Nigel Sinclair and Guy East’s White Horse Pictures acquires the rights to drama western spec script “The Wind at Spanish Needle” written by Simon Nagel.
Logline: An old, blind gunslinger treks across the Mojave Desert to a mountain peak in the Sierras to reunite with the love of his life.
I had the opportunity to work with Simon on “The Wind at Spanish Needle” as a mentor during the 2014 Black List Screenwriters Lab, so I reached out to him for more background on the project:
The deal went down pretty casually, which was a big surprise. When the Lab was announced on Deadline, my good friend Austin Reynolds (who was on the actual Black List a couple years ago) recommended “The Wind At Spanish Needle” to an exec he knew at White Horse Pictures. It was really as simple as a text between them– “You really need to read this.” The exec, John Rita, went to AFI with us. I didn’t know John that well, but we were always friendly. It just goes to show that the nature of all things movie related boil down to personal relationships. My friend saw an opportunity to help me out and John remembered me well enough to give the script a read. It also was a tremendous help to have the Black List stamp of approval on the script! It gives the material a validation to readers and executives that they don’t have any face palm moments ahead of them before reading a script.
I had to do one pass over the script before the papers were drawn up. There were a couple minor– but tricky– notes to address. One had to do with the backstory reveal.
The issue was “This is great and we all have strong feelings about it, but how specifically should we feel at the end of it?” It was really an issue where I had to go back and make the sequence less literary. The flashback has a myriad of emotions to it, but I had to simplify it to “They were in love and they couldn’t be together,” with no nuances of “maybe this wasn’t the right relationship for them.”
It helped with the end, which was the toughest issue I had to address. The original happy ending was nice, but it felt wrong. Any more journeying didn’t feel right (or real). I think that was the biggest thing that I took away from notes from the Lab as well. The solutions we all discussed in Las Vegas were trying to alter the script in ways to make that ending feel more earned, but the answer that later revealed itself was that the end didn’t match the story that came before it.
The revisions create a more powerful ending (and dramatically appropriate), and also much more moving. It was the thing that got White Horse to say yes to the script.
The email back from Nick Ferrall, White Horse’s Head of Production, was simply “Wow.” The papers were drawn up shortly after. It was a great feeling!
Right now, White Horse is trying to get the thing packaged with directors and actors, etc. There are some great names that I’m SUPER excited about (although I’m not sure I can name them yet). I will say that the director list features some of my all time favorites, which was crazy. It felt like everyone at White Horse was reading my mind. They love the script and I feel like I’m in really good hands.
I reviewed my notes from our lengthy workshop sessions and, indeed, we did devote considerable time to analyzing and brainstorming the story’s last act. Interesting to hear from Simon that it was his new ending which convinced the execs at White Horse Pictures, which also includes Jeanne Elfant-Festa and Cassidy Hartmann, to option the screenplay. It’s a terrific story with well-drawn characters and a strong emotional core, and deserves to get produced as a movie.
These Black List screenwriting workshops have proved to be remarkable on multiple fronts. Everyone who participates comes away galvanized creatively, so there’s that, but now we’re beginning to see the fruits of the writers’ shared labor translate into success in the marketplace. “The Wind at Spanish Needle” is the second Black List workshop script to find a home, the other being “The Longest Birthday” by Savion Einstein.
Needless to say, I am proud to be involved as a mentor in the Black List screenwriting workshops and look forward to the next three mini-labs in Chicago (October 3-4), San Francisco (October 17-18), and Los Angeles (November 21-22).
Simon is repped by Meyer Management.
By my count, “The Wind at Spanish Needle” is the 46th spec script deal in 2015.
There were 46 spec script deals year-to-date in 2014.