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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Unproduced Screenplay Discussion    Horror Scripts  ›  They Never Left Moderators: bert
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Don
Posted: May 23rd, 2020, 12:17pm Report to Moderator
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So, what are you writing?

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They Never Left by Michael J. Kospiah - Horror, Mumble-core Dramedy - After being dumped by his girlfriend, a down-on-his-luck alcoholic moves into an unusually affordable NYC apartment only to find out that the previous tenant isn't quite ready to leave – despite dying three years ago. 105 pages - pdf format

Writer interested in feedback on this work



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spesh2k
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So, technically this script is "in development" with actor/producers Clay von Carlowitz (My Bloody Banjo, Cut Shoot Kill, Troma's Return to Nuke 'Em High) and Asta Paredes (the lead in horror features Sociopatha, Troma's Return to Nuke 'Em High Vols 1&2) penciled in as the leads and as producers. Of course, with development slowed a bit due to everything going on in the world, we're still looking for a director as well as some additional producers to jump on board.

It might be a mistake to really market this as pure horror -- though it IS horror, it's equal parts dramedy/mumble-core. Of course, always looking for ways to improve the script.

-- Michael


THE SUICIDE THEORY (Amazon Prime, 79% Rotten Tomatoes) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2517300/?ref_=nm_knf_i1
RAGE (Coming Feb. 2021) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8874764/?ref_=nm_knf_i2

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Yuvraj
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Hey, Michael,

The logline reads like a classy horror, the dead haunting the living. Though you say this is not pure horror as it has some dramedy in it, which seems like fun. Surely I'll look into it.

And good luck with the development of the script.


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ajr
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Hey Michael,

So I liked this because as you said, it's not straight horror - it's a ghost story, mostly, without gore, and with some interesting relationships mixed in.

I liked Darwin. It took me a while to get to know him, I think, and he seemed, to me, better and more likeable on his own than he was when he was first with Maddy? I know he fell off and stayed off the wagon for a good part of the film, but it was a realistic character choice given what was going on. I think you do a good job of weaving in his guilt at causing his mother's death, and I liked how uncomfortable his relationship with his father was. With someone as emotionally unavailable as that, you can see why Darwin is the way he is.

Not sure how I feel about Maddy - again, I liked her more as the piece went on. I don't think it's clear, at least to me, how long she was sleeping with Ed, and I think that goes to her likeability.

Ed was a total douche - reminded me of the Joel McHale character in TED, which I'm sure was exactly what you were going for, so good job on that.

The confusing character for me was Bernadette. Without trying to give spoilers here, her motivations were unclear to me. I needed to better understand what kind of control she exerted over Rachel and why.

Loved the ending and what you did with Darwin. Very THE SHINING.

Small nitpicks for me -

I thought Frank was a ghost for most of the picture. It could have been me though, perhaps I missed the setups that he was a vision that Darwin has had his entire life.

Maddy says to Darwin "you pissed in the closet again last night", which to me said that he was not in recovery, however then Ed shows up to say you wasted 11 months. It was strange to hear Maddy say that the morning after Darwin fell off the wagon.

I thought Scotty's "hella's" went on a bit too long; I would have stopped after Darwin called him out on it. Just a preference.

I thought the Geeky girl reading Darwin's book while sitting next to him was a bit too convenient. I get though that we have to get across that he's an author.

Lastly, in general, I was wondering why Darwin would choose to stay as long as he did. I don't think finances is enough of a reason. He should be able to couch surf or do something in the interim, though it is curious how he and Maddy make their money (I know he gets residuals from the book).

He's fed the information about the apartment early and often. It's not like he wasn't warned. Is there a way to slow play that more? And then have him be a a staunch disbeliever who's willing to stick it out, OR, someone who is in such pain that he doesn't really care about his own safety and is more curious than anything about what's going to happen next?

When he and Maddie turn ghost hunters, this makes much more sense, however that happens later on in Act III.

This can certainly be filmed as-is, these were just my impressions as I read.

Super breezy read again, some great characterizations and clever lines interwoven into an off-beat, hipster ghost story. Well done.

AJR


Click HERE to read JOHN LENNON'S HEAVEN https://preview.tinyurl.com/John-Lennon-s-Heaven-110-pgs/
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spesh2k
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Quoted Text
Hey, Michael,

The logline reads like a classy horror, the dead haunting the living. Though you say this is not pure horror as it has some dramedy in it, which seems like fun. Surely I'll look into it.

And good luck with the development of the script.


Thanks, Yuvraj.


Quoted Text
Hey Michael,

So I liked this because as you said, it's not straight horror - it's a ghost story, mostly, without gore, and with some interesting relationships mixed in.


Yeah, sitting in meetings with producers, I think it seems like it would be smarter to market this as a dramedy. Might be misleading marketing it as pure horror.


Quoted Text
I liked Darwin. It took me a while to get to know him, I think, and he seemed, to me, better and more likeable on his own than he was when he was first with Maddy? I know he fell off and stayed off the wagon for a good part of the film, but it was a realistic character choice given what was going on. I think you do a good job of weaving in his guilt at causing his mother's death, and I liked how uncomfortable his relationship with his father was. With someone as emotionally unavailable as that, you can see why Darwin is the way he is.


Thanks, man.


Quoted Text
Not sure how I feel about Maddy - again, I liked her more as the piece went on. I don't think it's clear, at least to me, how long she was sleeping with Ed, and I think that goes to her likeability.


Though I never make it clear how long they've been sleeping together (and I wanted to leave it open to interpretation a little bit), I meant to suggest that Darwin fell off the wagon after coming home one day (he's talking to Ed about this) and thinking that Maddy is acting funny. He tells Ed that he sensed somebody was in the closet... but he never looked.


Quoted Text
Ed was a total douche - reminded me of the Joel McHale character in TED, which I'm sure was exactly what you were going for, so good job on that.


Yeah, he was even more over the top in earlier drafts. I took it down 11 notches and he's still a douche lol.


Quoted Text
The confusing character for me was Bernadette. Without trying to give spoilers here, her motivations were unclear to me. I needed to better understand what kind of control she exerted over Rachel and why.


Yeah, I was going for her trying to appease the ghost of her dead son and delivering his wife (who left him) to him. She kinda uses his wife's guilt against her as a means of overpowering her mentally and brainwashing her, convincing her to stay in the apartment.


Quoted Text
Loved the ending and what you did with Darwin. Very THE SHINING.


Sweet.


Quoted Text
I thought Frank was a ghost for most of the picture. It could have been me though, perhaps I missed the setups that he was a vision that Darwin has had his entire life.


Yeah, when Darwin is talking to Ed at the bar, he tells him the story of Frank -- the man his mother hid in the closet from his father/her husband she was cheating on. Ever since, Darwin continuously sees him. Not as a ghost or a hallucination. Just a traumatic memory that follows him and affects his insecurities that haunt him throughout his relationships.


Quoted Text
Maddy says to Darwin "you pissed in the closet again last night", which to me said that he was not in recovery, however then Ed shows up to say you wasted 11 months. It was strange to hear Maddy say that the morning after Darwin fell off the wagon.


Yeah, Darwin's fell off the wagon for probably a month at this point, which would make it only 10 months... but Ed's not in the picture until now, really. And he says that Darwin hasn't been to any meetings in a month.


Quoted Text
I thought Scotty's "hella's" went on a bit too long; I would have stopped after Darwin called him out on it. Just a preference.


Yeah, kinda annoying, I have friends who say "hella" a hella a lot. Good thing he's only in two scenes (3 if you count the end).


Quoted Text
Lastly, in general, I was wondering why Darwin would choose to stay as long as he did. I don't think finances is enough of a reason. He should be able to couch surf or do something in the interim, though it is curious how he and Maddy make their money (I know he gets residuals from the book).

He's fed the information about the apartment early and often. It's not like he wasn't warned. Is there a way to slow play that more? And then have him be a a staunch disbeliever who's willing to stick it out, OR, someone who is in such pain that he doesn't really care about his own safety and is more curious than anything about what's going to happen next?

When he and Maddie turn ghost hunters, this makes much more sense, however that happens later on in Act III.


Maddy's a Youtuber for a living. In terms of world building, I didn't really give Darwin many friends. I suppose he could've couch surfed on his father's couch or maybe even Ed's. But, he's only there for a week. I see what you mean with the "7 Days" warnings he gets... but, as I know all too well, finances can really be enough to keep you stuck. I've been wanting to leave the Bronx for the last three years. I had a guy die in my building not too long ago... I literally stepped over the guy's body not knowing he was dead. Plus the crime around me, including me getting sucker punched on the streets at 2 am... still not enough to get me to move. Why? Money.


Quoted Text
This can certainly be filmed as-is, these were just my impressions as I read.

Super breezy read again, some great characterizations and clever lines interwoven into an off-beat, hipster ghost story. Well done.

AJR


Thanks for taking out the time, man, appreciate it as always. Some good notes here to think about.

-- Michael


THE SUICIDE THEORY (Amazon Prime, 79% Rotten Tomatoes) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2517300/?ref_=nm_knf_i1
RAGE (Coming Feb. 2021) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8874764/?ref_=nm_knf_i2

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Yuvraj
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Hey, Michael, what's up,

Read this one in about two hours, which is really fast for me. Goes to say that the sail was pretty smooth.

The writing is as always solid and I said it before that I dig your writing style. It just provokes me to read more. It has that touche that a normal story can be written in a compelling way.

My thoughts as I finished the script:

1) The story. It is a bit sad for me to say that the story's underwhelming for me. It's just a ghost story told in a layman's language. I know that you have already mentioned it is not a straight horror, which I thought would be fun. But it's not for me.

2) Darwin. It took me a while to get to know him. He's a punk drooled in alcohol. The problem is that he's showed in a very weak and timorous demeanour , which I personally hate to acknowlege. As for the likeability, I somewhat do cared for him.

3) Mandeline. Not much to say about her. She's just there. I can't even say she's supportive type or not but yes she definitely seemed to me a little selfish. I think that's where you went with her.

4) Ed. He's OK and kinda supportive friend but I was uninterested in him. Bascially, just skimmed his dialogs. And where his fate led him didn't cared really.

5) Bernadette. She was funny as to how she acted. Although the motive of her was a bit tame but considering her loss it can be assessed.

6) The real fun was Willy. Although he's there briefly( considering him as an info-filler), but man his dialogs were fucking good. Specially, the one where Darwin asks him who he is.

7) The reveal of the affair between Ed and Mandeline was amazing. It had that LUBITSCH TOUCH in it. You might know what it is?

What's with Frank? I get he's the guy who had the affair with Darwin's mom. But then what is the scene in the SCRIPT PAGE 73? He's alive? Why is he in the chruch basement? Is he in the same group with Darwin aka AA? If yes, why Darwin says he doesn't know him? He must have seen him there atleast once.

9) The ending was kinda cool. The whole swap reveal was nice. That bitchy Homeless Lady died for no good reason( oops spoiler).

Maybe this is useful to you.

Good luck.      



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Yuvraj  -  May 27th, 2020, 9:20am
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spesh2k
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Quoted Text
Hey, Michael, what's up,

Read this one in about two hours, which is really fast for me. Goes to say that the sail was pretty smooth.

The writing is as always solid and I said it before that I dig your writing style. It just provokes me to read more. It has that touche that a normal story can be written in a compelling way.


Thanks for taking the time to read, Yuvraj! Appreciate it!


Quoted Text
1) The story. It is a bit sad for me to say that the story's underwhelming for me. It's just a ghost story told in a layman's language. I know that you have already mentioned it is not a straight horror, which I thought would be fun. But it's for me.


Fair enough. As a fan of mumble-core, Andrew Bujalski and the Duplass Brothers especially, I was determined, for some reason, to write a mumble-core/dramedy meets horror hybrid. Most mumble-core films don't exactly jump out at you with intricate plots, so I wanted to write a mumble-core film that did... without going for full-out mumble-gore (as the hybrid is usually referred to -- Bagheads, Creep 1&2 and You're Next might be examples of that). Tis a slow burn I guess and might not be the most thrilling of stories. Which might be the biggest problem with the script.


Quoted Text
2) Darwin. It took me a while to get to know him. He's a punk drooled in alcohol. The problem is that he's showed in a very weak and timorous demeanour , which I personally hate to acknowlege. As for the likeability, I somewhat do cared for him.


I'm always drawn to writing stories about unlikable people and trying to make them somewhat likable by showing redeeming qualities. While also showing flawed aspects of them that are relatable. I kinda wanted to slowly reveal his character, showing his transformation from depressed drunk kinda just accepting everything, numb to everything, to sober guy trying to confront his demons/weaknesses.


Quoted Text
3) Mandeline. Not much to say about her. She's just there. I can't even say she's supportive type or not but yes she definitely seemed to me a little selfish. I think that's where you went with her.


Selfish, sure, maybe a little bit. But she's been very patient and even tried breaking up with him before -- she got back with him out of guilt after he tried killing himself. And then saw improvement in Darwin. But, in the end, she just wasn't happy with him, sober or not. I think Darwin was just as selfish as she was, probably more so. Which he acknowledges by story's end.


Quoted Text
4) Ed. He's OK and kinda supportive friend but I was uninterested in him. Bascially, just skimmed his dialogs. And where his fate led him didn't cared really.


I wanted to make him the self-righteous, sober douchebag -- based on an amalgamation of a lot of "sober" people or people who quit a habit and kinda look down on others who haven't done the same. Him being a sponsor isn't necessarily him trying to help people... it's more of him making himself feel powerful, feeding his ego. He wasn't meant to be likable, but if he's not interesting, that's probably something I need to work on.


Quoted Text
5) Bernadette. She was funny as to how she acted. Although the motive of her was a bit tame but considering her loss it can be assessed.


Yeah, she was fun to write. Lonely woman who could never have kids or find her soulmate who adopts a child/soulmate. And is unable to let go after he dies.


Quoted Text
6) The real fun was Willy. Although he's there briefly( considering him as an info-filler), but man his dialogs were fucking good. Specially, the one where Darwin asks him who he is.


Based on an actual super I had. Though his character was sort of playing off a horror trope. He was my version of that old, crazy guy in all the Friday the 13th films -- "You're all doomed!"


Quoted Text
7) The reveal of the affair between Ed and Mandeline was amazing. It had that LUBITSCH TOUCH in it. You might know what it is?


Not sure what that is, but now I'm intrigued to find out.


Quoted Text
What's with Frank? I get he's the guy who had the affair with Darwin's mom. But then what is the scene in the SCRIPT PAGE 73? He's alive? Why is he in the chruch basement? Is he in the same group with Darwin aka AA? If yes, why Darwin says he doesn't know him? He must have seen him there atleast once.


After reading through this for the first time in a year or so, I thought the same thing. I probably need to specify better -- this was a call back to Ed and Darwin's conversation where Darwin mentions Frank and Ed says, "Frank, with the weird dick?", referring to another Frank from AA who had a lawn mowing accident while drunk. So that was supposed to be him, not the Frank that Darwin sees in his head. I'm definitely going to fix that.


Quoted Text
9) The ending was kinda cool. The whole swap reveal was nice. That bitchy Homeless Lady died for no good reason( oops spoiler).


Thanks, thought it might be a little over-the-top/cartoonish.


Quoted Text
Maybe this is useful to you.

Good luck.  


Thanks again, man, these notes are super helpful! Really good stuff!

-- Michael


THE SUICIDE THEORY (Amazon Prime, 79% Rotten Tomatoes) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2517300/?ref_=nm_knf_i1
RAGE (Coming Feb. 2021) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8874764/?ref_=nm_knf_i2

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Yuvraj
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Quoted Text
After reading through this for the first time in a year or so, I thought the same thing. I probably need to specify better -- this was a call back to Ed and Darwin's conversation where Darwin mentions Frank and Ed says, "Frank, with the weird dick?", referring to another Frank from AA who had a lawn mowing accident while drunk. So that was supposed to be him, not the Frank that Darwin sees in his head. I'm definitely going to fix that.


My bad bro. I got confused with the name.

As I again saw the script and remembered that there were two Franks. That's what lead me to the confusion.


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spesh2k
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Quoted Text
My bad bro. I got confused with the name.

As I again saw the script and remembered that there were two Franks. That's what lead me to the confusion.


No problem, man.

When going over it and seeing the other Frank mentioned in an AA meeting scene, I immediately was aware that it could be confusing. I should at least giving him a different character name... maybe AA FRANK or something like that.

-- Michael


THE SUICIDE THEORY (Amazon Prime, 79% Rotten Tomatoes) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2517300/?ref_=nm_knf_i1
RAGE (Coming Feb. 2021) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8874764/?ref_=nm_knf_i2

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Hey, Michael - gave this a read.

First - nice job expanding on the short film. It works.

A nit issue here:


Quoted Text
MADELINE (CONT’D)
It’s almost 10:08, T minus two
hours until show time. Ghost
Hunters can suck a dick.


Is this right?  (i.e., 2:08 would be four hours away from 10:0

Second nit - the hella thing was funny at first but when on one scene too long.

Madelyn was a little unlikeable for me -  I'm not sure why,  How to express this ??? Like her emotional acuity was too thin. I wanted a little bit more anguish/conflict on her part I guess for having to dump Darwin for his alcoholism and it just seemed exploitative for her to do the horror video show from his apt - I dunno - just didn't find her likable, unlike Darwin who I started out not liking and eventually developed empathy for.

The mother's desk - an underused prop IMO. You kind of make a big deal of bringing this oversized desk into this tiny apartment - practically devoting a scene to it - and then don't really use it anywhere. I kept expecting it to play a role - e.g., it was Darwin's thinking spot, or - he finds something important taped underneath one of the drawers - or whatever. Guess I'm saying if it doesn't play a prominent role - why highlight it in the opening?

Just a thought - in all of these horror flicks there is the problem of why did they stay there? Yeah, I know it's only 7 days and I know money is an issue - but when life and death are at stake, not sure those outweigh the risks.  I thought that somehow the apartment had to do something for him = something that drew him there. e.g., maybe he gets inspired to write again only while in the apt (note - could write on the mother's desk, maybe he has only positive dreams of his mother there - or is more resistant to alcohol - whatever - just something other than logistics that keeps him drawn to the apt.

Just spit-balling. It is already a solid script and you already have folks interested in it - but since I read - thought I would comment.

Nice job on this one.

Why stay in the apt = writing inspiration


My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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spesh2k
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Hey Dave, thanks for taking the time out to read this. Not sure if you're doing the one week challenge or not... I don't even have a concept yet, not sure if I'll have anything ready in time. But we'll see...

Anyway...


Quoted Text
Is this right?  (i.e., 2:08 would be four hours away from 10:0


Nope, I fucked up lol. Thanks for the spot!


Quoted Text
Second nit - the hella thing was funny at first but when on one scene too long.


Yeah, I'm gonna see about cutting that bit down a little.


Quoted Text
Madelyn was a little unlikeable for me -  I'm not sure why,  How to express this ??? Like her emotional acuity was too thin. I wanted a little bit more anguish/conflict on her part I guess for having to dump Darwin for his alcoholism and it just seemed exploitative for her to do the horror video show from his apt - I dunno - just didn't find her likable, unlike Darwin who I started out not liking and eventually developed empathy for.


Yeah, still not sure if I want her to be completely likable. But I don't want her to be completely unlikable either. I wanted to kinda even that out by having Darwin be so flawed (not necessarily unlikable) at the beginning that it puts her in a rough position, leaving her with a tough decision to make. I tried being subtle with her guilt a bit, just with little reactions here and there to certain things -- I tried slipping small details, like the Barbara Hershey thing, etc. But maybe I went a little too subtle. Because I don't want people to hate the character. And I want people to understand where she's coming from in terms of the break-up.


Quoted Text
The mother's desk - an underused prop IMO. You kind of make a big deal of bringing this oversized desk into this tiny apartment - practically devoting a scene to it - and then don't really use it anywhere. I kept expecting it to play a role - e.g., it was Darwin's thinking spot, or - he finds something important taped underneath one of the drawers - or whatever. Guess I'm saying if it doesn't play a prominent role - why highlight it in the opening?


I thought I had it in the ending, where the typewriter is. But I'll have to double check that. I just wanted something to show us early that he was somehow attached to something his mother gave to him, then showing why it meant something to him once we find out what happened to her. Maybe one other mention would do the trick.


Quoted Text
Just a thought - in all of these horror flicks there is the problem of why did they stay there? Yeah, I know it's only 7 days and I know money is an issue - but when life and death are at stake, not sure those outweigh the risks.  I thought that somehow the apartment had to do something for him = something that drew him there. e.g., maybe he gets inspired to write again only while in the apt (note - could write on the mother's desk, maybe he has only positive dreams of his mother there - or is more resistant to alcohol - whatever - just something other than logistics that keeps him drawn to the apt.


That's actually a really good idea. Just might explore that a little more (the writing thing, seeing the apartment as inspiration).


Quoted Text
Just spit-balling. It is already a solid script and you already have folks interested in it - but since I read - thought I would comment.


Well, not enough people interested in it. We made the short with the intention of keeping the team together (the main core of the lead actor and director) and build some interest using the short. But it came out not to my liking and I felt it'd be better in the hands of a different director, a more proven one in regards to quality. Not necessarily one who's directed features before, but one who has high quality shorts. The lead actor's wife, who just so happens to be the lead in a few horror features, liked the script and wanted to jump on it. Then we hired a director to join our team... but we hit a snag and there was no movement. There was an Australian production company that was interested in the script -- not sure why I'm only getting interest from Australia -- and I kinda had a falling out with the actors/producers. I really needed the money and optioned the script for a decent amount, though not life-changing. Once the contract was up, they expressed interest in renewing the option... but they didn't have any money. After guaranteeing me, albeit verbally, that they'd renew it. Which messed things up for me a little bit. So, we ended up bringing the band back together and are looking to get some interest in it again. Though this Covid shit doesn't help. But we'll see what happens. We're keeping the group together this time and playing this thing out.


Quoted Text
Nice job on this one.


Thanks, man, appreciate it again. Some good notes here I can really use to tighten this thing up a bit.

-- Michael


THE SUICIDE THEORY (Amazon Prime, 79% Rotten Tomatoes) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2517300/?ref_=nm_knf_i1
RAGE (Coming Feb. 2021) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8874764/?ref_=nm_knf_i2

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I wish you the best of luck with it. It's a good script


My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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All right, after years of developing this, we finally have a director attached -- Jeremiah Kipp, who's feature horror film "Slapface" starring Dan Hedaya is working the festival circuit right now. He also just wrapped a feature called "Draw Up and Stare" starring Melissa Leo and Michael O'Keefe. He's directed a number of feature films starring indie horror darlings such as Tom Savini and Larry Fessenden as well as actors such as Tom Sizemore. He really understands the script and it's a thrill to have him on board.

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0456031/

So, it looks like things are back on track.

Here's a little "look-book" that was put together. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1DY-Hjs7gtnCKUWUW3RdNE4NeeXjmIae6/view?usp=sharing

First time in a while since I've been this excited about this film, very encouraging news.

-- Michael


THE SUICIDE THEORY (Amazon Prime, 79% Rotten Tomatoes) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2517300/?ref_=nm_knf_i1
RAGE (Coming Feb. 2021) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8874764/?ref_=nm_knf_i2

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LC
Posted: March 7th, 2021, 8:44pm Report to Moderator
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All looks great, Michael. Congrats!

P.S. Never heard of mumblecore. Clearly not up with it.


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spesh2k
Posted: March 7th, 2021, 8:46pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from LC
All looks great, Michael. Congrats!


Thanks! I think Clay and his wife put the "look-book" together.

-- Michael


THE SUICIDE THEORY (Amazon Prime, 79% Rotten Tomatoes) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2517300/?ref_=nm_knf_i1
RAGE (Coming Feb. 2021) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8874764/?ref_=nm_knf_i2

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