My submisions for The Calling have been sent to both Chad Hayes and Daniela Garcia-Brcek. I have spent the last three days hunkered over the computer going over the script one last time about 39 times. I did take time to read the Hayes Brothers script for The Conjuring, both an early draft and the production version. I wanted to get a feel for how they wrote their scripts and to see how closely mine matched theirs. It was a difficult task as they are two different types of stories.
For the most part, I felt The Calling format lived up to their execution. There were some differences in format style, but nothing that stood out as being off. They did pace their tension a little different than I do, but again it is a different type of story. The Calling has more of an action element to it with the B story of the thug.
One of the elements of the horror genre that The Calling was missing was the opening scene that establishes the genre. I don’t think that is always necessary, but it does take a few pages to get to the inciting incident that sets everything in motion. For a drama, that’s fine, but the horror conventions dictate that we need to see something immediately to set the tone. Since nothing spooky happens until that exciting incident, I was at a loss as to how to do that without resorting to teasing something that happens later in the story and then flashing back to the beginning.
What I ultimately settled on was a scene that shows the death of one of the ghosts, Sara Jane, who dies at the hands of her grandfather during an extreme baptism at the waterfall that is featured prevalently throughout the story. This sets up who our bad guys are from the get go, it has some great imagery of death and it sets up the waterfall as a place with some bad juju. That way, when we see Connor being led to the waterfall at the inciting incident, we know something bad is about to happen. This opening also gives us some backstory on the ghosts and how they got to be ghosts, so when they start showing up some of the answers are already there.
Prior to this new scene, the script was running 110 pages. With the addition, it was running almost a full 112. This felt a bit long for a horror, so I set about condensing dialogue to focus scenes and really looking at the action description. As a result, I was able to take 9 pages out of the script and reduce it to 103 pages.
I sent this new version out to a couple of friends for a read (with much begging and pleading) and the results were very favorable. The one hiccup I may have is the time shift that occurs during the climax. The time shift allows the Sheriff to “come back to life.” Neither reader had a problem with the shift in time, but didn’t feel it was necessarily explained adequately. It could be one of those things that leaves an audience debating the ending or it could just leave them confused and disappointed. Since both readers understood what happened, I’m going to leave it as is for the moment.
I don’t know what to expect as far as a response from the two submissions, but I don’t expect I’ll hear anything for at least 3 – 6 weeks. Cross your fingers and wish me luck.