It might seem like quite a jump from sex with a warm apple pie to the touching realism of an illegal immigrant father trying to do right by his son in East L.A., but for Chris Weitz that jump took only a little over a decade.
Mr. Weitz, co-director with his brother Paul of “American Pie” and “About a Boy,” and the director of “The Golden Compass” and “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” among other films, will discuss his work onstage at the Avram Theater at the Stony Brook Southampton campus on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Mr. Weitz will be the honored guest for this year’s Pakula Prize evening, following previous guests Robert Benton, Peter Hedges, and Alexander Payne.
So how does one get from sophomoric quests to get laid to a film like “A Better Life,” Mr. Weitz’s latest, which chronicles the life of a gardener in the Mexican section of Los Angeles who tries to keep his son away from gangs while dodging immigration agents himself?
“My grandmother is Mexican,” said Mr. Weitz, whose father, the late John Weitz, was a well-known presence in the New York fashion scene and also a novelist. But it is from his mother, Susan Kohner, a former actress and resident of Sag Harbor, that Mr. Weitz gets his Hispanic blood.
His grandmother Lupita Tovar, an early film actress, came to this country at 17. “She’s 100 years old,” Mr. Weitz said. “And she married a Hungarian immigrant,” he added, referring to his grandfather Paul Kohner, a Hollywood uber-agent with clients who included Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Billy Wilder, and Henry Fonda.
“My choices on what film to do next are ruled by, ‘What do I have to do?’ ” he said. “In other words, what will I regret for the rest of my life if I don’t do?”
“A Better Life” is one of those projects. “It felt universal,” he said. “If you tell a particular story, and you tell it well, it can have universal appeal.”
Filming it also allowed the 41-year-old director “a chance to get to know L.A. better.”
Born in New York, and a frequent visitor to the East End growing up, Mr. Weitz lives with his family in Los Angeles now. “I discovered the sheer variety and extent of L.A.,” he said. “The parallel universes that co-exist. It was an incredible treat.”
When it comes to directing the second film of the wildly popular “Twilight” saga, “New Moon,” Mr. Weitz said the experience was great.
“The film was a faithful adaptation, which is what the studio wanted,” he said. “All a director really wants is for people to see his movie.” Breaking the record for the biggest one-day gross at $72.7 million (a cloak, or cape, formerly worn by “The Dark Knight”), it would seem that Mr. Weitz’s wish was granted.
What’s next for Chris Weitz? He chuckled. “My method is very frustrating to others, I’m sure. I just sort of wait around for the next great idea, or script, to strike.”
The Pakula Prize offers scholarships to two students who are enrolled in the screenwriting conference, which started at re enrolled in the screenwriting conference, which started at Stony Brook Southampton yesterday and will run through Sunday.
Clips from Mr. Weitz’s films will be shown during the interview, which will be conducted by the screenwriting conference’s director, Annette Handley Chandler.
Other programs open to the public at the conference are tonight’s Ensemble Studio Theatre play readings of Adam Bock’s “3 Guys and a Brenda” and Leslie Ayvazian’s “Out of the City.”
Tomorrow night at 7:30, a panel on children’s literature will include Patricia McCormick, Chris Barton, Susan Raab, Connie Rockman, Leonard Marcus, and Emma Walton Hamilton.
On July 17, there will be a reading and informational session on the Master of Fine Arts in creative writing program at 10 a.m. with students and recent graduates. That evening, the Ensemble Studio Theatre will read “The Master Butchers Singing Club” by Marsha Norman, based on a novel by Louise Erdrich.
Those events will also take place at the Avram Theater. Tickets for all events cost $10 and can be purchased at the door or reserved online through stonybrook.edu/avram.