Five years ago, Peter Duchan was a communication studies major in the Creative Writing for Media Program at Northwestern. Now, he’s living in New York City successfully writing films and plays. Breaking Upwards, a film he co-wrote with director Daryl Wein and actress Zoe-Lister Jones, is currently playing in select cities including Los Angeles and New York. The film follows a co-dependent couple as they plan their break-up. Receiving positive reviews from publications such as The New York Times, Breaking Upwards is quickly gaining national acclaim.
Has the success of Breaking Upwards exceeded expectations?
I don’t know if I’d say it’s exceeded my expectations. I worked with collaborators who were incredibly driven and incredibly resourceful and very ambitious. I knew that they wouldn’t ride out until really great stuff happened — I’m very grateful for that as well.
How has Northwestern shaped what you’re doing today?
When I got to Northwestern, I didn’t know much about writing movies. I knew I liked movies, but I didn’t know much about how, what went into them, and I learned about all of that at Northwestern — first in my intro screenwriting class and in my creative writing classes. I learned basically everything I know about writing a movie, and from watching movies and being encouraged to [do so].
What was the best class you took?
That is a really tough question. I loved the classes in my writing program. I also had the chance to take two classes with Charles Moskos. He was quite a character, and I really enjoyed him. He died [in 2009]… He taught Intro to Soc. which I took, and he taught a class on armed forces which was his specialty.
What have you done since graduating?
Breaking Upwards. I also co-wrote a short film called Unlocked. It was in a bunch of festivals, including the Tribeca Film Festival… I’ve [also] been the director of development at ChicagoFilms [a New York-based production company started by Bob Balaban] now for a couple of years.
Do you still think about NU?
I do. I’m really grateful for the time I spent there… I was artistic director of Wave Productions my senior year, and I directed three plays. I wouldn’t have had those opportunities at a regular liberal arts school. If I had gone to a conservatory, I wouldn’t have been able to get a liberal arts education. I’m really grateful that I went there… I’m still in touch with a lot of my professors, and a lot of my friends obviously.
I got an agent last fall because of all this happening, and he and I have been talking about a lot of projects. The best thing I can do right now is keep writing, and now that people want to read it, hopefully they’ll like something. I’ve been really really lucky.
People get on certain tracks, and sometimes it’s hard to explain why some people are on one track and other people aren’t. I’m just grateful right now that I feel like I have opportunities opening up for me and that people give a shit.