Good morning Stage 32 Creative Crew! I hope you're ready to charge into another week of creative excellence along with the rest of the Stage 32 community. I am always so blown away by how supportive those in the Stage 32 community are of one another.
Our latest success story is proof that if you choose to move your career forward through Stage 32, you have advocates in every corner of the platform ready to help. The story comes from Alex Montilla and his writing partner Kheireddine El-Helou who submitted their feature script HIDEOUT to the Stage 32 7th Annual Search for New Blood Contest. One of the readers for the contest was Preston Fassel, a very talented development executive who used to work at Fangoria under their production banner.
During his tenure at Fangoria, Preston met and became friends with Barbara Crampton, the iconic horror actress best known for her parts in movies like CHOPPING MALL and REANIMATOR. Barbara has become something of an elder statesman of the horror world over the last two decades. Over the last few years, she’s worked closely with AMP International an international sales agency specializing in genre pictures.
Flash forward to the Stage 32 7th Annual Search for New Blood Contest. Preston tells me he read the HIDEOUT and was "completely blown away," saying further, "I remember texting [my wife] periodically telling her 'Oh my God, I can’t believe what I’m reading right now.'
Preston continues, "It was exactly the kind of script that I dreamed of finding back in my development days...I ended up telling Barbara about it the next time she and I spoke, and she asked me to tell [AMP Head of Production] Bob Portal, who in turn asked about the feasibility of being put in touch with the authors."
Preston reached back out to our Script Services team at Stage 32 and of course we put Alex and Kheireddine in touch right away. The writers ended up having a few Zoom meetings, and, here we are! Preston, who still reads for Stage 32, sums it up, "I’m absolutely ecstatic it sounds like it’s going to come to fruition, and it’s so cool that Stage 32 was able to act as a facilitator for all of that. It’s a really great story!"
This is just more proof that no matter where you look, the Stage 32 community rallies around our members. Preston, reading for Stage 32, saw an opportunity to advance a script and two careers and he gave it his all to make it happen. My sincere thanks to Preston and all of our industry professionals who work with Stage 32 to advance your scripts and career.
That is the power of the platform.
Now, let's hear from Alex on how this project came to be! Take it away Alex...
Through his award-winning short horror film, 'Drudge', Kheireddine got representation and some industry attention and was ready to make the move into features. So, in 2015, he told me his loose idea for a super low-budget movie he wanted to make. I offered a few ideas and before I knew it, he asked if I wanted to partner up as co-writer. Obviously, I jumped at the chance.
Over the next year, we churned out a finished screenplay called ‘Villains’ (my first completed script and his second). We were very proud of it and thought, “rather than just making this ourselves for no money, maybe it’s good enough to actually send around town.” So, we did. Kheireddine’s team sent it everywhere. We had a lot of interest early on that ultimately lead nowhere.
For almost two years, ‘Villains’ was dead. We moved on, assuming the only way it would ever get made was our original no-budget idea. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, we got a call from producers who wanted to make it. We were very excited. During our meetings with them, we further developed the script, making it even stronger.
To our surprise, when The Black List came out that year, ‘Villains’ was on it. Unfortunately for us, it wasn’t our ‘Villains’. While very different than ours, it had the same title and, as one of the producers put it, a similar enough trailer. They passed on it. Once again, ‘Villains’ was dead.
We let it sit for another year, disappointed after getting so close, but still believed in our script. We re-titled it ‘Hideout’ and made some changes to further differentiate it from the other project.
In late 2019, I made a short horror-comedy called ‘OverKill’. Like Kheireddine, I was fortunate enough to win some awards and started to get some attention, but once Covid hit, a lot of that went away. I wasn’t able to parlay OverKill’s success into representation and was only able to have a couple of meetings. Each time, I brought up ‘Hideout’ and always got a good response.
With not much else going for us in 2020, Kheireddine and I thought ‘Hideout’ was special enough to keep developing and re-writing. Through every draft, the script got better and better. Ultimately, we thought “our short films had success in the festival circuit, why not submit our script into some competitions and see what happens?” Not to mention, online screenplay competitions are the perfect way to get noticed during the year of Zoom-only film festivals.
After a little research, we compiled a small list of competitions to enter. Since ‘Hideout’ was a thriller, Stage 32’s Search For New Blood was immediately on the top of our list. Every two weeks, as the results were announced, we were thrilled to see ‘Hideout’ still in contention.
To make it all the way to the list of finalists was rewarding enough, but we were overjoyed when one of the readers, Preston Fassel, reached out with an opportunity to connect with actor/producer Barbara Crampton and AMP International (‘Jakob’s Wife’).
Preston Fassel developed for Fangoria and reads for Stage 32
Through our preliminary meetings, we’ve really enjoyed working with Barbara and the team at AMP. We’ve continued to improve the script (including yet another to-be-announced title change) and really love the package they’re putting together.
Producer/Actor Barbara Crampton of REANIMATOR & JAKOB'S WIFE
Not that our story is done (it won’t be until you see our movie!), but I think the lesson for us as writers or anybody reading this is not to give up. We believed in our movie and kept tweaking and fine-tuning and adapting and eventually, after a couple of close calls, somebody noticed.
Here’s hoping 2021 is the year of ‘Villains’ AKA ‘Hideout’ AKA whatever it ends up being called.
Let's hear your thoughts in the comments below!
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