Screenwriting Update: I Just Watched A Rough Cut Of My Movie!!!

TypeMost of you know that I’m a screenwriter.  I sold my screenplay, The Retirement Party, to a little studio that went on to make the movie.  The flick has yet to be released and the studio hasn’t returned my calls for well over a year.

Then a couple of weeks ago, completely out of the blue, I received an email from one of the producers asking me to call him.  We played a very frustrating game of phone tag for the better part of a week, until we finally got a chance to talk.  It was an odd scene…I’m out on a quiet cul de sac in Maine, in sub-zero temperatures, talking by cell phone about a movie with a producer, who is on the set of another movie out in Los Angeles.

I can’t get into the details of that conversation because I need to leave that to the lawyers, so there’s still no news on whether the movie will ever be released.  However, this morning, a rough cut of the flick showed up in my inbox.

If none of you have ever seen a rough cut of a movie, let me explain.  There’s no music added yet, some of the effects haven’t been completed, and the sound might be horrible or, in some cases, missing entirely.

Nevertheless, it is a version of the movie from start to finish, and this would be my first chance to see more than just a two minute trailer.  For those of you new to this tale, The Retirement Party is a romantic comedy I wrote about one of my break ups.  The guy in the script is me, and the woman who broke my heart is based on the woman who crushed me in real life.  As you can imagine, watching the movie was a very surreal and personal experience for me.

The producers really got me pretty good early in the film.  Justin (see how I cleverly changed the protagonist’s name from Austin to Justin?) works at a psychiatric hospital just as I did when the real life events in the story occurred.  So, I almost fell off my couch when the establishing shot of the hospital came up on the screen and the sign read “The Austin Hodgens Psychiatric Center”!  Nice inside joke.

I must say, I was rather impressed with the outcome.  They were very loyal to my script aside from two minor changes that annoyed me.  One was that they changed the nickname of the girl who broke Justin’s heart from Pooky (which was what I really called the heart breaker) to Lily.  The other was that a crucial scene at the end of Act Two, which takes place in a grocery store in the script, was set in a laundry room in the film.  This was a scene without sound, so I have no idea if they tinkered with the dialogue as well.  While I normally wouldn’t care much about the setting of a scene, this one was important because Sam’s bizarre shopping habits reveal crucial information about her character.

I’ll come clean and admit that I cried during the one scene that always makes me cry when I read it in the script (how corny is it that the screenwriter cries upon reading his own words???).  The chemistry between Justin (Desmond Phillips) and his best friend Sam (Chelsea Cardwell) was amazing.  Rob Constantine and Ted Huckabee, who portray characters based on two of my best friends from college, made me feel like I was back at NYU hanging out with my boys.  Kelly Natividade, the only actor playing someone who was a complete figment of my imagination, was incredibly charming as Kate, the reporter who travels to Maine to discover if Justin is truly serious about retiring from dating.

UPDATE!  I had to pause in writing this post for an hour because I got a call from Matthias Saunders, the director of The Retirement Party.  He’d seen my status update on Facebook about watching the rough cut, and wanted to talk about it.  He had left the production after filming completed because of a dispute with the production company, so he has never seen a finished version of the film.  We had a very interesting conversation, which I can’t really detail at this point, but he made it clear that he would be willing to discuss returning to the project to oversee the editing.

I did, however, put Matthias on the spot about the laundry room scene and the Pooky change.  (When have you ever watched a movie and then immediately been able to demand that the director explain himself for the issues you had with the film???)  He said they couldn’t find a grocery store that would allow them to film there on the production’s tiny budget, so the laundry room was used instead.

As for the change from Pooky to Lily, he said that in rehearsals, Desmond had a lot of trouble saying the name and it didn’t sound natural coming out of his mouth.  So, Matthias made the executive decision to change it to Lily.

Since I am in a very happy place right now, I will disclose that Matthias and I are working together on another project based on one of my original scripts.  His update on that production was extremely positive, so keep your fingers crossed that I’ll have another screenplay in front of the cameras before the end of the year.

Well, that about wraps up this post.  It was a very busy and positive night in my screenwriting career.  The life of a screenwriter is terribly frustrating and often filled with rejection and feelings of hopelessness.  Tonight was one of those nights that reminded me why I have never given up on my dream.

Dream on, Modern Philosophers!  Don’t ever let anyone discourage you from going after what’s important to you…

About Austin

Native New Yorker who's fled to the quiet life in Maine. I write movies, root for the Yankees, and shovel lots of snow.
This entry was posted in Humor, Philosophy, Writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

109 Responses to Screenwriting Update: I Just Watched A Rough Cut Of My Movie!!!

  1. Yay!!!! Good luck with this going forward! 🙂

  2. Fingers crossed for you…. I know there are still a ton of potential hurdles, but I’m choosing to believe this is a good sign. 🙂

  3. tishjake says:

    Congrats! I hope that everything will work out and we will be able to watch this film soon.

  4. Sounds good! I’ll be crossing my fingers for you!

  5. loulouloves says:

    That is fantastic news, c

  6. List of X says:

    Congratulations! I’m really happy that this is happening, and I’m looking forward to seeing this movie!

  7. k8edid says:

    Yay!!! I’ve got a feeling this is going to happen…of course, it could be gas….nah this is gonna happen. Hoping for the best for you

  8. Woooooooo Hoooooooo I’m so happy for you and your experience! All the best for more wonderful news is the near future : )

  9. N.G. Davis says:

    So cool, man. Thanks for sharing!

  10. paulheels says:

    Awesome! Be great to see your style in motion.

  11. merbear74 says:


  12. Woohoo! Hope it makes it to the big screen!

  13. momshieb says:

    Well done!!! I’m excited for you!

  14. cilkee1 says:

    Cheers to your success!

  15. Wow! What fantastic news for you. And you’re already in the middle of your sequel – new girlfriend, creatures in your House on the Hill. 🙂 Having no idea about making a movie, what’s the next step? Can you reshoot the shopping scene?

    • No need to reshoot the shopping scene. Should they ever decide to release the movie, more post work would need to be done, actors would have to come in to record audio, and a soundtrack would need to be added. It’s all really out of my minds, but I’m hoping that I got the ball rolling last night by talking to the director and some of the actors…

  16. dhonour says:

    Wow! Congratulations!

  17. Luann says:

    Good for you!

  18. mypenandme says:

    Congratulations! 🙂

  19. mudlips says:

    Wonderful! What an amazing thing to see your story come to life on screen. A high like that surely must be melting some of the snow.

  20. Shards Of DuBois says:

    I’m so happy for you, I can only say this, I hope it’s a comedy because you are hillarious!! 😉

  21. elisapompili says:

    That is all very exciting! Have you ever watched the documentary “Tales From the Script”? It’s all about screenwriters, and words said by the screenwriters (particularly by the screenwriter of ‘Ghost’) is the reason I decided to publish my novel with Ambassador International. I highly recommend the documentary. (And my novel, but for today, just the documentary! :))

    I’m so happy you haven’t given up on your dream. If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, then what are you filling your days with? I often scroll through my blog reader on my phone, and frequently comment to my husband (about your posts), “How does he have so much clever stuff to say & write about?!” I am always impressed.

    I think you definitely belong behind a computer screen and a keyboard, click-clacking away, readying stories for the world to read/see. I look forward to eventually seeing one of your creations!

    • Thank you for all the kind words. Bruce Joel Rubin, thew screenwriter of Ghost, also went to NYU. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoy my stories. Can’t really explain where the ideas come from. Today’s post came to me while I was out shoveling snow. My brain is just weird and juicy with ideas! 🙂

  22. Such a dubious distinction to have a psychiatrist hospital named in your honor, but in this case, “Yay, you!”

  23. Glittermoon says:

    Yay! Congrats! Persistence pays off, right?

  24. queenlorene says:

    Obviously you are quite talented. I think you should write a screenplay on a character who writes a moviewriternyu themed blog about wacky events, then Don Quixote like, begins to believe them. Ties up all of you, including the horrid mental health thing, quite nicely don’t you think? I’ll take a modest “Thanks to Lori Pinkley for the Oscar Award Winning Screenplay.”

  25. susielindau says:

    Pooky? I agree and would go with Lily.
    So exciting! Congratulations!

  26. drishism says:

    This is very exciting. Congratulations! I had my first play produced in 2011, and it was amazing to see them perform it on the stage. But I was so nervous that I told the director I couldn’t be at the practices… I just met with the director and actors the first night of rehearsals and discussed the characters and theme of the story. I then told them I was scared but okay with whatever they did with it. I did not go to opening night, but I did go the following two nights… and they did an excellent job with it.

    It was only a 12 to 14 minute play, but it was nice to see. Sitting in the crowd I was nervous… and it felt great when the crowd laughed at the correct parts. I’m not sure what seeing a film/screenplay I wrote would be like, but I’m guessing the feeling would be similar to sitting in an audience at a film festival. Anyway, again, congratulations!

  27. since when are you a screenwriter?

  28. samantha045 says:

    That’s so awesome! Congrats!

  29. wheezyfj says:

    Congratulations! Much better than receiving recognition for amusing us in the blogosphere. 😉

  30. Paola Mata says:

    Very exciting! I hope I get to see it one day!

  31. Congrats! Hope you got paid and they spelled your name right.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s