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****Drew Fortune’s and Spain Willingham’s BEAST MODE is #162 in the never-ending series called INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific excerpt from a fiction genre and how that fiction writer wrote that specific excerpt. All INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION links are at the end of this piece
Name of fiction work and fiction genre? How many pages? How long is the film? Beast Mode, a screenplay and movie
SPAIN WILLINGHAM: The movie is 90 minutes. It’s an hour and a half which equals 86 -88 pages. Some movies give or take are different. Generally it’s a minute a page.
What is the summary of Beast Mode?
SPAIN: Well it’s got a little bit of Bowfinger and a little bit of Weekend at Bernie’s. Basically it is about a producer who gets involved with a pretty big A list actor. And he’s basically down to one client left and it’s kinda like JERRY MAGUIRE – he’s got one big client in his Rolodex left and they got a movie coming up and this could change everything. Something really not so wonderful happens to his client and they’re trying to salvage what they can and make sure that they can still make the movie for said client. And low and behold they find some cream, a special supernatural cream that when applied can really do wonders and it kind of makes a difference if you’re a good person or not because the cream can really do good for you if you are good but if you are just an eternally damned soul it’s going to come out and the cream is going to show that and it’s going to cause a lot of bad things.
It’s kind of like when people get to Hollywood they’re innocent and they’re pure. Then they start doing Hollywood deals and going to like Hollywood parties. The person that got to Hollywood years ago is not the same person. It’s happened with my friends and some of Drew’s friends we ‘d be like, “What happened to you?” Hollywood. I mean it happens in real life all the time. We’re trying to do a social commentary on that but also a monster movie or a comedy at the same time.
DREW: I should mention C. Thomas Howell (his character Breen Nash) has the biggest flop in movie history credited to him so he literally has one last shot to make a movie that will do fine.
DREW FORTUNE: Spain had just moved to LA and it was exciting to have an old friend in L.A. and L.A. is a really cool place – and you don’t usually have close friends. So we're both kind of looking for a little project. I was working for the L.A. Weekly in the evenings primarily at the time but I always wanted to write a movie so Spain explained this little monster movie within the movie scenario and he said, “What if it opens basically with a director who screws something up very badly?” And I was like “yea that’s something we can explore” and our imaginations kind of went weird.
How did you come up with the idea of Beast Mode?
SPAIN: For me a lot of people will start with an idea and eventually, the name, that is the most important because that is the first thing people notice is the name of the movie. One day I was hanging out with a buddy in San Francisco and he said, “Beast Mode” those two words to me – I had never heard those two words together – we got some crazy drinking. Yea you guys turn one on and he goes “Beast Mode dude.” Basically that just got me kind of going. I thought that was such a cool thing and it was before the NFL player Marshawn Lynch had named himself Beast Mode.
Beast Mode – it was just kind of a glitter hashtag and I said that is the name of my next movie. Instead of coming up with the idea for it I have to have the name of the title first. I started just thinking about it and I’m a big fan of movies within movies and the film takes in the world of the film industry so I started thinking: Wouldn’t it be funny if they were making a monster movie and you really became the monster? And I hadn’t really seen that before, especially taking place within the world of filmmaking.
What are the dates you began writing this piece of fiction and the date when you completely finished the piece of fiction?
SPAIN: 2013 and finished it mid-2014. We finished the screenplay in the summer of 2014
DREW: When you write something and you finished it’s like Yah we are done! We did it! The End. Then it’s like, “oh daddy there’s a lot of revisions to do. ” We did four or five revisions just between Spain and I. If you start to look at the logistics of something that was do you have any idea what that would cost? You really have to look at whatever budget you have available, what might be available. And that’s when you start to really shape the shooting screenplay. That it’s something we can actually fall on.
SPAIN: The reason it took us so long is because you get a few investors involved and they're loving it and it turns out that maybe they invested in some other movies that didn’t quite make it as big as they wanted it to. So they kind of get cold feet. And I was already gung ho so we decided, “Hey even if we can’t film all of this, let’s film what we can. And we’ll come back to it and we will film it in stages.” And I just had to live with that for a little while.
Where did you do most of your writing for this fiction work?
SPAIN: We were in the room together a lot. And most of the time it was in my house in Hollywood and we would be hanging out and sometimes Drew would hop on the computer; sometimes I would hop on the computer but a lot of it was just joking around and talking about movies that we love without copying old movies – were just trying to have lots of fun influences and take stuff from old movies for people to see and say “okay I can see where they got that”. It is an album of a lot of 80s and 90s movies in one and we just thought like this melting pot of ideas could kind of be fun. Movies take themselves pretty seriously – these big spectacular, big-budget marvel movies and such. I think in the 80s they didn’t do that a lot of the time.
What were your writing habits while writing this work- did you drink something as you wrote, listen to music, write in pen and paper, directly on the laptop; specific time of day?
SPAIN: Write during the day.
DREW: I don’t really have the Creative juices after 9’ o’clock pm.
SPAIN: We’d rather be watching horror movies.
DREW: A lot of crazy horror movies.
Were there any deletions from the Beast Mode screenplay that did not make it into the film?
SPAIN: Sometimes yes and sometimes we go “Hey: is this moment really going to be in the finished film or do we feel like this might have a chance of being on the cutting room floor”? You have to watch your film to movie ratio. How much you shot versus how much is in the ended film. You can’t shoot a thousand hours and your movie is an hour and a half. So we really have to be careful. You can’t get everything you want especially when we’re doing a multi-millionaire dollar movie for less than a million dollars. Very hard to pack all of that in. We’re dealing with celebrities and big equipment and tiptoeing on eggshells in every department. It was really tough. And I learned a lot. I think when I make my next film I’ll be a lot smarter
DREW: I really wanted a scene but conceptually I knew we couldn’t pull it off. There’s a beast that runs amuck in Hollywood. And one idea I had was he is running through Hollywood like a wild animal and runs into someone’s backyard (where) a couple are having sex while they’re in the hot tub. And I somehow wanted to see a death in the hot tub. Underwater. It got a bit more graphic and gross. That was just something when it came down to -no.
SPAIN: Drew and I had some deaths that didn’t get quite made. If you want to pull off super creative deaths go ahead and add another eight days to your production because you need days for the makeup crew to do these things. When you go, “Okay it’s time to do the gore.” But guys we have more hours left. And the gore guy is going, “Oh I’m so mad because you told me I’d have the time and now it’s going to look like crap on the movie.” And they are absolutely correct. And that’s just how it goes. You have to make the gore scenes their own week. You can’t do the movie and the gore – it never works. It’s happened twice now with me on two different movies. Now I know for certain I’m going to treat the gore scenes in the following movie like their own movie.
Did any actors change the screenplay as they were acting it out?
SPAIN: Well sometimes C. Thomas Howell being a very advanced actor, a seasoned actor, sometimes he would say, “Hey, let’s try it like this.” And I say, “Hey, let’s try it like that and this.” If you get too far down the day and you're not getting too much other scenes, you know getting jumped on, then you can do that. He was so professional and fun to work with. He had ideas sometimes that Chris (Freeman) the other director and I would look at each other and go, “That was great, C.T. Let’s try that too.” Only C.T. would really do that because the other actors weren’t the lead so they maybe didn’t feel too comfortable (that) it was their place to do that. I got to say C.T. bailed us out. He’s probably been in over 100 movies. He was really fun to work with. Being a not so seasoned director yet I have a lot to learn. Really wonderful having him.
What was the most rewarding part of the Beast Mode to write and to direct?
SPAIN: I think the all coming to the head, they all coming to a close was the most fun me to write because now you have to wrap up all these storylines. You had fun coming up with all these different characters and all their motivations. Everybody is coming to the same thing at the end of Beast Mode but maybe you didn’t think about the conclusion when you were writing all this so now you have to come up with creative ideas of how do we get everybody together to make the ending. That was really fun for me.
DREW: We have a character named Finnegan (portrayed by Teddy Margas) and that character became funnest for me to write. And I think he steals the show in the movie. And he’s so sleazy and out for blood.
SPAIN: And it’s Drew and I and Chris who come up with these moments and these characters. It’s only as good as the actors. We could write this awesome script but if we have the wrong actor it doesn’t convey and then people go, “That didn’t work for me.” But like Drew mentioned we wrote an awesome role for Finnegan. We got our friend Teddy Magas, who is this 375-pound comedian we know who is very physical and very funny and I didn’t see it for anyone (else). We wrote it for Teddy in our minds.
DREW: I think Spain came up with the idea of the cream and where it comes from the heart of the jungle in Amazon and writing the backstory for that, that’s when things really got fun. We took it out of just Hollywood and made it a more interesting film.
SPAIN: Writing. It is very comfortable. You can write in your bedroom, hanging out, ordering take out, but directing is not so fun. You just did 18 hours and now you get to go home for a couple of hours and then your back at it for 18 more hours. And that’s usually six days in a row. You have one day to reset. I don’t get that day to reset. The director is at the next location while the crew is resting. And then another six days of 18 hours. Production is brutal. It was tough. You have to know what you are filming is forever. What you are shooting is going to be a movie long after you die so you have to make sure that all that preparation wasn’t for nothing. You have to make sure however tired you are however hard it is –that’s the most important part.
DREW: In screenplays there is the “Interior” and the “Exterior” and, as a novice screenwriter, that is something that I didn’t think about the process. The logistics of things being in a bar or renting a bar just adds more money. We’re going off on a relative shoestring budget. That’s just things you have to think about. We got to limit our locations.
SPAIN: Some screenplays are overly descriptive, not a bad thing, but some are a little more vague and you can kind of talk about it in pre-production. “Hey you’re a little vague here let’s flesh this out.” You want to be detailed for as far as the production designers to go out. Are going to stage or are we going to rent a bar?
DREW: You know what else is kind of cool about Spain – we never fought. It’s a lot of fun and we know each other so well.
SPAIN: This was never put my down my foot I have to have this. That never happened. We know each other. We know each other’s tastes. There are some movies that Drew loves and I don’t love and vice versa but we know each other’s tastes so well. We know what we want to see.
When will Beast Mode be released?
SPAIN: We have been courted by a few distributors. They were sharks. They were not interested in helping us. They just wanted content. Finally we found the right distributor.
Beast Mode is coming out in Halloween, Fall of 2020.
What are the cast and crew of Beast Mode?
SPAIN: A movie is a collaborative effort and the director is just one person. I mean, credit to my cast and crew for helping us make such a fun movie. And I look forward to it when you see it.
Has Beast Mode received any awards?
SPAIN: Now and last year we did film festivals and we won five film festivals and everyone’s been really loving it.
It was all kind of a blur because they were all so close a lot of traveling and it was a lot of fun. Meeting people who had never met me or seen me but to see the thing I had done was actually awesome.
Kapow Intergalactic Film Festival (LA, California) - Winner - Best Feature Comedy
Toronto Independent Film Festival (TOR, Canada) - Winner - Best Horror Feature
Thriller Chiller Film Festival (Grand Rapids, MI) - Winner - Best Thrill
Hollywood Independent Film Festival and Awards (LA - Paramount Lot) - Winner - Silver Award
Another Hole in the Head Film Festival (SF - California) -Beast Mode closed the festival out with a screening on Sat night!
Anything you would like to add?
SPAIN: Chris Freeman and I are kind of business partners. And co-directors. This and another movie we want to make up next. And he had done a few movies previous to this. It was great to have him on set otherwise I would have been way over my head.
DREW: I have to give Spain and Chris Freeman massive credit because they kept this thing really focused on the script. I spent one day on the set. it was a blast because I’m just a writer. I just had fun that day. I was impressed.
SPAIN: Drew ended up being a cameo that day.
DREW FORTUNE is a pop-culture journalist and screenwriter, who has been actively publishing for the past ten years. He is a regular contributor to Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Vulture, but his writings on music, film, and television have been published in Cosmopolitan, Playboy, SPIN, Billboard, the A.V. Club, Stereogum, and many others. His favorite bands are Ween, Superchunk, and the Replacements. He loves fly fishing and loitering in record stores.
SPAIN WILLINGHAM has been involved in acting since he was 5 years old. After studying at various creative theaters and a few summers at Stagedoor Manor. Spain began his sketch comedy career while attending Columbia Film School in Chicago. The troupe was modestly successful, and upon graduating from He relocated to San Francisco where he made his first feature-length film, "the Pure Party". It was an experimental way to shoot a film; no script, all improv, but a year later Spain penned the screenplay to "First World Problems" and also directed and financed the Film.
He then made BEAST MODE and it will be released in 2020, starring C. Thomas Howell, James Duval, Ray Wise, James Hong and Leslie Easterbrook. The film won 5 film festivals in 2019. Spain is currently working on a several tv pilots as well as the feature screenplay for "Pink Mist" set to shoot in 2021. Spain lives in Atlanta, GA.
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