I don’t know about any other working film or TV writers, but there have never been any writer groupies waiting outside the soundstage for me. Honestly, I’m okay with that, for three reasons. First, I look like Larry Bird’s ugly older brother, so I know it would never happen. Second, even if in some strange alternate universe, it ever did happen, I would have no idea where to go with the opportunity. And third, I’ve been happily wed to my wife for 29 years, and I totally married out of my league, so I’m not looking to mess that up.
But the one area of my life where I know some young aspiring writer thing might actually throw herself at me is the area of what’s stored on my hard drive. That is, those file folders full of documents related to the various film and television projects I’ve worked on. Treatments, outlines, drafts of scripts, notes from the studio. The good, bad and ugly. The juicy details of the development process.
So, here at Brianbird.net, I intend to open up the .pdf vault from time to time for the few of you desperate for inside knowledge. I do so for your reading and educational enlightenment, and I hope in some cases… your pleasure. (These resource posts will also end up in the READING ROOM section of the site).
Not Easily Broken
First up is an array of .pdfs from my film, Not Easily Broken, a relationship drama released in 2009 by Sony/TriStar. The film was directed by Bill Duke and starred Morris Chestnut and Taraji P. Henson, fresh off her Academy Award-nominated role in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
I was approached in 2006 by Sony and Bishop TD Jakes who wrote the novel on which the script was to be to based. Below are some of the written stepping stones along the way, including additional documents so you can travel the development process with me.
After I turned in my first draft of the treatment, the studio felt we needed “more testosterone,” so that’s when I pitched a story element not in the novel that allowed us to get our main male characters, played by Chestnut, Eddie Cibrian, comedian Kevin Hart and Wood Harris, strutting around without their shirts on: street basketball. (You’re welcome, Ladies).
During a particularly enlightening notes session with Bishop Jakes and Director Bill Duke, we determined that we still needed more “man-stuff” in the script and it came to me that what they were really asking for was a male version of “Waiting to Exhale.” When I pitched that archetype to them, the lights went on for all of us. The Bishop, who had written another book called He-Motions, said he believed that the stereotype of strong, silent males never telling each other their emotional business was completely inaccurate. So I went back to work and came up with a bunch of new material in the script where, in fact, our guys did confide their deepest fears, feelings and burdens with each other. And the scenes became some of my favorite, and funniest, in the film.
There were a few additional scenes I wrote on set during production. Here is one Bill Duke asked me to write because we needed some comic relief in what was clearly a relentlessly dramatic third act. I wrote this in about an hour and Kevin Hart, playing the character of “Tree,” used it as a jumping off point.
And finally, during the marketing wind-up to the release of the film, here is a post I was asked to write for the Bishop’s blog.
In conclusion, perhaps it goes without saying, but please don’t try to sell or stage your own version of Not Easily Broken. The powers-that-be might frown on that, and lawyers would send me and you annoying, nasty letters.
Happy reading… I hope.