Allan Durand’s original screenplay “Willie Francis Must Die Again” is an amazing real-life story and a script that won Allan a 2012 Nicholl fellowship. However the story behind the story is also quite remarkable, one I’m happy to share with you through this interview.
I will be posting the whole interview over the course of this week, and for those of you who think the only people who break into Hollywood as screenwriters are young USC or NYU grads, Allan’s saga will dispel that myth quite nicely.
Today in Part 4, Allan shares some of his experiences visiting Los Angeles for the Nicholl festivities and going out to meetings in Hollywood.
Scott: Let’s talk about what’s happened in your life in terms of the Nicholl. First of all, how did you find out that you got into the round of 10, and your experiences when you were out in Los Angeles?
Allan: Well, I realized in September that it was about the time to hear from the Nicholl folks. Having been a semifinalist once, I know you get the “close but no cigar” notice by email. I kept looking for it every day and realized it was time. I was walking out of my office one afternoon, and the phone rang. I looked at the caller ID, and it said the Academy of Motion…the whole thing wouldn’t fit on there.
When I saw that…I just went right through the roof, because I knew they weren’t calling all 100 people to tell them they lost. That’s how I found out I was a finalist. I said, “Well, you’re a finalist. Be happy with that. You’re not going to win a fellowship. Don’t get your hopes up for that.” Sure enough, two or three weeks later, I got the call, and I was one of the winners.
It’s like being the ugliest girl in the class your whole life, then you wake up one day and you’re Cindy Crawford. All of a sudden, your email box fills up with agents and managers, and people want to read your script. You were a dummy on Monday, but man, you’re a genius by Friday. It was a hell of a thrill.
Scott: What’s the status on “Willie Francis”?
Allan: ”Willie” has been optioned, and the company that optioned it asked me to keep it under wraps. Because the agent for a major star has recommended to him that he direct it and star in it. He is going to read the script over the Christmas break and the company wants to hold off on making an announcement, because if they can get him, they can announce all at once that they’ve optioned it and that he’s agreed to do it, to star in it. That’s pretty exciting. As a matter of fact I got an email this morning. There is another agent at one of the other two or three major agencies who read it and likes it and has it recommended to one of his star clients, that he direct it. That doesn’t mean any of that’s going to happen. But boy, when you’re waiting around, and it’s among the possible, it certainly is exciting.
But the screenplay has been optioned, and I’ve also been hired by Film Engine to adapt a book for them. As a matter of fact, when I get off the phone here, I’m going to sit in my recliner, put my laptop on my lap, and keep on going. I’m almost at the end of the first act.
Scott: Congratulations. That’s great news.
Allan: It’s nice to be wanted. Not only that, it’s nice work at last.
Scott: Who did you end up signing with for representation?
Allan: I’m managed by Adam Kolbrenner and Chris Cook at Madhouse. I think I’m represented by Holly Jeter at William Morris, at WME. I’m working with them as manager and agent.
Scott: As part of the agreement with the Nicholl, you are committed to write a script for them.
Allan: That’s correct, and they have a very, very practical and very helpful approach to it. That is, since I’ve been hired to write this other screenplay, my year to write one for the Nicholl doesn’t start until I finish with that one. It doesn’t take me long to write. It takes me long to rewrite, but it doesn’t take me long to write. But I probably won’t even need any extra time. My fetish is for true stories, but this is a fiction one that popped in my head that I can’t get out of there, so I’m going to have to write it to get rid of it.
Tomorrow in Part 5, Allan shares his thoughts on some key aspects of the screenwriting craft.
Please stop by comments to thank Allan for taking the time for the interview and post any follow-up questions you may have.
Allan is repped by WME and Madhouse Entertainment.