Thursday, May 22, 2008

Screenplay Alumni Stories

Being a finalist at the Austin Film Festival in 2007 was a whirlwind of panels, round tables, seminars and parties. Since I was only there for the weekend that focused on screenwriting, I was not able to see any films.

After winning the Adult/Family category, I realized that sitting at the same table with me at the awards luncheon was Jayce Bartok, the writer of the only film I had been really determined to see, The Cake Eaters. It was co-starring one of my favorite young actresses, Kristen Stewart.

He and his agent Gayla Nethercott approached me after the luncheon and invited me to their screening that evening. What I hadn't known, was that it was directed by Mary Stuart Masterson. So I decided maybe I should bag a few of the last seminars and go see the film.

After watching The Cake Eaters, I turned to a friend next to me and said "she should direct Slugger." The sensibility in the story telling just fit what I had always wanted for Slugger. Unbeknownst to me, Gayla also represented Mary Stuart. She introduced me to Mary Stuart briefly at the screening, but I did not mention Slugger at the time.

But what did happen, is that Gayla asked me to send her Slugger at Buchwald. And not long after Austin we were able to meet, and she signed on as my agent. And the first thing she did, was get Slugger to Mary Stuart.

And after the writer's strike was finally out of the way, we got word back that Mary Stuart loved the script, and wanted it to be her next film.

Gayla arranged a phone call between myself and Mary Stuart, and the first thing she asked me was "do you want this to be a real story, or more of a fantasy?" It was the perfect question for her to ask, because even though I was incredibly gratified by the response of readers to Slugger so far -- I really felt the script could be better. And I wanted it to be more real.

It was clear Mary Stuart and I were on the exact same page creatively. She was passionate about the script and wanted to make it as soon as she could.

So it was a very easy decision to agree to option Slugger to her.

And I feel pretty spoiled by Mary Stuart with the way she handled the re-writing phase. She could not have been more respectful or open. She let me take her notes and solve them in my own way. She was open to discusssion, new ideas, and changes that even she did not originally forsee.

As a new writer, it was a great experience to learn how a director looks at the practical application of every written word as it moves to a motion picture. It really opened my eyes to the larger process, and I know I'm a better writer for the experience with Mary Stuart.

She helped take the script to a new level, and I think we are both very proud of it. Mary Stuart has now started the process of finding financing for Slugger, and we are hopeful and optimistic that we will find supporters who are as passionate and excited about the project as we are.

Jimmy is such a talented and diligent writer, as well as a great collaborator. I got chills when I read the first draft. We have had a ball developing the script together and are ready send it out in the coming weeks.
--Mary Stuart Masterson

1 comment:

Joe Flood said...

Great, inspiring story. Really shows how Austin fosters personal connections in the film biz. It's interesting to read stories like this that show the post-Austin process for winning writers. Good luck!