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Friday, May 23, 2014

The Story Behind "Dead by Midnight"

I wrote this version of this story for my Playwriting class in 2012, but the seeds for the story existed long, long, long before that.

Around 2002 I really started to get into Quentin Tarantino films. The character of Demetrius was designed as the son of Marcellus Wallace. I didn’t make it explicit, and since it was set in the Midwest that wouldn’t hold up. That’s okay, though; the story had more cathartic needs for my writing. Although concepts like dialogue, style, method, etc. were inspired by Quentin Tarantino’s films at the time (Reservoir Dogs, True Romance, Pulp Fiction, Natural Born Killers, Four Rooms, and From Dusk Till Dawn).

The actual content of the story was inspired by my roommate. I don’t want to mention names, but he was a moocher to the extreme. He was a bartender at a bar I frequented when I was 19 and 20 when I was in a band called Tenfold. I didn’t come to the bar with the band often, but that’s how people in the area new me. This guy was also a singer, a huge Jim Morrison revivalist. He was a decent musician, but he was so much of an anti-materialist that he wouldn’t pay a dime for rent.

We’re still quasi-friends but he was the meaning behind Chad. I’ve become much more forgiving since then, but at the time I was pissed off that he lived with me but claimed he never had the money to pay the rent. I really wanted to reenact retribution, but I knew I couldn’t do it in the physical sense (although I did know several biker clubs in the area who did not like him as well and would have been happy to do something about it, and as a singer in a metal band I was friends with them all; hence the bikers in the play).

I originally planned the concept as a film shot in real time, similar to High Noon. I wanted to come up with a cheap concept that I could shoot on little to no money. It was also meant to tie into two other films that I was scripting: Wisconsin Death Trap and The World Revolves Around Me. Being a huge fan of Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith, I wanted to do the same kind of cinematic world building that they engaged in. I wouldn’t say that I’ve completely abandoned the idea, but it’s not foremost in my mind like it once was. (The three film concept was actually going to form the name of a production company I was considering: Dead World Trap Productions. I still like the name!)

The original concept took place over two hours. Originally, it was going to be Dead by Noon, but that would be too expensive. Then I figured changing it to Dead by Midnight would work better for cost. Wisconsin Death Trap was the film I was most interested in making, and would help me in making Dead by Midnight. My avenues for making Wisconsin Death Trap kind of dried up though, so I was just left with several ideas and nowhere to go and no way to make them.

When taking my Playwriting class, I was having a hard time coming up with a one-act play. I decided to take the concept of Dead by Midnight and use it for my one-act. When I was working on the screenplay the part that was the hardest was coming up with the material that happened between the first and final acts. By using the play ideal I could imply what happened in the first and final act and just show those two acts.

I really like how this idea turned out, but I do feel at least one revision is needed. 

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