Friday, 14 October 2011

Review and Interview with Screen-Writer Josepsh Chastain

A Sinner’s Bible
Screenplay by Joseph Chastain

Although I don’t normally review screenplays, I read this as a favor and had to say something about it.
A Sinner’s Bible reads quite easily for a screenplay and Joseph sets the story up quite well. The lead role, Steve, is a young man trying to juggle school and a job to help his mother, Rachel support them both. Life isn’t easy for them with his alcoholic father living elsewhere, trying to get his own life sorted out.
Of course there’s a love interest, in the lovely, but lost Ivy. As with everything else in life, it is far from perfect. Friends who don’t understand only seem to make Steve feel worse. As he runs away to try and start a new life all his own he finds out that running solves nothing; in fact it often makes a bigger mess.
As everyone around him lives their own lives, unconcerned with how he is coping, Steve is on an emotional downward spiral. When he is admitted to hospital for self-harm and his secret comes out everyone reacts differently. Friends reject him, his mother tries to reach out and his father, barely able to take care of himself, shows no interest.
This is a tragic, gritty story that portrays a darker side of life no one likes to admit to knowing. It is well written, with a believable plot and life-like twists, some of them quite cruel. A Sinner’s Bible is a no-gloss story to make us appreciate the good in life all the more. In the footsteps of American Beauty, I look forward to seeing this on the screen. 

This week I stray from my reviews and interview screen-writer Joseph Chastain about his newest screen-play, A Sinner's Bible.
Joseph, can you please tell the readers a little bit about the plot?

The plot revolves around a troubled young man and his relationships with his concerned, yet powerless mother, his estranged father and a girl he hopes to make his girlfriend. Little does he know the objects of his affection has sexual identity issues. The main conflict however, is character vs. self as he cuts himself to relieve himself of his pain. This is a simplistic version of the plot, as there are a ton of little intricacies in the story. 

What inspired A Sinner's Bible? Is it based on a particular event or person?

Portions of the script are autobiographical. I was a self injurer for a good portion of my life. Steve (the main character) is based on me. The rest of the characters are composites of other people in my life. The minor  character of Nova is loosely based on my friend Kendra. 

What messages in particular are you trying to pass on from this?

I have several themes, but one of the most prominent is recovering from the scars of your past. Another one is about poverty and it's effect on  those that suffer from it.

Have you begun to market this, started looking for directors or producers?

I have talked to a few producers, and will be shooting a trailer for the film in the near future. 

Is there anyone in particular you would love to have working on this, be it a particular directer, producer or any actors?

I would prefer to direct the film myself. If not me I would love a director in the spirit of Gregg Araki direct.

I like the idea of Steve being played by Lou Taylor Pucci, Ivy (the girlfriend) being played by Christina Ricci, but am flexible as far as the possible budget and what actors I would be able to afford.  If I do not direct I will likely have no say in casting.

What goes in to the process of turning a screen play in to a movie?

This could be a book withing itself! Finding funding is the hardest part, and can take several years. There is also the option of selling your screenplay, which can also take a long time. Most producers do not turn "spec" scripts (scripts that are usually the writers idea) into films. Most of the time writers are hired by producers to write one of their or their partners' ideas or to rewrite an already existing script.

This isn't your first screen-play. Would you mind talking about other past and current projects?

I've written a few screenplays that are set in California's Inland Empire. Sinner's Bible is the first of what I call my "Inland Empire trilogy" also involving a script (Boomerang Kids) about a pyromaniac and Bi-polar woman (Nova from Sinner's Bible) who fall in love as the pyromaniac is planning to murder his uncle. The third in the trilogy is a Gothic love story (Joshua's Eyes) about a vampire who falls in love with a human despite this love being forbidden by vampire kind. The vampire desperately looks for a way to turn human and finds it through the creator of the universe. 

I've also written in several other genres. Another screenplay I've co-written is Called the Mexican project about a famous actor who is revealed to be an undocumented immigrant and is deported.

Do you write screenplays to convey certain messages such as personal issues that are considered taboo?

Many of my screenplays deal with mental illness. Being Bi-polar myself I have a special connection to stories about the mentally ill. I also am intrigued by character studies, so I deal with personal issues in virtually all my scripts.

Alienation also is a pet theme of mine, as I feel most of the human race feels alienated at some points. 

How about future projects?

I am currently working with a very gifted composer to co-write a musical version of Joshua's Eyes. Our first two songs turned out to composed very beautifully. I also am working on a graphic novel loosely based on the Orpheus myth. I have so many ideas for screenplays I'll never be able to write them all.

Being a novelist myself I'm curious about the process of writing a screen-play. What goes in to writing a screen-play?

Although I have written some prose (Including some chapters of a novelization of A Sinner's Bible and feel they have some similar processes, screenplays are more visually based and the descriptions are more succinct. You also do not write anything in them that the audience cannot see or hear.  

Of course personal processes are all different depending on the writer. I tend to write the first scenes, the last scenes and fill in the middle. 

What made you choose screen-writing over "conventional" writing?

I am a movie fanatic. Although I also love to read novels, movies have been a big part of my life. I love acting and directing as well as writing. Screenwriting is much easier to me than other forms because I understand the mechanics of movies more than that of novels. I do intend to write at least a few novels in my life though. 

Thank you very much for your time, it was a thrill to read the screen-play and an extremely interesting interview. I sure can't wait to see this on film, and the best of luck! Or, as is said in the industry, "break a leg"!

Thank you Casey. Best of luck to you as well, and to any other aspiring writers reading this interview.

For anyone interested in being involved in any way with the production of this script, please contact me at and I shall pass your details on to Joseph himself!

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