FEATURE: 16 APRIL 2012
I arrived in New York on a Monday night. My uniform DKNY black winter coat with blue stitching lost in transit and my right arm numb. My tired paranoia tells me its thrombosis. After a few hours sleep Killer Film’s head of development David Hinojosa makes contact with me. He tells me to settle in beyond meeting him and Julia Oh, who manages the Killer Films office. But I’m eager and need to set my body clock and get my bearings so I suggest that I’ll swing by the ‘KYD’ film set at Central Park for a coffee, (I see Catherine Bisley gives a good account on what Killer Films has on their slate in her Blog so I won’t repeat the blurbs – Go Girl!) then pop into the office in midtown to introduce myself to Julia.
I venture out into the KILLER world from my home base for the next three months. An apartment right opposite Fort Tyron Park, one of the city’s most beautiful outdoor pieces of art with its own reconstructed medieval monastery (a castle in my eyes.) Luckily having contacts in sweet places means a sweet deal with a fantastic park view and the Hudson River over the hill. Problem is, instead of ending up in Central Park, I end up in the Bronx. And instead of arriving in midtown office at the time I said I would, I show up late and totally miss the coffee catch up with David on set. This is not the first time I’ve been lost in NYC. I came in 2008 and presented NZ plays at La Mama ETC- same thing happened. So day one is a FAIL! However, Julia’s smiling face and her efficient run through with what’s expected in the office settles me, NOT! It’s nerve racking and I should’ve listened to David about the settling in thing. Julia takes me through to the Killer Films main office. I wave at the team then head straight out the back door onto 16th street to find my way back home in the thick of my jet lag, feeling my thrombosis come on. But not before purchasing an iphone. I hate ‘technology’ but being lost is worse. Never again with my Google map locator.
To that end – I’ve been based mainly from home for the last two weeks, eating scripts like taro leaf baked in coconut cream since day two. Other than a meeting with David on the KYD set to discuss a few of the many active projects Killer Films has on their slate and an afternoon watching the first week of dailies from KYD in the office, David has me fully immersed in screenplay world. The first two scripts I’m given are in production. I email my thoughts on the scripts to David and he gets back with, ‘Amazing Thoughts!’ From there my intern-ing really starts firing! I’m given a script to provide coverage on, two pre-production scripts, two scripts that Killer Films are checking out, a treatment and two TV scripts for pilot season to provide notes for. I’m drowning in scripts and being challenged to squeeze my talent of perception out with all of them. The playwriting career has given me a good foundation to work from – I’m ‘feeling’ this cross over career business! However, the biggest challenge on the eve of my two-week run comes under the veil of a novel. A ‘rarity’ weekend project that lands in my email box on Friday that needs finishing by Monday. Providing coverage on a novel set in 14th Century Italy. At this point, I’d like to thank the Script to Screen program ‘Script Factory,’ for giving me a clue as to what ‘coverage’ means and how to do it! I’m a bit fearful at first, as the last book I read from page to page was Christine’s ‘Killer Life’ book, excellent read BTW. So this was a personal challenge that hinged on a personal fear- not being good or fast enough. First I had to track the book down. After reading scripts off my laptop screen for the last ten days, I was keen to get my hands on the actual book. Luckily I let my fingers to do the walking as none of the Noble Barnes stores had a copy, which was where I was headed. Finally, one copy located at The Strand, New York City’s legendary home of 18 Miles of new, used and rare books since 1927 popped up, so off I went to collect it. I needed a tall ladder to climb up to the TOP shelf where the book was peeking out from then some guy bumped the ladder! He smiled and assured me I was fine when I yelped. If looks could kill, I’d be in jail. I left armed with the novel by noon and abracadabra! A six-page synopsis with notes delivered by Sunday 11pm. Fear conquered and I learnt something about my abilities. Another thing I’ve learnt from all this script analysis is that the inciting incident does NOT have to happen between page 10 and 15 and the third act doesn’t necessarily have to ‘pay off.’ A twist can end the third act and that’s a fact. No matter what Hollywood or some script developers say. Oh, and quick keys for cut, paste and copy saves time.
In between the script reading and notes, I’m also charged with having to get familiar with directors I have never heard of while we scour manicured lists sent by agents that I compile. We’re on the hunt for the right director for the up coming movie Goat, with David Gordon Greene doing the initial adaptation and Jeff Nicholls the subsequent draft; based on Brad Land’s memoir. I’m asked to feedback on any interesting directors I come across. Out of the 70 on our list, I focus in on five. During this process I’m exposed to several short and feature films, even a documentary on B-Boy’s. The short film that blows my emerging filmmaker socks off is ‘Pioneer’. A tale crafted like a cryptogram, told by a father to his son at bedtime. The writing and performances are sublime! I was also impressed with the ‘Blue Tongue Collective’ from Australia. Those boys are standing out with their slate of urban smarty-pants and gritty films.
It’s Wednesday and it’s my first full day at the office. I’m writing this blog the day after my second week here. I meet with David at the end of the day by Time Square. There are no seats at Star Bucks so he finds a table at Pink Berry, the McDonald’s of frozen yogurt cafés. It’s my first time there. I pick salted caramel with berries. Over yogurt I’m told of four feature scripts in development that require reading and notes. David also has to step it up with meetings and talking with potential directors for ‘GOAT.’
Another film in development is, ‘Mr. Crumpacker and the man from the letter,’ written by Kazuo Ohno. A story about an overbearing boss who has done everything in his life that decides to reconfigure his company as a place of philosophical inquiry as he searches for the meaning of life. The screenplay is magical and deals out visual story telling craft in spades with an illuminating spine. I’ve been asked to look at potential casting options. I’ll be getting jiggy with the IMDb, up skilling my ‘who’s, who’ about town knowledge.
Finally, we are on the look out for a writer for a new television series Killer Films is developing for MTV. Besides TV writers, David suggests having a look at some playwrights who might be good. I agree!
On the ride home, packed like a bunch of bananas in the A train back uptown, I reflect on the script development I’ve been submerged in over a short period and the universe that comes with each script. I feel exhausted all of a sudden. But I replace the feeling of being tired with renewed ambition for what I can learn here and what it will bring to my own filmmaking. And that’s what two weeks of a KILLER Film script development life injects into a ‘small islands’ woman. What’s the saying? You can bring the woman out of the bush, but you can’t take the bush out of the woman … Guess what? The bush is out and the pace of New York is settling in. I just made that one up. Ha!