Thursday, February 10, 2011

Interview with screenwriter Terrence Brady

Hello - my name is JENI STILES and welcome to my world of blogs. 

My first entry is actually an interview. Met up with a screenwriter who has inked a tale about the New York graffiti crew known as THE CRAZY FIVE. I will add a few links at the bottom of this interview but for now, let's get rolling........

Who are The Crazy Five?
TC5 was a major graffiti crew that began in the early era of NYC graffiti. The five original members were Blade, Vamm, Death, Tull, and Crachee. From this five, the crew grew over the years and has featured some of the biggest names to put paint to a subway car.

And this screenplay is about the history of The Crazy Five?
No, actually it is an adaptation of the manuscript penned by one of the original members.

Who is that?
Mitch Weiss (aka Crachee). He is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Associated Press and author.

So, how’d did this scriptwriting project come to fruition?
Back in 2009, I came across a webpage that mentioned Mitch's manuscript and emailed him about it. We started some dialogue and he emailed me some chapters. I had penned several spec screenplays in the past and his agent had mentioned that TC5 manuscript might work better as a screenplay; so it began.

How long is the manuscript?
Pretty good size. 350-400 pages. Forget exact amount. Unfortunately a screenplay averages 90-120 pages, so I had my work cut out for me. Thankfully, Mitch basically gave me a blank check on how I wanted to write it so that made things easier.

So, what is the screenplay about?
Like Mitch's manuscript, its a blend of fiction and non. The story is set in the Bronx in 1973. Its about how these five friends came together to form this group who would become city-wide kings. However, graffiti is just one component of their lives.  Here’s my initial breakdown of the characters:

The hero of the story. The boy who wants everything and nothing at the same time. The grass is always greener for Crachee but it's his new sweetheart who shows him he can have it all yet he's too foolish to realize it .. until its gone.

The perfectionist of the group. Ever striving to getting it right. Wants to excel in everything he does: graffiti, basketball, school. Constantly pushing himself and never realizing that life is not the end result but the joy of the ride itself.

The tormented artist who lives in the streets. His tale is one of deception as he and his family hide a dark secret from the rest of the neighborhood.  A secret that even his best friends know nothing of.

The loner of the group who finds solace in a girl's arms who has her own disturbing past. She is like a fallen angel whom brings him a glimmer of hope only to take him down an even deeper path of destruction.

The group leader whom everyone adores. He exudes a confidence and cool charm that hypnotizes all around him. But life is not as it seems and neither is Tull.

A real character driven tale, eh?  How did you approach transforming such a large body of work into a film script?
Mitch had a lot of good stuff going on but impossible to cram it all in. I had to first establish what my narrative line would be (which is the tale of Crachee & his girl, Emily) and then utilize what I felt would drive this story in the most visual way. For example, Mitch had written a whole sub-plot of  Mario (Tull) becoming involved with some gangsters, which was intriguing, however I found I could still tell my tale without including it. 

There was a lot of stuff that hit the cutting room floor and some new scenes which I added. Adaptation is unlike penning an original spec script but then again, it is an original product. What I mean is, you have to take your source material and then transform it into a story told with pictures placed within the context of dramatic structure. You can't just summarize the source material and make it fit within the confines of a 120pp screenplay. You have to change one (manuscript) into the other (screenplay) and not just superimpose one on top of the other.

What’s the process of writing a screenplay?
I use Syd Field’s method of index cards. Once I establish my opening, ending and two plot points, I then jot down various scenes (just a few words) onto an index card. Its sort of like a blueprint. Once I’m done, I have about 70 or so index cards which I then lay out on the carpet.  Sometimes, a scene isn’t working in a specific spot, so I move it to another part of the script where it may work better - or 86 it all together. Once I feel the scenes all flow together, I estimate how many pages I’ll need for a specific scene and then begin to flesh them out.

How long does this process take?
I’m very disciplined when it comes to writing a script. I started plotting it out the beginning of last year and finished it by summer's end. Once I establish my cards and know what I plan to write, I dedicate one month per draft. TC5 took about 2 months of planning and another 4 months to compose 4 drafts. A problem some screenwriters have is they never get beyond their first draft. They’ll keep rewriting the first 30 pages and have a dozen drafts of it. Best to just crank it out - no one is going to read your first draft anyway. Get it done and then go back and tweak it in the following drafts.

Tell us about the Bronx in 1973.
I was only eight but ironically it was the first time I started writing myself.

You were a graffiti artist?
Well, no where near the talent of those in the TC5 or elsewhere. I tagged the 2’s & 5’s for several years in the mid-to-late 70s.

What did you write?

The subject for a future screenplay?
No one would want to see that movie -- haha! I was just a kid doing what everyone else did. It was fun. It’s part of who I am (I’ll certainly never forget those days) and I like to think that my graffiti past has helped pave the way for my interest in film and screenwriting.

Back to the script, got any teasers for us?
Actually, the first page is on-line at my site. Other scenes that stood out include a brawl at the 149th Street bench. I have Crachee being held over the tracks by a character named Hondo as an oncoming train roars into the station. As a martial arts film aficionado, I created a scene where the five go see a Bruce Lee film right after Bruce’s death. And of course the ending where they attend a New Year’s Eve party and how their lives have been affected by the year’s past events.

Is it a happy ending?
For some. For some, not so much.

Who would you like to direct The Crazy Five?
My dream picks? Someone who is real stylized. Fincher, Coen Brothers, QT. Having a native New Yorker like Scorsese would be huge. Of course, I’ll be content with any director that can take my written words and transform them into a product that he/she, Mitch and myself are happy with.

So is The Crazy Five coming soon to a theater near us?
That is the ultimate goal. First thing is to get some producers interested in the tale. Word of mouth is by far the best form of advertising, so I hope this interview helps.

Check out Terrence's website at:

© 2011 Jeni Stiles

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