&ot » 2007 » June The Attic Door

Archive for June, 2007

eeek!

Erica Harrell
Producer

Hey Everyone!

This blog is brought to you by Bank of America as Danny and I meet I realize more and more how much of an amazing but difficult production this will be. Danny and my art department will be leaving in just a few short days… eeek! I am on the set of another film I am producing, BAKER, and working 16 plus hours a day.

Things have been crazy! Look forward to sharing all soon.

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Origins

Eric Ernst
Writer

One question I might be asked at some point is “What attracted you, as a highly sought after screenwriter, to A Monster In the Attic?” Since this is no doubt burning in the minds of everyone who will read this blog, I’ve decided to take a break from my informative “Writing a Monster” series, and address this and other related questions.

As mentioned in a previous blog, Monster began as a short film in the summer of 2004 as a potential project for Danny’s undergraduate thesis film. As he continued to write it, he realized that the scope was too big for a short and expanded it into a feature. As Danny’s colleague in school and trusted associate, I read every draft of Monster since its inception, and would often give Danny notes and feedback on its progress.

In the summer of 2006, we considered the idea of writing it together. It seemed a natural choice, given my familiarity with the script. This was particularly attractive for me, as it gave me the opportunity to write outside of my “safe zone”, in that I had almost exclusively written comedy scripts until this point. Monster would present a challenge to me, as it is in a genre that I have very little familiarity with. However, the story is based on something that everyone experiences, childhood fears and I felt I could bring a fresh perspective and another point of view to the project.

Like everyone else, I have (and continue to have sometimes) many fears as a child. For me, there is nothing scarier than the idea of aliens, particularly alien abduction. When I first heard of this phenomenon, the idea of something being in my house and trying to get into my room was the most fearful thing I could imagine. The idea that the thing was not even human was even scarier. My imagination would often run wild, and things I thought I heard or saw would instantly turn into alien intruders, and I would hide completely under my blanket, since no one can find you if you are completely under your blanket. This is a technique I continue to employ today, and has so far proved successful.

Many of the feelings and emotions associated with my childhood have found their way into A Monster In the Attic. I have had to look back to those times to remember real fear, one of the trade-offs I lost while growing up.

Script Title Page
Screenplay for the Film.
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6 Weeks From Production

Danny Daneau
Writer-Director

Today marks the “6 week till principal photography” countdown and things are right on track. In only three weeks I will be heading up to Utah with my art department to begin setting up shop. Once we are in Kanab we are pretty far removed from the outside world. Scaling the MountainAs any small town, there is a grocery store and a little hardware shop, however this won’t be able to meet the down-to-the-wire demands of a feature film. So we have been preparing heavily before the move to make sure we will have everything in place and no time will be lost.

This week Production Designer, Alex Eastwood, will be writing on the blog to discuss his large contributions to the film. As a film set during the turn of the century American West, Alex has had the most daunting task of any department. In the blog, he will discuss his vision, challenges, and personal goals for the road ahead. Look forward to that Friday (6/22/07).

Also premiering on this website in less then a month will be the webisodic documentary series centered around the creation of the film and personal journeys of it’s makers. Filmmakers Roman Safiullin and Chris Walker will be traveling to Utah to capture every moment, for better or worse, to premiere only days after the shooting. Then you as the viewer can leave comments, ask questions, and give feedback to the filmmakers live as you watch the film in it’s creation.

The entire experience will be very exciting and I am looking forward to sharing it with all of you. Please continue to check in and spread the word.

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Actor Jake Johnson Joins Cast

Danny Daneau
Writer-Director

Finding the perfect young actor to play the lead role of Darrell proved to be an exciting journey. Now the production team behind A MONSTER IN THE ATTIC is proud to announce that they’ve found the perfect person.

Jake Johnson was born May 20th, 1997 in Valencia, CA. After standing out in several school productions, his parents began allowing him to audition for commercials. Not soon after, at the age of 7, he landed his first national commercial for Hallmark. Since then he has appeared in many national commercials, a guest-starring role on the CBS show “Cold Case”, and two feature films, including Fox Searchlight’s new independent drama, “Ball Don’t Lie.” This summer Jake will tackle his most challenging role yet as Darrell in the feature film, A Monster in the Attic. He is excited to do this period piece, and plans to bring a mature performance to the production despite his young age.

Jake Johnson is the most passionate and talented young actor I’ve ever met. Even better, the chemistry between him and Adair is perfection. I cannot wait to begin working with these two and hope they are ready for an incredible journey into the American West.

Jake Johnson
Jake Johnson, Actor Cast as Darrell
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Writing a Monster, Pt. 4 – Conflict

Eric Ernst
Writer

Most books on screenwriting will tell you that the most important element in your script, above plot, above character, above everything is conflict. Which makes sense, as conflict is the most basic of elements, since it encompasses both character and plot. Most story conflicts can be boiled down to a simple “man vs.”. Man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. himself; there is a multitude of possibilities. The “man” almost always refers to the protagonist and whatever is on the other side of the vs. almost always refers to the antagonist. The word protagonist can usually be substituted for hero, and antagonist for villian, as these are basically newer terms used to replace older, more specific ones, much like Istanbul replaced Constantinople as the name of the capital of Turkey. Odd example, but you get the point.

Conflict is then derived from the battle, whether physical or not, between the hero and villian. The tension that comes from these two forces working against each other is the conflict, which usually culminates in a thrilling, combustible scene, known as the climax. There are a plethora of films in which these scenes occur, but many times, they do not. For example, the conflict in The Sixth Sense could be considered man vs. the supernatural, but there is never a confrontation between the two, instead just a chilling reveal. While some might see this as a detriment, there is also good that comes of it, for it helps to instill patience in the audience. Of course, there are things that can go awry, killing your chances for a satisfied audience. I’m not slamming M. Night Shyamalan, but Lady in the Water is a prime example of this.

Naturally, there are plenty of films that defy this standard. They can be simple, such as Welcome to Mooseport, in which local hero Ray Romano runs for mayor of a small town against carpet-bagger and former President Gene Hackman. Neither character acts as a hero or villian, just two likeable characters who both want the same thing. They can also be complex, such as The Station Agent, where a crusty loner, played by Peter Dinklage, has to overcome his own inner demons, thereby acting as both the protagonist and antagonist. Then there are examples like House of Wax, which stars reknown celebu-tard Paris Hilton. Although she is one of the side characters in the film, she acts as the antagonist to quality acting, though she is quite convincing as a carcass. =)

Conflict was the main element we focused on while writing Monster. There are only two characters, so there is a fine line to walk to avoid having a clear protagonist and antagonist. There are, of course, elements of man vs. the supernatural, but like any good story of its kind, this does not comprise the entire movie. Instead, Monster is a multi-layered story, with many conflicts, all of which resolve in a satisfying way.

Conflicted Frame
Conflicted Characters, A Monster in the Attic
Artist Ana Bruno
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The Monsters in My Attic

Danny Daneau
Writer-Director

Looking back at my childhood, I can now laugh at how frightened I used to be. I know all kids are scared of some things, but in my case, it was just pathetic. For example, I would shower with the curtain open half way so I could keep my eye on the door in the case a murderer wanted to join me. That door would have a facecloth propped in the doorway so I would not be locked in and trapped. I didn’t have any mirrors in my room until I was fifteen in the fear that I would see a ghost in the reflection. Closet doors remained closed at all times and nightly I found myself rocking back and forth in bed chanting happy thoughts such as, “Disney World, Disney World, Mickey Mouse, Disney World.”

When conceiving the story for A MONSTER IN THE ATTIC I often found myself returning to those many memories. Why do most kids imagine these monsters under their bed and boogeymen in their closet? What made me, as a child, more afraid then others? Is there a common root to these fears that unites us all? Do the monsters ever really go away when we grow up? These questions lead me back to a single event in my past that would inspire the monster in this film.

Danny Daneau at the Heritage House
Second story of our film location.
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