This article was written by me and my screenwriting partner, Stephanie Kuehn for Pandemonium Screenplay.
This past year, I sold the film rights to my manuscript, A Dress the Color of the Sky. While I continued to polish my novel, I kept having these thoughts that I wanted to write the screenplay. I would then remind myself that I attended film school in the eighties and had no idea what I was doing. After I had signed with a literary agent, she mentioned to me that I had a gift for writing dialogue. “You should write the screenplay,” she said.
A few months later, I ran into a television writer friend at a party. “No doubt you should write the screenplay,” he said. “After all, no one knows the story better than you.” He advised me to purchase a screenwriting program and to free up a wall in my house for laying out the storyboard.
One morning, at an exercise class, I met a screenwriter named Stephanie Kuehn. We got to talking. Within moments we had exchanged numbers and arranged to meet for lunch. That day, a partnership was born. She had some experience, represented a younger generation and saw the incredible opportunity in this pro bono project. We talked about the differences between writing a screenplay versus a novel. A screenplay tells the story through images and dialogue whereas a book shows the story through description and dialogue.
Stephanie, helped me see my manuscript in a whole new light. How would the story unfold on the big screen? We had to break down the book into parts, choose the most critical scenes and put them together in three acts. I wrote more impactful dialogue because every minute on film costs massive amounts of money. After writing thirty pages, Stephanie informed me we needed to cut it in half as that represented ten minutes of film!
We wanted our screenwriting to be readable, entertaining and memorable. When I thought about these goals, I realized they were the same goals that I had for my novel. The screenplay contained all the entities one would find in a book; cliff-hangers, character arcs, try/fail cycles, and character flips. Our screenwriting needed to be captivating because we only had a few minutes to grab the producer’s attention. Stephanie added to the scenes, wrote the outline and laid out the camera angles with the same goals in mind.
It is not easy to break into the film industry. Often, it feels like a game of risk and luck. I’ve grown accustomed to dreams being made and broken within twenty-four hours. You have to love what you do to reconcile that happening over and over again; you have to love your stories. When Jennifer and I initially discussed her project, I felt curious, which I believe is the best place to begin work in any capacity. I was excited to read, A Dress the Color of the Sky.
I inhaled Jen’s manuscript within three days. Prudence, the protagonist, is a remarkable, resilient character. She is a flawed, modern day heroine. At once strong and vulnerable, she will unintentionally break your heart, then repair it again and again. From my perspective, few people can do this in real-life or a literary context. Prue is both a loveable and relatable character. It was a pleasure to say yes to helping Jen create a few scenes and write the outline for this wonderful story.
Adapting a book into a screenplay is difficult; synthesizing an over two-hundred-page novel can be an arduous process. Imagine taking out pieces to a puzzle, retexturing the edges to perfection, and putting it all back together again. By the way, it has to look beautiful as well. That daunting image aside, it wasn’t arduous at all. Our writer’s dates were fluid, cohesive and fun. Work was intermittent with talk about relationships, work, love, sex, politics, philosophy, and current events. Our discussions served as good fodder for the story. The entire process took a little over two months. We are waiting to hear back from the producers. Regardless of their response co-writing scenes for A Dress the Color of the Sky was a labor a love, and a project I am proud to have been a part of.