Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Backstory of "Legendary," Pt. 1

For those of you interested, I thought I’d explain some of the backstory and reasoning that went into the writing and publishing of Legendary. While it would be easy to just let the work suddenly appear without any explanation, our era in is an information age and some readers like to get the poop on why some dude from California is posting a serial novel online.

A great deal of time and thought went into Legendary, as do all novels. It's roots date back nearly 20 years, back to the first feature-length screenplay I wrote (discounting my college senior film, which began as a feature, but I eventually whittled down to 45 minutes).

When Julie and I first moved to Los Angeles, it was the rise of the 90s indie film movement. Directors like Tarantino, Rodriguez and Anders were releasing personal films that didn't adhere to the rules of Hollywood filmmaking. These movies inspired me, much in the same way the great films from the 70s by Scorsese, Lumet and Ashby did. When I sat down to write my first script (that's why we moved to California, after all), I chose to tell a personal story, drawing from my past.

At the time, Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused was gaining a cult audience thanks to home video and pay per view. Dazed and Confused is funny, irreverent and a pure joy to watch. I wasn't the only person who recognized the similarities between Linklater's film and George Lucas' classic, American Graffiti, which was fine by me, as I'd loved American Graffiti since the early 80s. Unlike so many of my contemporaries, American Graffiti was the George Lucas film that influenced me. 

Both Dazed and Confused and American Graffiti dealt with the
lives of a group of teenagers over the course of one night and the changes, or lack thereof, the go through in that time. These films are beautifully shot, feature breakthrough performances by future stars (and directors), and used music to help evoke a sense of time and youth. I thought I'd write the 80s equivalent.

If I'd been smart, I would have written a plot-driven, mainstream, high-concept Hollywood-type film that could have acted as a showpiece to my writing, or I would've written a TV spec script and gotten into the television industry. But I was young, stubborn, and decided I would do things on my own terms. I wanted to tell "real" stories, man. I was going to be an auteur!

Two years and ten drafts later, I had an ensemble screenplay called Finding the Way. The events take place over the course of one summer day in the mid-80s, and include a house party, a trip to Denny’s, and a rooftop, sunrise that made a perfect bookend to the film.

I was lucky enough to get Finding the Way into the hands of a major literary agent. She represented major players (I think Bill Murray was once one of her clients) and was a rising star in the industry. Within ten years she would produce big, splashy Hollywood releases and indie darlings. How did I get my script in her hands?  She was the sister of a guy I met at my best friend's wedding.

That’s the way it works, though. That excellent fellow you play a round of golf with could have connections to the upper echelons of the film industry.So be nice to everyone, kids, because you don't know who might be able to help your career.

The agent didn’t read it immediately. In fact, she had her assistant review it, and when the assistant labeled me a “Consider,” we spoke on the phone. This agent was exceptionally nice. I still recall sitting in the computer room at Alterian Studios after work hours, speaking about the positives of the script, and what needed to be tweaked. She offered great advice. I was over the moon. A major Hollywood agent had read my screenplay and gave positive feedback.

At the time, I was already working on my next script, a romantic comedy, road trip movie about a guy who learns that his true love is getting married in two days. He decides to drop everything and go see her before she says “I do.” That script was entitled Southern Cross.

As the 90s drew to a close, I became involved with multiple screenwriting projects that never gained traction, but took up years of my life. Sophie was born, I started a new job at an animation company, I wrote and co-produced a short film, The Mind’s Eye, and Southern Cross became a movie, one that I wound up directing and retitling King’s Highway.

What became of Finding the Way? As much as I loved the story and the characters, I placed it aside to pursue those other projects. I felt like its time had passed, and I stored it away in a file cabinet.

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