Watch the July 2016 Winning Feature Screenplay Reading.
FIEND, by Jeff York
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Crime, Mystery, History
When famed Jekyll & Hyde author Robert Louis Stevenson turns out himself to be a dangerous split personality, the only one who can save him and London from his fiendish alter ego is a maverick American psychiatrist with daring, unconventional methods.
Get to know the winning writer Jeff York:
1. What is your screenplay about?
It’s historical fiction, based upon two men who were contemporaries of each other in 19th century Europe. Robert Louis Stevenson was a Scotsman living in England who wrote the famous story about split personalities called “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.” And Dr. Morton Prince was an American psychologist working in Salpetriere Hospital in Paris treating split personalities and other psychosis. The two never met, but with so much in common, I deemed that they should.
2. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?
“Fiend” would make for a elevated thriller that the Cineplex could use more of these days. It’s kind of a cross between “Sherlock Holmes” and “The King’s Speech” and it has a lot of smarts and a lot of heart.
3. How would you describe this script in two words?
4. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?
“Jaws” is one that I watch all the time, even when I come across it on TV, and see something new and amazing in it every time. It in itself is an elevated horror movie that has so many layers and nuance, in addition to being very primal.
5. How long have you been working on this screenplay?
All told it took me about a year to get “Fiend” into tip-top shape to start entering it into contests, where it has done very well, but I still tinker with it here and there. One never really stops rewriting until it’s filmed and in the can. And even after that, there may still be reshoots and additional rewriting!
6. How many stories have you written?
I’ve written 8 feature scripts, 3 television pilots, 1 short film script and a play.
7. What motivated you to write this screenplay?
I am a history buff and was drawn to Stevenson’s history as a man who was sick most of his life and longed for a life where he wasn’t hampered by his frailties. Hence, he wrote things like “Jekyll and Hyde”, as well as “Treasure Island.” His writing about mental illness and dissociative personality disorder (split personalities) in “Jekyll & Hyde” was incredibly insightful, such that there were those who wondered how he could grasp it all so well. Then, when I found out about Prince’s work in the same area and how Salpetriere wanted the rest of Europe to follow suit in bettering their treatment of the mentally ill, it struck me that there could be a entertaining juxtaposition in those two stories.
8. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?
The balance of fact and fiction. Most movie bio’s take a ton of liberties with the real story, and because this one was clearly made up, I didn’t have to be quite so faithful. Still, I wanted to be true to the actual history known of the two men, and striking the right balance between reality and fantasy is what presented the biggest challenge.
9. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
I love movies, theater, art, reading…most anything from the arts world. I have an orange tabby so I’m partial to cats. And I find current events and politics to be endlessly fascinating and spend a lot of time watching MSNBC. (I’m quite the liberal at heart.)
10. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?
I love those that embrace horror, and it seemed like a wonderful opportunity to connect with similar fans of the genre. The notes I received were superb, and I incorporated all the terrific suggestions into the rewrite of the script that was recorded. So thanks for making it better!
11. Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?
Breaking into Hollywood is very difficult, and you’ll run into a lot of pretenders and wannabe’s. Gravitate towards those who remain positive in their response to your work, or at least encouraging, and realize that not everyone is going to do cartwheels over what you’ve written. Still, if you really enjoy writing and want to be a cinematic storyteller, keep at it and you will find advocates. You just need to find that one who also has money to make your script into a movie. That is THE struggle, but if you’re good, write a lot, and remain persistent in learning, rewriting, writing more and more scripts, and keeping the faith, you’ll find yourself getting closer and closer. And hopefully that day when you get the dream call, you’re ready for it all.
Director/Producer: Matthew Toffolo http://www.matthewtoffolo.com
Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne
Editor: John Johnson