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The Next Thing I Write


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Okay, so I will give this a shot. I have wanted to document my process before, but never seem to have the time and memory to do so.


To that, I will try and keep this as "real time" as possible, so mistakes and wrong turns will be part of it. A lot of my process is my pacing my office and jotting down stream of consciousness thoughts, so really, I am just jotting them down here.


So I'll start.






Yesterday I emailed with my manager on the topic of what to do next. (NDA edits and in place)--




I know this is going to sound crazy, but I am antsy AF and need to knock out another spec. Infernal everyone loved, but is too expensive, Roosevelt has fallen oddly flat and I am trying not to be depressed about it.


BF is a moving target with casting,. They say we're a go in November, but I'd need to be in prep by now. It's going to shoot in the spring. The Merrells have a tight schedule ending the year anyway. We're out to XXXXX for the dad now, if he is in, that helps-- but honestly, I don't see us shooting until spring when the weather will be on our side.


XXXX has the blind pilot, and they are sitting on it knowing they are second position to Amblin. FYI the outline for XXXXXXX has been sent to Amblin for their approval before going the mouse.


Given that XXXXXXXX takes a month to get a 10 minute phonecall on the books I have a lot of downtime right now, given what is happening with Emily I want to stay as busy as possible. I want to knock out something lean and not too expensive. If I did that, is there anything I should avoid? Im still feeling like I dont need anymore horror scripts right now, and youve told me to avoid action comedy cause theres a surplus in your stable.


Is there anything you need genre-wise? Is there anything you are seeing a lot of that I should avoid? Am I still banned from writing a western?




What do you WANT to write next? People want high concept, easily patchable projects.




Well, I WANT to write a vampire western Im sure people are just lining up to make that


Ill think high concept, no problem. I just want you to tell me what genre you think is a safer bet scifi, thriller, action...




Sexy thrillers are always great in the feature space! There might be a resurgence coming of 90s style thrillers-- Jade, Last Seduction, Basic Instinct, Sliver-- etc.




That's just crime/noir (which I do all the time) with sex (which I do all the time hurrrr). I am down for that. Will get back with details when I have them. Given my resume, maybe I'll add a little culty edge to it.






So those are my marching orders. A noir/mystery sex thriller. I have written a lot of crime stuff, none of it has been made though.

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She's not my boss per se, I pay her, but she keeps my career on track and finds me jobs. Its a relationship. I follow her lead on trends because she's super smart and that's her skillset-- but at the same time, if I told her I really wanted to just write a vampire western, she'd do her best to sell it.




So when I develop ideas it's generally a combination of inspo material, whatever I am currently into, and whatever rando mini story/scene ideas I have had pop into my head lately.




Yesterday I watched Jade, Body Heat, and SWF.

Today I watched Cat People, Swim Fan, and Femme Fatale


De Palma is a master at the erotic thriller, not sure why I chose Femme Fatale out of his oeuvre, cause it's trash... but there was one element of it I like. The crime goes down in the first act, and the bulk of the film is about what the lead does when all the people she double crossed on the crime (her partners) finally track her down.


It has this High Noon sort of feel. I love High Noon. Actually, I love Outland, but High Noon is the original Outland.


Cat People is a movie that is dated, but have always loved. It's very sweaty. So is Body Heat. Sweaty is good.


Also, most of these movies have the female leads as either the wily con artist, a dead sex pot, or an innocent victim. I feel like there has to be another option. Or, make sure she is pulling a "Robin Hood." Meaning,if she is going to rip off people, said people should deserve it.


Other inspo:


I watch rando trash reality TV when I sit down to eat. Brain cleanser. I have fallen down a rabbit hole of all these car shows on Netflix-- shows about people racing, restoring and/or customizing muscle cars. I bought a Jeep last week, but I almost went and bought a 69 Camaro. Maybe next time.


One of the shows, Fastest Car, was about SLEEPER CARS, people who take cheap ass junk yard cars that look like shit and rebuild them to outperform Lambos and Ferraris. It was funny to watch Jim-Bob the redneck in his 83 Thunderbird blow the doors of a Maclaren.


I just replayed Red Dead Redemption 2 and various western tropes and ideas keep rattling around in my head.


The opening of Sicario is still the most intense thing ever.


Rando ideas:


- big dude with a beard named BIRD


- an exchange: "I guess I never thought of that." "Yeah, because you're an idiot."


- I love the idea of organized crime that we don't think of. Like a bunch of small town business men in some crazy real estate scam instead of a drug cartel. The Dixie Mafia as opposed to the Sicilian Mafia. Off -beat stuff.



Here's what I'm pinning from all this:


+ A dude named Bird

+ a sweaty/sexy dirty south vibe

+ maybe a crime syndicate/situation adjacent to drag racing

+ The RDR2 idea that a "gang" can be a family of sorts, each with their own scams and hustles / kinda like gypsies

+ female lead that is maybe a thief, but steals from criminals

+ a story prompt of an act one heist/crime where everyone is screwed over, and the rest of the movie is the follow up with said screwed over coming back for revenge


What's next:

- going to rewatch Hustle and Flow for more sweaty/dirty south

- going to make a playlist

- going to read some actual sexy thriller scripts instead of watching the movies


What I am going to think on:

- how to bring in a slightly horror/occult edge to this

- need more story obv

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Just brainstorming along with you:

If you're looking for something with a high concept and a horror or occult edge to it, and also are putting it into a "Dirty South" setting, how about injecting some sort of current social commentary with it? Kevin Smith did something like this around a decade ago with Red State, but he went purposefully into satiric horror territory and he didn't totally land it. I feel like there's a lot of ripe territory that could be used to heighten tension, just as long as it kinda stays relatively subtle.

Also, some of your descriptions of wanting some sort of crime aspect reminds me a bit of the latter seasons of Breaking Bad. I always thought it was super interesting that Albuquerque seems like some nondescript and boringly suburban town on the surface, but there's all these drug gangs and violence going on underneath. Atlanta might be a good analogue for that.

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Guest El Chalupacabra



What I am going to think on:

- how to bring in a slightly horror/occult edge to this

- need more story obv

Not that anyone is asking, and I have no idea how to do that, but since you watched some old school 1980s films already, maybe if you give these films from around the same era like Body Double, and/or The Hunger, and/or The Howling 1, and/or Video Drome, and/or Angel Heart a rewatch (bonus points for Looker, if you can get through it!), perhaps that will help with some ideas?

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She's not dying.




So I am thinking hard on this one story prompt, and I don't know if it is the way to go. A lot fo my scripts, even the horror ones drift toward crime. I think what people are more looking for are scripts about normal people who get sucked into intense situations after some sort of mistake or chance encounter.


Swim Fan, Fatal Attraction, The Postman Always Rings Twice-- it needs to be more about a relationship that goes sideways instead of a caper.

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All the creepy "supernatural" and psychological stuff in true detective might be a good vibe-mine for you. Plus for the hot southern feel.


What's that horror movie where a couple go to Mexico to a party that's a bit kinky but it turns out it's a cult party and the girl gets knocked up by Satan? It was pretty shit story wise but they nailed the mood

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Woke up with two alternate ideas--


A reverse of Adventure of Babysitting-- some brown kid runs away from home, gets stuck in the burbs, friends come to rescue, and they are hunted by some white power neighborhood watch


Or the dude version of Ingrid goes west

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I am struggling to connect thoughts.


I don't generally believe in writer's block. I think it is the effect of your subconscious knowing the path you are on is wrong. So I maybe trash everything that's occurred to me so far and try something else.

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I just did an interview for a book that's being made about the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, and the author somehow got his hands on my first draft of Leather. He wanted to talk about some of the differences between it and the final film, noting that I had written many more connections to the franchise on the whole that were ultimately cut or not shot.


We talked about my original open, (which was sort of in the film as not the open), where a girl is lead off into the woods by a bunch of creepy kids in masks.


So now I have this similar idea. Opening scene-- a family goes camping. Little girl goes wandering in the woods, and is lost. Family freaks out.


Ten years later, girl shows back up on their door step, saying she's been held captive for years. She;ll have some story about being taken as a girl by all these creepy kids in masks in the woods. The police will go looking, find nothing.


Not long after, a teen boy shows up, who she says she's been living with as her brother. He corroborates her story. Family takes him in.


For a brief time they are a normal nuclear family.


Then there's a slow burn of what comes next-- culty weird stuff happens, parents get spooked, hot teen lost boy seduces mom, girl carefully and intricately fleeces them... eventually we'll find out that these two teens are older than they seem, and the girl is not their lost daughter.


It's clunky, but I like this. It also could work with the sweaty southern vibe.


Need to think on the why...


- is they part of some cult and this is how they get by-- by fleecing people with cons

- is there something more sinister at play

- what actually happened to their daughter? did the cult take them, or did they just cash in on this story? (ala THE IMPOSTER)

- I feel like so as not to be like The Imposter there should be something a little weirder and edgier than just them being con artists

- like the idea that they are found out, and we see evidence they have done this before

- maybe the couple has a second child, who is a younger teen now, who is the one that doesn't trust them

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So now I am thinking the fleece/con is just what we think it is, but the flip in the third act is that it's actually an indoctrination of the mother into the cult. They need a matriarch to make them babies.


Basically The Imposter meets a gender flipped Poison Ivy by Way of Angel Heart.

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Pacing office now, pausing to write thoughts--


Scenes I need/want:


- The open as above


- a DNA test that proves this actually IS their returned girl 10 years later


- police looking in the woods


- the boy coming to the door late at night, scaring everyone


- weird culty shit happening around house/property


- a period where girl tries to adjust back to normal life / maybe actually wants to for a moment


- girl is 100% their biological daughter, but she has been programmed/brainwashed. and is totally good with screwing them over, even if she has a little doubt


- the family is targeted because it's hers-- and for the bulk of the story we think this is just all about fleecing them for money; there needs to be little scams and mishaps along the way that point to the girl and boy stealing from the family... and the boy has a side-goal of destroying the family to make sure the girl has nothing to go back to


- BUT-- the twist that is that while those above goals were part of the overall plan, what's really happening, is that they are slowly indoctrinating mom for their cult; they need a new matriarch to have babies and they want it to be her... or rather it HAS to be her as the girl is some position of power and her mother has to be all their mother


- most of the manipulation will come in some way via sex or sexuality


If it's an erotic thriller it needs sex. so sex scenes:


1. Mom and Dad when things are cool

2. Girl will sex some dude that likes her

3. Dad will be set up for an affair and bone the ringer

4. Girl and Boy will have sex, and maybe get caught which cases dramas

5. Boy will seduce mom


Really need names, so I stop saying things like Boy seduces Mom which will confuse google crawler bots. And let's also say Boy and Girl are between 18 and 20 so it's not super icky.

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Because I am a visual person at more core, I like a little iconography in my stories. I am thinking this cult needs some sort of logo/icon/sigil.


That helps me a ton in creepy scares if there is a visual cue I can show the audience.


Something like this:




The word "sigil" is one I like. Shockingly, according to IMDB, there's no movies called that. Sometimes titles are really hard, sometimes I start with nothing BUT a title.


I think for now, even if it is just a working title, SIGIL is cool.


Assuming her parents are a little new-agey hipster, why don't I just say that's the girl's name too?


I need a few more solid plot beats to bang around, to help me come up with stuff I am going to do an image deep dive. This is more of director thing that a writer thing, but again, as somebody who worked in visual art for so long, I find a lot of inspiration in visuals.


So next up is a mood board or three... that should keep me busy for the rest of the day.

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Can't go wrong with throwing some incest in there. Game of Thrones made it legit. So Sigil seduces either mother or dad. (because she has creepy seduction powers now from the cult). There needs to be some ritualistic murder I reckon, and some alluding to the Left Hand Path.


Oh and if you set it in the 80s (your fav) you can add in some Satanic panic stuff, because that was all the rage then. Fear of satanism grabbing the youth of the day.

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Yeah but the 80s are super overdone now. I'm liking that the 90s are coming back as a nostalgic time period (though honestly, anything not in the 50s and 60s is fine with me... now those two decades are SUPER overdone).


Anyway, back from the tangent, I don't see a reason you need to set this in any non-now time period.

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I love hearing people's thoughts, but I prob will follow my own course... like no actual incest no matter how bad Odine wants it.


Like Krawlie said, the 80s are played out. I have a script already with a Satanic Panic storyline. I actually have a friend whose movie is called Satanic Panic and just came out.

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