How We Met: Chris Columbus & Ned Vizzini

'Watching a game of Quidditch with the man who put it on the map was surreal'

Chris Columbus, 54

Following success as a screenwriter on films such as 'Gremlins' and 'The Goonies', Columbus (left in picture) saw his directorial career take off with 'Home Alone', in 1990. He has since directed two of the Harry Potter films and produced the Oscar-nominated 'The Help'. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and children.

I came up with the idea of a story for a novel, but realised that if I still wanted to run a film business I would need to collaborate with an author to get it written. I'd devoured Ned's books and thought he was a funny writer. I liked how he had this ability to make his characters feel complex, too. So we met in LA and I gave him 90 pages to see if he wanted to get involved. A week later, Ned had done a rough draft, which I liked.

We each brought different things to the work: the fact that he's younger and closer to the characters' ages gave him insight into their internal world. And I brought with me the dialogue between the characters; I have four kids who've spent the past few years insulting, arguing and fighting one another, so I have a bank of material in my head when writing conversations.

We've spent time together at my house, over in San Francisco, and got to know each other a lot better there. What do we have most in common? That we both have a fear of heights. I think we share a sense, too, that darkness is good in children's literature, whether it's the death of Harry Potter's parents, or Pip interacting with an escaped convict in Great Expectations. The darkness gives a story integrity.

I'm grateful that Ned has made me more aware of a character's internal dialogue. As humans we're constantly thinking about something; our own fears or concerns. But as a film director you can forget that stuff should be going on. Actors love to talk about this stuff such as asking me, "What would be going on in his head?" and I used to get a little impatient as I'd be running late if I had to discuss with each of them what goes on in the mind of their character. But now, I try to be more patient.

What I love about Ned is probably our biggest difference. He's a deep thinker, while I'm often accused of speaking before I think. I appreciate the time he takes to consider everything I ask him.

Ned Vizzini, 32

An American screenwriter and author of young-adult fiction, Vizzini has also written for MTV's 'Teen Wolf' TV series and currently writes for the US television drama 'Last Resort'. He lives in LA.

My family bickered a lot while I was growing up. The only movie I remember that we all saw and loved was Home Alone, which was directed by Chris. I never expected we'd end up meeting.

Two years ago Chris was searching for someone to collaborate with on a book project in which an old house ends up floating on the ocean, and gets attacked by pirates. He had already read some of my work, and his agent got in touch.

His films such as Gremlins helped write the collective storytelling knowledge of my generation. And even now you can't talk movies involving kids in Hollywood without mentioning The Goonies. So I felt really nervous on the day I went to meet him and tried to find common ground. He's a family man – Chris has four kids and is happily married – and with my wife expecting our first baby at the time, I felt there was a kinship there, which helped a lot in the first few meetings.

I've never worked on a book with another person before, but you learn that you have to surrender your ego for the good of the work, and accept that the best idea might not come from you.

I'd sometimes send him a draft and he'd say to me, "I don't think this is working," and we would have to hash things out. We disagreed on the title, too: House of Secrets was not my favourite. I wanted to call it the Page Runners, or Legacy, which I liked, but Chris didn't respond to it. He's a very funny writer, though, and has a gift for wordplay, which was visible in the Goonies script.

What has he taught me? How to write cliffhangers better than anyone else; it's a movie sensibility that he has. I've learnt about the whole process of the Harry Potter films from him, too. He might have directed only the first two, but he helped pick the original cast and turn the Harry Potter franchise into one of the biggest film series of all time.

We went to Comic-Con together last year, in New York, which was a lot of fun. I remember passing this live [version of] "Quidditch" being played and watching it with the man who helped put Quidditch on the map. It was very surreal. Chris went up to them and told them that he was the guy who directed the movies, but they didn't believe him.

'House of Secrets' (£12.99, HarperCollins Children's), the first in a new series of books by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini, is out on Wednesday

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power