Duane Byrge has written for The Hollywood Reporter for more than 20 years. Starting out as a secretary for the entertainment industry newspaper while he was a graduate student at the University of Southern California, Byrge rose to serve in various capacities, including news editor and senior film critic. He serves as a consultant to the Chicago International Film Festival, where he brought Halle Berry to Chicago in 2001 for a career tribute.
A Wisconsin native, Byrge holds a Ph.D. in Communications, with an emphasis in Cinema, from the University of Southern California, where he has served as a lecturer. His Ph.D. dissertation was the basis for the book, “The Screwball Comedy Films,” which he co-authored. The book was re-released in hardcover in 1991 by McFarland Publishing and re-released in paperback in 2001 as part of the publication’s Classic Series.
Currently an assistant professor of Mass Communications at Virginia State University, Byrge teaches journalism, motion picture history and appreciation, and mass communications. He is working on a book on movie producers, “Before the Shooting Begins,” which will be published by the University of California, Berkeley Press.
Veteran film critic Duane Byrge takes readers on a behind-the-scenes thrill ride at the legendary Cannes Film Festival in his new mystery, THE RED CARPET AT CANNES.
A longtime movie writer and editor for the Hollywood Reporter, Byrge turns to the thriller genre to
Hackbart finds himself in the middle of a Hitchcock-style mystery as he becomes the prime suspect in the murder of the lead actress of the festival's opening-night film. Interrogated but released, his passport is confiscated, and he is hounded by the world media. He must solve the murder before the culprit kills him or the police arrest him.
Aided by his female companion, Delisha, Ryan's investigation thrusts Hackbart into the underbelly of the most glamorous film festival in the world and opens his eyes to what lies underneath the glitz and glamour.
After a long, successful career as a film journalist, Byrge decided to change to the novel format to tell his story.
“You can reveal truths within a novel that you can’t convey with the ‘facts’ of a news story,” Byrge explains. “It allows me to flesh out the full story of the events I have covered.”
THE RED CARPET AT CANNES will please mystery fans and film buffs alike. It's a five-star travelogue straight into a celebrity universe of dazzling parties, high-end cuisine, superstar celebrities, high fashion, and movie-world politics.
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Do you take notes when reading or watching a movie?
I have been a film critic for The Hollywood Reporter for most of my professional life. I take compulsive notes – I know shorthand – which serve as springboards for my reviews. I find I can enliven them with specifics from my notes that one does not necessarily always recall after seeing a movie.
When reading, I always read with a pen in my hand. I put slash marks at passages,words, phrases,or dialogue that impresses me. Years later, I might pick a book off my shelf and speed-read it again by savoring my markings.
Do you have a day job? What do you do?
I have a wonderful day job. I teach film, writing and journalism at Virginia State University. The students stimulate me with their questions and curiosity.
Can you name three writing tips to pass on to aspiring authors?
Re-write, re-write, and re-write.
Do you let unimportant things get in the way of your writing?
Nope. Not only that, I do not let important things get in the way of my writing. A blessing and a curse.
What hours do you write best?
I have developed a morning routine, inspired by the deadline demands of my reviewing for The Hollywood Reporter when it operated under a traditional newspaper cycle. I would see a movie at night, and write my review the following morning. It was due at 10 a.m., so I developed a morning-routine. An added benefit, I am most creative in the morning when my brain has not been glutted by the minutiae of the day.
I once read a very perceptive article by Stephen King where he noted that he writes in the morning to take advantage of the brain's transition from its sleeping-to-waking cycle. The brain is in a fluid state and the dreamy free-form associations one makes in sleep co-mingle with our “awake” brain. This confluence sparks creative thoughts not attainable during a wide-awake state. I truly believe that is true: I have often had the great, early-morning writing wonder of asking myself, “How did I come up with that?”
How often do you write?
Incessantly. Constantly. Writing does not mean hunched over a computer. My best writing – ideas, etc. – occurs when I am not writing. I love to drive, phone off, no music. Things pop into my head. But you can't force it. You can't make that as your goal. It needs to just happen.
Are you an avid reader?
Yes, I have very eclectic tastes. I read every Tom, Dick, and Harry. By the Toms, I mean Tom Wolfe and Tom McGuane whose style and prose I admire. By the Dicks, I mean mainstream writers such as Dick Francis, for their structural skill in writing a genre mystery and from whose technique I can profit. By the Harrys, I mean for all the very bad, successful writers whose books I read to inspire my confidence: if these no-talents can be published, there is hope for me. In short, if I only read the Toms, I would be overwhelmed and lose the necessary confidence to continue. So, I learn from the crafty Dick's, and am inspired to press on by the hapless Harry's.
What are you reading now?
I just finished John Sanford's Neon Prey, and am now re-reading Tom Wolfe's My Name is Charlotte Simmons
Has writing always been a passion for you or did you discover it years later?
No, I always wanted to play quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, but fellow students at the University of Wisconsin always complimented me on my editorials and articles for the student newspapers, the Daily Cardinal and, later, The Badger Herald. So, I decided to forego a professional football career to become an ink-stained-wretch and left the door open for Aaron Rodgers.
What are you currently working on?
I am writing the second in my series of mystery novels centered on a film critic/detective. It's titled Sundown at Sundance and takes place at the fabled Sundance Film Festival where my franchise character, Ryan Hackbart, has to solve an independent-film world mystery. Once again the setting is beautiful, treacherous and enlivened by the crazy caravan of film-fest personalities.