I wrote the first draft of the Love Bites screenplay in college. I used to write screenplays from start to finish, no outline, a scene at a time. I would make notes about the scene I was about to write during class, usually the History of Film class I took (which lead to a real life moment where the teacher said that she was passing out the exam and I thought 'we have an exam today?) then script it that night or whenever.
This was in 2004, 2005ish, before I had heard of "Twilight" whatsoever, sure "Buffy" was huge, and sexy vampires were definitely a thing and they were popular, but nowhere near the cultural over saturation that is going on right now. Just to say that I didn't think to myself 'what is the most marketable script I can write? Hmm, teen vampires it is.' In fact, then, and sort of still with most projects, I never really thought that anything I wrote would ever get anywhere close to getting made. I wrote it because I love horror 'stuff.'
My parents wouldn't let me watch most movies, horror movies especially, until I was basically around the age of whatever the rating was. I sort of got away with watching Halloween in middle school and then tried to parlay that into watching all the Halloween sequels but I was unsuccessful. Also, I was (and still am to a certain extent) a pretty big wuss about scary movies. I remember just seeing part of the opening scene of Scream when it came out on video and being so scared for nights in a row.
But, I was a voracious reader and I could read whatever I wanted. I read all the Goosebumps, all the Fear Streets, then some Michael Crichtons (Sphere, lol), and eventually found the man, Stephen King.
Sidenote: there was a R.L. Stine protege you might say, or disciple, or copycat, named M.T. Coffin (Eh? Get it, get it?). His books were actually pretty good as I remember and had some wild ideas in them but the series was passed off as a pseudo-Goosebumps.
I read a bunch of Stephen King, some Tales From The Crypt comics, et cetera, but my sweetest success was reading the novelizations of, or novels that inspired, horror movies. And usually the books were grislier and sexier than the movies, take that parents!! I know that my parents read this but I'm grown now, about to have my own sneaky son, so it's OK to divulge some of my secrets... (Like when they switched up the train tracks down by the Peace Cross so that you don't have to wait for trains there anymore and I joked to my dad 'Now what excuse are teens going to use for being a few minutes late on their curfew?' He liked that one.)
I also love Teen Movies. Clueless, She's All That, Whatever It Takes, Not Another Teen Movie, Mean Girls, Superbad, everything Shane West, Sisqo, Usher, Mathew Lillard, Freddy Prinze the Second. It's all good.
Love Bites is the two combined. More teen movie than horror actually, it just uses horror elements to tell a great high school story that's not sanitized like High School Musical, and not over-sexed and gross out like an American Pie type thing. Superbad had some extreme elements to it, but it was closer to how kids act than a lot of movies, especially in the way it portrayed guy friendship. Good movie. But that's a digression.
Here's the logline by the way:
Twilight meets Superbad, if Twilight didn't suck (no pun intended). Drake, your average teenage vampire, falls for Julia, the new human girl at Vincent Price High School. Julia's not looking for love, she's still having trouble adjusting to her new town, a monster friendly community in Pennsylvania. Even if they did hit it off, Julia's father, a monster-racist, would have a few things to say about his daughter dating "one of those bloodsuckers, or flesh eaters, whatever they do for fun."
WGA # 1376156
Like Happenstances, I've done some work on the Love Bites script almost every year since mid-college, so several years of fine tuning it. It is a great script, and I have relatively low self esteem at this point from being treated pretty poorly as a writer, but I have a lot of confidence in Love Bites.
I've blogged about this just a bit before, but just so there is a complete history in one place, I'll elaborate just a little bit. I was listening to the Creative Screenwriting Magazine Podcast about the movie Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, which is based on a comic book (by the way, in my meeting with the president of the small comic book company I'll probably mention later, I kept saying Graphic Novel real hesitantly like a sheltered white person would stumble over African-American, like do I say Black, am I allowed? Do I say Comic Book, is it demeaning? I'll just stick with Graphic Novel...) and the creator of the comic said that he wrote his script in screenwriting software.
Instantly I thought Love Bites! It's super visually pleasing, I probably wouldn't be able to sell the screenplay in the current vampire weary market, and I'm sure it's cheaper to produce a graphic novel than get millions of dollars together to make the movie. It's not like Happenstances, that worst case scenario I'll go into debt making on the cheap at some point if things really slow down and I'm desperate (I call it my 'credit card debt movie' a la Clerks). Love Bites requires a real, low relatively speaking, but still real budget to make it good, there will be a lot of creature effects, extras, a handful of set pieces.
So my first inclination was to contact a friend in Maryland who is an amazing artist. I would give him a shout out but I can't find a current website for his art, so I'll update it later if I find it. I still would love for him to do the art but he has a young daughter now and was in a transitional time job wise, so he told me he couldn't really devote a lot of time to it. Which was probably wise on his part because at that point I hadn't done any research yet.
So I went to the best site to go when you need anything, Craigslist! And I posted an ad that said:
Produced Screenwriter seeking Graphic Novel Artist
Hello potential friends,
I have had some success writing independent feature screenplays and have had several produced. I have a movie script that I think would make an awesome Graphic Novel. I need an artist to partner with me to create a pitch that I can bring to my manager, maybe some character drawings and a scene or two. If you have contacts we can take it to them, if not then we can see what my manager can do with it. We will be partners in this but I will keep the rights to the story and you will keep the rights to the art until a contract is signed otherwise. Any money we make will be split evenly.
I expect this to be a fun and fruitful process. If you have ideas I am open to hearing them. I know a bit about writing and making movies but very little about the comic book game, any experience you already have is a bonus for sure.
Please send me your website, a short description of your credentials, and a couple words about who you are.
I got a handful of responses. One was intimidating, the guy started bullying me immediately with questions like 'do you even have a budget for the first issue?' Another was dumb, like 'I think I have a friend that could help you, what's your idea for the script brah?' (I added the brah, but that was the tone I was getting)
Another response was exactly what I was looking for. The President of a small independent comic book company asked me some basic questions, and I had heard of the company randomly, or serendipitously, on the LAFSC alumni e-mail newsletter (E-nouncements if you will). The guy who posted about it in the E-nouncements is a friend of a former roommate of mine out here! I've hung out with him a bunch actually, I think we saw Wanted as a group, which is a movie based on a comic book. Good sign.
Perfect. So I met with the guy and we hit it off. First of all, and pretty importantly, he liked the script a lot. He gave me a lot of info on just the very basics of the business of comic books, what his company does, their goals, everything. We talked about different strategies that I could take with Love Bites: make a strong pitch and take it to artists, investors, et cetera, post a web comic online, print it traditionally, some combination.
And I still haven't decided what route to take actually and I still have to meet with the rest of the comic book company for more advice, maybe they have another strategy, who knows?
But, I am excited, optimistic, and motivated. The guy I met with was nice, passionate about his art and craft, but really, he listened to me. A lot of people I've interacted with so far in my career haven't listened to me and it's frustrating and demeaning. They don't trust my storytelling so they shovel their idea onto me to write then I do and they don't hold up their end of the deal by doing anything with the finished script, so what's the point of taking weeks/ months to write ninety pages or more and then have it sit? OK, that felt good, done with that.
But so far I've gotten four movies produced, all assignments (as opposed to 'specs,' movies I wrote without a contract that I pitched and sold), all sequels (although Walk By Faith 2: After The Honeymoon was a completely original story, just under the Walk By Faith name), and, although I do enjoy writing Faith Based Movies targeted to religious African-Americans, I wouldn't mind branching out a bit (although you'll still be my first love FBMTTRAAs).
Like I said at the beginning, I wrote Love Bites when being a screenwriter was still just a fantasy, a dream job. It's a movie I would love to watch, nay, a story I would love to enjoy in any medium. And in a time where now I have been paid to write something that wasn't my own, and I don't have the juice yet to be paid to write my own things, it seems like I have to get things I'm really passionate about started by myself.
Short break, this is getting super long, it's starting to sound like a manifesto.
So back to getting things going by myself, that's sort of what happened with The End. I mean, the show was created by Bryan Mayer and it was a really collaborative project, but I wrote a lot of the episodes, directed several, played a character, wrote the last four consecutive episodes that dictated how the story ended, basically I'm saying I put a lot of effort into it and that was not a paying gig, we all paid out of pocket for food and props, none of the actors or crew got paid, it was a labor of like (love is too strong of a word). And it was a positive experience, like I've said before.
So, it would seem like now would be the time where I asked for donations or something to fund Love Bites because it's so important to me, I laid out the whole story, pity party style, you know? But I don't want to do that. I want to fund it myself and reap all the benefits even if the only benefit is that I have a visual interpretation of a story I wrote that I love.
It seems like a fool's errand to undertake something like this right now, when I have a son who is going to be born in the next couple of weeks. But I also just got a raise, but also my rent just went up, but also I'm saving money on gas by riding my bike to work most days, BUT ALSO another thing that contradicts the thing before it!!
So basically, F it (mom and dad, the F stands for 'forget'), I'm going to try. I'm going to try to save a couple thousand dollars to cover the cost of paying an artist and distributing the comic whether it be on the web or printing, or whatever, I'll figure that out with the comics team soon. When I ride my bike to work to pick up my paycheck instead of driving, not only will I be working on my sexy legs, but I'll save a couple dollars in gas money that I'll put it into my personal savings account.
It's going to be extremely hard to save any money with a new baby and saving for a house someday and all the family costs that come with being a grown ass man. But like when I get a paid writing gig, like I have lined up for June (that pays better than my previous gigs), I'll put a major portion of that into myself as a brand basically, like I'm a business.
So, here is my Love Bites-o-meter. I've arbitrarily picked $5,000 for now, I will change this figure once I know what my strategy is, but I want this visual representation and accountability to motivate me.
And again, I don't want donations. I will accept an investor that wants to go into business with me with a legitimate contract and all that, but that is not the point of this post. This post is for me and if you've read this far you're crazy (or you're my wife, I love you Ash).
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I'm going to create a page that will track my progress if you care to follow along with me.