A flight through the fears of John Gatins

Monique Berduo / Staff Writer

Screenwriter and Actor John Gatins combines his two greatest fears to devise a realistic nightmare that would later be played out right before an audience on the big screen by big name actors and a team of notable film names.

Gatins expands on the process of writing this hard pressed story that took him over ten years to finally complete.

Along with combining familiar themes, he draws from past life experiences to formulate complex characters.

“I always feel like I write myself into every movie a little bit,” he said. “And even inside of each character, it doesn’t matter if they’re male, female, kids, adults, whatever, it’s like I hear a little bit of my voice in there, because it’s all I’ve got; my life experience that I can kind of like put in and try to find some authenticity for a character.” 

It’s almost poetic, and close to Shakespearean the way Gatins drew within himself, revisiting the darkest times of his life to create something that would be displayed for audiences across the world to see.

It is true that some of the best works of art leave the artist feeling completely vulnerable. 

“Flight” encompasses Gatin’s two greatest fears, flying and overdosing on drugs. Viewers get to follow lead pilot Whip Whitaker, played by the illustrious Denzel Washington, as he struggles with the ability to function sans the assistance of addictive drugs, alcohol and careless sexual affairs with his flight attendants. 

Whitaker is presented with a life changing event after taking flight off into a stormy sky where he stabilizes an uncontrollable plane into a crash landing that saves several passengers and results in a few deaths.

A question is then raised upon evidence derived from the crash sight presenting the possibility of Whitaker being under the influence during the flight.

Gatins draws from a few real life experiences and people that were near and dear to him, such as Mark Mellon, a character diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

Gatins strategically places Mellon into the storyline as an annex to introduce a greater theme or concept to the overall product. 

“I think that when people get sick or tragedies happened, it’s the time when people start to really ask the big question of like ‘what do I believe?’ You know, it’s like, ‘Do I believe in any kind of something?’” he said. “And I thought it was a great opportunity to have this guy come in almost like a Greek chorus and kind of, you know, talk about the themes that are bigger in the movie.” 

Gatins revealed that this overall theme was heavy on his heart since alcohol played such a great part in his life. This idea of being heavily and belligerently under the influence was something Gatins knew far too well about up until he sobered up at the age of 25. 

“I felt like there was an interesting connection between alcoholism and the fear of flying you know, which got worse for me when I got sober, for some reason I was more scared to fly. It was kind of odd,” Gatins said. “It’s gotten better, but you know, it was probably working out some of that stuff that I thought about as a younger guy who was kind of having my troubles with my Whip-like issues, if you will.”

“Flight” was released Nov. 2, and although the film had an astonishingly low budget of $31 million, received across the board great reviews from big names such as The New York Times and Rolling Stone Magazine. Rotten Tomatoes top critics gave “Flight” at rating of 92 percent and audience members an 80 percent.

Ten years of work and life experiences revisited, Gatins proves to know a thing or two when it comes to screenwriting. 

“I think it’s a movie that surprises people,” he said. “It’s funny, it has a serious subject, it has a very conflicting kind of complicated character that carries the story.”