Adventures in Screenwriting

Ever have random story ideas pop in your head, but they’re incomplete and you don’t know what to do with them? Of course you have. The notion of writing a zombie story involving sisters and/or brothers has been in my head for a while. I even had the perfect opening line: “You ate mom!”MyDeadSisterPoster1BW

But I couldn’t decide who my characters should be or who would get zombified. I’d been thinking I’d go with one of the standard horror movie tropes: the cute young sisters, but then I saw “Train to Busan” (South Korea’s surprising hit entry into the zombie genre). Two of the supporting characters are elderly sisters, In-gil and Jon-gil. In their scenes we’re shown two siblings whose relationship doesn’t seem to be that close. There’s some bickering, a little bit of chastising. But then the two women are accidentally separated during a mad dash back to the safety of the train, leaving each woman with a different group of survivors. Then you see their despair, the devastation they feel in believing the other is dead. You see how alone each woman is without her sibling. There is one moment of hope when the sisters are almost re-united, but Jong-gil falls victim to the zombies. Defeated, and angry that the actions of others caused her sister’s death, In-gil deliberately opens the door to allow the zombies in, joining her sister in death (well, in un-death – is that a word?)

Then I had my story. I decided to cast my characters as in their early 50s (approximately the actual age of me and my real sister), better to relate to them as I explored their actions and their futures, or lack thereof. This also left the script open to throwing in a menopause joke – not a hot (flash) topic in many zombie movies. I know how zombified I felt before hormone replacement therapy and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. Right, ladies? If you know what I mean, raise your hands (the one not holding onto an ice pack).

Instead of a short story, I decided to turn it into a super short screenplay and entered it into the 2018 Shriekfest Horror Film Festival, the longest running horror festival in Los Angeles, founded by actress Denise Gossett (considered to be one of the most influential women in horror). I’ve submitted five other times (not in consecutive years), and placed in the finals, then the semi-finals, then finals, then semi-finals, and then finals. (I’m sensing a pattern here.) When “My Dead Sister” made the list of finalists this year, not just a semi-finalist, I was really hoping to truly break the pattern, but, alas, was not the winner. Still, I enjoyed attending the festival first weekend of October. I saw some great films (like “Amy’s in the Freezer” – a dark-humored short  – and “Echoes of Fear” – which won best supernatural horror feature). Of course there were a couple that were not so terrific, but only one I had to walk out on to prevent its lighting effects from triggering a migraine (another thing that turns me into a zombie). And I truly enjoyed meeting so many other friendly and encouraging writers, some of whom were my competition of course, but were so warm and welcoming.

Before I close, and before my real sister think I actually wished she were a zombie and therefore, you know, dead, the siblings’ relationship portrayed in the script does not reflect reality (other than a particular detail I plucked from our childhood as key to the plot). But, if she was actually dead I wish she’d be a zombie because then she’d still be around so we can hang together and drink beer. Well, I’d drink the beer and she’d eat people. But eating people is kinda gross, so, umm, anyway, love ya sis!

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We interrupt Africa for…South Korea

…and zombies!

Horror movie aficionados, zombie movie fans, subtitle lovers, have you seen “Train to Busan” yet?

South Korea’s first blockbuster zombie flick, it came out last year and had a good run in U.S. theaters (although I managed to miss it) and has also won some awards. There’s even talk of an American re-make, but don’t wait for that. You can easily find it on Amazon Prime or Comcast’s On-Demand, etc. That’s what I did and it was fantastic! Loved it. When’s the last time a zombie movie made you cry?

Run to your computer or tv now. Well, first pop yourself some popcorn and find a comfy seat. If it’s chilly, grab a blanket. Okay. Settled in? Type “Train to Busan” in your search window. Even typing “Snakes on a Plane” uh, I mean “Zombies on a Train” will get you there too. You won’t regret it. In case you need a little convincing first, here’s the trailer:

 

Witch-fueled dreams?

Apologies for not blogging for the past two or three months, but I’ve been rather busy with my grad school program (last class starts March 7!) (Yea!)  I promise to frequent my blog more often now that I’m finally truly conquering my migraines and my writer’s block. (The discipline of once again having homework has really helped to focus my mind.)

THE-WITCH-e1443454804128Being that I do start my next (last!) class soon, I treated myself to a weekend outing to see the horror movie “The Witch” with my friend Ann and also met some new friends from a horror fan group on Facebook. (Yes, Facebook.) Hello Nikki, Kim, and Miyaka!  We all enjoyed being creeped out. It’s not a scary movie, and definitely not a slasher flick, but builds the fear through tension and atmosphere. I’ve read somewhere – I think in an interview of a famous horror writer – that the most important emotion any horror writer needs to create is DREAD. And “The Witch” definitely has that, as we watch the family fall apart, partly through internal turmoil and partly through external influences. (The exact balance of how much is internal vs. external is open to viewer interpretation.) I won’t give any spoilers here, but if you’d like to read more try these reviews (SPOILERS!):

http://filmschoolrejects.com/reviews/sundance-2015-the-witch.php

http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2016/02/23/the_witch_director_robert_eggers_on_the_real_history_behind_the_movie_s.html

It was good to escape out into the bright sunshine, discussing the Puritan interpretation of Christianity with Ann, carrying cute little mini-cupcakes. It was a beautiful day. But then came bedtime. I haven’t had any bad dreams caused by movies in years (like “Jaws” – and yes this was while living nowhere near an ocean). And I’m not saying this dream was caused by my afternoon viewing choice but….

I started to fall asleep in front of the t.v., so I turned it off around 11 p.m., and went to bed. But somewhere around 2 a.m., I had one of the more realistic dreams I’ve ever had (at least in terms of physical sensations). I could feel my heart hammering in my chest, trying to break through my rib cage. My heart jerked to a stop, followed by the strangest feeling of my body going limp and sliding out of the chair (the big comfy t.v. chair I’d been sitting in earlier), face first onto the ottoman, and then over the side of the ottoman, all in this weird slow motion like you see in the movies. The upper half of my body was hanging upside down, the top of my head brushing against the carpet.

It was then I woke up and was, of course, laying in my bed on the opposite side of the apartment. For a few moments I couldn’t move, although I’m not sure if that was more fear, more WTF?, or that sleep paralysis you hear about (which I’ve never experienced before). My cat Paco was curled up next to me; he jumped to his feet and cried at me as if he’d been the one having a bad dream, so I pulled him close for a cuddle while wondering what that black shadow on the far wall was before remembering it’s just the map of our solar system that’s been hanging there for years.

So that’s why I was awake – back in the big comfy t.v. chair at 3 a.m., watching re-runs of Law & Order, and eating a bowl of cereal.