Category Archive: Screenplays

How HUMPTY DUMPTY and AC/DC Fall … Into Place

My first goal when writing is to keep the spirit of the narrative consistent and I find listening to the right music keeps me on track. My guiding light for HUMPTY DUMPTY WAS PUSHED was AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.”  I blasted that bad boy thousands of times and every time I did it felt like a shot of adrenaline to the heart and a kick to the head that put me exactly in the mind-space I wanted to be.

For starters the opening guitar riff creates an intense mood of expectancy. You hear it and you know something big is about to happen. Me, I get so charged, I don’t know whether to start dancing’ or throw myself out a window. Really.

Now once the drums, bass and vocals kicks in several things hit me that are consistent with the kind of writing I want to do. First the over the top machismo of the lead singer, Brian Johnson‘s, ruff vocal quality says “I am fearless. I will bare my soul”. Me, I want to own that.

Then the over the top images conveyed by the barrage of assertive words… She was a fast machine/ She kept her motor clean/ She was the best damn woman that I ever seen… in the context of the kick ass track speaks that the man telling his story has extreme confidence. In fact he’s so confident he is able to mock himself. I want to own that too. I love people who can make fun of themselves and this recording is the ultimate example of one that allows the listener to experience both the intense emotion of “being there” while at the same time be distant enough to see the ridiculousness of it all.

And finally like all good writing there’s the coup de gras, denouement, the cherry on top, stupefying, satisfying explosive ending; in this case, that massively thick Gregorian chant-like chorus behind which a contrapuntal guitar riff takes the emotional level to new heights. When it comes I feel the pure joy of expectation superceded, that kind of emotion that comes when something unpredictable is delivered, a thunderbolt jolt of satisfaction.

I want my writing to be fast, fearless, intense, faster and funny and end with a knock out punch. I want to take the reader to places that are so intense he gets to the point that he can’t decide whether to put the book down because he doesn’t want it to end or finish it to put an end to the intense experience of reading it. “You Shook Me All Night Long”, the way I feel when I hear it, is the epitome of that experience.

Way back when, I was fortunate enough to write a song with the legendary rocker Willie Nile.

The chorus goes:

You’ve Got To Be A Buddha In A Place Like This

Every now and then there’s a momentary bliss

You’ve Got To Be A Buddha In A Place Like This.

Cranking up “You Shook Me All Night Long” is my fast track ticket to momentary bliss, which is my destination of first choice when I’m about to write.

If you’ve read HUMPTY I would like to know if you imagined a soundtrack to it. Writer/director Raymond de Felitta, who is doing a film version, asked me for musical suggestions. While I‘ve been tuned into a lot contemporary music by artists like Eminem, Jay-Z, Wu-Tang, I plan to do a lot more listening before making recommendations, so far the list is short and consists of classics:

AC/DC                                        You Shook Me All Night Long

Run DMC/Aerosmith             Walk this Way

Grand Master Flash                 The Message

Lights, camera, action … at the keyboard.

Director/writer Raymond De Fellita is fuckin’ brilliant, fahgedaboudit. I saw “City Island” at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2009 and I plotzed. I could not believe that somebody could have the imagination and craft to put together such high-minded ridiculousness. So what did I do?

Well, my wife went over to talk to Julianna Margulies (they go way, way back to when she was a baby). While she and Julianna were reminiscing, I found Raymond standing right behind me. So I told him how great I thought “City Island” and his work was, and told him about HUMPTY DUMPTY WAS PUSHED. He told me there was a buzz about it and I should send the novel to him. Two days later we talked about him doing the movie.

Since then, we’ve been working on it, and the creative process has been really thought provoking.

Raymond said he wanted to start with a treatment, but before he did, he had several questions regarding the background of the characters.

For example… (and note: Spoiler alert!):

QUESTION: How good is PROOF POSITIVE? Is there more mileage in the story if the group is GREAT? Maybe makes the whole journey downhill sadder if in fact they have major stuff?

Good Question. So I answered:

Several things about the process are true here—it is based on my experience as a producer. First Biz is a producer like Eminem’s producer, Dr. Dre. Now Dre has also produced numerous other bestselling artists, so I’m not implying that Eminem isn’t amazing. But he’s rapping over some masterpiece-type music, which in all likelihood was created by Dre. So first you have Biz the producer with a history of hits (like Dre), and the tracks Proof are rapping over is probably a killer one created by Biz. ?Second, when a producer is hot in the biz, he can do no wrong. Biz’s track record is why Sunn wants in on anything with which Biz is involved.

Questions like this one from Raymond force me to think about my novel as a point of departure for something cinematic. This process makes me think about what I’ve written in a different way that causes me much brain freeze as well as elation … lots of “duh? And “huh!” moments.

To help me make the mental transition, Raymond drew a terrific comparison for me that I think you’ll like. Remember the film “LA Confidential?” Well, if you view is award-winning film and then read the novel you’ll see that the film’s and Ellroy’s novel’s approach are different. The novel is more complex; the movie focuses on the emotional journey of two characters. Yet one comes away with a cohesive whole; and that’s what Raymond said he would like to achieve with HUMPTY DUMPTY.

I am finding this process wonderfully enlightening. What’s really been interesting is how this collaboration has altered (very favorably) my approach to my next novel. Thank you Raymond!

Stay tuned as the process continues.