[The movie Run All Night rolls out in theaters on Friday, March 13, reason enough to reprise my March 2013 interview with the movie’s screenwriter Brad Ingelsby.]
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.
Brad is repped by WME and Energy Entertainment.