OtherLife world premiere

Here’s the biggest news I’ve had for a while: OtherLife will premiere at the Sydney Film Festival in June.

OtherLife stars Jessica De Gouw, TJ Power, Thomas Cocquerel, Clarence Ryan, Tiriel Mora, and Adriane Daff. They are all brilliant – every one of them brought dimensions to the characters that I didn’t imagine, and now cannot imagine doing without. Jess, Tom, Adriane and Clarence were absolutely lovely to me when I visited the set in Perth, in spite of late nights and so much hard work during the shoot. I missed meeting TJ and Tiriel by days, and look forward to someday telling them in person how much I enjoyed their work.

Directed by Ben C. Lucas. Also brilliant. Ben brought vision and rigor and insight to the script. Plus he is wonderful and fun and smart. This movie has Ben all over it.

Cinematography by Dan Freene. Who is genius, I’m just saying. Dan made the film look gorgeous and feel powerful, intimate and thrilling.

Edited by Leanne Cole. Wow. I was fortunate enough to have Leanne show me some of the dailies, and to hear her, Ben, Dan and the producers talk about how the story might take shape. Leanne can hold a hundred permutations in her head.

Written by Gregory Widen, Ben C. Lucas & Kelley Eskridge. And this, my friends, is an amazing moment for me. This is my first professional screenwriting credit. It comes after a long, exciting, terrifying, often very hard journey from option to screenplay development to production. Real live audiences will see the film. From head and heart to screen, via so many other heads and hearts.

Here’s the summary description of the film, which should make clear that the film story and the book story are different in terms of plot. But they are deeply connected in core concepts and in the emotional exploration of loneliness and connection.

You can find OtherLife on Facebook and on Twitter. Read about the wild ride of indie filmmaking at the OtherLife Journals. And if you’re in Sydney for the festival, do please go see the film on June 16 or June 18, and let me know what you think!

Thomas Cocquerel as Danny and Jessica De Gouw as Ren
TJ Power as Sam and Clarence Ryan as Byron
Jessica De Gouw in OtherLife
Jessica De Gouw as Ren
Jessica De Gouw in OtherLife


The power of no

The OtherLife Journals (OLJ) are a series of chronologically-random posts about writing, selling, and making the film OTHERLIFE. One woman’s view of the wild ride of indie filmmaking.

When someone in the film business wants to adapt a novel, they start by asking the writer or her agent if the film rights are available. The writer or agent respond, “Why yes, they are.” And generally the next thing that happens is… nothing. So when my agent let me know that Cherry Road Films in LA was expressing interest in Solitaire, I indulged in 20 seconds of what-if and then went back to work.

    Imagine my surprise to receive an offer. Imagine my consternation when my agent, and the literary film agents in Hollywood that she had connected with, advised me to reject it for a number of reasons:

  • Too little money for the initial option term
  • Too short of an option term
  • Too long of an extension term for too little renewal money
  • Too little money for the purchase of film rights.

A film rights contract addresses two primary transactions: a development option, and a rights purchase agreement. They are linked. The option gives the producer the time-limited exclusive right to create a screenplay and develop it into a film deal (by attaching a director, key actors, money, a studio or distributor commitment, the list goes on). If the producer is able to secure a commitment to make the film, then they exercise their option to purchase the film rights: the rights purchase language spells out all those details.

Money, time, and creative control are the basic components of these agreements. Here begins the “not for the faint of heart” portion of our journey….

The number of authors who sign publishing or film rights contracts they don’t understand makes me crazy. It’s not enough to assume that your agent knows what she’s doing and will automatically get the best deal for you. You may trust that she has your best interests at heart, but she’s not the one who has to live with the terms. You do. And you’d be amazed at the number of agents who don’t really dig into the fine print details: they, like writers, assume some things cannot be negotiated. Oh, that’s the publisher’s boilerplate, or That’s standard film industry language. They won’t change that.

And maybe they won’t. But that doesn’t mean you should sign a contract without understanding that when it says blah blah blah legal language YAWN blah blah, sometimes what it really means is, for example, Not only do we own the right to publish this book, but we also have the right to publish any future books you write unless you can get someone to make a higher financial offer. This is what I call a company-store clause, and is a true example from a not-so-small press contract that an editing client almost signed within the last several years.

So, back to the offer to option Solitaire, me wringing my hands over my keyboard and whimpering But…Hollywood! Movie! Want! But I listened to my agents and I thought hard. That’s when I started realizing that it was up to me to decide what tradeoffs I am willing to make in my career, and what my personal balance is between business and art. Stephen King and J.K. Rowling no longer have to compromise (I’m guessing). The rest of us have choices to make.

Ultimately, I decided that the parameters of the offer didn’t work for me. I was ceding too much control for not enough compensation. So I told my agents to say no.

At about 5:15 PM the afternoon of the offer expiration date, my (unlisted) home phone rang, and the man on the other end introduced himself as Tommaso Fiacchino from Cherry Road Films. My eyebrows went up and I put on my best grownup professional voice, although inside-Kelley was squeaking Hollywood calling! Movie producer! Mrrph!

Tommaso said, “So, we don’t have a deal?”

However, because inside-Kelley was still squeaking, phone-Kelley didn’t really hear the question mark at the end. Phone-Kelley heard a guy dropping the hammer on the wee writer from the sticks. You missed the deadline and now we don’t have a deal. I honestly thought he was calling to personally inform me that this was the End Of The Line. (I was perhaps feeling a little freaked out :).

So I said, “Okay.” As in, okay, we don’t have a deal.

And he said, “…. Wait. No, we don’t have deal?” This time I heard the question mark.

“Has no one gotten back to you about this?” I said. And when it became clear that my LA agents hadn’t bothered to give him the courtesy of a formal no, I did it myself.

Being Tommaso (*waves at Tommaso fondly through the internet*), he argued with me earnestly attempted to persuade me to change my mind. He told me how much he loved the book. I agreed that I loved it too. He told me that it was unlikely that anyone else would offer for it, because it was three years after publication and the world had moved on. I agreed with him. And my answer was that I appreciated his interest, but his offer didn’t represent the value of the property.

“I’m very disappointed,” he said.

I said, “I am too.”

We wished each other well, and I put down the phone and walked upstairs to Nicola. I must have looked like a bunny in the headlights. “I just said no to Hollywood,” I said.

I had already decided not to take the offer, but there was something about saying no on the phone to Tommaso that made it so… real. And I was disappointed as hell. But I felt right about it. And I still do.

Nine months later, the phone rang. It was my agent. “Guess who’s back?” she said. Three months later I signed a standard option agreement with Cherry Road that did, in fact, represent the value of the property pretty well.

Sometimes the greatest power a creator has is the power of no. This was the first time I exercised it with OtherLife. But not the last. Stay tuned for more on that, and all the ways in which the OtherLife journey becomes very non-standard down the road….

Enjoy your day.

The OtherLife Journals

OtherLife Countdown Clock

I’ve been waiting — for years — to write about the journey of my film OTHERLIFE.

Why haven’t I, until now? Because it has always been my conviction that the first rule of Not-Yet-In-Production Club is you don’t talk about it. This makes sense to me. I don’t broadcast about undertakings outside my zone of control until there is a real outcome to report. It doesn’t make sense to me to chronicle in real time the miserable rejections, the almost-deals, or the occasional moments in which I mentally pointed a large rocket in the direction of The Film Industry. Or to trumpet the amazing highs, triumphs, and moments of deep satisfaction when I couldn’t give context.

It’s way too easy for impatient writers to shoot their own deals (and working relationships, and careers) in the foot these ways. Loose lips, etc. One of the reasons that my team on this film trust me is that I have kept my mouth shut FOR YEARS about the sausage making, and also about the Good News before everyone involved was ready to make it officially public. It’s a strategy I encourage all writers to consider: resist the temptation to share details just because you have them. Especially when you are miserable, frustrated, desperate for recognition, or in need of an ego boost. And even when you are radiant with joy. Not until it’s time.

Which doesn’t mean that I haven’t wanted to share. I have. And now the film is well into the editing and post-production process, and sometime in 2016 there will be a movie that I can see. And you too, I hope!

Those details are not yet in place, so I won’t speculate on them here/now. What I will do is begin a series of occasional and chronologically random posts about writing, selling, and making OTHERLIFE. I will talk about as much as I can that doesn’t violate confidentiality clauses or expose me to libel. I’ll answer questions if you have them — reach me at kelley [at] kelleyeskridge [dot] com. And I’ll do my best to be transparent and authentic about my experience. I have no idea where these journals will go, but I’m looking forward to sharing the ride with you.

More soon!

Enjoy your day.

My film OtherLife is shooting now in Perth

OtherLife Countdown Clock
I’m thrilled to announce that my film OtherLife has begun shooting in Perth, Australia.
(Read the press release.)

OtherLife is directed by Ben C. Lucas (Wasted on the Young), a fiercely talented director and writer who brings depth and heart and passion to the film. The script is written by me, Gregory Widen (Highlander, Backdraft, The Prophecy), Lucas Howe, and director Ben Lucas. The film stars the fantastic Jessica De Gouw (Dracula, Arrow, and the forthcoming Underground), as well as Thomas Cocquerel (Kidnapping Mr. Heineken) and TJ Power (Eat Pray Love, The Sapphires, Wasted on the Young).

OtherLife is produced in Australia by Ticket to Ride, See Pictures, and WBMC. These fine people brought the film to Australia and put together a stunningly creative crew. You should see some of the photos… and you will! I’ll have a lot to say about the process in coming posts.

A special shoutout to Ben Lucas and producer Jamie Hilton for believing in the script and working so hard to bring it to Australia. Oh my god the stories…

And finally, three important people to thank:

Tommaso Fiacchino of Cherry Road Films (Al Otro Lado) optioned the novel more than 10 years ago. Tommaso gave me the opportunity to write the script revision a year later, after which I became the project’s lead writer. Tommaso and I have worked together since then in a close collaborative producer/writer process.

Marco Mehlitz of Lago Film (A Dangerous Method, Mr. Nobody, Only Lovers Left Alive) joined our Scooby Gang several years ago. His experience and expertise have been invaluable in navigating the wild waters of filmmaking. His belief in the script has kept us all going during the many times when things weren’t going well.

Tommaso and Marco have worked tirelessly on behalf of the script, and have afforded me a level of trust, access, and teamwork that is not always the norm for screenwriters. They are the champions of OtherLife. This film would not exist without them.

And thank you to my beloved Nicola Griffith for being here for every low, high, and what the fuck am I doing? moment.

Solitaire was first optioned more than 10 years ago. I became the lead writer on the script a year later. It took 3,326 days from the morning I began my first pass with the screenplay to the commencement of shooting. It has been, and continues to be, an amazing ride. I’ll have a lot more to see about it over the coming days, but for now I hope you’ll help me celebrate this dream of mine come true.