In December of 2010, I first interviewed Vanessa Morgan, after having read her unnerving novella, Drowned Sorrow. I'm thrilled to present another interview with this writer, in which we discuss her latest project.
1) Welcome back, Vanessa! Tell us something about your new work, a screenplay called A Good Man, currently in preproduction with Radowski Films. Although I haven't read it, I did read the description of it, so I know it's about Louis Caron, a "good man", a vegetarian who cares about homeless people, animals, and the future of our planet. If Louis seems too good to be true, then trust your instincts, because he has a sinister side as well--in fact, he's a vampire. The story, the screenplay, the film--it all sounds very exciting to me!
VM: A Good Man is a dark comedy with a few horror elements. I could best describe it as American Psycho with a vampire. Some people have also compared it to the TV-series Dexter. It's a fun and moving story that turns the vampire myth completely on its head. It's not the kind of vampire story you've seen before and if you think you know how things will turn out, then think again.
Cast Members of A Good Man
|Pierre Lekeux as Louis Caron|
|Flavio Tosti as Vincent|
|Matthias Pohl as himself|
|Avalon, Vanessa's cat|
VM: Although vampires have always existed in literature and film, that 'thing' about vampires is actually a quite recent phenomenon that started with Twilight. There have never been as many vampire books and movies as there are now. Modern vampires are handsome and sexy, whereas the vampires in mythology are ugly and evil-looking. The Ghanan Asasabonsam vampire, for example, has iron teeth and hooks for feet, which they drop from treetops onto unsuspecting victims. Certain regions in the Balkans believe that pumpkins and watermelons would turn into vampires if they were left out longer than 10 days or not consumed by Christmas.
(True, the Twilight series transformed gruesome vampires into sexy, sparkling beings, made them acceptable aesthetically, then gave them the spotlight.)
3) How did you learn to write a screenplay? How does this type of writing differ from other forms? Did you take any classes, and/or have any special teachers or mentors?
VM: It's the same as with learning to write novels. You always learn more by practicing and listening to what reviewers have to say about your work than by actually reading books about it. I didn't take any classes and didn't have any mentors or teachers either, but I'd love to have one because you evolve more quickly with a good mentor. That said, writing a screenplay is different than writing a novel in the sense that a screenwriter can't tell what's in the character's mind; everything has to be shown, everything has to be visual. Structure is also important, because a screenplay (and the movie for that matter) quickly becomes boring if you put too many scenes in it for character development but that doesn't move the story forward at the same time. In books, you can get away with that, but not in a screenplay. My experience as a screenwriter has obviously influenced my work as a novelist in that I am more concise and more visual than most other novelists. I 'explain' a lot through the images and details I portray. Sometimes it's about two characters talking about ordinary things, but it's actually about something more profound that you can only 'get' once you have read the whole book. I love putting information into details that seem irrelevant at first.
4) Did the screenplay change a lot during the rewriting process?
VM: More than you can imagine and not always for the better. Everyone was quite wild about the first draft I wrote of A Good Man, but although it was fresh and original, it missed some character development and the second half of the story wasn't really going anywhere. I said I wanted to cut the second half and put the mid-point scene as the second turning point near the end (for those who have read A Good Man, I'm talking about the important Emma scene). My producer argued though that I should keep the same structure and transform the second part into a revenge story. I didn't think it was the right thing to do with the characters and the story because it really felt out of character for the people I created, but I tried anyway. Three drafts later, the screenplay had become slow-moving, overly long and not very logical. Everyone said that the first part of A Good Man was brilliant; it was the second half that focused on the revenge story that had a million problems. It's true that the first draft had developed nicely; it stayed the same in terms of structure and story, but I added some really interesting character development that added a lot of originality and depth to the story. But once I came to the mid-point, I had no idea what to do with the story apart from the final two scenes. I then decided to not listen to my producer anymore and to just follow my intuition with A Good Man. I went against all advice and cut the second half of the screenplay, put the mid-point near the end and added a few scenes to have a good transition between all the parts. Just by cutting the second part and changing the structure, I changed A Good Man from the revenge story with lots of murders that my producers wanted into a touching character piece about why we sometimes end up ruining our own lives and that of others without really wanting to. I sent the new draft to my producer and a day later he wrote to me: "Brilliant structure and story. Very surprising and very touching." We were finally ready to move forward with the production.
5) Did you use character traits of people you know for the screenplay?
VM: I love using real people for my books, but for A Good Man I abused this and so the book is populated for 99% with people I know *looking down with puppy eyes*. The main character, Louis Caron, was obviously based on Pierre Lekeux, the actor who is going to play the part. I observed him in real life and in his interactions with women and it really helped me in creating an original vampire character. I particularly loved the idea of an old vampire who suffers from arthritis and who is so insecure about his wrinkled face that he seduces ugly women as a means to feel better about himself. The hypochondriac vampire Madame Renaud was loosely based on my own mom (sorry mom, I hope you don't read this).
6) Why did you write the screenplay for A Good Man, Un Homme Bien, in French, originally?
VM: The Belgian production company Radowski Films asked me to write a screenplay for them about a vampire. It had to be in French, because they already had some French actors in mind to star in the movie, so I did.
(How many languages do you know, anyway?)
VM: I speak Dutch, English, French, Spanish and a little bit of German. I love writing in different languages and chances and I'll most probably write screenplays in Dutch and Spanish as well some time soon.
(Impressive! Very likely, each language influences your writing in numerous and various ways.)
7) Which actors would you choose if there were to be a Hollywood remake?
VM: I think Steve Buscemi would be brilliant as Louis Caron, because he is odd and charming at the same time, and he can be funny without losing depth. For the other characters, I would choose Melissa George as Emma and Jim Sturgess as Vincent.
Superb casting choices, Vanessa! Steve Buscemi, in particular, is a wonderful, quirky (character) actor. I'd love to see this film, either the original version (if it becomes available on DVD, please let me know), and/or as an American remake in the future. It sounds like it would be quite entertaining. I remember watching a werewolf movie (whose name eludes me, unfortunately) many years ago as a teenager, and being absolutely transfixed. I think this film would have a similar effect on me. Thank you for this follow-up interview, Vanessa, and best of luck with A Good Man!