Making a Movie with Brad Vance – A Little Too Broken

A chance to help make a LGBT movie come to life? Sign me the hell up! And guess what? You can help too. Please welcome Brad Vance to my little corner of the web and see how you can play a part in taking A Little Too Broken to the big screen.

Thanks to Bey for letting me take over his blog today! I want to talk about the development process I went through as I turned my novel A Little Too Broken into a screenplay. I’ve got my first draft done, and I’m doing a Kickstarter to help me pay for “development expenses,” including script hosting on sites that can get it industry attention, getting paid evaluations from Hollywood pros, and hopefully going to LA in June for Scriptfest/Pitchfest, where I can meet other screenwriters and learn how to sell my script to Hollywood! You can contribute here.

How did it all begin? I started taking acting classes last fall, almost by accident. I was slothing on my couch, wishing “someone” would make a movie out of one of my books. I’ve always known Broken was the perfect property – it’s got a small cast, few locations, oh and puppies! How can you lose?

Then some voice inside me shouted, “Shut the fuck up! Stop talking about If Only and see what you can do to make it happen!” So I started googling for Reno filmmakers, and while I didn’t find a film studio, I found a web page for a short film festival, and saw that it was partly sponsored by a local acting school, Take 2 Performers Studio. I thought, well, if nothing else, maybe I should see about acting classes to improve my audiobook performance skills.

Turns out that Take 2 is a real feeder to Hollywood, that many of the young actors taking classes there work in LA part time, doing roles on McGyver and Bones and Nike and Vans commercials. It was the real deal!

And not only did I get bit by the acting bug, but I started writing short scenes for the actors, which you can find here on my blog (as well as the Broken script). Their response was enthusiastic, and it gave me the courage to take on an entire screenplay.

I read copiously – other screenplays, the how to books (and I learned which “how to” books I should ignore) the Reddit screenwriting subreddit, the Black List blog, and more. I learned how to do it “their way,” that is, the way you write a screenplay that might actually get sold, and made into a movie.

That is not to say, write to the beats, write by numbers, have X happen on page Y (though there are definitely books that teach that). But it is to say, don’t editorialize in your Action lines, don’t overuse parentheticals (the acting directions like “rolls eyes” or “wryly” to dictate tone). I even learned that parentheticals are called “wrylies” because of the overuse of that word! Which, I’m proud to say, I’d only used once, and immediately deleted. Let the characters and the story do the talking, not you.

Which is hard for a novelist! Especially one like me who’s always been criticized by some for my Balzacian tendency to launch into expository fulminations. But I did rein it in.

The thing that startled me the most was how much had to change between the novel and the screenplay. There was stuff I had to change that made the script better, maybe even made the story better than it was in the novel.

Obviously, I had to do something about all the sex! The novel readers wanted lots of it, and they got it. But I wanted an R rated script, which of course meant removing most of the hot sexin’ from the novel. It’s going to be hard enough selling LGBT content to anyone outside of the “niche market” studios who make those films exclusively, without adding the softcore obstacle to it.

But that’s okay. What’s left now is what’s integral – Jamie masturbating (chest up!) in the shower and then bursting into tears, Tom masturbating with a flashback to his rehab in the VA and a funny conversation with a physical therapist about prostate health. Tom and Jamie having sex the first time, of course, because how do you do that with Tom’s prosthetic legs, you can’t just leave out the technical obstacle to their lovemaking. I condensed two or more scenes of that into one, and cut away once the real fuckin’ begins.

And as far as anything rough/kinky goes, I managed to condense that into three lines from the book. Tom and Jamie are about to go to Tom’s family’s house for Thanksgiving, and Tom gives Jamie a tip on how to deal with Patrick, Tom’s dad:

TOM

Oh, and if you call Dad ‘sir,’ that’ll help. He likes that.

JAMIE

Yeah.

(dirty grin)

Runs in the family.

TOM

Damn straight.

And that’s all it takes in film to express everything that’s going on with them sexually, without having to frighten the horses :)

I really loved this line of Ava’s in the novel: “Your problem, hon, is that you turn every simple box of a problem into a Rubik’s Cube. Then you twist it around and around until all the colors are screwed up, and then you look at it say, oh, it’s hopeless, I can’t solve that, it’s too complicated.”

But… it wasn’t working in the movie. First of all, it’s really long. Second of all, I realized that while it’s a great “line” in a book, it’s not something one person says to another. Out it goes!

I had to “externalize” a lot of what I’d done as narrative. For instance, I took lines Jamie said in internal monologue, like “Besides, he thought with morbid humor, how sick does that sound – Jamie, Jackson and Jane? Jackson had come from the Humane Society with his name, and so would Jane. But it would sound to anyone else like he was a crazy cat lady.” And I turned that into Jamie talking to Ava:

AVA

Why couldn’t you adopt her? You know Jackson’s lonely. And don’t say it always ends in tears.

JAMIE

Everything ends in tears. What if they fought? I couldn’t stand to take her back to kitty prison. And how sick does that sound – Jamie, Jackson and Jane? Everyone would think I’m a crazy cat lady.

AVA

So you left her in kitty prison instead.

JAMIE

(drinks and makes a face)

See? You’re driving me to drink.

AVA

Like you need a driver.

Worst of all, just transcribing the book into the script, I could see that Jamie was coming across “flat,” as a character, that a lot of his sympathetic appeal in the book came from his internal monologues, as seen above. But his actual dialogue made him sound, for the most part, like a boring self-pitying drip. So, I had to steal some lines from Ava, and invent some new ones, to give him more dark humor. And to have more of those funny moments to punctuate the seriousness.

I studied the script from Manchester by the Sea for ways to handle the flashbacks I needed to do, and between seeing the movie and reading the script, I realized how effective it was to have those moments.

In Manchester, Lee, the Casey Affleck character, becomes the reluctant guardian of his nephew Patrick after Patrick’s father dies. In one scene, Patrick tells his uncle he’s going to have a girl in his room overnight. There’s a pause, and Lee says, “Am I supposed to tell you to use a condom?” People broke up laughing in the theater, all the more because the main notes of the movie were so serious. I was definitely looking for more of those counterpoints in my screenplay than I had in the novel.

There was a long ending to the book, after the real climax of the book, at Thanksgiving dinner. In that ending, Jamie adopts Jane, his second cat, after all, having failed to adopt her the first time. There’s a lot of back and forth with his new extended family about how the two cats are getting on.

And I realized… no. Thanksgiving is the big finish. That’s the emotional climax and any blah blah after that is just going to rob that of its impact. So I condensed the whole coda to a single scene that recaptures and reflects the very first scenes of the movie – read it for yourself, I won’t spoil it! Simple is better, and in a film, one image, especially when it rounds back to the first one in the movie, is worth… oh, you know.

And to be honest, when choosing my battles on what to keep and what to toss, I had my eye on budgets! At 96/97 pages, that’s about a 100 minute movie. Which costs less to make than a 120 minute movie, but isn’t so short it’s not a “real” feature.

As far as keeping backstory, I was worried both about the screen time it would take, and how it might derail the pace of the story. I realized that Jamie and Daniel’s history, where Jamie falls for wicked Daniel and ends up on drugs and HIV positive, could take the least amount of time. Tom’s got a longer arc of injury and recovery, that needs that screen time, but He Done Him Wrong is the same story every time, right? In four minutes, it’s all done, from the moment happy, innocent Jamie meets Daniel in a bar to the day he tests positive after losing ten pounds as Daniel’s drug-fuck toy of the month.

I liked using flash scenes for some bits of information, especially for some of the sexy bits, fantasy scenes especially. In the first part of the script, they get the “shock” out of the way of two men kissing, you know?

For instance, when Jamie shows up at CCC for the first time, and he’s alone with Tom in the office…

Jamie’s eyes flick to a desk.

QUICK FLASH

Tom’s arm sweeping everything off the desk, pushing Jamie down on it, climbing on top of him and pinning his wrists to the desk, Jamie’s eyes wide…

BACK TO SCENE

Jamie blinks away the image. He looks at Tom. Tom seems to have had pretty much the same vision. They both look away.

See? It’s shocking and yet it’s over so fast that the audience doesn’t have time to get uncomfortable w/ the gay sexin’ bits, but all the same it busts their cherry so it’s not as shocking when you get to the real thing!

I think the only thing that would have fucked me up would have been if I thought my Prose was Deathless, my Story Perfect. I’ve written a lot in the last 3 ½ years since ALTB, and I can see the flaws in it that I’d fix as a novelist if I was writing it again today. But all I can do now is fix them in the screenplay.

My great downfall as a selfpub writer was writing for myself, with the arrogant certainty that “I do not have to write alpha pack shifters if that’s what’s selling! I can write Werewolves of Brooklyn and the world will come clamoring and buy my book instead!”

Yeah, about that. That’s why I have $1.50 in savings now. This time, I knew I had to tell my story, but I couldn’t just tell it my way. Not only because, I realized, “they” wouldn’t buy it but because… it didn’t work “my way.” I found that the framework of screenwriting forced me to see the flaws in my story, made me refocus on the key elements.

One thing I read about adaptation really stuck with me. When Alfred Hitchcock would adapt a novel to the screen, he would read it once. And never look at the book again. He thought that if he couldn’t recall a scene from the book, it didn’t belong in the movie.

Another writer, David Trottier in his Screenwriter’s Bible, said that when adapting, you pick 5-10 scenes in the book that are the most powerful, and those are the core of your screenplay. The rest is croutons (he didn’t say that).

And okay, even though I took a lot of “emotional editorializing” out of the Action lines, there were places I couldn’t help but leave it in. After Jamie can’t adopt in the first scene, I had “He’s a bad person,” or “He knows it’ll end in tears,” etc. Those aren’t action line stuff. So out they went, and good riddance.

But there was one place I just had to leave my little mark. When Daniel’s abandoned Jamie for a new twink, Jamie’s still chasing him, frantically calling him.

JAMIE

Daniel? I’ve been calling you for days. Just call me, okay? Or text me so I know you’re okay.

The Daniels of the world are always okay.

But, other than a veiled swipe at “Trump Privatizes VA” as a headline Jamie would be reading by the time someone read the script, I took myself out of the story, as much as it hurt to do it as a novelist who’s always weighing in on his characters and their world!

Well, that’s a lot of technical stuff about the script. The one thing that astonished me the most is that this story still makes me burst into tears, which very few things can do. I burst into tears when I wrote it, and then went through the whole catharsis again when I did the audiobook (the sound of Patrick’s tears at the Thanksgiving dinner table are not me “acting”), and again now with the screenplay.

Am I Crazy? Am I the only one who’s going to blubber at this story? I hope not. But you never really know with your own story, how it looks to someone else, from a distance. Let’s hope it doesn’t look that much different.

Again, you can help me get to the next level with this screenplay by donating to my Kickstarter here! It’s an all or nothing affair, so if I don’t get to $2,000 in pledges, I get $0. Also, you can cut to the chase and read the screenplay for yourself here. This money will help me pay for development costs like script hosting, evaluations, and a script pitching conference in LA in late June. The goal right now is to get this script saleable, get it in front of as many eyes as possible, and get ready for the next phase – world domination! I mean, making an actual movie!

I’ve always donated 50% of the ebook/audiobook proceeds to veterans’ organizations, and in addition, I’ll be donating 10% of any income I might make from selling book rights, script option, script sale, profit points, whatever. So please help me make this happen, and thanks for reading!

Interview with Brad Vance, Author of Gay Romance and Erotica

Today I’d like to welcome the extremely prolific writer of gay romance and erotica, Brad Vance. Welcome to my blog, Brad. Glad to have you here.

Thank you! Glad to be here!

 

First off, you just released a new book, Would I Lie to You? that is garnering high praise from reviewers. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

I’d love to. I’m calling the series “The Game Players” because the characters are the kind of people who need a challenge, even in their romantic lives. Just dating and mating isn’t going to be enough for them. There has to be desire that’s suppressed, teased, extended and made more powerful by every move in their games. They’re both aware that what’s developing between them is a chess match, and that’s what makes it so interesting. Marc and Jesse are similar in a lot of ways – incredibly smart, driven, goal-oriented – and they’ve been betrayed by men who were their romantic and business partners. They’re also both honest people, in their own ways – even if that honesty means confessing that you’re not telling all of the truth. The title is “Would I Lie to You?” and that’s really the question at the heart of the story – if you can’t tell someone the truth, do you lie, or do you walk away, acknowledging that there are things you won’t share, that you can’t trust someone with the truth?

 

What drew you to writing romance and erotica?

I’d flailed around publishing novels under another name that never really went anywhere, and then Aubrey Watt did an AMA on Reddit about being a M/M smut writer, back in October 2012. I was fascinated by that, especially with the amount of money she was making! I wrote up “Good Cop Bad Boy,” my first M/M story, and mailed it off to her, asking her to take a look at it and tell me if I had a future in the biz. She said HELL YEAH you do! So that was my start…when Amazon started blocking/banning a lot of erotica, I moved into writing novels.

 

You recently decided to become a full-time writer. How’s that treating you? Have you found that your writing habits have changed a lot because of it?

Oh my God it’s the greatest. I’ve lost 18 pounds since I left my day job at the end of February! Just being able to be active all day, not chained to a desk, overeating as if trying to chew my way out of the cubicle…I love the freedom. I haven’t signed up for a class or anything yet, because I’m still savoring the “clock free” life – I’m just not ready to be on anyone else’s schedule again, not yet. I was running on stress for so long that I’m still trying to come down from that…
I was really working two jobs for the longest time, getting up at 3 am to write till 6:30, then getting ready for and going to the day job…it made for long days, with no life. My writing habits have changed in some ways but not in others. I still get up at 3 am! I guess I’m still conditioned to that sleep cycle, and in the back of my mind I’m afraid that it’ll all end in tears and I’ll have to get a job again, in which case I better stay used to getting up early… But, I no longer feel under the gun the way I used to, when I had to keep an eye on the clock with a hard stop at 6:30 every morning. If I sleep in till the unholy hour of 5:00, well, my day isn’t shot!

 

Why did you choose to self-publish instead of going the traditional route?

Well, when I started, I was just doing short erotica, so there wasn’t any other avenue for it. And, under another name, I’d been through the New York/tradpub mill, and I had no desire to go through that again, ever. To have no control over your title, cover art, blurb, I hated that. And the WAITING. The endless wait for someone to get around to reading it, the endless wait for them to buy it, the endless wait for publication, and OMG the endless wait for your money! Now I finish a novel one week, edit it the next, then publish it, and two months later, make it rain, baby.
You have to be strong in all areas – your grammar, spelling, your ability to edit/copyedit yourself (I’m still catching errors in books in print, that I’ve missed after reading them a thousand times), to write a blurb, to make a book cover, to market and promote yourself…but you get all the profit. And there’s nobody “doing it wrong” to mess it up for you, other than yourself.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? Something you wish someone had told you at the beginning?

The hardest part of self pubbing, to me, was marketing. That was the one upside of tradpub, back in the day – you submitted your book, and they did all the hustling. Of course now they expect you to come ready-made with a fan base, Twitter followers, etc., so there’s no advantage there anymore. I was really loathe to do it at first – I grew up all “punk rock” and thought of advertising/marketing as, you know, infomercial shit, Billy Mayes shouting his way into your head, an inherently bad, bullshit thing.
Finally I had a moment of enlightenment – I realized I hated marketing because I hated sounding like a brochure. “I’m so excited to tell you about my new release!” Blah blah blah. I decided I’d just BE ME on Facebook, etc. Put my real personality out there instead of trying to sound the way I though I was supposed to sound.
So, that would be my advice, I guess – people are gonna connect with you because of your work, but also because they like you. So be you, don’t be a brochure, when it’s time to do your marketing.

 

I know you’ve had problems with Amazon before and their ridiculous censorship policies, but do you think that Amazon is doing all right for self-publishers? What would you like to see changed?

Well, NUMBER ONE would be, clear guidelines for what’s allowed. They say what they’ll ban is “pretty much what you’d expect.” What who would expect? Me, a libertarian sex-positive homo, or some bluenose in Arkansas who has a heart attack at an exposed tittie on TV? But keeping it vague is deliberate, of course, because it gives them leeway to change the rules any time without changing them on paper.
Number Two, which is more realistic, would be a set rate every month for the Kindle Select/Unlimited “borrow rate,” the amount writers get per borrow each month. It fluctuates all the time, $1.33, $1.39, etc. You don’t know what you earned last month until the middle of the next month. They should just part it at a certain amount and leave it there, I’d say $1.40, instead of leaving us all on pins and needles every month, as they arbitrarily decide how much more money to put into the fund and screw up people’s income forecasts. It’s like getting a pay raise/pay cut every month – very exhausting.

 

Do you ever get told by friends or family that you don’t write “real books”? I know I do. How do you respond if it happens?

No I don’t, actually. In my circle of friends, writing “gay erotica” is very cool! My mom’s response when I told her about my erotica career was, “Sure are a lot of weirdos out there.” The only book of mine she’s read is “Apollo’s Curse,” because there’s no sex in it. She loved it, but has no desire to read any of my other books!
I wrote a “real” book, a few years ago. I worked on it on and off for five years. It sold twelve copies. That’s the fate I gave Dane Gale in “Apollo’s Curse,” before he turned to writing romance novels. I gave him this exchange on the Greek island that pretty much says how I feel about writing romances now:

“But what I need, isn’t just…success, money, fame. I…what I’ve been writing, what the others before me wrote, it’s just…commercial fiction, airport fiction. Popular romances. I don’t want that to be my legacy, I don’t want that to be the last thing I ever write.”
“What’s wrong with romance? Don’t you bring pleasure into people’s lives? Don’t strange and wonderful stories heal their aches, take them from their sorrows?”
“Yes, but…”
“Maybe you’re being a bit selfish, yes?” He put on a dark, mocking scowl. “ ‘I am writing a Great Novel nobody will read, which is so much more important than making people happy.’”
I had to laugh. “Yes, I guess that is selfish. But…I have it in me, I know I do. To do something…wonderful. Something that’s so much more powerful, so much more…well, healing, if you will, than any little entertainment I concoct could ever do.” I looked at his shelves, saw the surprising variety of books – lots and lots of novels, Umberto Eco, Gunter Grass, Doris Lessing, George Eliot. “You know. You’ve read these books. You know how much more they do in the world than some…fluff could ever do.”
“Don’t underestimate the power of fluff. The power to make someone smile, to get them through to another day, take them away from their cares for a moment. Maybe later, you’ll have helped them feel stronger, maybe later they will read ‘Ulysses,’ yes?”

 

And finally, having nothing to do with writing at all, tell me about your dream vacation.

Oh boy. A whole summer in Europe. Nick in the “Kyle’s New Stepbrother” series gets to live out my fantasy, just moving from one place to another on a Eurail pass as the whim takes him. I’d have to have the money to do it right; Nick’s young and can crash in hostels and stretch a dollar! But I’d need my comforts. I’d love to see so much of France, Italy, Germany, Amsterdam, Barcelona…yeah, I’d need a whole summer!

 

Brad, I want to thank you again for stopping by and wish you good luck with your writing.

Thank you so much, Bey! I really appreciate your having me here!

image

Buy this book

Amazon

goodreads-badge-add-plus-d700d4d3e3c0b346066731ac07b7fe47

 

A Heartfelt Thank You!

Sometimes the most fulfilling experiences are born out of spur-of-the-moment ideas. The Hot Reads for The Trevor Project was just one of those ideas.

A group of indie authors got together, at the eleventh hour, and decided to do something which expressed our appreciation to our readers for the holidays, while also doing something which embodied the essence of the holidays: the spirit of giving. Hot Reads for The Trevor Project was born.

In less than 24 hours the details were hammered out; additional indie authors were contacted to join in, a charity was selected, books were collected, an online store was created, digital art was developed, and bloggers were solicited to aid in promotion. Again, all this took place in less than 24 hours.

We, the six indie authors, had no expectations regarding the number of sales. However, the package went up for sale, and you showed up; you purchased the bundle AND, in doing so, supported an awesome charity. For that, we are extraordinarily grateful.

The success has cemented our decision to make this an annual event. In fact, we are already kicking around ideas for improvement. Some of which include: a selection of smaller bundles, genre specific bundles (BDSM, Fantasy, Sci-fi, Contemporary, etc.), and work by a greater number of indie authors.

Again, none of this could have been done without the amazing support of you, the m/m readers. You guys are nothing short of wonderful and you have our most heartfelt thanks.

Last, but certainly not least, we’d like to express our sincere gratitude to the blogging community* (listed below**). We approached you at the busiest time of the year—at the last moment—and your support was unwavering and instantaneous.

Our warmest regards and best wishes for a happy new year,

Rain Carrington
Bey Deckard
Varian Krylov
– Matt Ortiz
Joseph Lance Tonlet
Brad Vance

 


 

* Alphabetically Listed
** We made every attempt to record every supporting blogger and website. However, we have likely overlooked a few. Our most sincere apologies if you are not listed.

 

6 Awesome M/M books for $10 – All proceeds to the Trevor Project

So Rain Carrington, Varian Krylov, Matt Ortiz, Joseph Lance Tonlet, Brad Vance and I got together to offer everyone something for the holidays. We’re calling it “Hot Reads For The Trevor Project” and all proceeds go to The Trevor Project*

Get ready to lower your thermostat because your winter is about to get hot! For a limited time only, get SIX great reads by some of the hottest authors in M/M! A guilt-free guilty pleasure at an incredibly low price with all proceeds going to The Trevor Project!

So… what are you waiting for? Buy some books for a good cause!

Buy Now

 

*What is The Trevor Project?
Founded in 1998 by the creators of the Academy Award®-winning short film TREVOR, The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24.