The following is a journal entry written by screenwriter Kevin L. Powers as he rewrites the screenplay The Cleavers for producer & director Justin Sterns and producers Lynn McArthur and Cesar Aguirre. The following is meant to be a look into the process of screenwriting in regards to the re-writing process. Mr. Powers has contributed to the TFP Production Last Call (a vampire anthology) and has recently written & directed his film feature film through CenterSeat Entertainment.
10/08/10, SATURDAY – DAY 2
As you may already be aware of, I’ve been asked to expand the short script “The Cleavers” into a feature film. The first day went well as I focused on crafting the initial opening prologue which had the first appearance of the villains – The Cleavers themselves – a couple of domestic cannibals who wish for their lives to be something more than it is. I ended the first day with the intro of the two victims but didn’t get all heavy into their story.
And that’s where I begin today’s writing. I need to focus on the dilemma of the two main characters Greta and Marc (played by Lynn McArthur and Cesar Aguirre, respectfully). The most important aspect for me when writing any screenplay is to create a theme from which all the characters’ motivations stem. What I love about the original screenplay for “The Cleavers” is that the story is ultimately about family. The Cleavers want to expand their family by any means necessary. I’ve taken that to a whole other level by making Greta and Marc a couple on the verge of asking themselves the biggest question that a couple must ask themselves which is, “What next?” When we meet the two characters Greta just finds out that she is pregnant and Marc is trying to find a way to propose to her. Neither one knows what the other is thinking because much of what happens next is how these two people who love each other must decide how to proceed next in the relationship.
The same dilemma faces Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver (unlike in the original screenplay which gave them first names I decided to go more stylized and not give them first names). Mr. Cleaver is satisfied with living in the status quo whereas Mrs. Cleaver longs for something more believing that her life isn’t worth much else. When she glances over pictures of her life she demands something changes starting with her husband who sparks the conflict between them and when Greta and Marc cross their paths.
Everything that I write today is setup for this conflict. It’s important to remember the setup for conflict without being too transparent with it. Previously, I mentioned that the film Chain Letter (which I saw just prior to writing the film) helped me craft the beginning of this screenplay but it also showed me what not to do which is to be too oblivious with my theme. Every film should have a story to tell, something that tells an audience why they should watch this film but the horror genre has become infamous for producing and promoting brainless films that have no other purpose than to shock, gross, and/or simply provide mindless entertainment. Films can be some of this but it must not be the sum of the film, so, with each of my screenplays I strive to find the “real” story hidden underneath and bring it to the surface. Films such as The Exorcist, Grace, Splice, Naked Lunch, David Cronenberg’s The Fly, and Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street are excellent examples of this. With this screenplay it was already in place; I’m just focusing it and making it relevant to all the characters in the story.
Today was a little more fun with the writing as it is with the characters of Greta and Marc that I am making the most contributions to the story of the screenplay. Since they were virtually ignored in the original script I am putting my personal stamp on the screenplay through these characters but my choices for how to develop these (and all the other characters) and where to take these characters is taken directly from the original script.