapproval. The move became a hit and even received  six Academy Awards and grossed nearly $50 million.

“There were so many risks for the movie, but by taking risks, the movie became what it has. If I can give anyone words of wisdom it would be to meet people willing to meet people who will lead the way,” Boal said at the end of the lecture to the guests.


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