Two talentless screenwriters, forced to share a cramped, sweaty studio lot writers room in 40s Hollywood, race for a deadline, stopping at nothing to outdo each other -- even if it means MURDER!
Interview with Writer/Directors James King & James Carney
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
The idea for OVER MY DEAD BODY! first came about whilst we (the writer/directors) were living and working together under fairly cramped and claustrophobic circumstances. Fresh out of university, we were poor and ambitious, operating out of a small house that served as both our accommodation and our office. There was no escaping each other, or ourselves. Cabin fever started to creep in.
We realised that in order to avoid maiming each other, we had to channel this claustrophobia into something more productive. This started with the Kafka-esque image of two screenwriters, stuck back to back at their desks in an old-fashioned Hollywood studio lot writer’s room, with a dilapidated fan failing to have any impact on the suffocating heat. When one person wrote, the noise of the typewriter clacking away was so loud and distracting that the other person couldn’t hear himself think. An impossible and intensely competitive situation. Like us, the characters would have two options: either learn how to work together, or tear each other to pieces.
We thought this was a great starting point to make some fun observations about the nature of collaboration, which can be both problematic and extremely rewarding, and also an opportunity to put into practice some of the stuff we’d both been reading about in screenwriting books. We wanted to appropriate some of the theories of screenwriting “gurus” such as Blake Synder and Robert McKee, and toy with those conventions.
The film’s structure is very classical, there are three clearly defined acts, but crammed into a short-form running time. Some of the plot twists and turns were trying to simultaneously adhere to classical convention but do so in a surprising and unexpected manner: a demented kind of logic where structure was dictating the character’s actions, not vice-versa. It’s a very playful and self-aware film, it’s about the process of storytelling and film-construction, but we also wanted to make it fun and accessible for an audience that care more about a good story than industry-in-jokes.
We originally tested out the script as a theatrical piece in a small performance space underneath the London Bridge railway arches, and were so pleased with the result, and had such great feedback from the audience (they laughed), that we decided to go ahead and turn the script into a half-hour film.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
We describe this film as a Screwball Noir. It’s fast paced, funny, and will appeal to people who love cinema. It’s set in the 1940s, the Golden Era of the Hollywood studio system, and has an absurd, dark comic tone. There is a lot that sets this film apart from the majority of short films that you’ll find at a festival, but above all, it’s entertaining.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
This film is about rivalry. It’s about ambition and your reach exceeding your grasp. Although there’s a farcical lightness to the film, the themes it deals with are extremely relatable. Really, they were born out of conditions under which we wrote it - two arrogant, stubborn, insecure screenwriters butting heads in their attempt to collaborate.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
The overall shape of the script was established in the first draft, and the plotting is quite tight, so there was limited scope for cutting it down. However, we made some really significant improvements over a series of redrafts - at one point we put the script aside for several months, and came back to it with fresh eyes. The final big change happened in the edit: we wanted to reduce the run-time by a couple of minutes which forced us to think quite creatively about how to modify a few parts of the film. We ended up cutting a couple of lines and restructuring the opening sequence. In the end it not only reduced the run-time, but significantly improved the pacing and the effectiveness of the comedy.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
We have had excellent feedback. A lot of the audiences so far have been a little biased since they are weighted with friends and family, but the feedback at festivals has been extremely gratifying, and just the fact of our inclusion in the Official Selection for LA Shorts Fest means a great deal.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Not really. The only real criticism we have had has been of the length of the film, which we were aware was a problem from the outset. However, the thing we’ve heard frequently is “it doesn’t feel like half and hour”, which, although it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a long short film, indicates that we have done well on the pacing.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
We’re just very keen for people to see the film. We think it’s funny and enjoyable and interesting and unusual, and we’d like to share that with people. Of course, we’re working hard to develop our careers as well, and the more reach we can get, the better.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
We are keen to get out to more festivals and make this film visible, so we’d love to work with any of those. On the other hand, we’re busy working on our next projects (all of which we are very excited about), so we’re not feeling the need to push Over My Dead Body! too vigorously (unless an opportunity presents itself).
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
We feel like this film is a very good indicator of what we do - what we’re interested in and how we work. We want the film to be out there so that if you meet us or hear about us and want to know what we’re about, we can point you towards Over My Dead Body! and that will explain us.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Is there something that we get from genre fiction that is lacking in more naturalistic film-making?
How much dialogue is too much dialogue?
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
The writer/directors James King and James Carney are collaborating on a feature film script - a sci-fi thriller called THE LAB, and also putting together a theatre project involving puppetry, called CELESTIAL APE (with James King writing and James Carney developing the performance side). Independently (but with lots of discussion and note-giving) they are both working on separate short and feature film projects and television pilot scripts. James Carney has completed a short comedy based on an English folk tale and is now pursuing funding.
The DoP, Jon Muschamp is coming to the end of a degree in Cinematography at the National Film and Television School (NFTS).
Interview: September 2016
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Over My Dead Body!
Two talentless screenwriters, forced to share a cramped, sweaty studio lot writers room in 40s Hollywood, race for a deadline, stopping at nothing to outdo each other -- even if it mean MURDER!
James King & James Carney
James King & James Carney
James King & James Carney
About the writer, director and producer:
James King has worked for numerous film production and distribution companies, and for Oscar-nominated producers. He is now Theatrical Sales Manager at Curzon Artificial Eye.
James Carney is an actor as well as screenwriter and director. His experience ranges from film to immersive theatre to clowning to classical theatre.
James Carney, Tom Moores, Georgia Clarke-Day
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists):
Funded through Kickstarter
Made in association with:
The Heritage Arts Company
Where can I watch it in the next month?
We are screening at LA Shorts Fest on Thursday 8th September (3.15pm screening). If you miss it there you’ll be able to find the film on our website - www.scaffoldfilms.com