Visualising Screenplays

 

Below you’ll find brief outlines and mood boards for some of my screenplays that are currently being shopped.

 

Feature screenplays

 

“Bunny Rabbits”

A tense psychological drama set in Dublin, Ireland, but which could be updated for a North American setting.

‘A young offender must attend mandatory anger management classes following his release from prison. These sessions are led by a charismatic American psychologist who, it turns out, shares a history with the troubled young man, the dark nature of which is slowly revealed as the story unfolds.

Meanwhile, our protagonist finds himself drifting towards criminal activity, unable to escape the lure of a quick deal; his path to a new start. But a fresh beginning may already be on the cards when he meets a hard-headed bar worker. The question is: can he get on top of his demons and give himself a chance to get his life back on track?’

Mood board:

 

“On the Count of Three”

A script that harks back to the detective crime capers of old, with a stylistic, charming touch; I like to think of it as Raymond Chandler meets The Coen Brothers meets Wes Anderson.

‘A lovable but morally questionable private investigator who’s struggling to make ends meet is tasked with tracking down a failed writer, leading him into a world of danger, drama, dogs, and Edith Piaf covers.’

Mood board:

 

“Let’s Talk About Sex”

A romantic comedy in the Woody Allen mould; this playful script is a study on relationships, romance, and eccentric individuals.

‘A couple who’ve found their relationship in a crisis turn to a sex therapist’s program in a bid to rescue their marriage. The husband, a well-established editor of books, is dealing with his latest client’s novel – and her capricious character. The wife, a successful fashion designer, has developed a crush on a young model. Add to this their troubles in the bedroom and you’re left with a recipe for drama, debates, and sex jokes.’

Mood board:

 

“Visitors for Grace”

‘A well-off family convenes on a lush estate for the imminent death of matriarch, Grace; a gathering which leads to the inevitable: plenty of family friction. Add to that a reckless enfant terrible, a failing marriage, a dysthymic wife, a frustrated doctor, and a family secret, and you’ve got a melodrama only a killjoy would want you to miss.’

Mood board:

 

“Like Father / Like Son” 

‘Bobby Adams arrived in Los Angeles at the age of twenty-one with big dreams of becoming an actor. Four years later—the present—he finds himself working as a barista and taking whatever odd acting jobs his irascible agent Jack Robertson can land him. When on the verge of giving up on the dream and moving home, Bobby is called by Jack who informs him of an audition for an unusual role: to play the part of the deceased son of the wealthy business-magnate Richard Watts. Only the part is to be played in real life, not in a movie. The gig pays very well, and desperate for money, Bobby decides to attend the audition. While at the audition he meets fellow-actor Wynona Wesley, who he immediately develops a crush on. Bobby lands the part, and the tumultuous weeks that follow serve to give Rob a new perspective on life, love, and Hollywood.’

Mood board:

Short Scripts

 

“A Significant Nothing”

A short script about human behaviour and relationships in the age of social media and increasingly invasive, ever-absorbing, frequently distracting technology.

‘An introverted doctor who lives a life removed from the hustle and bustle of the city in which he works has found it difficult to make genuine connections with people for most of his adult life. Despite being romantic at heart, he has become disconnected, resigning himself to a life on his own. But when he treats an odd, overly anxious patient, he gets that inexplicable feeling in the pit of his stomach, and he’s hopeful for the first time in a long time that he has found someone with whom he can connect.

The question is — has he found hope in a hopeless person?’

 

“Sea Soul”

A short version of an idea I had for a feature screenplay. Will likely be developed into a 90-minute script.

‘A disgraced former banker seeks redemption in a missing person’s case, only those closest to him plead with him to stop, not least because of his theory of what happened to the lost boy, and where he could be found… in the sea’.

 

The Funny Thing About Research

 

Ahhhh, research…

Arguably it’s the most important part of the writing process. How can you write about something if you know nothing about it? That old writing tip “write what you know” is always apt — you don’t want to look stupid, do you?!

But how about other ways you might look in the age of the internet and having access-all-areas? If I were to go through the things I’ve looked up in the name of research it could paint a pretty messed-up picture…

For one short story I had to research the job of an embalmer, how a cadaver appears and feels, how the process of embalming works, etc. For my work-in-progress novel American. Porn Star. President. (about a porn-addicted journalist), I’ve looked up almost every genre there is on major porn sites, and what the world of the porn industry is like, from on-set slang to bloody company rivalries. (Think that’s commitment? Some writers have acted in adult film for their stories — now that’s dedication!) For a short story about a disgruntled employee of a corporate giant, I delved into self-immolation, and came across some deeply harrowing images, and incredibly tragic cases. For my screenplay Let’s Talk About Sex, I researched the most comic and weird sex-related injuries (thinking about it still makes me wince).

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One, like Jake Gyllenhaal above, could look at this and reach the conclusion that I’m a sex-addicted, cadaver-infatuated nutjob who’s about to set myself on fire in a protest against my exploitative employer (must… crush… capitalism…).

So, is all this research essential when it comes to whatever project it is that you’re working on?

Well, yes… It’s like the method actor approach, although how far an actor — or a writer — would go is another thing. If I’m writing about a murderer I’m hardly going to go out and hack someone to death. But I would likely go to our all-knowing, omnipotent friend (or, arguably, foe) the Internet, and read about individual cases and the perpetrators… What was their mindset? How did they rationalise doing something so abhorrent? Did they even rationalise it? What was their background? How were they raised? What did their day-to-day look like?

I think it’s a part of us, though — this curiosity, this need to know… We’re voyeuristic… Or, as David Fincher said: people are perverts. We’re forever curious about the private (or not-so-private) lives of others. We obsess over individuals like Charles Manson and Ted Bundy. We make celebrities out of some of the craziest people who’ve set foot on this planet. We create sensations around porn stars (Jenna Jameson, Linda Lovelace, Ron Jeremy, John Holmes, James Deen, to name a few). Not that I’m saying porn stars are monsters like Manson and Bundy, of course. To be clear, that’s not what I’m saying at all! I admire adult performers for having the balls to do what they do… pun possibly intended.

But what do they have in common? Well, they’re the outliers, right? And we’re always interested in the people who go against the grain of “normal” society, be it by doing something awful (Manson and Bundy) or something unusual/outrageous (adult performers). We’re forever fascinated by the ones who don’t do the “normal” thing, because, for the most part, we’re surrounded by normalcy; the mundanity of everyday life.

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But coming back to research and writing, what does it all mean for the writer? The one who opens the doors to the often excessive, regularly fucked-up realities of this crazy world? Speaking from personal experience, my research has led me to having some odd, some adventurous, and some deeply disturbing dreams (including being pulled across the bed by a demonic spirit flashing before my eyes. And yes, I do have night terrors… I scream in my sleep sometimes. It’s ridiculous, and a little embarrassing, but it has scared my girlfriend in the middle of the night, and that’s definitely a consolation. It’s okay, she thinks it’s funny)…

Anyway, the great F. Scott Fitzgerald said this of the writer:

Writers aren’t people exactly. Or, if they’re any good, they’re a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person.

For me, that’s a perfect — and profound — way to describe a writer. The first time I read it, it simply made sense. I’ve definitely found myself feeling not-like-myself after writing a certain scene or a specific character, and that’s sometimes difficult to shake off immediately. Haruki Murakami has made reference to this in an interview with The New Yorker:

When I’m writing a novel, I wake up around four in the morning and go to my desk and start working. That happens in a realistic world. I drink real coffee. But, once I start writing, I go somewhere else. I open the door, enter that place, and see what’s happening there. I don’t know — or I don’t care — if it’s a realistic world or an unrealistic one. I go deeper and deeper, as I concentrate on writing, into a kind of underground. While I’m there, I encounter strange things. But while I’m seeing them, to my eyes, they look natural. And if there is a darkness in there, that darkness comes to me, and maybe it has some message, you know? I’m trying to grasp the message. So I look around that world and I describe what I see, and then I come back. Coming back is important. If you cannot come back, it’s scary. But I’m a professional, so I can come back.

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Coming back, even if it’s from the “real” world, is imperative. And, as Murakami alludes, it takes skill: he’s a professional, he can come back. He’s trained himself to come back. As made evident by my dreams, clearly I’m still in training.

But to end with Fitzgerald’s above quote in mind, maybe being good has been made easier today with the existence of the Internet, which allows us to do more research without having to leave the house or office. We’re not restricted to our first-hand experiences and our sometimes limited imaginations or book collections; we can delve into these worlds and mindsets instantly using the collective consciousness that is the Internet.

We can write what we know, although we might have preferred life when we didn’t know it.

 

Anyway, I hear the call for last orders again.

Until next time, I will be in the bar, with my head on the bar . . .

Header image by Becca Tapert on Unsplash