Screenwriter Spotlight: Finalist Jeremy Storey
Chicago Screenplay Awards Questionnaire
By Chicago Screenplay Awards Dept.
What’s your name? Where were you born? Where do you live? And what’s your hobby?
J.B. Storey. Born in NYC, but raised in the U.K., since 1981. I currently live in Seattle, USA. My hobby? Well, clearly writing is one of them! And watching far too much soccer!
Where did you come up with the concept that just placed as Finalist in the screenplay contest? How long did it take you to develop it into the screenplay it is now?
This short screenplay is sort of a mashup between two different ideas. One was written about ten years ago, about two young serial killers who are interrupted as they are about to commit another atrocity, by an enigmatic man, who talks and acts like a zoot-suit guy from the 1920s. He turns out to be an otherworldly entity, intent on vengeance. The root of this particular idea came from watching far too many serial killer documentaries and being left with one huge question: What happens to those that were never caught? Or, those that we don’t even know about? So, I like the idea of this being supernatural vigilante who seeks out the worse of the worse and deals out a particularly nasty piece of grizzly punishment for them. As for the rest of the concept, that actually came from a bad dream! I woke up screaming something about ‘Melville’. Scared the life out of my poor wife, but turned out to be a moment of inspiration!
From concept to finished draft, can you take us through your screenwriting process?
I tend to spend a lot of time mulling over an idea, long before I even start writing. As I like to explore if there is an idea worth exploring. Probably explains why I’m not all that prolific. So, at any given time, I may have four or five ideas in my head. Eventually one may coalece into something substantial. Then I start to cobble together a basic structure, following the 7 Step Storytelling Framework: 1) Once upon a time 2) And everyday 3) Until one day 4) And because of this 5) And because of this 6) Until finally 7) And everyday since. (See Brian McDonald’s excellent ‘Invisible Ink’ for more on this).
Eventually I then sit down and write each scene out by hand in notebook. Then write it on the screen. So, it sort of works out to be a very rough initial draft of a scene. Then once I’m typing it’s hopefully a smidge more succinct.
Then once I finish the first draft, I have a few folks and services review it, and then see what common themes pop up that some may have struggled with, or felt could be approved upon. Then I do another one or two more drafts (if a short). If a feature… that can take six or seven draft until I reach a point where I feel somewhat comfortable pitching it, or submitting it to festivals.
When did you realize that you wanted to become a screenwriter?
I knew I wanted to write from an early age. This may have had something to do with my Uncle (David Storey) being a novelist and playwright. There was something about him that I was always drawn to. And he was the one who read a small essay of mine, when I was about 12, and told my Dad: ‘Good news and bad news. Your son, is a good writer. Bad news is, he’s gonna be a writer’.
I started off trying to write a book. But that crashed and burned. Then I befriended where I live who read some of the stuff I wrote and asked if I wanted to try writing a film. He came from a background in filmmaking, and we felt it would be really fun. Which it was. And galvanized my screenwriting passion and journey. That said, the film we made, was… Um, well… if there is something worse than a Razzie, it would win that by a fair distance.
Who are your biggest filmmaking/screenwriting influences? What about their style do you like or borrow?
Tricky one. I think it depends on what I am writing. If drama-based, I do tend to love stories like ‘Young Guns’, ‘Field of Dreams’, ‘Shawshank Redemption’, ‘The Green Mile’, ‘Four Weddings’, ‘Notting Hill’, ‘The Social Network’. So, suffice to say, big fan of Frank Darabont, Richard Curtis, Aaron Sorkin. Also loved nearly everything written by William Goldman. And more recently, Adam McKay’s work on the Big Short and Vice, was outstanding.
I err toward writers who have the ability to conjure a variety of emotions out of unexpected situations, without relying on tropes. They just do their own thing, and tell the story they want to tell, the way they want to tell it, by subverting everything from structure to character development.
Have you ever been obsessed with a movie or TV show? If so, which one? Why?
I think it depends on where I am in my life. Some more obvious than others. Like, ‘Field of Dreams’ , ‘The Crow’, and ‘Shawshank’. But then there have been films like ‘Moneyball’ or ‘The Social Network’ that I find so watchable for a variety of reasons.
Then, there are films that I may gravitate toward, when I’m personally struggling with something. For example, I noticed that when I had moved overseas for a year, for work, I must have watched the movie ‘Loan Survivor’ about seven times. I have no idea why. Something about it resonated.
Then in the last few years, I was obsessed with ‘The Raid’ , ‘Sicario’ , ‘Triple 9’ ‘Gangs of London’, and Denzel’s first ‘Equalizer’ films. I’m not entirely sure, but for whatever reason I’ll just obsess. For example, my favorite scene from ‘The Equalizer’, wasn’t an action sequence. But this dialog intensive scene shot in a restaurant between the protagonist and antagonist. I found the whole exchange to be fascinating. The ability to shift dynamics of power through knowledge, conveyed via the subtext of what they discuss is brilliant.
What’s your favorite moment in cinema history? Why?
Wowzers. Too hard to choose. Way, way, way too many to choose from. But, if I have to go with one, it would be Brandon Lee’s character in ‘The Crow’, painting his face and becoming the Crow. I just remember so vividly watching that in the cinema and something about it just really hit me hard. We all knew Brandon was dead. So, there was a poignancy to the idea of him becoming this avenging angel. Again… a theme that has definitely been woven into much of what I write.
After that, I’d have to go with ‘Hey Dad, wanna catch?’ from ‘Field of Dreams’. As a boy whose Dad died when I was six, it hit hard. I cry every time I watch it.
Who’s your favorite character in cinema history? Why?
Christopher Reeve’s ‘Superman’. Because I’m a comic book nerd, and Reeve was Superman, in more ways than one.
If you could talk to anyone from any era, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Difficult question. But I’ll pick something super esoteric… how about ‘William H. Bonney’? And I’d ask him about ‘The Lincoln County War’ and what really happened. Why? ‘Cos I absolutely love to one day write a limited time TV series about that era, as I’ve always been fascinated by it, ever since I watched ‘Young Guns’.
Which, leads me to one of my favorite movie quotes: ‘I shall finish the game’.