Joy comes in the morning

JC TitleIt’s unusual for me as a screenwriter to come across someone’s life story that I feel so compelled to chase on my own. Normally, producers find stories, option the rights, then hire to me to help draft the scripts. Two recent movies I co-wrote were Extraordinary and Indivisible both based on true stories.  One comes out in Fall 2017 and the other in 2018. Even though I love coming up with original works of fiction, there’s just something about working on true stories. People relate to them because of that raw honesty that can come from people’s life experiences.

Marcus and Maryann Kauffman

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What has turned into the screenplay, Joy Comes, is the story that captured my heart and hasn’t let go since I started working on it.

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It’s about firefighter, Marcus Kauffman, who was shot in North Carolina during a home invasion robbery in Dec. 2013 when his wife, Maryann, was 7 months pregnant with their first child. The aftermath of what happened to this family and how they responded to the shooters is extraordinary. The way the family, especially Marcus’ parents and Maryann, were outspoken about their faith really caught my attention in news stories and videos. I felt for this young woman, facing life as a new mother without her husband. I couldn’t imagine going through what she went through. Seeing what God has done with her life since shows me how big our God is.

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Even though I followed their story from Facebook newsfeed shares, what really caught my attention was an article that Christian Healthcare Ministries wrote about Maryann in March 2014, after her baby Landon was born. I hadn’t really thought of it in terms of a movie story at that point. It was the way the family lived through this tragedy that inspired me through their online presence.

Sheila Walsh once wrote in one of her books about how she looked at a situation someone she knew was going through but didn’t understand how they were able to make it through the tragedy. Then she felt God whisper to her spirit that she didn’t know how she’d deal with it because it wasn’t her trial. God hadn’t given her the grace to go through it like she’d given her friend.

That concept struck me deeply.

Especially as I watched this remarkable young woman, Maryann, go through an extreme trial I found unimaginable–as a newlywed myself at the time–with such grace and forgiveness on her heart.

In 2015, after my husband and I had relocated from Los Angeles to Georgia, I thought of her, since she lives in Georgia as well. I checked online to see how her life was progressing for her and her son. As I read the updates, that’s when the idea for sharing her story through a film was born. Thankfully, after reaching out to both sides of the family and meeting with them, they were open to giving this a try. They allowed me to option the rights to try to produce this as a film.  And I recently completed the screenplay.

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Maryann, Cheryl

My hope is to honor Marcus and share Maryann’s story and honor God through a feature film that I hope to produce in Georgia. Joy Comes still needs a lot of elements to make that dream come true. But I’ve believed this story must be told from the beginning. I hope God leads and that others will help me pull that off.

Meeting both Marcus and Maryann’s family has been life changing for me. Here are some photos that my husband and I took during our visits with Marcus’ family in North Carolina and Maryann’s family in Georgia:

20160604_125802Cheryl, Linda Kauffman, David A. Kauffman

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David, Landon, Maryann, Cheryl

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Sarah, Barbara Ann, Ashley, Maryann, Cheryl, Margaret

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David, Maryann, Cheryl, Chris

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Margaret, Sarah, Milton, Barbara Ann, Seth, Ashley, Maryann, David, Landon, Cheryl

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Brian, Josiah, Cheryl & Cheryl, Linda, David

 

I don’t want to blog too much about their full story to save some for the potential movie to come. But I have no doubt the world will be blessed by getting to know this family. It’s a story that shows, “Weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5, WEB)

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“I love how God turns the devil’s curses and things he throws at us to try to trip us up into some of the biggest blessings we could ever imagine. That’s my God.”

– Marcus Kauffman

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Indivisible: Based on a True Story

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As a writer, every movie that gets made is a dream come true. I believe stories have the power to change hearts and the world.

I had the extreme privilege of working on a feature film based on a true story about a U.S. Army Chaplain, Darren Turner. I got to work with David Evans, the co-writer and director of Indivisible. (He also did the movie The Grace Card.) I have a new love for movies about marriages.

From IMDB story synopsis: “Upon returning from serving in the U.S. Army, Chaplain Darren Turner faces a crisis that shatters his family and faith in God but through the help of former soldiers, they help him return to his faith and family.”

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It’s always neat to see what you envision on the page come to life. Through the cast, set design, locations etc. Movie making takes a lot of people and teamwork. I was very impressed with Calvary Church in Memphis for the many ways they gave of themselves tirelessly in support of the production team.  They also blanketed this project in prayer 24-7. It showed; God’s hand was all over this.

My hubby and I also got the chance to be extras in a scene. I love sharing these experiences with him:

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We really enjoyed meeting some of our cast: Sarah Drew (Grey’s Anatomy) who is also one of our producers, Justin Bruening, Tia Mowry, Samara Lee, Madeline Carroll, Abigail Hummel, Leyah Brown, Lucas Boyle.

I love this screen family photo Sarah Drew shared on Twitter. They look so great together:

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We also enjoyed meeting some great people on the crew. Bob Scott was our D.P. (War Room). Rebekah Cook, Gwendelynn Martindale, and our BTS crew.

I’m very thankful for Bill Reeves, the Working Title Agency team and the Provident team for inviting me to the party on this project.  It was fun to see two of them on set: (Bill Reeves & Laurie Chimento.)

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Lastly, we really loved meeting director / co-writer David Evans and his wife, Esther. Lovely people with great hearts. I loved knowing what he was envisioning from the page and then seeing him realize this dream.

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I look forward to seeing this story released in 2018.

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Extraordinary, the Movie

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We had a wonderful time in Lynchburg, VA visiting the set of my next movie. I co-wrote Extraordinary, which is the true story of Ultra-Marathon legend, David Horton. It was such fun to see the talented cast and crew bringing the story to life.

Scotty Curlee (producer, director, co-writer) has such great vision and innovative ideas for visuals. My husband and I learned a lot just watching him and his team work.

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David Horton is being played but Canadian actor / comedian, Leland Klassen. (We enjoyed discussing the story of my dual citizenship between US and Canada.)

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David Horton’s wife, Nancy, is being played by Shari Rigby (who we loved in the film, October Baby. I’m currently reading her riveting autobiography, Beautifully Flawed.) What a wonderful lady, inside and out.

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I was so happy Karen Abercrombie was cast in this film as Nina. I’ve written a project for her before, and then she played the forever-memorable role of “Miss Clara” in War Room. Cameron Arnett was cast as her husband, Mike. That was a thrill for us since we met him at our first film industry event in Atlanta.

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Two very delightful actresses to spend time with on set were Lindsley Register (as Allison Horton) and Taylor Lyons (as Becky).

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While I don’t have pictures of them, we also enjoyed getting to know other cast members, like Alex Bartz, Jeremy Webb, Chris Ashworth, and Jamie Ridgeway. Kirk Cameron is also in the cast but wasn’t shooting while we were in town.

Chris and I got to be extras during a race scene. Scotty put us right by the lead cast, so we had many opportunities to get to know them during the long days of standing around and “acting” when the cameras rolled:

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I can’t show too many set pictures because I don’t want to give away any story points. But here’s a few of Chris and I hanging around some locations:

And since it’s about a runner…why not get my running on?

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It was a joy to meet our Line Producer, Justin Tolley. I’ve heard wonderful things about him for years about his work on sets. He and his wife, Kara, shared their son’s first birthday with us on set.

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I have to say being on set reminded me why I love what I do. I love to connect with people, to use story to touch the hearts of others. Extraordinary is a story with a lot of heart to it, and it shares about the importance of prioritizing marriage and family. No goals or dreams should overshadow that. Not even my own desires for movie-making. This story will serve as a great reminder.

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Stop Waiting on Hollywood To Tell Your Story

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If you are anything like me as a writer, you don’t like waiting to see your work come to life. It’s often a long wait between movies getting filmed. I have one movie I co-wrote that is in production right now, but it’s been years since that’s happened. I’m thankful that during those years between I get the opportunity to work in novelizations. And that’s the process where my scripts get turned into novels.

I’m so thankful I was able to get to know the talented novelist, Rene Gutteridge, after she novelized my script for The Ultimate Gift. We went on to work on Never the Bride, Greetings from the Flipside, Love’s a Stage and O Little Town of Bethany. I also novelized Song of Springhill on my own, a story I’ve been working on since the late 90s. I so appreciate having an outlet to share stories, instead of waiting on productions to get funded. Releasing a story this way, I know it will get told in this one way. But naturally, the hope is it will also get considered as a film once it gains a reader base.

Have you thought of adapting your scripts into novels, so you could get in published while waiting for someone to take notice of your script?

Rene and I teach how to do this through our Udemy class, which is a mix of videos and PDF docs of our How To book. We’re offering this to friends, family and followers of our blogs for 50% off the original $30 price. So you can get the class for $15. So if this interests you, use the link below to get the discount.

https://www.udemy.com/novelizations-how-to-adapt-scripts-into-novels/?couponCode=Novel15

Here’s a description of the class from the Udemy website:

Are you a screenwriter who has wondered what it would be like to write your script as a novel? Are you tired of not seeing your work produced? Releasing your story as a novel is a great way to get it out there and see if you can find an audience. This could help Hollywood take notice. Novelizing your script is also a way to share your story with the world and not wait anymore. Especially in the age when self-publishing is available to all of us. I got tired of waiting for “Hollywood” to decide my stories were worth telling and started getting into the novelizations process after my film, The Ultimate Gift, was produced. I’ve done six of these now. One novelization on my own, and five with my writing partner, Rene Gutteridge, who has been a published novelist over thirty times. She’s also a produced screenwriter. This class will walk you through what has to change from screenwriting to novel writing. Rene Gutteridge joins me for quite a few of the video lectures so you have an expert in screenwriting and an expert in novel writing teaching this class. Each section has PDF downloads. Together these include all segments of our published book Novelizations: How to Adapt Scripts Into Novels. You’ll see real live samples from many of our published works so you can get a complete understanding for how a screenplay translates into the very different writing form of a novel.

PLEASE NOTE: Udemy estimates this class has 4.5 hours of lecture content. This includes both video lectures and written PDF documents. The run time on video content is approx. 100 minutes.

 

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Merry Christmas

Christmas. It’s my favorite time of year. And my favorite type of story to write involves Christmas. That’s a good thing this year since I worked on quite a few projects with Christmas themes. One was an episode of CBN’s Superbook, a Bible series for kids. I wrote what will be their 2016 Christmas episode.

The other was a script, then a novella called O Little Town of Bethany. This story is near to my heart as it captures the life of a girl who needed to figure out how to live a life worth remembering. Making memories is one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season. Traditions within my family drives my excitement this time of year. And the older lady in the story, Bethany, is losing her memory. I can’t imagine what I would be like to one day not remember it’s Christmas. These were themes that excited me in creating this story in script form first. Then I teamed up with my favorite novelist on the novella, Rene Gutteridge. We hope this story will become a Christmas tradition and encourage families to build traditions together.

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O Little Town of Bethany: inspirational holiday romance (Hometown Romance) (KINDLE)

Synopsis:

Holly left her unhappy life behind, hoping for a Christmas miracle…

Everything about Holly Truesdale’s existence is, well…forgettable. The only good memory of her childhood is their family Christmas in the quaint town of Bethany. Tired of the high society life, Holly leaves the big city, longing to recover the sense of belonging she felt in the Victorian town. She opens a scrapbooking store, ready to help others preserve the important moments she missed as a child.

Holly is drawn to Liam, the widower who runs the B&B next door, but doesn’t fully trust herself in a new relationship. As Holly and Liam grow closer, Holly becomes concerned for the town matriarch, Miss Bethany. But even as Yuletide celebrations are in full swing, Holly and Liam can’t help but notice that Miss Bethany harbors a secret. One that could change Christmas in Bethany forever…

Love’s a Stage: a novel

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Today marks the release of one of two novels coming out this fall as part of my partnership with Rene Gutteridge and now Redbud press. Both are based on my screenplays. This first one is called Love’s a Stage. After I got married, I started to notice a lot of marriages around us crumbling. I wanted to explore themes of what it means to keep vows and how to make marriage last. My quirky, yet good-hearted lead character may go through great (and often comical) lengths to save a marriage while also learning along the way what it takes to make a marriage work and to find a lasting true love.

Hope you enjoy the read and to one day bring you the feature film version:

Love’s a Stage (Hometown Romance) (KINDLE)

SYNOPSIS for Love’s a Stage:

Grad student and future marriage counselor Aly Brewster had a perfect childhood with perfect parents. Now she’s heading into her own perfect life: Finish her Master’s. Build a successful practice. Husband at twenty-six. But when her parents blindside her with the news they’re getting divorced, her perfect world shatters.

Actor Nick Armstrong has been in love with Aly since they met during freshman year. He’s happy to accept his assigned place in her Friend Zone because it lets him be close to her. But it’s been over five years—time to move on. Then the usually-unflappable Aly comes to him begging for help to save her parents’ marriage. Nick has the perfect plan: fake an engagement to each other to inspire her parents to fight to save their marriage. And who knows? It might trigger Aly’s feelings for him. But when Aly takes the ruse to the next level—planning a wedding in her parents’ backyard and hiring additional actors to play his family—enough is enough!

As the lines between acting and reality grow decidedly blurred, these two improvised fiancés must decide: are they going to finish the play…or exit stage right. Alone.

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Later this fall, our other novella will be out. We participated in a book of novellas called The Boy Next Door, where all the authors wrote different love stories about falling for the boy next door. The one Rene Gutteridge and I wrote is called O Little Town of Bethany.

We’ll let ya know when it’s out.

Both projects have scripts available for production.

Here’s a sneak peek at the cover:

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A little spoof on Doritos Crash the Super Bowl Contest

Here’s a little commercial we shot while we were home for Christmas as a bit of a spoof on all of those Crash the Superbowl commercials for Doritos. We’ve had many friends enter the contest over the past few years, and known quite a few winners who aired during the Super Bowl.

Of course, given the story of ours, we couldn’t enter ourselves with this one. Doritos wouldn’t be very interested. However, this is based on a humorously true story. When it happened, we knew we had to shoot it.

My nephew Jake, the kid starring in this, came home from a home school convention much wiser about health foods. When my husband, Chris (the other star of this commercial) was about to eat Doritos, Jake threw this fit, trying to take them away so he could let him know all the bad ingredients they contained. I won’t tell you how the situation turned out. You’ll have to watch.

Enjoy the little story we call: “Doritos Interception”

BOOK REVIEW: Song of Springhill by Cheryl McKay

Here’s a new review of Song of Springhill by author Janice L. Dick.

Janice L. Dick

Song of SpringhillSong of Springhill is a historical romance, a work of fiction built around a true story that will touch your heart and soul. In 1956, in the town of Springhill, Nova Scotia, Canada, an explosion killed 39 coal miners. One man in particular, Charles Hugh McKay, survived because he had changed shifts with another miner. Author Cheryl McKay is the granddaughter of this man, who also survived the Bump (underground earthquake) of 1958, which killed 75 men. With her connections and encouragement from her father, Cheryl researched the Springhill Mining Disasters and wrote this novel. An accomplished author, screenwriter and producer (see my interview with Cheryl on last week’s blog), Cheryl brought together the details and formed them into a beautiful love story.

Being Canadian, I had heard of the Springhill Mining Disasters, but reading this fictionalized account brought the events close to my heart. These were real people who…

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Author Interview with Cheryl McKay

Author Janice L. Dick interviewed me for her website. Check it out here:

Janice L. Dick

Today’s author interview takes us to Los Angeles, California to speak with Cheryl McKay, author and screenwriter, as well as producer. Hello, Cheryl and thanks for taking time to share with my blog readers and me.

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Janice: How long have you been writing and how did you come to it?

CHERYL:  It started around the time I was 5 years old. I wrote a play based on my Winnie the Pooh lunch box and we acted it out for neighborhood kids. I was always writing plays and short stories. I wrote about 10 plays the year I was fifteen. Well, that’s what I called them. I didn’t realize they were actually screenplays. (Too many locations to be on a stage.) I’d write them on loose paper and then recopy neatly into a notebook, and that was my idea of “rewriting.” I began to study screenwriting in…

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