American screenwriter Doug Miro spoke to a crowd gathered in the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit on April 19 at 7 p.m. for “Doug Miro: A Writer’s View,” hosted by the Penny Stamps lecture series.
Miro, a Michigan native, has written screenplays for Harvey Weinstein, Steven Spielberg and Jerry Bruckheimer, including “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” “The Uninvited,” “Prince of Persia: Sands of Time” and “The Great Wall.” He also wrote “Motor City,” a noir film set in Detroit. His mother and former Detroit Free Press art critic Marsha Miro was the founder of the MOCAD.
“I spent a lot of time in and around Detroit, since my mother founded this place,” Miro said. “No matter where my career takes me, I always end up back here. Friends of mine used to call me ‘28 Mile’ as a joke.”
The main focus of Milo’s presentation was his experience with the Netflix original series “Narcos” that he co-created with the help of his childhood friend Carlo Bernard.
“I met Carlo when we were both eight years old at Cranbrook,” Miro said. “Without him, a lot of what I do now wouldn’t be possible, including ‘Narcos.’”
“Narcos” is a dramatized following of the story of Pablo Escobar, the Colombian drug kingpin who built a multimillion dollar empire through cocaine while evading law enforcement for years.
Milo said that biggest concern for him in the making of “Narcos” was the authenticity of the story, South American culture and the mixing of drama with truth.
“We wanted to stick to the story and the landmark events that characterized Escobar’s life, but we also needed the elements that would keep people interested,” said Miro. “There’s a fine line between a dramatization and a documentary, although we did have documentary-like add ins.”
“People who watch this stuff want drugs, violence, death, sex and money, and we had to be careful with the way we meted all that out. We also had to make it emotional and heart wrenching.”
Miro spoke at length about the research that went into creating “Narcos,” which included writing scripts, planning episodes, integrating Spanish into the show and pitching it to Netflix, as well as sharing anecdotes about actors, locations and the challenges of working for a large streaming company.
“I’m piss poor at Spanish, in reality,” said Miro. “But putting as much Spanish in the show as we could meant more viewers and subscribers, which are like air to companies like Netflix.”
"Whatever Netflix wants, it gets, and I’m not complaining because our budget is fantastic compared to some other shows.”
He related the process of receiving edits and changes on his work to the experience of a student writing essays.
“Say you’re a college student, and you write a paper, only to get it back with a bunch of red pen and comments on it,” Miro said. “That’s just what creating a show is like. We edit things a hundred times until they’re perfect.”
Towards the end of his presentation, which lasted thirty minutes, Miro talked about how the filmography of the show helped capture emotion and create tension that he felt mirrored real life. He also shared a slideshow of images taken from the set of production and teased the audience with information about the third season, which was renewed recently by Netflix.
“Big Hollywood movies take four years to finish two hours,” Miro said. “We do ten hours of television movie in just one year.”
After his speech, audience members were allowed to ask Miro questions about his life, career and work on “Narcos.”
Visitor Jenny Travino said that she appreciated how relatable and open Miro was with his audience.
“He was really fun to listen to,” Travino said. “He cursed a few times and he made it seem like he knew all of us, or like he was really happy to be talking to us.”
Another visitor, Reina Pocyjak, said that she liked Miro’s energy.
“He had a lot of passion for his work and that came through clearly in his words,” Pocyjak said. “I didn’t know anything about him before tonight, but I can tell he loves what he does and I’m proud someone successful like him is from Michigan.”