Bride of Frankie -- The Feature Version!

Several years back, I pitched my idea for BRIDE OF FRANKIE, a short film, to a producer friend who told me, “I absolutely love it, but…”

“But…?” I pressed her.

“Yet another short film?” she asked. “Why don’t you make it a feature?”

She had a valid point. After our AFI-DWW film, DEATH IN CHARGE, got into well over 100 fests, winning 20+ awards and landing several distribution deals, I landed a whole bunch of fancy meetings with fancy industry people who wanted to make the fancy feature-length version.

There was just one wee little problem.

“There is no feature version,” I explained. “It works so well as a short, because it was meant to be a short. There’s no more story to tell.”

That didn’t appease them. DEATH IN CHARGE had a history of success, which made it a “valuable commodity” according to the powers-that-be. They weren’t interested in hearing any of my other plentiful pitches from any number of my award-winning screenplays. They wanted the story they already knew and loved.

Sigh.

Still, I knew that BRIDE OF FRANKIE, the short, needed to be made. And I knew this because I wanted anything more than to watch it — my primary motive for making films. Toni Morrison says a writer should “write the story you want to read,” and I say a filmmaker should “make the movie you want to watch.”

But my producer friend had thus implanted a proverbial bee in my proverbial bonnet, and during the fundraising phase of pre-production for BRIDE OF FRANKIE, the short, sure enough, an expanded story began to taunt my muse—BRIDE OF FRANKIE, the feature!

It started as flashes of settings, characters and moments, drawing inspiration from classic Val Lewton films, Tod Browning’s FREAKS and more contemporary favorites like DELICATESSEN, BLANCA NIEVES and Tim Burton’s ED WOOD. Meanwhile, while researching feminist histories for another endeavor, I discovered new sources of inspiration that led me to the surprising stories behind professional tattooed ladies and early female pilots (including Amelia Earhart). And from there, the story began to unfold.

The first draft was a sprawling spectacle of 120 pages set in the world of mad science labs, women’s mental institutions and traveling sideshows circa 1937. Unsure what to do with this glorious mess, I submitted it to the Fresh Voices Screenplay competition, to take advantage of their quality, inexpensive feedback.

To my shock and awe, out of 1,700 entries, FRANKIE placed in the top 10 of their Comedy/Romance category, won 3rd place for Best Sci-Fi fantasy, and won a special award for “Courage and Fortitude” — which I suspect is code for “Wow, this is so outside of the box, nobody will ever possibly consider financing it, but good for you, Lady!”

Most valuable, however, was the initial feedback they provided, which I compounded with two consultations with my brilliant mentor, Pilar Alessandra, and some additional paid coverage from the PAGE Awards.

Thanks to all of their invaluable help, the script, now at a streamlined 96 pages, is the story I want to tell and the movie I’m dying to watch. Even, so, there’s always room for improvement, so this weekend at our regional premiere screening of BRIDE OF FRANKIE, we will feature a live staged reading of BRIDE OF FRANKIE the feature to hear the movie come to life and solicit audience feedback.

Stay tuned for the results…

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