Life in film started out fairly easy. I wrote a couple of short scripts and applied for funding. One got accepted. We made it, it won a few awards (see it here) - I waited for the phone call.
Then I waited some more, but instead of just waiting, I decided to write another script. I felt quite pleased with myself - it was my first feature length script and at the time it felt like quite an achievement. I even re-drafted it twice! It was originally called "In Parallel" but then at some point I re-named it "The Nightmare Place" - a supernatural thriller about some average dude who enters a parallel universe through his dreams and for some reason has to defeat something or other before it enters our own and destroys humanity or some such.
I know what you're thinking. That sounds awesome. I thought so too. But then, while I was waiting for that phone call, and the other before that ...
... I decided to write another script because, well, you gotta have a stable of scripts for when Steven Speilberg decides to call some unknown guy from Western Australia (who can't be bothered getting on a plane to Hollywood) and asks you the obvious question - "What else have you got?" Ps. I've been to Hollywood once. Perth, Western Australia is much nicer.
I figured the Nightmare Place was a fairly big production, so this time I'd go smaller - low budget - get my street cred. I wrote a script called "Secrets we keep". It was your classic, girl meets boy, girl finds out boy is a bit of a nutter - action ensues. This time I even went as far as doing four drafts. But there were two problems. (1) It sucked; (2) A History of Violence, starring Viggo Mortensen (the guy from The Lord of the Rings) came out. It was a similar premise, except it was really good. Nevertheless, I kept on going with my script - I even imagined a really cool back-story gun fight scene like the one in Matrix where Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss destroy the agency lobby (come to think of it now - that's not really low budget).
I flogged that dead horse of a script for some time. I've since learnt to let go of bad concepts (at least the really bad ones). It's hard when you've spent two years on something to just go, "Nuh, it's no good." But you can let it go, or you can keep on wasting your time. So unlike The Nightmare Place, it's not a story that I may one day go back to. I'm happy to re-watch A history of violence.
So I waited some more ... probably tried to do something constructive ...
And decided to write another script. This one was called The Courtesy Killer. It was a serial killer comedy. Right ... I here you say, but honestly, there was/is a genre. For instance, there was "Serial Mom" with Kathleen Turner, and "So I married an axe murderer" with Mike Myers (rated 6.5 and 6.2 respectively on IMDB).
I actually really liked this script. It was my first feature attempt at comedy. I'd avoided comedy in the previous two scripts - I don't really know why, since it was what I liked to do most. But this was definitely the best script so far. Quite a lot of research went into it too - pretty much everything that was in it was researched to some degree. It was also the point where I recognised how much research could help a script. It made it easier to write because it informed your decisions and cut down your choices - making for a more realistic outcome (and realism, or at least some degree of believability, is important in comedy - even Zoolander ... okay, Zoolander may be a bad example).
The script assessor I used generally liked it too, but he was leaning toward me turning it into a straight serial killer flick - which was not really the purpose. My screenplay was also hardly what you'd call mainstream - it was a bit obscure - arthouse. It was a small budget movie with probably a smaller market.
I intended to keep going with it though - but then a producer friend asked me to write a script on a project he was working on. I'll talk about this project more in part 2, but lets just say, it was like being sucked into a black hole for over 4 years. Nothing else got out. As for The Courtesy Killer, one day I'll turn it into a book ... one not for kids!
TO BE CONTINUED
Journey into Stuff by Jeff Bilman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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