Archive for the ‘Screenplays’ Category

“Things Taken” is a feature length screenplay in which an award winning journalist and rape-survivor struggles to regain her sense of identity in the years following her attack. When a series of home-invasions becomes too bizarre for her detective boyfriend to handle on his own, she decides to assist in solving the case. As the two get closer to unraveling the mystery they are terrified to learn that the perpetrator may not be of this world.

Fear of woman victim of domestic violence and abuse (Shutterstock)

Fear of woman victim of domestic violence and abuse (Shutterstock)

Things Taken” is written in a lean and visceral style that allows the reader/viewer to be transported to both familiar and alien landscapes. The script also offers a unique perspective on what exactly may lie beyond the grasp of human consciousness while staying true to the basest human desires.

A green energy expert claims humans and aliens have made hybrids

The protagonist to “Things Taken” is a woman named SARAH who is searching for more than the outer story arc of the script suggests; she is determined to regain the strength and dignity that was taken from her by the murderous rapist that left her for dead. The abduction of her friend, MELINDA is the inciting incident that demands she face her inner demons in order to keep others from suffering her own hollowing fate. Her inner journey depicts a broken woman’s reclamation of life’s most important elements: feelings of safety, self-respect, and personal beauty.

For those of you that read my last blog post: “Which do you feed, the Id or the masses?”, may have thought that there was some specific reason that I posted on the topic. Those readers would be correct. While writing my first screenplay, Red Reaper, Burn, I was constantly questioning if the subject matter was relevant to the film market at that moment in time. For that project, I found that the story was in fact more relevant to the current market near its completion than it was during early development. I didn’t expect this, in fact I knew that I HAD to write that screenplay because the story was just too powerful to pass up. The second time I found myself a slave to the muse turned out to be a very different ride altogether.

My second feature length screenplay was a complete labor of love. The excitement I felt while prepping for this project was greatly due to the fact that I had come up with the basic premise of the story years before and after the successful completion of Red Reaper, Burn, I felt that I finally had the ability to tell this story that had been building in my subconscious for nearly a decade. It is a very empowering feeling to know that you have a unique and dynamic story idea that is all fleshed out and that you possess the tools to tell it.

The screenplay took me about half the time to complete because, as I said before, it was mostly mapped out in my head. It is also the only project that I have ever written that retained its working title after completion; Ice Box was more of a brain child than a writing project and like some human children, the story started growing in ways that I hadn’t anticipated. I had originally envisioned the story as a psychological horror that took place mostly in the California Desert, a place that I spent many of my youthful years. After a couple of drafts, I was satisfied with the sense of foreboding I had created in the familiar landscape of my childhood, but as the story unfolded something unexpected happened: two of my characters fell in love.

I knew that it would take some work to make this unexpected love story ‘POP’, but I did not want to take away from the insane content of the story (which is discussed below). It worked out well in this case, as the characters were so clearly defined that their dialogue and actions became oftentimes apparent and sometimes even instantaneous.

The story ended up being a total Id project for me! It may not ever win an Academy Award, but it is a fun read that would make a fantastic movie.

Using the traditional formula for an elevator pitch I would say:

The bizarre love depicted in “True Romance” and the hyper-real violence of “Pulp Fiction” meets the paranormal suspense and mystery of “The Sixth Sense”.

Below I have included my original logline and teaser intro for Ice Box.

Logline

Desperate to escape from terrifying glimpses of the spirit world, a self-medicating medical delivery driver finds himself caught in a murderous conspiracy when the girl he is transporting becomes the target of an ailing Yakuza crime boss.

Teaser Intro

THOMAS has been able to see the spirit world since receiving a life-saving organ transplant. As a young man with no family and no higher-education he gives back to the altruistic cause by delivering transplant organs and transporting sick patients. Due to his proximity to the dead and the dying, Thomas is forced to interact with spirits on a daily and seemingly endless basis. It was becoming too much to handle, until he found that drugs could keep the visions at bay. The downside is that the spirit of MIKEY, the young boy whose organ now resides inside of Thomas, is anchored to him and is becoming a dark and twisted reflection of Thomas’ drug addled body.

ARI is a high school senior who like all young people is desperate to find her own identity. This is very difficult, living with overbearing parents and surrounded by friends who try their best just to “fit in”. When Ari gets her driver’s license, she finds herself able to make her first serious choice as an individual: she decides to register as an organ donor. When her long-time friend convinces her to sneak out for a big weekend party her life changes forever, the car she is in is hit head-on by a truck, leaving her in a medically induced coma. The worst part is that she can see the pain on the faces of her family and friends as her detached spirit watches from the sidelines.

Image result for harvester combine

Like many things in life, the first piece of creative work that a writer produces will always hold a special place in their heart. Sure, there were countless short stories, poems, and ditties that preceded it, but Red Reaper, Burn was my first serious piece of work; I think that it holds up well and may very well be the first spec script that I sell. It was the hardest one for me to pull together and I think that the amount of effort I put into it shines through on every page.

The story originated from a very lucid dream that I had years ago; a seemingly ancient black farmer talking in a sincere and patriarchal tone about “sustaining the farm land that sustains the very life of the family”.  After months of grueling research I had the bones of the story: an epic about generations of an African American farming family that must fulfill a dark and terrible commitment to the farm that they call home. The research took me to subjects that I had little to no familiarity with, these included the world of professional baseball (which I have been disconnected with since my childhood) and the economics of the Tuskegee land grants in Macon County Alabama.

 I thought I would share the logline and the beginning of the summary with you all. I hope that you enjoy, while simultaneously remembering that sometimes the best stories do not come easily and can reveal themselves in the least expected places: a dream, a memory, or a look from a stranger in the grocery store that lasts for just one beat too long.

 

Logline

After suffering a devastating injury, a star athlete returns to his family’s farm only to find terrible memories and ghostly apparitions that suggest that something dark has overtaken the innocent place he remembers from his youth.

Beginning of Summary

Lawrence Prichard is a star baseball player with a beautiful wife and a 12 year old son that is full of potential. Things are going great for the Prichard family and Lawrence is at the top of his game in all aspects of life. That is until a wild throw lands him in the hospital with severe head trauma. Their lives are devastated; Lawrence, normally the rock-solid foundation of the family struggles to regain his composure especially after seeing visions of his father’s gruesome death in the jaws of a harvester combine known as the Red Reaper. Lawrence’s dreams continue, causing him trouble in discerning reality from his nightmarish visions. When his physician refuses to clear him to play baseball, Lawrence decides that he and his family must return to the farm he was raised on to recover from his injury while trying to come to terms with his father’s tragic death.

Sample Query Letter

Posted: February 26, 2013 in Screenplays

Here is a query letter that I threw together for my first screenplay, RED REAPER, BURN. I think that it exhibits all of the essentials so I thought I would post it here before trying my luck with queryshark.com!

Thanks for reading,
Jim

Dear Mr. Agent:
It was a horrific event that 12 year old Lawrence Prichard witnessed; the monstrous harvester combine known as the “Red Reaper” devouring his father right before his eyes.
Seventeen years later Lawrence is still running from that image. He has made it a point to distance himself from the family farm, his estranged grandfather and everything else from his rural past.
But as we all know. . . you can never escape the past.
Now a professional baseball player at the top of his game and with a family of his own, things could not get any better for Lawrence…
That is until a freak injury during a play-off game lands him in the hospital and then the bench. Struggling to separate his lucid nightmares from reality Lawrence finds himself drawn back to the family farm to face the demons he has been running from his entire life. He has always felt that his father’s death was no accident and that something evil dwells just beneath the farm’s surface. It is this evil that has called him home and after finding its source Lawrence fears that if he’s not careful he may suffer the same fate as his father.
RED REAPER, BURN is a psychological thriller with a protagonist who must face his own demons to determine what he values most: family expectations or his very sanity. As the secrets of the land and his ominous Grandpa Law unravel, Lawrence finds that they may negate everything he values about his past and destroy any plans he holds for the future.

I am a former intelligence analyst for the United States Army and was lucky enough to experience many different cultures first hand. In my travels I have found that despite variations on culture and tradition, human needs and emotions remain the same; it is with the colors of these experiences that I paint the characters that inhabit my script.

I would like to submit RED REAPER, BURN for your consideration and possible representation.

This is my first screenplay and though I am aware that there are many exceptional screenwriters and screenplays out there, I am confident that my writing and my screenplay rise to the same notable level.

I will follow up with a phone call by the end of the week. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Jim T. Gammill
(951)675-8178
Gammill.writing@gmail.com

Stephen King Link…

Posted: February 23, 2013 in Screenplays
Tags:

Haven’t checked this one out yet, but if King’s most recent offerings are any indication I am sure it will be great!

Before Midnight

King_Stephen_and_Joe_Hill-InTheTallGrass

Title: In the Tall Grass (novella)
Author: Stephen King & Joe Hill
Simon & Schuster (e-book release only)
Rating: 3.5 / 5

Mile 81 meets “N” in this collaboration between Stephen King and Joe Hill, now available from Simon & Schuster Audio.As USA TODAY said of Stephen King’s Mile 81: “Park and scream. Could there be any better place to set a horror story than an abandoned rest stop?” In the Tall Grass begins with a sister and brother who pull off to the side of the road after hearing a young boy crying for help from beyond the tall grass. Within minutes they are disoriented, in deeper than seems possible, and they’ve lost one another. The boy’s cries are more and more desperate. What follows is a terrifying, entertaining, and masterfully told tale, as only Stephen King can deliver. (goodreads.com)

HUGE WARNING::: This novella is a little gorey…

View original post 356 more words

The WRITE Stuff Part.1

After thinking about which direction to go with my experimental blog I have decided to outline the process of my own writing, marketing, and self-promotion. I am new to the world of blogging and have just recently started to learn the ways of website directories and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). What better way to learn than by posting my successes (and failures I’m sure) here for other writers to benefit from. Now with that being said you do not have to be a writer to get something from this process, SEO is something that would benefit any form of creative website (artists, musicians, etc…) as well as just about any type of business seeking to have a stronger web presence.

Now on to the nitty gritty…

I have been writing screenplays for a few years now and I have recently come to the realization that no matter how good my work is the odds of a producer or studio executive knocking on my front door and asking if there are any screenplays in the house are non-existent. Now what can I do about that?

First off I think that tailoring some query letters to represent myself and my work is in order!

Many books and websites outline the “do’s and don’ts” of effective querying, and as can be expected most of them contradict each other. If you have ever read more than one book on writing or filmmaking you know that it can be a daunting task to sift through someone else’s wisdom to find that one tidbit of information that you could take and make your own.  So as a disclaimer I must announce that my blog will be no different.  I, like many other writers have read a couple dozen books on the subject and have collected what I feel is enough to have a respectable writer’s tool box.

Some of the most effective resources I have found on the subject of query letters are as follows:

1)            http://queryshark.blogspot.com/

–       Countless submissions are submitted to the “shark” for analysis… the best and worst get an in depth of analysis chock full of constructive and brutally honest criticism. The shark will help you get from a ‘no’ to a ‘yes’!

2)           http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2004/07/query-letter-checklist.html

–       This checklist provided by a real literary agent (and fan of queryshark) in New York and can be reviewed for a short reminder (or tutorial) of what you should include in your letter.

3)           The Visual Mindscape of the Screenplay by Bill Boyle

–       I have had the pleasure of personally working with Bill Boyle as well as attending his Los Angeles based writer’s group. Bill’s book offers great insight in making your writing (and query letter) visceral and effective!

Now on to writing those letters. The first step in my journey to get a script sold is going to be to submit my best letter to the queryshark! Will it be good enough to get coverage on the site? We will see…