Declan O’Dwyer is a U.K-based TV director (Robin Hood, Wire in the Blood, Merlin) who wrote and sold the spec script “Broken Cove” to Thunder Road Pictures.
Recently I had a terrific conversation with Declan about his unusual path into the entertainment business and how he has added “screenwriter” to his resume.
Today in Part 4, Declan discusses the sale of “Broken Cove” and how it’s impacted his life:
Scott: You mentioned that originally you set “Broken Cove” in 1957, which suggests the story has been through quite a transition. How many drafts of the script did you write before you finally finished it and sent it out?
Declan: I must be on probably the 19th draft, something like that.
Scott: 19th, wow.
Declan: Yeah, maybe because it was a grower. We got to one point where I was going to be directing it and we were going out to cast. I’m not going to tell you who they were but I had a great cast, man, a fucking great cast, I just couldn’t raise the money. Could not get the bastard to fly in the UK. I kept clinging to the point that I’m going to make it, I’m going to make it, then it was like, you know what, I’m going to put it on the Black List and see what happens. It was on the Black List a couple of weeks and Brooklyn Weaver found it.
Scott: Right, so let’s get into that. You’re an established director in the UK, you’ve got plenty of contacts over there I’m sure. You write this script, now I find out, you try to raise the money, get the cast and that doesn’t work. Then the next step is to say, I’m going to put this on the Black List, so what was your thinking there as opposed to going the traditional route with agents or whatnot in the UK?
Declan: Filmmaking in the UK, for the most part is a cottage industry. In fact my agent in the UK dropped me because he didn’t believe in my writing. He was a top bloke but just didn’t believe my writing. So we parted ways.
I’ve now got very cool reps indeed, man, in the UK, Paul Pearson @London Theatrical and in the US I’m with the WME holy trinity of Donnelly, Esola and Schuit and of course, Brooklyn Weaver @ Energy Entertainment.
I did actually get offered the money to make it – if could make it for under $500,000, basically is what they were saying to me. I said, “Are you fucking kidding me, the opening sequence is going to cost that.” The cast I had attached were really strong, no stars. I say no stars, shit, I had two people that had two Oscar nominations, and three others that have been in three of the biggest films of all time. Ha! They’re all fantastic actors, not a single dud amongst them. I did not want a star cast, I left Smith and Moira open for the money people to have their say on. So we had some negotiation, but I wasn’t going to cut any mustard on the rest, it was going to be made my way. That was it. Of course it didn’t work out, so they were right, obviously. Ha!
I’ve known about the Black List for years, I knew it had gone online. And all our DVD collections would look a lot different if it wasn’t for Franklin and that list. Let’s be honest. So, I thought well, you know what, it levels the playing field. That was the thing for me.
It doesn’t matter what I’ve done in the past, this is the here and now. If it goes up and someone likes it, that’s great. If they don’t like it then you stand and fall by your words, don’t you. It was just the idea of a level playing field and the fact it opens the world up to me sitting writing this in my bedroom to suddenly people overseas reading it and going, “We like this or we don’t like it.” It’s kind of irrelevant, it’s just the fact that everybody has an equal chance now.
Scott: And as it turns out, someone did like it. That was Brooklyn Weaver at Energy Entertainment who read it and responded to you.
Declan: Yes, he’s like a beautiful force of nature that man. It was great, he was very straight talking – he actually suggested to contemporize – which galvanized my earlier doubts. The next call was like Thunder Road are interested. Shit! They made “The Town”.
Scott: So what’s the status of the project then?
Declan: They are looking for a director at the moment. I might have to apply for the director’s job on that.
Scott: Will you be pursuing writing assignments now or will you just be writing your own material?
Declan: I’m not really interested in the writing assignment world. I’ve had a couple since this all kicked off which have been pretty high‑profile and pretty cool. So I’ve pursued those and they’ve gone pretty well, I have to be honest. But I’m not going to be actively pursuing it. We’ve got stuff placed at the moment which we’re waiting for people to come back on. It’s been a busy three/four months and I had, the same week that this all started kicking off, I had a baby boy as well. So it’s just been the craziest 14 weeks I suppose.
Scott: Oh, that’s great, congratulations.
Declan: Thank you man, thank you, it’s just been the craziest time.
Scott: Good crazy.
Declan: Yes, great crazy, but it’s something like, you’re getting an email from LA at 2:00am in the morning and you’re actually awake because you’ve been feeding the baby. I’ve been actually able to have semi-coherent conversations in real‑time with people on different time zones.
Scott: So the baby’s like your personal assistant?
Declan: Yes, it’s quite unusual. I was doing a call, I can’t remember who it was with now – and just before the call, the baby was sick all over me. Just before it was due, a fucking Skype call just as it was coming online, I was just covered in it. It was just like, “Oh man.”
Scott: [laughs] You can use that in a movie.
Declan: Yes, I’m going to have to. And it was the full nine yards, proper.
Tomorrow in Part 5, Declan shares his thoughts about some aspects of the screenwriting craft.
For Part 1, go here.
Part 2, go here.
Part 3, go here.
Please stop by comments to thank Declan and ask any questions you may have.
Declan is repped by WME and Energy Entertainment.