Murder in London
With their thesis collections at Central Saint Martins looming on the horizon, two fashion graduate students make a pact. American Jo Miller,
short on talent but long on familial standing, will assume authorship of Hackney native Eleanor James’s masterful designs. After Eleanor’s work catapults Jo into the strata of Europe’s fashion elite, her addictions and jealousies threaten to derail their ambitions. When a cunning detective from Scotland Yard begins asking questions about Jo’s past, his inquiries and passion threaten to destroy their lives.
The forced alliance and then primal rivalry between Jo and Eleanor creates a diabolical clash that is wrought with tension. At stake are moral, philosophical and even cultural values as Jo buys her way to success in the fashion world while exploiting Eleanor's superior, yet volatile talent. The elegant and witty Alex provides not only the perfect object for a fatal love triangle, but also a foil from which an erotic and psychological thriller is artfully constructed. The narrative cleverly employs red herrings and minute details to toy with the audience, while building towards an explosive, Shakespearean conclusion where Jo and Eleanor's rivalry degenerates to its most primal level. The dialogue is the shining star of the story, exhibiting flair, economy and memorable wit in nearly every scene.
The script blends the more salacious and captivating elements of Black Swan and The Talented Mr. Ripley. As an erotic thriller and a Shakespearean drama the story is brilliantly rendered through arresting dialogue and complex, layered characters. Jo, Eleanor, and Alex offer attractive roles for even some of the top young actors in the industry today. Not only is this script indicative of a rare talent, it already holds commercial potential in its current form.
This screenplay is a sharp, modern day film noir deftly hidden behind the world of fashion. JO and ELEANOR are polar opposites, except in their desire to succeed in this high-stakes business; their passive/aggressive behavior a perfect plot device to fuel their hero/adversary flip-flop that reads as a cliff-hanger right up to the story's FADE OUT end. ALEX, the Scotland Yard rogue hot on the trail of deceased rising star, NATHAN SIMS, is an unexpected legacy roadblock that assists story advancement with a steamy love triangle reader/audience expects from this genre, the personal foibles/demons of Alex/Eleanor playing right into Jo's femme fatale plan. The dialogue is funny and biting at turns, the script developing into some Stephen King/PROJECT RUNWAY hybrid, it's progeny a poison concocting star. What starts off as some sweet, non-threatening "across the pond," handshake slowly simmers conflict and rising stakes to a boil two-thirds; Jo, Alex and Eleanor bringing out the perceived best and obvious worst in one another, pressure cooking this whodunit all the way up until the final scene/shot. This is a surprising read, its benign start gaining speed at just the right intervals, begging reader/audience forward.
This script has great potential, PROJECT RUNWAY and THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA having already shown that the high-stakes world of fashion can bring a lucrative return to screen scenarios - both small and large. This new take on an old idea (Vogue with a deadly twist) might have been penned at just the right time - and with some solid American/UK casting - this story could resonate with young and old on both sides of the "pond" - and beyond. A world of casting possibilities fill the eyes as the script reads/unfolds -- always a good sign that there is indeed film potential in the material.
To be fair, readers had their first-draft criticisms, which we've addressed with significant input. Still, even a lukewarm review had this to say:
It's also refreshing to see female characters depicted in such a strong and multidimensional way that treats their romantic entanglements as secondary for most of the story. The setting is convincing through the writer's sophisticated sensibility and attention to specificity. While it could use some tuning, the dialogue is consistently witty with an elevated quality worthy of a movie that would be uniquely quotable.
I made friends with an editor at a publishing company here in New York. I didn't know he was an editor at the time, and I certainly didn't know that he had written books as well. He studied creative writing in Vermont, graduating from an M.F.A. program and the whole nine.
The editor has subsequently started a small press of his own, and has published two writers to date. He said he would publish me, and I hope to write this as a novella one day. I parked the domain along with some fancy business cards, and have sold several unwritten copies.
I have a Tax ID number and wholesale account with a high-end toy company in Miami. They make animal figurines in conjunction with biologists at The San Diego Zoo, so they're not just guessing over there. I've exchanged correspondence with the CEO over the years, but I certainly don't know him or anything.
However, I definitely know the writer/editor/publisher, and I admire him greatly. He's seen me sell high-end toys to discerning baddies, and we're confident I could sell a novella on a grassroots level. (Especially one published by a legitimate third party.) If I get my Uppercut manuscript off the mat via a literary agent I similarly admire? The Indian family tale could travel well, domestically and internationally.
Either way, Murder will be next.
We'll cross that London bridge when we come to it, but it's always nice to set lofty, tangible goals.
Also, a manuscript is so much more fun to write, given the depth and freedom the medium affords. Not to mention the creative control .
The open scene of a screenplay like Murder in London is dry by both design and nature, and it reads like this:
INT. HOUSE - NIGHT
NATHAN SIMS (25) runs for his life. He sprints as fast as he can through a dimly-lit, spartan home. Dark blood, hot and thick, surges from his throat. A KILLER is in pursuit.
Nathan barrels into a column of paperbacks on his way out of one room. He overturns a chair on his way into another.
A knife slashes through air, advancing with haste, before brutally stabbing Nathan. His legs tremble, then give way.
Nathan Sims collapses in a pile. He gurgles and chokes on his own blood, then slowly passes away. His Killer leaves.
Meanwhile, that same opening scene in a novel or novella reads like this:
Nathan staggered forward. Dark blood, hot and thick, surged from his throat. The cut from the knife was clean. Nathan was aware of a body acting on instinct -- lurching for the door and gurgling for help -- while his mind remained still. As time slowed, it wasn't life that flashed before him, but all of the loose, frayed ends he had yet to tie up. When people die unexpectedly, he thought, their affairs aren't in order. Literally, in some cases, their affairs aren't in order. A man dies, and his wife hears rumors about a series of extramaritals. A woman dies, and her husband learns the truth about the son that was never his. For Nathan Sims, the untied ends came in the form of three vices his mother would soon stumble upon. Not if she kept his room a shrine of sorts, but Nathan knew she was hardly the type. They had even discussed it once, those torn mothers soaking in the marinade of their own grief, turning their children's bedrooms into some awful amalgam of diorama and dollhouse.
No, Mrs. Sims would sweep and mop through the pain. The heart doesn't move on, my dear, but the house does. Dissenting opinion and yellow cleaning gloves in hand, she would find the missing bottle of Madeira, a reunion with which her husband had long given up on.
She would willfully ignore -- then begrudgingly acknowledge -- the chalky bags of heroin, carelessly hidden between tight stacks of vinyl.
It was the third evil, however, a specific genre of Internet pornography, that would come to diminish her memories. It wasn't that Nathan’s base appetites were masochistic, misogynistic, or otherwise grotesque. Strident as his mother was, she would have preferred all of that to any of this. For in two weeks' time, Mrs. Sims would see that her darling son's digital stash was marked and distinguished, not by the presence of naked women, but by the absence of naked women.
Nathan shuddered at the thought of her reaction. Then he collapsed, heaved, and died alone on the floor.
The first time Jo Miller got in trouble with the New York Police Department, they knocked on her front door. The second time Jo Miller got in trouble with the New York Police Department, she knocked on theirs.
You get the idea.
The script would do well for itself. The coverage above is from a first draft. I later developed it with a writer and studio-based producer.
He thought that initial draft could be something that premieres at Toronto or Cannes. His agent at CAA disagreed. I cut it from 130 to 109.
The female characters aren't likable, but they are interesting As is the story, as is the detective in pursuit. It may be be my third best script, but that's only because it lacks warmth. It has humor and wit, but it's cold-blooded and reptilian. The other two are very huggable stories.
It may be my third best script, but it's also the one I'm most proud of. I'm like that I'm the kind of guy who would even want to work on this going on eleven years now. I thought of it while on the way pick up my girlfriend at the St. James train station in 2012. A year later, during the Summer of 2013, I started and finished it in four months. And if Callie Khouri was attached to direct my “Monogamous Duck” script, like, she won an Academy Award for writing “Thelma and Louise.” There are sandwiches and cocktails named “Thelma and Louise.”
Callie beat out John Singleton, who was nominated for Best Original Screenplay and Best Director at age twenty-four.
Whether you're more or an olive oil or a butter type, I think I wrote one of the best scripts ever written about two women:
1) The Accused
3) Black Swan
4) Boys Don't Cry
5) Heavenly Creatures
6) Imitation of Life
7) Thelma and Louise
8) Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
9) Working Girl
10) Murder in London (I can't really name many movies starring two women as opposed to three or a flat-out ensemble, but I'm all ears.)