Interview: Jeffrey B. Palmer talks “The Sleeping Deep”

Mazimus_Poster_03Today we are talking with Jeffrey B. Palmer about his movie script, entitled The Sleeping Deep. The Sleeping Deep has been making the rounds at film festivals and won several awards in 2008, including Best Screenplay at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival. A promotional trailer for the film debuted at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival last year and a new trailer is out this month.

IFP: Can you give us a brief summary about what The Sleeping Deep is about?

JP: The Sleeping Deep is a fantasy/horror/thriller that explores a shared dreamworld between two characters: the first, Kevin Tiggs, is searching for the lost memory of his dead fiancee and the second character, Charlotte Foster, eventually transforms into an ancient demon warrior who is thrust into a battle between darkness and hope. Both are tormented by Mazimus, an eater of souls from a place “deeper than hell”, who is determined to destroy their waking life… and everyone in it.

IFP: Can you tell us a bit about how the screenplay was developed?

JP: After reading H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath”, the concept of someone traveling deep into their dreams in search of answers to a mystery intrigued me. I already had a concept of two strangers connected by a dream bubbling around for some time, which isn’t an entirely novel set-up, but weaving the two stories together helped create a third storyline that unfolds throughout the script. The actual writing took about three months, but the research and story development was a few years in the making. Thankfully, what was once a hefty 153 pages is now a trim 101-page draft with five screenplay awards in tow. It’s also short-listed with dozens of screenplay contests, film festivals, and the jury is still out on a few more. With any luck it will find a home somewhere with a production company or producer interested in fantasy/thrillers. I’m slowly piecing together the sequel and thinking about a graphic novel or even novelizing it.

IFP: What’s the most difficult part when writing a script like this?

JP: Maintaining tone. Humor and one-liners are great fun (Tremors, The Re-Animator and Evil Dead are some of my faves), but too much of either can have readers thinking it’s supposed to be outrageous or a horror/comedy. The Sleeping Deep is much darker in tone, more in line with Alien or Underworld. I think unnecessary gore will turn a lot of people off, too. It’s a tricky balance. Research is very important as well.

IFP: How did Red Brick Films come to be?

JP: In the summer of 2008, I directed an independent feature called “standard”, written and produced by Matthew Magennis in and around the San Francisco Bay area. Having just completed the camera and editing work on the feature Mind’s Eye, John Tulin (out of San Jose) was brought on as the cinematographer for “standard”. We hit it off, collaborated really well together and decided to keep the camera rolling as best we could with future projects. After winning the award at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, I thought it would be worthwhile to create some promotional materials to help sell the script and shop it around. Coming from Dover, New Hampshire, a small mill-town in New England, I grew up surrounded by old brick mill buildings and love old architecture. I thought Red Brick Films was an appropriate name for “motion picture masons” trying to “build better films, brick by brick”.

IFP: What is the purpose of the trailers you’ve created and how much work went into making them?

JP: Again, the thrust was to remain busy with filmmaking and shoot some key scenes from the script for promotional purposes. Pre-production took a good chunk of work: finding locations, getting props, and scheduling were all time-consuming. John Emurai’s eel-creature FX for Kevin’s bedroom scene was labour-intensive and Shawn P. Russell’s music was composed from scratch specifically for the clips. Then there was editing and finessing. So, yeah, a good number of hours were logged by all team members. We’re all very pleased with the results and are hoping to move forward with actual production at some point.

IFP: What other promotional work are you doing?

JP: I’m keeping the website up-to-date, blogging any news, Twittering, e-blasts, YouTube… as much as I can.

TSD_Poster_DreamsIFP: So how’s the financing dance going? Are we going to see The Sleeping Deep in a theatre near us soon?

JP: Ah yes, the finance dance. We’re still on the side waiting for our partner to show up. Or maybe the music stopped and everyone went home already…. seriously, it’s an ongoing process. We’ll have to kiss a lot of frogs and turn over a lot of stones before we come across the best fit for The Sleeping Deep. It may come down to selling the screenplay outright or coming on board as a co-producer, which would still be great, although I’d prefer to make the film under the Red Brick Films banner. This might prove impossible at a certain point. It’s difficult to say. As written, about 75% of the script contains a lot of simple live action scenes that take place in bedrooms, apartments, hospitals, cars, offices, streets, etc. while the other 25% is heavy on the CGI, green screen and creature FX. The goal is to remain as faithful to the written page as possible. While concessions will certainly be made along the way, I think it’s important to stay focused on what has worked thus far in the story and avoid watering it down too much before shooting the actual feature or getting the right producer on board. It’s a numbers game. I’ll be spending much of 2010 putting it in the hands of Hollywood insiders and outsiders. As Charlotte Foster, our main character, says in the script: “All it takes is one yes and all those nos can go blow.”

I think it’s a solid story that would, for obvious reasons, require some money behind it. I am feeling optimistic about the possibilities. I recently had lunch with a Hollywood veteran who offered some thoughts and invaluable insight which put some wind in my sails. Persistence wears resistance. The squeaky wheel gets the oil. It’s always darkest… oh, you get the idea.

IFP: What is your dream project?

JP: Honestly, at this point, the dream project right now is to make The Sleeping Deep into a feature. When that happens and after it finds an audience and distribution, I’ll start thinking more about what’s next for long-term filmmaking goals. I need to keep busy with writing, especially something that can be produced on a smaller budget. I do have a long list of loglines that I’m shopping around to producers looking for lower-to-medium budget film projects which range from twisted psychological thrillers to vampire comedies to post-apocalyptic dystopian epics and adventure fantasies for a family audience. I’m currently working on a supernatural/thriller that I’m feeling is a pretty cool idea. We’ll see where it takes me.

awardIFP: What do you do when you are not writing?

JP: When I’m not writing, I am busy making freelance clients happy producing and editing videos for their websites, presentations and DVD materials. Until I can turn the corner and make a buck (or many) with penning screenplays, I’ll stick with my other skills in directing and graphic design.

IFP: What is your favourite Lovecraft story?

JP: I’m not trying to win any points here, but I’ve always been partial to “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”.

IFP: If you could be a Lovecraft character or creature, who would you be and why?

JP: Interesting question. I can’t really say. However, one of my favorite Lovecraft lines from “The Outsider” always comes to mind: “So through endless twilights I dreamed and waited, though I knew not what I waited for.” Quite often it feels as if I suffer from this same haunting emptiness. Perhaps someday I’ll discover what that is or even learn of my true identity and mysterious heritage. It’s no secret that I’m a Pisces… and from a seacoast town… in New England.

IFP: Any parting words or hidden knowledge you want to impart on us?

JP: Think big, but if you want to get your film made these days, write small.

More information about The Sleeping Deep can be found at this website and blog.

JeffreyBPalmerBio: Jeffrey Blake Palmer is an award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker currently living near Hollywood, California. His first feature screenplay Sex Bomb Death Ride was recently optioned by independent producer Christopher Watkins out of Portland, Maine. Most recently, Palmer has claimed five screenplay awards with his latest feature script The Sleeping Deep, a horror/fantasy/thriller genre piece that breaks new storytelling ground with its mix of myth, legends and dreamscapes.

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IFPInterview: Jeffrey B. Palmer talks “The Sleeping Deep”