Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje On Making A Film Of His Extraordinary Life Story (A Kind Of Black Oliver Twist)
#screenwriting #film #screenplay
As already covered on this site, a reading of British actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s feature screenplay titledFarming, took place at the first-ever Sundance London Film Festival, last month - April 27th.
The script, which Akinnuoye-Agbaje developed at the Sundance Labs, is said to be based on his life story, and is described as a true story about “a young African boy’s search for love and belonging within a brutal skinhead subculture.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly intrigued by that premise alone.
The project might be getting closer to being fully realize, as, announced recently, it’s been selected by the Sundance Institute and WorldView to receive the Story Development Award; specifically, the project, along with the others being recognized, is being awarded for its focus on “social justice issues in the developing world.”
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Farming, will receive a £10,000 grant; or just over $16,000. Probably not enough to get the project fully financed, but with the Sundance pedigree behind it, and this initial funding boost, I suspect the project will continue to attract financing over the next year or so, if not sooner.
In a profile pience posted on the The Guardian’s website 2 days ago, we get much more info/background on Adewale’s Farming, which helps paint a fuller picture of what to expect from the project.
Here are the notables:
- It’s being further described as a “neo-Dickensian tale of hardship, abandonment and solidarity, a kind of black Oliver Twist for the postwar immigration era.”
- The title “Farming,” refers to the practice of handing out children to informal fostering that many Nigerian parents followed in 1960s and 1970s Britain, and Adewale was one of those children.
- In 1967, his parents, a Nigerian couple studying in London, gave him to a white working-class couple in Tilbury, which was then a fiercely insular dockside community. At times his foster parents had 10 or more African children living with them, including his two sisters.
- A a young boy in Tilbury, he was in constant danger of physical attack from local kids who, encouraged by their parents, nurtured a violent fear of blacks.
- And because he really wanted to fit in, he saw his skin color as a burden, and actually thought of himself as white. It didn’t help that he knew nothing of his African parents until later, when they came and took him back to Nigeria, where he experienced a brutal culture shock, and didn’t speak a word for about 9 months, saying he was traumatized and afraid.
- Frustrated, and unsure of what to do with him, his parents sent him back to Tilbury.
Eventually, all that shifting and clashing led to this:
“I wanted to assimilate and go back to the abnormal normality I knew. I wanted to wash off the experience of Africa but obviously I couldn’t because that’s who I was. As much as I wanted to deny it, it was plaguing me, and I was reminded by the images coming through the TV, people on the streets and in the end my family in the house.” The more he tried to blend in, the more he was rejected. After a year in Africa his skin was darker, which made him yet more conspicuous among the white population. Reluctant to go out, he was issued with an ultimatum by his foster father: either he fight in the street or he would have to fight in the house. With little choice, he learned to defend himself and also to attack others. As he became a teenager he grew into a well-built young man with a reputation for violence. “It was a time of standing up and standing your ground or running, and there wasn’t anywhere to run in Tilbury. The local skinhead gang really ran the streets. They made my life – and anyone’s who was a shade darker than pale – a misery.” […] He became a skinhead. He didn’t just adopt the haircut and clothes but the racist attitudes too. He fought alongside his new skinhead comrades, who treated him at first like some brutalised pet to be unleashed in battle.
It’s really a fascinating, unusual story, and one that should make for an interesting film. You can read the full Guardian profile of Adewale HERE. It’s a good read and encouraged.
So, needless to say, this is a project that’s on my watch list, and I’ll be following it from here on.
Akinnuoye-Agbaje hopes to start shooting the film later this year.”
#screenwriting #film #director
Having written seven of the eight screenplays for the Harry Potter films, Steve Kloves knows a thing or two about adapting a novel for a feature film. Recently we learned that he was in talks to pen a new adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, and now it looks like he may have yet another adaptation project on the horizon, which he may also get to direct.
Variety is reporting that Kloves is in talks with Warner Bros. to write and direct the Mary Parent produced adaptation of William Landay’s legal thriller novel Defending Jacob. Compared to novels Presumed Innocent and Ordinary People, the story is set in an upperclass Boston suburb, and follows a district attorney who takes time away from his job in order to defend his son, who’s been charged with murder. Apparently, he’s less than certain over just how innocent his son is. Sounds like a pretty major conflict of interest on this case, but one that likely makes for an interesting story.
As a fan of the Harry Potter series, I should admit - knowing this likely puts me in the minority - while Order of the Phoenix was not among my favorite of the books in the series, the film proved to be one of my favorites in terms of how the story was adapted. Of course, Phoenix happens to be the one film in the series that Kloves didn’t write (Michael Goldenberg penned that screenplay). With that said, all of the films were great and given the rich world Rowling created, with increasingly complex character history and development as the series went on, adapting those books to a regular-length film that did the story justice was not likely to be an easy task. Kloves’ experience on those films may help him in adapting Landay’s novel. As for directing, his experience with that is limited to two films (Flesh and Bone and The Fabulous Baker Boys) years ago. Assuming this deal goes through, it should be interesting to see how he does not only in converting the novel to a screenplay but then getting to direct.”
Source: Courthouse News
#screenwriting #film #legal
“A screenwriter-director asked a state judge to rule that a vote ousting him from a film project is invalid, as is the contract to find much-needed financing that endorsed his removal.
The complaint, filed by Tennyson Bardwell and his Daydreamer Films LLC, comes less than a month after the two were named as defendants in a separate, related case.
Common to both lawsuits in Schenectady County Supreme Court is an attempt to make an $8 million feature movie from “Dancehall,” a murder-mystery set in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York.
Bardwell, a writer-director with two movies to his credit, created a screenplay from the book by local author Bernard Conners and delivered it in early 2010 to Dancehall LLC, a company formed to steer the project. Bardwell was one of three managing members of the company.
But after a contract promising $7.5 million to the movie fell apart, a group of Albany-area business executives that had pledged $1.1 million for development became concerned about their investment. They had one of their group, retired banker Daniel Hogarty, named as investment manager of the company in 2011, and Hogarty, voting with Edwin Graham, another managing member of Dancehall LLC, moved to oust Bardwell early this year, saying he stood in the way of new financing.
Dancehall LLC sued Bardwell and Daydreamer Films in early April, asking the state court to affirm the vote.
Bardwell and Daydreamer countersued, claiming the vote came “without proper notice, authority or cause.”
Named as defendants in the countersuit are Dancehall LLC; Graham and his Puddle Jumper Films LLC; and Hogarty, individually and as investment manager.
Bardwell claims in the countersuit that Hogarty, when he was named investment manager, was given “certain designated and limited powers set forth as negative covenants” - including that no agreements for a third party to help secure financing and no establishment of foreign or domestic distribution rights could be made without his consent.
These agreements “do not confer upon Hogarty the authority to vote on the removal of a voting manager of the company,” the complaint states.
That would make the Hogarty-Graham vote to remove Bardwell as managing member “unauthorized and void,” according to the complaint.
The countersuit also contends that when Graham signed an agreement in August 2011 to bring on Crescendo Capital Advisors LLC to help secure new financing for the film, he overstepped his authority as a managing member.
According to the complaint, Hogarty and the local investors had contacted Crescendo - unbeknownst to Bardwell - and hammered out an agreement that offered Crescendo a $250,000 up-front payment and another $250,000 once new financing was secured.
The countersuit contends the contract constituted a “significant matter” that required a unanimous vote of the three managing members of Dancehall LLC: Graham, Bardwell and Anne Marie Lizzi, who has worked with Bardwell as an editor.
The countersuit contends Lizzi was a managing member when the Crescendo contract was being negotiated. But Graham and Hogarty say she had relinquished that role a year earlier.
The lack of a unanimous vote on the contract “constitutes a breach” of Dancehall LLC’s operating rules, according to the complaint. “[W]ithout the necessary unanimous vote and agreement of the managers, it is invalid and subject to rescission.”
The countersuit contends that after the contract was signed, Crescendo began suggesting that “significant changes” to the management structure at Dancehall LLC “would have to be made purportedly in order to attract the interests of foreign investors to the picture.”
In October 2011, the complaint states, Hogarty advised Graham and Bardwell by letter of the changes, which required that they resign as managing members and become at-will employees of Dancehall LLC.
Graham, who originally was to be………”
#screenwriting #screeplay #film
“Alfred Hitchcock worked with several great writers, one of them being John Michael Hayes, who wrote the screenplays forRear Window (1954), To Catch a Thief(1955), The Trouble with Harry (1955), and The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956). After he and Hitchcock had a falling out, Hayes went on to write numerous other movies such as Peyton Place (1957), Butterfield 8(1960), The Carpetbaggers (1964), and Judith (1966).
Here are excerpts from “Backstory 3: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 60s”, edited by Patrick McGilligan.
ON HOW HE MET ALFRED HITCHCOCK
I had worked on a radio show called Suspense, which was a half-hour drama. Then I worked on The Adventures of Sam Spade and a number of other radio detective shows. He used to listen to them. He heard my name all the time. That’s really what got him interested in me, because I doubt if he had gone to see War Arrow or Red Ball Express or anything else. So he inquired about me. It turned out we had the same agency, MCA, but we were in different departments. He gave me a tryout, and it stuck. He needed a writer for Rear Window, so I went from B movies to A movies overnight.
ON THE WRITING OF ‘REAR WINDOW’
Paramount found Rear Window. Hitch had left Warner Brothers and was looking for a home. And Paramount said if he could get a screenplay out of a Cornell Woolrich story, they would make a deal with him. They gave him a collection calledAfter-Dinner Story, by William Irish [Philadelphia and New York: J.B. Lippincott, 1936], a pen name of Cornell Woolrich. Out of about five or six stories, he liked “Rear Window” and brought me in on it. There was no girl in the original. I created the part. Hitch had done Dial M for Murder  with Grace Kelly, and she was beautiful in that film; but there was no life, no sparkle there. He asked me what we should do with her for Rear Window, so I spent time with her for about a week. My wife, Mel, was a successful fashion model, so I gave Grace my wife’s occupation in the film. The way the character posed, the dialogue—it reflected actual incidents in our life.
That was my first A picture with a big director, and I was so keyed up. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have, because I was worried about everything. Yet it turned out well. We worked beautifully together.
I like to write dialogue. It’s one of my skills, character and dialogue. Hitchcock, of course, grew up in silent films, and all those directors who did silent films have a tendency to rely on the camera as much as they can. And I caught some of that spirit. Hitchcock taught me about how to tell a story with the camera and tell it silently.
We used a long camera movement to open Rear Window. In The Man Who Knew Too Much, in the scene at Albert Hall with Doris Day and Jimmy Stewart, we had written some dialogue in case we needed it, but we didn’t intend to use it if we didn’t have to. Hitch, with his mastery, felt that without dialogue this whole final sequence where the assassination is about to take place—of a central figure from some nameless country—would be stronger. We discovered we didn’t need the dialogue at all. But we wrote it protectively.
I think suggestion is better. I’d rather say things through a literary device that’s interesting than just say it out flat. So much of my dialogue is indirect, with layers of meaning, sub-rosa meanings. It’s more challenging to write that way, and people remember the lines. Frequently, people came up to me for autographs, and they quote some of those lines from my Hitchcock movies.
ON HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH HITCHCOCK
His whole life was motion pictures; there didn’t seem to be much else in it. He just loved what he was doing, and he transmitted that feeling to you, rather than hovering over you like a giant genius. He was encouraging. He used to say, “It’s only a movie. Don’t worry about it, just do your best, and let the public decide.” Hitch was humorous and relaxed on the set. We’d go to dinner or lunch, but in no sense was I his personal confidant. He used to go over his early pictures and tell me how he had solved problems.
I think the worst fight we ever had was over the ending of To Catch a Thief. We had different ideas. I wrote twenty-seven different endings and still don’t like the one that was used. We had a couple of slam-bang script fights. Still, we got along fine until I got too much press.
When we went to Paris for the premiere of To Catch a Thief, I was getting mentioned everywhere—they value writers in Paris—so I was promptly banned from all public relations events. If I was mentioned in the fourth paragraph of a story, that was okay but not in the first or second. I was becoming known for my dialogue and characterizations. They even talked about “the Hitchcock-Hayes fall schedule” in either Variety or the Hollywood Reporter.
When you show up in the same sentence—Alfred Hitchcock and John Michael Hayes—that was more than he could bear. He wanted to be the total creator: Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Hitch was so unkind about giving credit.
In an interview he did with Francois Truffaut years later for example, Hitch tried to make it seem as if he had written the screenplay for Rear Window. I heard about that too late; I tried to contact Truffaut, but he had died. I did a sixty-five-page treatment of Rear Window that Jimmy Stewart committed to, that Paramount committed to. I had met with Hitch once or twice. He had nothing to do with the writing.
I was nominated for an Oscar. When I won the Edgar Allen Poe Award [for Rear Window ], the first time it was ever given for a movie, I showed Hitch the ceramic statuette, and he said, “You know, they make toilet bowls out of the same material.” Then he almost pushed it off the end of a table.
Hitchcock’s advisers asked him when his pictures got into trouble—on The Birds  and Marnie  and Torn Curtain  and Topaz —to bring me back. But he never would, because it was an admission that he needed me, and he’d never do that. Those pictures didn’t have the characterizations, the believability. They didn’t have the fun. The films we made together, people call it his golden period. It was a tragedy. We were a great team.
ON WRITING ‘PEYTON PLACE’
I just felt comfortable with the material. I tried to tell the story of the difficulty adolescents have passing through that invisible pane of glass as they become adults. I examined the turmoil they go through, especially in the town of Peyton Place. I was sympathetic to these young people. The first draft was nearly three hundred pages, and it took eight drafts to finally boil it down. I had little bits of my own philosophy woven in—I always do that. I drew on my own experience of living in two small New Hampshire towns. It was not an alien land to me. I could see the town in my mind. I could feel it.
The hard part, of course, was to get over the censorship hurdles; we had to imply things. Everybody had read the book, so we couldn’t disappoint them—without offending the censors and without offending the other countries in which it would be seen. Getting the Catholic Church’s Legion of Decency seal was probably the most difficult thing. People felt it was a book that couldn’t be made into a picture. We had to make it acceptable but entertaining and good. And the Legion didn’t change a line. The man in charge, Monsignor Biddle, told me, “John Michael, you’ve done it!” He was a jolly fellow, reminded me of Barry Fitzgerald……..”
#screenwriting #film #screenplay
“In both his own films and his collaborations with Jim Sheridan, screenwriter-turned-director Terry George has invariably been drawn to serious subject matter, covering the Troubles in Northern Ireland (In the Name of the Father, The Boxer), the corrosive aftermath of family tragedy (Reservation Road), and true stories of an IRA hunger striker (Some Mother’s Son) or heroism in the midst of genocide (Hotel Rwanda). He takes an abrupt turn toward the light in Whole Lotta Sole. The calculatedly charming crime comedy could use a tad more vitality in its central character, played byBrendan Fraser, but nonetheless packs enough pleasing elements to ensure a respectable commercial path.
Written by George with Thomas Gallagher, who hatched the elaborately plotted original story, the movie angles for the quirky buoyancy of the Roddy Doyle “Barrytown Trilogy” adaptations (The Commitments, The Snapper, The Van), with the darker edges of Guy Ritchie and Martin McDonagh. And while the hostage-crisis narrative is burdened by a few too many colorful characters and a creeping case of the cutes, the plotting is sufficiently tight to pull off the combination.
A quick flash of pre-titles action in Massachusetts shows Joe Maguire (Fraser) fleeing from his wife, a screaming banshee later revealed to be the daughter of a South Boston Mafia kingpin. Fearing repercussions, Joe hides out by minding his absent cousin’s antiques shop in Belfast. His paranoia is fueled by Jimbo (Martin McCann), a shifty-looking youth who appears to be stalking him, and by a cryptic visit from local gangland boss Mad Dog Flynn (David O’Hara).
While shyly courting beautiful Ethiopian refugee Sophie (Yaya DaCosta), Joe takes a backseat for much of the story. Focus shifts to underemployed Jimbo and the inflated gambling debt he incurred after he and his wife recently had a child. He owes Mad Dog $5,000, but since the gangster’s girlfriend wants a baby and he shoots blanks, he offers to take Jimbo’s kid and call it even. (This exchange is negotiated in a torture scene lifted directly from McDonagh’s play The Lieutenant of Inishmore.)
Reasoning that seafood vendors rake it in on Fridays in Catholic towns, JImbo holds up the fish market using an ancient hair-trigger submachine gun retrieved from an IRA stash. He’s unaware that the market, which gives the film its title, serves as a front for Mad Dog’s illegal operations. In his haste to get away with a meager cash haul, he grabs a bag with compromising contents for the gangster.
All that is merely a painstaking setup for the main action, an extended siege in which Jimbo, who is saddled with his baby while fleeing the crime scene, holes up in the antiques shop, with Joe, Sophie and a couple of surprise stowaways as hostages.
Hitting familiar notes of cranky, gruff and profane, Colm Meaney is the detective managing the crisis. That escalates when the Ministry of Defense (represented by Tom Hollander in an unbilled cameo) starts fretting about maintaining fragile peacetime equilibrium and sends in an SAS swat team. Meanwhile, Mad Dog and his flunkies dig up another piece of old IRA hardware, planning to blow away the evidence, and inside the store, Jimbo enlightens Joe about a possible connection in their pasts.
George –who won a live-action short film Oscar this year for The Shore, produced with his daughter – has a firmer handle as a director on character-driven scenes than on the jaunty action stretches. But the botched fish market robbery amusingly recalls 1960s screen capers, and the resolution pushes the requisite buttons of emotional uplift while tidily untangling the multiple plot strands. The film is visually undistinguished, but ably employs local accents, flavorful language, specific character types and quaint storefronts to define its milieu. Droll references to the Troubles serve as a humorous reminder that memories of the conflict endure.
Fraser’s performance is a little sleepy but otherwise likeable enough. Meaney and O’Hara sparkle in roles that don’t stretch their range; McCann conveys the touching vulnerability of a truly desperate and confused young man; and the lovely DaCosta brings welcome delicacy and warmth.
Leaning to the twee side, Whole Lotta Sole is not going to sway audiences expecting gangster turf to yield grit. But a packed house at the Tribeca Film Festival, where the film world-premiered, seemed tickled, suggesting that it should find a niche at the undemanding end of the specialized market……..”