[In Part 1, I talked about my screenplay Hell For Breakfast, being released in New Zealand this October under the title Fresh Meat.]
Insanity is often defined as doing the same thing multiple times with the expectation of getting a different result. Previously I detailed the origins of Hell For Breakfast, a screenplay I co-authored with Joe O’Brien. It was written as a low-budget calling card exercise with the idea of filming it ourselves. When the screenplay actually turned out to be good, Hollywood (North) came calling, and we optioned “H4B” out. It came this close to getting off the ground with some pretty big names aboard, before it crashed back down to earth. By then we had achieved some renown with RoboCop: Prime Directives, had landed an agent and a manager and were officially in “the biz”. We decided to rewrite H4B with the idea of using our newfound cred to launch it with us calling the shots, same as before.
At least that was the plan …
In September 2002 I was in Ottawa on personal business, and me being me, asked my agent to see if there was anybody I could meet with. Turns out there was opportunity, in the form of a film and TV producer who had read a vampire script I had written and wanted to meet. He showed me around his studio, talked about movies, the usual, and finally got down to brass tacks. He was in the process of signing a co-pro deal with a company in NZ and they were looking for a low-mid budget genre film to produce. Turns out these Kiwis had some success with a horror film a few years prior and were interested in something along those lines.
Did I have anything that fit the bill?
Well … yeah, I did, I admitted, and when he asked what the pitch was, I paused. Of course the script in question was H4B – but Joe and I were going to make that ourselves, right? But as he was a producer with resources and I wasn’t, I figured, “what the hell,” and pitched it anyway, deciding it probably wouldn’t be his cuppa tea, but maybe with his resources and our intent, we could make the movie happen the way Joe and I wanted it to.
Turns out I was wrong; he loved the concept and the pitch – it had all the elements they were looking for. He asked to see a copy of the script, which I promised to send when I got back home. On returning I buzzed Joe, told him what the producer told me, and asked what we should do.
“Send it to him” said Joe. “We’ll see what happens.”
So we sent it and he read it and loved it, and with our permission (and us still interested to see what happened) forwarded it to NZ. They in turn read it and loved it, and wanted our script to be their genre piece … assuming we wanted to play ball.
[I should add the above took place over six months. Things in the film biz move glacially slow when they’re not running at full throttle, and vice versa. Just how glacial the experience would be was yet to be discovered.]
So again we had a decision before us; these producers were willing to option the script and put us to work on rewrites, which meant money in the pocket and another project in development, both of which were positives. The negative was it was a script we still wanted to film ourselves would once more be out of our hands. We discussed it with our agent and manager among ourselves. Option A was to pass and try to get it off the ground ourselves (despite our still having limited resources to do so). Option B was to option it out and see what happened.
We went with B.
Frankly it made more sense to us at the time; a project in active development gave us “heat”, which would only help our other projects along. But the other reason was we’d landed a HUGE writing assignment at the same time, and knew it would be a good couple years before we were freed of that obligation anyway, so why not send H4B out into the world again and see if the timing was right to see it become a reality?
[Oh, that Big Project never happened in the end — at least not with our names in the credits. But that’s another story]
Anyway, that was the plan. And over the next two years, we worked, constantly. We did round after round of rewrites, met with the charming NZ producer on a swing through Toronto, and got the script to the point where we all (or at least the writers) felt we had finally found the right balance of horror and suspense and black, black comedy. It looked like we were ready to roll full steam ahead into production, and expected an announcement to be made shorty thereafter.
We waited. And waited. And waited some more. For the longest time we didn’t hear anything about it. 2003 became 2005 which became 2006 and 2007 and nothing was happening. Until something did happen;
Joe and I were fired off our own movie.
That story, and the thrilling conclusion of the saga, in Part 3