Peter Rader '82 - '83 (Writer, Director, Producer, & Cinematographer, WATER WORLD)
By Sean O'Rourke MAT '68
His e-mail moniker says it all: fablemaker. He practices one of the oldest arts on earth, one that satisfies some of our deepest needs. Humans have been doing it for thousands of years, sitting around the campfire, telling and listening to stories. Peter Rader '82/'83 - a writer, director, cinematographer in Hollywood - believes that if Homer were alive today, he'd probably be a filmmaker.
Writing, for Rader, is about discovering our own personal mythology. But it takes quite a journey to get there. As a Harvard undergraduate, Peter wandered from physics to mathematics to economics before finally enrolling in an introductory film course that rocked his world. He found great inspiration in T.A. Chris Gerolmo '77 whose passion for movies was contagious.
Between his junior and seniors years, Peter decided to take a year off and try working professionally in the business. He ended up landing a job as a assistant cameraman on a film produced by Dino DeLaurentiis, for whom, years later, Rader would write "The Last Legion," an historical script set at the fall of the Roman empire.
After graduation Peter moved to Los Angeles and made music videos. He also developed a number of low budget films - stories that could be shot on weekends with borrowed equipment. But Peter became frustrated with limiting the scope of his imagination and that's how "Waterworld" was born.
Peter had been toying with the idea of developing a variation on the Road Warrior myth. Ironically, he first pitched the idea of setting Mad Max on water to Roger Corman, the legendary low budget producer, who summarily dismissed it, declaring such an outlandish idea would cost in excess of five million dollars! That, it certainly did.
Peter ended up writing WATERWORLD on spec. It landed him an agent and sold in a matter of weeks, which was an absolute thrill but also ushered Rader into the world of development hell. WATERWORLD ultimately went through five writers, twenty drafts and 180 million dollars. When it was all over, one of the producers said that he thought Peter's first draft was really the best. "But that's Hollywood," he said.
One of the most invigorating aspects of filmmaking for Rader is the constantly evolving marriage between technology and creativity and how the landscape of stories continues to expand. Many of Peter's scripts have been epics set in alternate universes. But at the heart of every story, says Rader, lies a simple human drama.
His wife, Paola Diflorio, introduced Peter to the world of independent films. He worked with her as a cinematographer on several movies that went on to premier at Sundance and got short-listed for Academy Awards. Peter loves the hands-on aspect of indie filmmaking and is excited by the new possibilities of viral distribution and alternate platforms for storytellers.
On February 3 Peter returned to Harvard to give a one day seminar on screenwriting, which helped students focus on accessing their personal connection to archetypes and developing an internal mythology.
I interviewed Peter by telephone on the coldest, darkest night of the year. As he talked, the four walls of daily existence fell away. Millennia evaporated. I felt as though I was sitting on the floor of the cave, warming myself at the fire, listening to the storyteller weave his spell. Peter Rader is indeed a fablemaker.