New screenplay

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Actor
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New screenplay

Post by Actor » Thu Mar 06, 2008 11:52 pm

I've been working on a screenplay for some time. It's based on two serial killers who terrorized central Ohio about 30 years age. The primary source of my material is the confession of one of the killers. The working title is Criminally Insane.

As I intend to develop the story the two killers are the only characters based on real people. They can't sue me because (1)convicted criminals have no rights to their story and (2)they are both dead now. They got life sentences, not the death penalty.

I am deliberately not using the persona of any police officers, victims or relatives of the killers. Three other people were charged with the crimes but were released when the killings continued while they were in jail. I'm leaving these people out too.

I'm considering combining the two killers into one character, i.e., make him a composite of the two. Since there is some marvelous dialog between the two killers in the confession I would have to make him a split personality, like Mr. Brooks. I'm undecided as to whether this is a good idea.

One of the killers had a wife and I want to leave her out. However, I'd like to give the other a girl friend. But since I'll be using fictitious names the gf might be construed to be the wife. Any ideas?

I live about a mile from where the first killings took place. I've already approached the owners about the possibility of shooting there. The answer is "no way." I could probably change their minds if I had a lot of money but I don't.

I'd like to shoot in B&W, like In Cold Blood. This is an artistic choice, not an economic one. I'd like to shoot with 200T/500T neg and then convert to B&W in the computer.

Any comments on the whole idea.

yolia
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Post by yolia » Fri Mar 07, 2008 1:28 am

Sounds like a good story, but what's your logline–the one sentence summary of your script??

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Post by Actor » Fri Mar 07, 2008 6:16 am

yolia wrote:Sounds like a good story, but what's your logline–the one sentence summary of your script??
I don't see any point in writing a log line since I'm not pitching the script to anyone. The purpose of a log line is to give them a quick reason not to listen to you and to throw you out.

yolia
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Post by yolia » Fri Mar 07, 2008 6:47 am

Actor wrote:
yolia wrote:Sounds like a good story, but what's your logline–the one sentence summary of your script??
I don't see any point in writing a log line since I'm not pitching the script to anyone. The purpose of a log line is to give them a quick reason not to listen to you and to throw you out.
Actually the logline serves several purposes, the most important of which is forcing you, the writer, to truly know what your story is. If you're having doubts about combining two characters into one, a logline may help you resolve this. The logline should include 1.) the protagonist(s), 2.) his/her goal, and 3.) the antagonistic force. In fact, you should write several loglines and see which works best.

Good luck.

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Post by likebenjireadingovid » Fri Mar 07, 2008 12:13 pm

I dont like the idea of combining the two men into one, and then having the dialogue as if the one guy is talking to himself? i dont like it, not for artistic reasons but for moral ones. In a film or book or in any depiction of a character you are giving a representation of real life.

Firstly, why are you so hung up about depicting this real life crime, filming in the same spots of the original murders, etc, if you arent that interested in giving a true account of the actual murderers?

Secondly, and most importantly, by having the man talk to himself you infer insanity, therefore all the crimes in the film can be explained away by this man being insane, i feel that is an easy (and quite lazy) way out, murder is not commited by the insane alone, everybody is capable of it, i feel this idea, that two people who are ordinary, who arent insane, going about murdering people, is a much more interesting idea and there is much more to explore through it.

But after all, thats only my opinion and i may be wrong.
Good luck with it either way.
Adam

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Post by Actor » Fri Mar 07, 2008 8:26 pm

likebenjireadingovid wrote:Firstly, why are you so hung up about depicting this real life crime, filming in the same spots of the original murders, etc, if you arent that interested in giving a true account of the actual murderers?
I'm not so much "hung up" on depicting the crime as I am in coming up with the basis of a story. Books on screenwriting often suggest using newspaper stories for ideas. An example of this is the open scene in El Mariachi where the hit men try to kill Azul only to walk into more firepower than they can handle. Rodriguez got this idea from a newspaper story of a similar incident but he didn't try to accurately portray it.

The killer's confession is definitely in the public domain and I can use it. Using anything outside of the confession would involve getting releases, buying life rights and an army of lawyers, costing more than I could ever afford.

I'm looking for a story "suggested by" actual events rather than "based on a true story." There are plenty of examples: Psycho, The Great Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the persona of Hannibal Lector in The Silence of the Lambs are all based on real life killer Ed Gein.

If I include events outside the confession they will be 100% fiction. The reason for this is to preclude any claims of infringement.
likebenjireadingovid wrote:Secondly, and most importantly, by having the man talk to himself you infer insanity, therefore all the crimes in the film can be explained away by this man being insane, i feel that is an easy (and quite lazy) way out, murder is not commited by the insane alone, everybody is capable of it, i feel this idea, that two people who are ordinary, who arent insane, going about murdering people, is a much more interesting idea and there is much more to explore through it.
First, the title Criminally Insane already gives that away. Second, one of the men was found to be criminally insane and spent the rest of his life in a hospital, under eternal suicide watch, instead of a prison. Third, knowing the protagonist is insane does not diminish the story. We all know that Norman Bates and Hannibal Lector are nuts.
likebenjireadingovid wrote:I dont like the idea of combining the two men into one, and then having the dialogue as if the one guy is talking to himself? i dont like it, not for artistic reasons but for moral ones. In a film or book or in any depiction of a character you are giving a representation of real life.
I'm not really in love with this idea myself. Its only purpose is to further distance the fictional story from real life people who might sue.

If I do go with this idea I would not reveal it to the audience until the end. Only in the last scene will the audience discover that one of the guys is a figment of the other's imagination.

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Post by likebenjireadingovid » Fri Mar 07, 2008 9:01 pm

well, again its only my idea, but why dont you keep the two murderers in, one of them insane, one not, and then work off that, how does the sane murderer justify his desire to murder (is justify the right word?), why does the insane guy not murder the sane one? why do they murder together, whats the bond there? maybe they could be related, either way there's tons of stuff you could work with.

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Post by Actor » Sat Mar 08, 2008 7:25 am

likebenjireadingovid wrote:well, again its only my idea, but why dont you keep the two murderers in, one of them insane, one not, and then work off that,
That's a good idea. In my opinion they were both insane (not in the legal sense) even though only one was determined to be criminally insane. That determination apparently was made by doctors in the prison system, not by a court. It was the "sane" (less insane?) one that confessed.
likebenjireadingovid wrote:how does the sane murderer justify his desire to murder (is justify the right word?),
I think they were both sociopaths with no need to justify their actions to themselves.
likebenjireadingovid wrote:why does the insane guy not murder the sane one? why do they murder together, whats the bond there? maybe they could be related, ...
They were supposedly killing for money. Each killing was part of a robbery. However, some psychiatrists say the real motive was murder for murder's sake.

There is a passage in the movie In Cold Blood which says that psychiatrists say that neither alone would have committed the murders, but together they formed a third personality. That personality committed the murders. I think the same thing was true for these two. You can find other cases where serial killers work in pairs.

Your comments are very helpful. Thanks.

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Post by Billy F » Sat Mar 15, 2008 11:45 am

Intending to shoot this yourself, but without a lot of money makes it hard to comment in practical story terms, as the type of script and the ‘device” used within it at some point would seemingly creatively intersect with what you can afford to show, and that is obviously an unknown X factor from my point of view.

That said, and in general, I used to be, and occasionally still can be a fan of the (for lack of the historically accurate term) “Dual personality” device, but it seems it’s been used in it’s various forms a handful of times in the last 5 or 10 years on the big screen (which perhaps doesn’t matter to you, or have any bearing on your intended project), however that aside, although I can’t substantiate my… “suspicion” with proof, I can’t help feeling that that dual personality device seems like something that surfaces hundreds of times a year by writers from all over the world, much like how I imagine scripts about screenwriters surface by the hundreds each year as well. I don’t know.

Don’t get me wrong, the actual story sounds (unfortunately) interesting, and the instinct to base something off of it is keen, but at the same time in my opinion (In terms of the dual personality or hallucination device) the risk of using unique and interesting material to build a common and cliché house could be in the mix as well. But who knows?

Budget and facts completely aside (and also power cliché’, but what is new out there?) I might personally gravitate towards a new twist on the same old flash back driven court case type set up. Something like the authorities can’t tell exactly who did the killing, but each of the two suspects willingly take full proud credit for it, yet each has a COMPLETELY different version of what actually happened, different enough and bigger consequences enough, yet both equally plausible enough that it somehow brings the wheels of justice to a halt. Then in that legal paradox (Whatever that might be) a twist emerges in that the two suspected killers (that the authorities can’t PROVE did it, yet both are trying to take credit for) decide to somehow file charges against each other like the reverse of legal accusation that i.e. boils down to “I’m gonna sue you for NOT accusing me!” or both claim the other’s story is an obstruction of justice towards who gets the sought after blame. THEN bring in the (Unknown) new unexpected twist on the “dual personality” angle or some other freak out twist. The quad personality?
Or… Both are crazy as F and neither one of them actually did it, but they killed who really did and for lack of evidence and knowledge of the real killer's murder by the authorities, they have to be released?

I don’t know, but I think it’d be interesting to witness the dynamic between two killers as seen from each others points of view while trying to get credit for murder. The world of their legal representation might also be weird, as maybe somehow their defensive lawyers in order to provide the legal rep the suspects have a right to, would then perhaps become by circumstance offense attorneys. It’s all very likely legally impossible, but I doubt that has stopped some scripts from getting made.

Just some thoughts.
Billy
Billy

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