Spec Script Sale: “A Better Place”

March 28th, 2014 by

Twentieth Century Fox acquires thriller spec script “A Better Place” written by Brad Ingelsby. From Deadline:

A Better Place is an elevated gritty thriller in the vein of A Simple Plan, and Scott Free and Fox will look to set a director quickly.

Deal is for a reported mid-against-high six figures.

Ingelsby is repped by WME and Energy Entertainment.

You may go here for my March 2013 interview with Brad.

By my count, this is the 18th spec script sale in 2014.

There were 21 spec script sales year-to-date in 2013.

Screenwriting 101: Brad Ingelsby

May 28th, 2013 by

screenplay

“What does a character want and why do they want it? Those are what I look at when writing dialogue.”

– Brad Ingelsby [GITS interview, March 8, 2013]

Interview: Brad Ingelsby (2008, 2012 Black List)

March 10th, 2013 by

Brad Ingelsby is one busy writer with at least six projects in various states of development and production including Hold on to Me and Run All Night [both on the 2012 Black List] and The Raid. Plus he sold a high-profile pitch “Merry Men” to DreamWorks.

Ingelsby Trimmed

Here are links to the six installments of the entire interview:

Part 1: “You need people like that in your life, I think. People who say ‘yes’. People who to tell you to jump. Luckily I’ve had a few over the years.”

Part 2: “That’s what you really want in a central character, I think. When you review the character’s arc at the end of the movie it feels like he’s traveled a long distance to get there.”

Part 3: “With “Run All Night” I knew where it started, I knew where it ended, and I knew I wanted it to take place essentially over a 24‑hour period of time. What’s nice about that constraint is knowing you can’t go outside that time frame.”

Part 4: “That’s just the way it goes with characters. They have to be unpredictable. And you have to be open to them pushing back, to them telling you that the direction you thought they would go isn’t really the direction they want to go.”

Part 5: “What does this character want and more importantly why do they want it? Those are the things that I tend to look at as I’m writing my dialogue. If I’m not hitting one of those at the moment — moving a story forward or revealing character — then I’ll try to get rid of it.”

Part 6: “If you’re passionate about the material and the story, and you believe in yourself then it can absolutely happen to you. I’m the perfect example of someone who got extremely lucky, so I always tell aspiring writers, ‘If you work hard enough and believe in the story, then there’s a place for you.’”

Please stop by comments to thank Brad for taking the time for the interview and post any follow-up questions you may have.

Brad is repped by WME and Energy Entertainment.

Interview: Brad Ingelsby (2012 Black List) — Part 6

March 9th, 2013 by

Brad Ingelsby is one busy writer with at least six projects in various states of development and production including Hold on to Me and Run All Night [both on the 2012 Black List] and The Raid. Plus in a nice bit of synergy for us, he sold a high-profile pitch “Merry Men” just last week to DreamWorks.

Brad was kind enough to do an interview and we had an excellent conversation. Today in Part 6, Brad talks about working with his managers and agents. Plus Brad answers some follow-up questions I posed to him about his most recent project “Merry Men”:

Scott:   Given the fact you’ve got so many projects going on, how do you manage it all, the practice of stacking projects, handling multiple projects at once?

Brad:  Obviously, there are times when you have to work on two things at once. That’s just the way it is. If you’re lucky enough to be working in this business, you have to just make it work. I try to line them up back to back. I’m not good at working on multiple projects at the same time. There are writers who can go from one script to the next to the next in the same day without the quality dropping off. Not me. It takes me a really long time to figure out the characters and the world.

I want my scripts to feel rich in detail and the only way for me to achieve that is to spend time with the characters. I’ve learned that if I’m working on multiple things at once they tend to feel thin and don’t have the detail or richness that I want.

Scott:  When you’ve mentioned the writing process, you’ve say the word “we,” and so I’m imagining that involves your representatives WME and Energy. Can you describe what those working relationships are like?

Brad: I’ve been with Mike Esola and Brooklyn Weaver ever since “The Low Dweller”. I think what I value the most about them is their loyalty. I had a pretty big spec sale, and following that there was period of about a year or two where I wasn’t able to get new work. To many people I was a one-hit wonder. “The Low Dweller” wasn’t going anywhere at that time and I didn’t have another spec ready to go, so I wasn’t hirable. The few projects that I thought I had never came to fruition and I was scrambling to figure out what to do.

The assignment business can be extremely difficult and time‑consuming. You’re asked to do an initial treatment. Sometimes it takes the executives a few weeks to read that treatment. Once they’ve read that treatment, you’re asked to make changes. Then it takes them another few weeks to read that. And on and on and on. And at the end of all that free work, there’s no promise that anything will go to script. There’s no guarantee. That’s the business. I understand that better now. But it can be a frustrating process, especially when there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. You feel a bit like a hamster on a wheel.

But Mike and Brooklyn have stood by me in the darkest and brightest of times. That I guess is a sign of loyalty. They returned my calls when I was making them money and they returned my calls when I wasn’t making them any money. And they believed in me when I sent them “Run All Night” as a spec. They immediately got behind it and believed in it and got it out to Roy Lee, our producer, who made the deal happen almost overnight.

It’s an incredible asset to have people who believe in your work and your ability as a writer even when you’re not working.

Scott:  How much interplay do you have with Brooklyn when you’re writing?

Brad:  Brooklyn is very involved. He reads everything I want him to read, really. If I’m developing an outline for an assignment, he reads that. If I’m struggling through a script and want another set of eyes on the pages, he’ll read those and offer an opinion on what’s working and what’s not. He’s very accessible and willing to dive in and try to figure stories out. It’s a huge benefit in that you don’t always feel like you’re alone. He’s a great advocate and a great ally.

Scott:  One last question: What advice do you offer people who say, “How do I become a screenwriter? How do I learn the craft? How do I break into the business?”

Brad:  It’s funny. A friend of mine and a very good writer, Adam Moore, teaches a class at the New York Film Academy. He asks me to come in every semester and talk to his group of writing students. He always asks me that same question and I always respond the same way, which is, “It can absolutely happen to you. You can absolutely make it in this business.” I was working as an insurance salesman in Pennsylvania when I got the call that “The Low Dweller” had sold. I had very very few industry contacts. The one contact I had, Mike Pruss, who is now a great friend and a producer at Indian Paintbrush, I met through a teacher at AFI. He sent my script to Mike and Brooklyn and got the ball rolling. But Mike was the one contact I had, really. All it takes is one champion to see something in your work and pay it forward.

Anyway, I was selling insurance when it happened to me. And “The Low Dweller” isn’t commercial and it’s not high-concept at all. The logline is basically ‘a brother seeks revenge after his younger brother is brutally murdered.’ That’s it. If I pitched that logline at a studio I’d be laughed out of the room.

But if you’re passionate about the material and the story, and you believe in yourself then it can absolutely happen to you. I’m the perfect example of someone who got extremely lucky, so I always tell aspiring writers, “If you work hard enough and believe in the story, then there’s a place for you.”

Brad sold “Merry Men” to DreamWorks after our interview. He was kind enough to respond to a couple of questions about the project I sent to him via email:

Scott:  Robin Hood is an iconic figure in Hollywood, the subject of multiple movie treatments. Is there something unique you discovered in working up “Merry Men” compared to previous iterations and if so, could you give us a hint what that angle is?

Brad: You’re right. There have been countless films about Robin Hood and I wasn’t interested in telling the same story. There would have been no point. Toby Ascher and Elizabeth Buraglio, two executives at Original Film, approached me with a completely new way into the legend. To be honest, it’s not really about Robin Hood at all. Robin Hood plays a small role, but the story primarily focuses on Robin’s band of Merry Men led by Little John. We let them take center stage for the first time. And while Robin Hood isn’t our main character, all that he stands for — justice, loyalty, camaraderie — lives on in these characters. So everything that audiences have loved about Robin Hood over hundreds of years of stories and films — action, adventure and romance — will be a part of this new version.

Scott: Are we talking Little John, Friar Tuck, Maid Marian and all the rest of the characters associated with the Robin Hood story world?

Brad: Yes. They all will play a role.

For Part 1 of the interview, go here.

Part 2, here.

Part 3, here.

Part 4, here.

Part 5, here.

Please stop by comments to thank Brad for taking the time for the interview and post any follow-up questions you may have.

Brad is repped by WME and Energy Entertainment.

Interview: Brad Ingelsby (2012 Black List) — Part 5

March 8th, 2013 by

Brad Ingelsby is one busy writer with at least six projects in various states of development and production including Hold on to Me and Run All Night [both on the 2012 Black List] and The Raid. Plus in a nice bit of synergy for us, he sold a high-profile pitch “Merry Men” just last week to DreamWorks.

Brad was kind enough to do an interview and we had an excellent conversation. Today in Part 5, Brad talks more about the craft of screenwriting:

Scott:  How about dialogue. Do you think this is a talent writers are born with or is it a skill that can be developed?

Brad:  I’m sure there are some that are born with it. I know I wasn’t. It’s taken me a long time to get to a place where I feel comfortable writing OK dialogue. I don’t think I’m quite at the place I want to be, but one of the lessons I learned, especially at AFI and later working with producers and directors, is to get rid of all the boring stuff. Everyone knows the rule that a scene has to be moving the story forward or it has to be in some way developing a character. If you can look at all of your scenes and say, “A) You’re moving the story forward in some way or B) It’s developing a character, then it’s worthy to stay in the script. If it’s not then you need to get rid of it.”

The same with the dialogue. Is the dialogue moving the story forward or is it revealing something about the character? Also, what is it revealing? Why is it important to reveal this? What does it tell us about the character’s journey or the character’s flaw or what the character wants?

One thing Len Schrader said to me sticks out, ‘Every story needs to be about life or death.’ Every story. That doesn’t necessarily mean a physical death, but it needs to be that the hero wants something so desperately that it’s life or death for him or her.

That has to come out in the dialogue as well. What does this character want and more importantly why do they want it? Those are the things that I tend to look at as I’m writing my dialogue. If I’m not hitting one of those at the moment — moving a story forward or revealing character — then I’ll try to get rid of it.

Scott:  What is your understanding of theme and does that play much in the way you think about and develop your stories?

Brad:  I think it does. I think it sort of has to. I wish I had the best way to define what theme is. I know what it means to me, I guess. If you look at the main character, what is the story really about to that person? Why are we going on this journey with them? I don’t like to go into a script saying, “I want to write a story about forgiveness,” and then try to fit forgiveness into every single scene. That feels maudlin and a bit silly to try to imbue every scene with a theme. It feels like a homework assignment and it doesn’t allow for much discovery or revelation. After all, you’ve already told yourself what the movie is about. You’ve limited yourself.

What I prefer to do is say, here’s a character. I like this character and I know the journey I’d like him or her to go on. And then I write that journey, that arc, and then I let the audience or reader decide what the theme is. Let them take what they want from the story. If you say a movie is about forgiveness, then an audience or a reader is only looking for that theme in the material and there’s no discovery. But if you present them with a character on a journey, they’re able to take away from that character and that journey what they want. It’s less limiting, I think. Stories mean different things to different people.

Scott:  When you finish a first draft and you’re faced with the inevitable rewriting process, are there some keys you have or approaches you use to bring that script home?

Brad:  I think it really varies with each script. With “Run All Night” we actually didn’t do a lot of rewriting at all. I felt the script was in a good place and my manager, Brooklyn, and my agent, Mike, agreed. We got Roy Lee involved. He was a great advocate and believer and he submitted it to Warner Brothers.

With “Hold on to Me” that was a much larger revision. The initial draft was 150 pages long. It was a real ‘Boogie Nights’ style epic that took place over a number of decades. In earlier drafts we showed a lot Nancy growing up, as a young girl and then as a teenager, in an attempt to introduce the audience to her world, her stage mother, her absent father. We wanted the audience to understand why Nancy wanted so desperately to break away. Because the movie gets dark and Nancy’s desire to break away leads her down a really really dark path, we had to understand her and sympathize with her. So when she finally does go down that dark path the audience doesn’t lose her. They remember that pageant girl getting her hair done inside a shitty bathroom by her mother. They remember the girl everyone called a slut at the country club. Without those scenes the audience loses sympathy and then the movie’s over. Everyone’s walking out of the theater because they think she’s a monster. So those scenes of Nancy as a youngster were incredibly important, but we had to pick and choose the ones that were most important. And James Marsh was particularly great at picking the gems.

I think it varies, really. I don’t have a method of going back in and looking at stuff. It’s just dealing with, “What’s this story about?” and if a scene or a character or a sequence isn’t aiding us in that character’s journey then we need to get rid of it.

Scott:  What’s your actual writing process like? Do you write every day? Do you have a schedule? Do you write in sporadic bursts? Do you work in private? Do you go to coffee shops? How do you write?

Brad:  It’s changed a bit because I have a daughter now. That throws things off a little bit. I’m at home and I have a little one running around and when she comes up and pulls at my shirt and wants me to push her around on a bike, I can’t resist. I usually get up around 6:30. I’ll write until about 10:00, maybe. I’ll go for a run. I’ll maybe do a little work in the afternoon, and then I usually start back up at night. I’m sort of an early‑morning writer and a late‑at‑night writer. If the writing’s going good I could start at 8:00 or 9:00 and go until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. Those are usually the hours that I like to write, early morning, late at night.

Tomorrow in Part 6, Brad talks working with his managers and agents. Be sure to come back every day this week for the entire interview.

For Part 1 of the interview, go here.

Part 2, here.

Part 3, here.

Part 4, here.

Please stop by comments to thank Brad for taking the time for the interview and post any follow-up questions you may have.

Brad is repped by WME and Energy Entertainment.

Interview: Brad Ingelsby (2012 Black List) — Part 4

March 7th, 2013 by

Brad Ingelsby is one busy writer with at least six projects in various states of development and production including Hold on to Me and Run All Night [both on the 2012 Black List] and The Raid. Plus in a nice bit of synergy for us, he sold a high-profile pitch “Merry Men” just last week to DreamWorks.

Brad was kind enough to do an interview and we had an excellent conversation. Today in Part 4, Brad delves into his approach to the craft of screenwriting.

Scott:  I’d like to ask a few craft questions, if you don’t mind, Brad.

Brad:  Sure.

Scott:  OK, let’s start right at the very top. How you come up with story ideas?

Brad:  It starts with a character, I think. It starts with a character, and then an arc, and then I sort of build the story around that arc. In “Run All Night,” it was Jimmy, an aging hit man who has to reconcile with his son and his past. And then what are those conflicts that I can begin to place around Jimmy to have an exciting story? So, it starts with a character, then an arc, and then how do I visualize that arc in a way that feels exciting and interesting to an audience.

Scott:  That raises the next question. We’re in an environment in Hollywood where it’s pretty much all about superheroes, prequels, sequels, franchises, and tent poles. How do you look at a story idea like “Run All Night” and say, “You know what, this is a movie.”

Brad:  That’s becoming increasingly more difficult. My background is character work. That’s how and why I got into writing. Movies like ‘Mean Streets’ and ‘Straight Time’. You couldn’t pitch those movies nowadays. The earliest of my scripts were all small character studies. So it’s difficult for me. I’m not a big idea guy and I’ve never been a big idea guy, so I have to find a way to make these characters that I find interesting appeal to a wider audience.

It’s always tricky. It unfortunately becomes about, ‘How can I throw in car chases and how can I throw in large set pieces around these characters that I love? How can I get it to a budget level that’s going to be appealing?

It’s very difficult as a writer to make a living in the indie world. So I have to find a way to make my characters work in a commercial film. A film that an audience will see a trailer for and say, ‘That looks interesting. I would pay to see that film.’

But you’re right, it’s extremely difficult to write character pieces in this environment.

Scott:  How much time do you spend in prep writing?

Brad:  I’m not really an outline guy. I typically have an idea, a central character, a few secondary characters and a few set pieces in mind. Then I usually just dive into the script. Sometimes that works and sometimes it backfires. I’ve written some god-awful scripts this way. But I’ve found that I’m a terrible outliner. Whenever I outline a story it invariably changes while I’m writing the script. That’s just the way it goes with characters. They have to be unpredictable. And you have to be open to them pushing back, to them telling you that the direction you thought they would go isn’t really the direction they want to go. They need room and time to grow and change. And you have to listen to them. They don’t always want to say what you want them to say. I find that exciting and sometimes frustrating.

It’s a problem for me actually because when you go up for a studio assignment you’re always asked to write a treatment or an outline and often times when I get to the script it changes in some ways. Sometimes the story changes in very small ways and sometimes it changes in larger ways. And sometimes people aren’t happy when it changes. And I totally get that. They paid for a certain story and you’re now handing them something a bit different. The frustration is understandable. So I don’t like to outline because I know that when I get to the script the characters are going to different things. And you also find things as a writer as you dive in. You find really great scenes and gems and moments that you have to pursue, even if they’re not in the outline. But you have to pursue them. Outlining makes me feel like a slave to an outline rather than a writer searching and following and listening to a set of characters I want to spend time with.

Scott:  You mention characters as being of such importance, how do you go about developing them? Are there any specific tools or techniques you use in getting to know your characters?

Brad:  I always want to know something about them before I meet them and I want to know exactly where they’re going to be a couple years after I leave them. I think that’s really important. I’ve found that audiences appreciate films where they leave the theater and say, “I really got to know those people.” If there’s a history that an audience is privy to, they feel comfortable. In “Run All Night” I really outlined the Shawn and Jimmy relationship. What did they do in the past? Where did they grow up? What would they do together? Where did they spend their nights? What type of girls did they like to mess around with? Only a small bit of that comes out in the script, where they’re talking about a night they spent with two girls, but I think through their conversations the audience understands that they have a long history together.

One of the things I like to do is write about the characters and what they were doing before the story starts and where they will be long after the story ends. Doing that educates me on dialogue choices. If I know where they’ve been and I know where they’re going, I can write about them in a way that doesn’t feel just about the present situation. It involves characters’ dreams and sins and damage and hope. Things that we can’t always see, but we can feel.

Scott:  So essentially some sort of character biography?

Brad:  Exactly, a character biography. It’s mainly incidents and locations for me. For instance, the Jimmy and Shawn relationship in ‘Run All Night’. Where did they grow up? What did they do as kids when their parents were away? What bar did they used to drink at? It’s those things that build camaraderie between people, so that when they’re talking I feel like these people have known each other their whole life. In that sense, it’s just adding to the richness of the relationship.

Tomorrow in Part 5, Brad talks more about the craft of screenwriting. Be sure to come back every day this week for the entire interview.

For Part 1 of the interview, go here.

Part 2, here.

Part 3, here.

Please stop by comments to thank Brad for taking the time for the interview and post any follow-up questions you may have.

Brad is repped by WME and Energy Entertainment.

Interview: Brad Ingelsby (2012 Black List) — Part 3

March 6th, 2013 by

Brad Ingelsby is one busy writer with at least six projects in various states of development and production including Hold on to Me and Run All Night [both on the 2012 Black List] and The Raid. Plus in a nice bit of synergy for us, he sold a high-profile pitch “Merry Men” just last week to DreamWorks.

Brad was kind enough to do an interview and we had an excellent conversation. Today in Part 3, Brad talks about another project “Hold on to Me,” then the excitement of making the Black List.

Scott:  One last thing about “Run All Night,” you mentioned it earlier, this idea about doing essentially a compressed‑time frame story, one night. That was something that appealed to you early on in the process. Could you describe why that appealed to as a writer, to do a story in a compressed time frame?

Brad:  Sure. With “Run All Night” I knew where it started, I knew where it ended, and I knew I wanted it to take place essentially over a 24‑hour period of time. What’s nice about that constraint is knowing you can’t go outside that time frame. I had to give myself a clock and say, “This is all the time you have. You can’t go outside these boundaries.” I had to limit myself. Whenever I had a big idea while writing the script, something that would expand the story, I knew I couldn’t go there because the logistics of the story were so contained that I only had a certain number of places and locations and characters to work with. It many ways it was incredibly freeing.  It was a great exercise in keeping things simple and keeping the story moving forward quickly.

Scott:  That last point is really apparent when you write those kind of compressed time‑frame things. There’s a natural flow and pace to it, that you don’t have to worry about a lot of time jumps and time ellipses. It’s almost like continuous time.

Brad:  Exactly right. It’s actually a lot of fun. There’s a propulsive quality to the writing because you’re constantly going, “OK onto the next scene, onto the next scene,” where, as you said, it’s almost unfolding in real time. It really adds to the momentum and the energy of the writing.

Scott:  You’ve got several other projects in the mix, one of them another Black List script, “Hold on to Me.” That’s based on an article written by Hillel Levine and Jimmy Keene. “A ruthless and money‑hungry woman uses a hapless man as a pawn in her criminal schemes.” Could you give some background on how that project evolved?

Brad:  Yeah, sure. That was an article, as you said, that Jimmy and Hillel had written. It was supposed to be published in Playboy magazine though I don’t think it ever was. Alexander Milchan, a producer, gave me the overview of the article that was to be written at that time. It’s a true story. An almost unbelievable true story about a murder committed in Illinois in 1986 by this woman Nancy Rish and her boyfriend, Danny Edwards. We’ve fictionalized the story quite a bit, but in real life Nancy was this blonde beauty and former pageant queen who had aspirations of leaving her small-town life in Kankakee, Illinois. In an effort to escape the doldrums of small-town life she starts dating this guy, Danny, who is beneath her usual standards. But he’s a guy she can shape and mold and so she does. She introduces Danny to drugs, then gets him to deal drugs, then gets him to deal more drugs. And this ascension continues until Nancy gets the fancy estate home and fancy sports car and the big boat she always wanted. And just when she’s finally living the life she always imagined for herself, it all gets abruptly taken away when Danny is pinched and thrown in jail.

So she’s back at this lowly diner where she waitresses and she’s reading this article, I think it was in “Esquire” or “Vanity Fair,” about a young socialite who was kidnapped and buried alive and kept alive for three or four days. And a light goes off in her head. She says to herself, “This is how I can get my life back.” I won’t give away too much more, but it’s a truly bizarre and haunting story of greed and ambition.

James Marsh is going to direct it and Carey Mulligan is going to star. James is one of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with. And one of the kindest and most collaborative. So it’s been a truly great experience. I’m really excited about that one.

Scott:  You’ve made The Black List several times. What’s that experience like, learning you’ve made the list?

Brad:  It’s really thrilling, as a writer. A) that people actually are reading your work, and b) that people appreciate your work. There’s nothing more rewarding to me than knowing that my work is being read and appreciated. I’d love to say there’s nothing more rewarding than watching your film on the big screen, but that hasn’t happened yet. Hopefully soon. But it’s so so difficult to get a film produced that you have to take some pride in knowing that your work is being read and enjoyed.

Tomorrow in Part 3, Brad delves into his approach to the craft of screenwriting. Be sure to come back every day this week for the entire interview.

For Part 1 of the interview, go here.

Part 2, here.

Please stop by comments to thank Brad for taking the time for the interview and post any follow-up questions you may have.

Brad is repped by WME and Energy Entertainment.

Interview: Brad Ingelsby (2012 Black List) — Part 2

March 5th, 2013 by

Brad Ingelsby is one busy writer with at least six projects in various states of development and production including Hold on to Me and Run All Night [both on the 2012 Black List] and The Raid. Plus in a nice bit of synergy for us, he sold a high-profile pitch “Merry Men” just last week to DreamWorks.

Brad was kind enough to do an interview and we had an excellent conversation. Today in Part 2, Brad shares more of his creative process in writing the Black List script “Run All Night”:

Scott:  Let’s unpack some of those dynamics in “Run All Night”. One is a classic western theme of the retired gunman pressed back into action, like Shane or Unforgiven. Were you aware of that dynamic, and how did that resonate with you as a writer?

Brad:  In earlier drafts of the script, there were a few more moments of flashback where we saw moments of real hideous violence, real ugly violence, committed by Jimmy. That’s something that I really wanted to explore, and it also is something that I really wanted to explore in “The Low Dweller”. This idea of guilt and how that manifests itself in people. In this story, when you meet Jimmy he’s not quite convinced he’s wasted his life, but he’s beginning to veer towards that conclusion. It’s only when he’s partnered with his son, and sees what his son has done with his life, that he realizes he has thrown away all the possibility and love that a life and a family can offer.

I knew I wanted to kill Jimmy, but I also wanted to give him a small, private moment near the end where he thinks, “Hey, I can still turn this around. A life can last a very long time. There’s still hope for me to mend these relationships that I’ve broken.” But life doesn’t work that way. You can’t make up for a lifetime of sins in a single night. So it would have felt very false to allow Jimmy that second life.

Unforgiven especially is a movie that I’ve watched over and over again over the years. That character, Will Munny, was certainly on my mind as I was writing Jimmy.

Scott:  You mentioned that end part, where Jimmy has a cathartic moment and a sense that he can turn things around. Here’s a strange comparison for you. When I was reading that, the movie American Beauty came to mind, how Lester has that realization right at the end of his life.

Brad:  Yeah.

Scott:  Then it’s taken away from him.

Brad:  It’s a movie that I didn’t watch going into writing the script, but now that you say it, it makes perfect sense. Absolutely. In fact, the setting is almost exactly the same. I think Lester sits down at a table and I think Jimmy, at the end of the movie, sits down at the table as well. It’s almost the same beat. You’re exactly right. The emotion in those two moments feels spot‑on.

Scott:  It’s sad, in a way, because you really feel like they do have a chance, and then boom, their lives are taken away.

Brad:  Yeah. Exactly. But I knew it had to happen because of the way that we established Jimmy and the horrible things that he has done in his life. He can’t get away. It’s too cheap. In a lot of westerns you know from the beginning that your hero is going to die. You just don’t know how he’s going to die. And I think for Jimmy it’s a happy death in many ways. After all, he’s finally at peace. He escapes his ghosts. There’s a respite for him when the screen fades to black. But he sees his son and his grandkids for the first time and you hope that the audience has recognized that at the moment of his death he’s become a different person. And so they’re a little more able to accept his passing, because he’s not the same Jimmy they met in the beginning of the movie.

Scott:  Let’s talk about Jimmy. He’s a really compelling character. In his past, he was a hit man. He’s an alcoholic. He’s estranged from his family. He’s looked down upon by locals. He’s harassed by cops. In one scene, he even makes a terrible Santa Claus. We’re dealing with a deeply flawed protagonist here. What was the appeal to you, as a writer, like “OK, I really want to explore this guy’s dark side?”

Brad:  Yeah, I think so. I think I overdid it a bit in the beginning of the script to be honest, but by starting Jimmy out at such a low place you give him room to grow. Lots of room to improve. That’s what you really want in a central character, I think. When you review the character’s arc at the end of the movie it feels like he’s traveled a long distance to get there.

So if you establish him in that low place the distance you can travel to get to the ending moment is much farther. And for Jimmy the moment can be a small one. It’s not that you’re giving him a second chance at life. That would be too farfetched and imposed. For Jimmy realizing his faults as a father is an incredible distance to travel in a single night. It’s a huge journey.

Scott:  It totally works. You create this chasm that he literally hasn’t even seen his adult son in years and has never seen his grandchildren. Would it be fair to typify the metamorphosis that Jimmy goes through being about reconciliation?

Brad:  Yeah, absolutely. It’s about reconciliation with his family and also with his own sins. But arriving at that place has to feel real and earned and true. One thing I really tried to avoid was making it easy for Jimmy to be forgiven. He’s done such awful things in the past that I didn’t want to make his journey towards reconciliation easy. In many ways I didn’t want him to receive forgiveness. For example, there’s a scene near the end of the script where he visits his elderly mother in the hospital. And he wants desperately to confess his sons and be forgiven by her. But she’s so far gone with dementia that she barely recognize her own son and he never gets the forgiveness he’s seeking.

Scott:  I was thinking about it. Between “The Low Dweller” and “Run All Night,” you’re dealing with protagonists whose pasts basically haunt their present, not only in a psychological or emotional way, but in a visceral sense. Actual characters from the past appear in the present and confront the protagonists about their personal history. Isn’t that a way of using the past to challenge the protagonist about the question of self‑identity, like “Who are you?”

Brad:  Absolutely. If you can imbue your stories with a sense of the past without having to do a flashback or voiceover, the stories tend to feel that much richer. If, as a viewer, you sense that this story, these characters, this place, existed way before you started watching the film, then the writer has done something right. There’s a comfort there, a familiarity, and it makes it much easier for a viewer to settle in and go along with a story.

And in those two scripts, “The Low Dweller” and “Run All Night”, the past is always present. In many ways they’re both about the sins of the past.

Tomorrow in Part 3, Brad talks about another project “Hold on to Me,” then the excitement of making the Black List. Be sure to come back every day this week for the entire interview.

For Part 1 of the interview, go here.

Please stop by comments to thank Brad for taking the time for the interview and post any follow-up questions you may have.

Brad is repped by WME and Energy Entertainment.

Interview: Brad Ingelsby (2012 Black List) — Part 1

March 4th, 2013 by

Brad Ingelsby is one busy writer with at least six projects in various states of development and production including Hold on to Me and Run All Night [both on the 2012 Black List] and The Raid. Plus in a nice bit of synergy for us, he sold a high-profile pitch “Merry Men” just last week to DreamWorks.

Brad was kind enough to do an interview and we had an excellent conversation. Today in Part 1, Brad discusses his background, how he wound his way to Hollywood, and started as a screenwriter:

Scott:  Have you always been a movie fan?

Brad:  Yeah, I’ve always been a film fan. When I was younger, my local video store would offer this weekly special: 10 movies for $10 dollars. So I would rent ten movies a weekend and watch them in my parents’ basement. I was always a film fan, but I wasn’t interested in becoming involved in the business until around my junior year of college. That’s when I started writing.

Scott:   You went to Villanova?

Brad:  Yeah, I did.

Scott:  Your major was business. How did you end up making that switch?

Brad:  I took a screenwriting course my junior year. My teacher was a woman named Sloan Seale who was overly generous with her time and recognized that I had a real passion for writing. I may not have been very good, but I was more interested than the other students. So I would send her pages of my scripts and she was really supportive and encouraging and sort of said, ‘Go for it’. That was the springboard. You need people like that in your life, I think. People who say ‘yes’. People who to tell you to jump. Luckily I’ve had a few over the years.

Once I got into writing and had someone willing to push me, I started writing all the time. I went onto the Internet and tried to mimic the screenwriting format I saw in scripts that had been posted online. In fact up until I got into the writing program at AFI, I was still writing in Microsoft Word. I didn’t know anything about Final Draft until about halfway through my first year at AFI. My workshop teacher Daryl Nickens actually gave me a copy of Final Draft.

Scott:  How did you end up deciding to go to AFI (American Film Institute)?

Brad:  I did some research on film schools and basically applied to all the ones that I felt were worth applying to. I didn’t expect to get in because I had no background in film or writing. I took a chance and was just incredibly lucky to get into AFI.

Scott:  What was your experience like there?

Brad:  AFI was really fantastic. Especially for me because I had no experience in writing. A lot of the other students had gone to NYU or USC or had worked in the industry for a while. They’d studied writing or had been around film for a number of years prior to AFI. For me, everything was new. So I was able to fall in love with it for the first time. At the time, I didn’t know anything about three act structure, or inciting incidents or act breaks. I didn’t know anything at all really. AFI was sort of my formal introduction to screenwriting. And it helped that I had two really smart, really caring workshop instructors in Daryl Nickens and Len Schrader. Unfortunately they both passed away, but I think about them a lot and what they gave to me as a writer. I feel very lucky to have known them.

Scott:  You made your first big splash with the spec script “The Low Dweller” which made the Black List. What is the story behind that?

Brad:  Well, at AFI I had written a very small, quiet character piece my first year. So I was interested in branching out during my second year and doing some different, something dark and violent and edgy. Len Schrader, my second year workshop instructor, was very interested in dark and violent material. So we worked the story out together.

Scott:  The premise of “The Low Dweller”: “A man trying to assimilate into society after being released from jail discovers that someone from his past is out to settle a score.” What was the original conception of that story concept?

Brad:  It has an interesting origin. After my first year at AFI, I decided that I didn’t really want to be in Los Angeles over the summer. I didn’t have any classes to take and a friend of mine from back home had taken a job in Ohio for the summer. He invited me to work with him, doing bungee jump rides outside an amusement park. It sounds crazy, but I needed to get away. So I drove across the country to spend the summer in Ohio. And along the way I stopped in various small towns in the Midwest and just sort of walked around and tried to get a feel for the place and the people and that’s where the setting for “The Low Dweller” was born. On that drive.

What I wanted to do with the story was to subvert the revenge genre a bit. I wanted to write a story about a man who thinks he’s doing the right thing, the noble thing, by avenging his brother’s murder. And through his own foolish pride, he ends up getting everyone he loves killed. I wanted to look at the folly in seeking revenge rather than the glory.

Scott:  The project has gotten produced, it’s now called Out of the Furnace?

Brad:  Yes.

Scott:  You’ve got a great cast, Christian Bale, Zoe Saldana, Casey Affleck, Forest Whitaker, and directed by Scott Cooper. That’s pretty exciting for you.

Brad:  Yeah, it’s exciting. It’s an amazing cast. I haven’t seen the film, but hopefully it turns out well.

Scott:  Does it have a release date sometime this year?

Brad:  I’m not sure. I think it’s going to be released in the Fall.

Scott:  Let’s jump to “Run All Night,” which sold us a spec in January 2012 and also made the Black List. That log line: “An aging hit man goes up against his boss over a single night in order to protect his family.” What was the inspiration for that story?

Brad:  Jimmy, the main character, was a character that I had in mind for a while. He began with a Bruce Springsteen lyric, ‘Now I’m gonna get birth naked and bury my old soul/And dance on its grave’. It’s an intriguing lyric. Can you really burn your old soul? Can you really have a second face, a second life? I’d also been interested in doing a very contained, ticking clock story about a father and son and I had this idea of a hit man who has come to the twilight of his career, the end of his heyday, and he’s haunted by the things he’s done and questioning why he ever did those things. He’s come to believe that everything he valued in his life, all these relationships, everywhere he’s placed his loyalty, is false. And over the course of this single night he attempts to redeem himself. Tonight he’s going to burn his old soul.

I also felt that a smart way to study a character like that would be to put him with his mirror image in many ways, the person that he could have been had he not decided on a life of crime and murder. In this case his son. It was a relationship that appealed to me and felt like fertile soil.

Then I started to put the pieces around that central father/son relationship, and deciding what the conflicts were and would they would face together. Who is the boss that Jimmy is still loyal to? How did they know each other? What’s the backstory? Why did Mike reject his father’s sins? You begin to filter in all these pieces.

That was how it started. I knew where I wanted to start the story and I knew how it would end. Then it just became having to put the middle in there.

Tomorrow in Part 2, we dig into “Run All Night” and peer into Brad’s creative process. Be sure to come back every day this week for the entire interview.

Please stop by comments to thank Brad for taking the time for the interview and post any follow-up questions you may have.

Brad is repped by WME and Energy Entertainment.

Spec Script Sale: “Run All Night”

January 10th, 2012 by

Warner Bros. acquires action spec script “Run All Night” from writer Brad Ingelsby. Per Deadline:

The scribe focuses on how, in a single night, an aging mob hitman is forced to take on his former boss. The guy has to protect his son and family, and winds up on the run from the mob and the authorities with his estranged son.

Narrative elements: Compressed time frame. On the run. Family in jeopardy. Aging gunman. Forced together with his estranged son so lots of conflict there.

Deal: A reported mid-six figures preemptive deal.

Writer repped by WME.

By my count, this is the 2nd spec script sale of 2012.

The 2nd spec script sale did not happen last year until February 7, so we are nearly a month ahead of schedule.