Deep in the Running Wild Films vault (or sitting on a dusty shelf) you will find a collection of screenplays, complete but for one reason or another unproduced.
I take this as something to be proud of actually: what major film company doesn’t have a gallery of projects that didn’t see the light of day? With all certainty, I will die at some point leaving a bunch of scripts for someone to make, throw away, or keep collecting dust. For now, here’s a little bit on each of these films which have yet to make it to the silver screen.
This is probably my favorite of all our unproduced screenplays. When Gus Edwards, co-founder of Running Wild, first read it he gave the best compliment I’ve ever received for my writing: “I feel like a grenade just went off in my face.” The first draft was written in 24 hours. It just exploded out of my mind onto the page.
The story revolves around a war veteran who can’t adapt back to life at home. When his immigrant neighbor is mob-style murdered, he gets wrapped up in an investigation involving human trafficking across the border. It’s almost like, what happened if the main character from The Hurt Locker didn’t go back to Iraq…
The film is a lean, mean thriller. It needs some work like most of my scripts do in terms of development and fleshing things out. Hopefully Dead Coyote will be produced in the coming years.
On the Seventh Day
This is the movie we might have made instead of Blood Country! That’s right… after Porches and Private Eyes I wrote this script loosely based on a true story about a preacher’s wife who hired her look-alike to impersonate her in church for almost a year. It’s a fascinating story.
Unfortunately two things happened: 1. The script I wrote was more dramatic and philosophical than the “team” I had wanted it to be. 2. They were worried about getting funding for a 200 to 300 thousand dollar project. See the plan was to get Sela Ward or actress of that nature to play the dual female roles. It’s a lot of risk producing a film of that budget without guaranteed distribution.
Instead, I chose to a different route: to produce four feature films in Mississippi over the course of two years. Blood Country is the first, The Cornbread Cosa Nostra the second, and two more will follow in 2018. Why isn’t On the Seventh Day one of them? Well, I truly believe it needs an actress with a “name” to pull it off. These are two amazing (in my opinion) female characters and the draw of this film would be seeing a Sela Ward or (shooting for the moon, I know) Ashley Judd play them.
When I can find the right actress, I’ll be ready to make this film.
This project couldn’t be more opposite than the religious/soul-searching drama I just described. Escort Driver, inspired by the two short films we produced, is (like Dead Coyote) a hard-edged thriller. Only this time, we focus on women. The plot revolves around a one-eyed female driver (inspired by both the Swedish revenge flick They Call her One Eye and Kurt Russell’s Snake Plissken) who goes to work for an escort agency in the criminal world of Phoenix (or it could be set in any city). When her escort of the night goes missing, a violent chase ensues which reveals both the driver’s dark past and a disturbing sexual underworld.
The script has been on the shelf for a few years now. I remember writing it during pre-production for Durant’s Never Closes. However, I am still actively trying to produce this one. The current concept is to cast the entire film with pornstars. Yes, pornstars… I want to make a film with only adult film actors and actresses in a non-“adult” film. In the last few months I have contacted several pornstars and am in discussion with a few of them about the script. You never know what might happen.
The Phoenix City Story
So let’s backtrack a moment. Dead Coyote is actually the third part of a loose trilogy I wrote. After making our second feature film, The Detective’s Lover, I wrote two sequels. The connection between these films: 1. Crime stories set in Phoenix, Arizona. 2. An overarching villain sheriff (based on Joe Arpaio). 3. My character from The Detective’s Lover, a journalist turned “detective”, has a small cameo in the other two films.
The Phoenix City Story is the second in that trilogy. It focuses on an alcoholic lawyer who gets framed for a murder, tied up in a conspiracy and conflict between the bad sheriff and a rapper (based on DMX).
I haven’t looked at the script in years, who knows if it’s any good. Either way, I’d like to see this get made along with Dead Coyote whether I’m directing or not.
Valley of Shadows
This behemoth remains our most ambitious single film project to date. I would compare it to L.A. Confidential and All the President’s Men. After production on Durant’s Never Closes, I wrote the screenplay for the follow-up: a film that explores the assassination of journalist Don Bolles and the incredible investigation by forty reporters from around the country in 1970s Phoenix, Arizona. It’s a massive story with a huge ensemble of characters.
Many consider this to be one of the most important events in journalism history. Ben Affleck was going to make a film about the same subject at one point. Unfortunately, like his project, ours didn’t pan out. Originally conceived for a budget higher than Durant’s Never Closes, we were not able to secure the financing to make the film.
However, I am determined to make this movie at whatever budget I can realistically get. It is high concept with multiple scenes involving period wardrobe, cars and some good action set pieces. All I can say is… I’m working on it.
A couple years ago I wrote an adaptation of a novel titled Murder on Everest by Charles G. Irion and Ronald J. Watkins. It was a job for hire. I wrote the script, delivered it and never heard anything else. If a film ever comes to be, I doubt I’ll be a part of the process. It was a good challenge adapting a book to the screen, working purely as a writer.
Of course there is the 12 Western Feature Films project… but that is a blog of its own. Eight of them have been drafted in some form. And no, I have not given up on that project. It is more alive than ever.