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Picture this: Concord writer works with veteran actor to create film

Last modified: 10/31/2014 12:44:00 AM
Jana Brown has always been a writer, but not of movies. Perry King has always been an actor, but never a director. Russ Rayburn has always worked in television, but never film.

And yet, none of that is really stopping this trio from making a film that they hope will get funding and distribution.

Brown, of Concord, was chosen by King, whose significant television and film credits include Riptide, The Day After Tomorrow, Slaughterhouse 5 and The Lords of Flatbush, to write a Western that they hope to get funded through a Kickstarter campaign. As of the this writing, they have already raised roughly $22,000 of their $30,000 goal to produce their film The Divide.

“I know Hollywood,” said King, who’s been in the industry for 45 years. “I know what it takes to get a movie produced in Hollywood; I know what they want. I don’t want to make a Hollywood movie. I want to make my own movie, my way. I want to make a movie about the drama of ordinary life, people I know.”

In his blog, King refers to the way this all came about as serendipity.

Brown, who is the associate director of communications and editor of Alumni Horae at St. Paul’s School, was editing the class notes section of the magazine, when she fielded a note about King, who is a St. Paul’s alum.

Brown said she knew the name and ran it by her mother, who it turned out was a big fan of some of the work King had done in the 1970s and ’80s.

So, she decided to reach out to him to see if he’d be game for an interview for a piece she would do for the alumni magazine. He was, and so the two set up a time to chat.

“I talk to people all the time, I interview people all the time,” Brown said. “But this sort of felt like I was talking to a friend. Which is crazy because here we are: different coasts, different ages – he’s 20 plus years older than me – but we just already seemed like friends.”

In a follow-up conversation, Brown in passing told King he should keep her in mind if he ever needed another story written about him, that she’d be happy to oblige.

“He said, ‘You’re right, we should work together,’ ” Brown said. “And I was like, ‘work together, well, yeah, that would be even better.’ ”

King called her back the next day saying he’d been wanting to make a film, particularly a western, and would she like to write it.

“I told him, ‘I’m a writer, yes, but I don’t know anything about writing films,’ ” she said.

He told her not to worry about it. And she need not have worried, since over the course of the next four years, King gave her a crash course in film writing. She read everything she could on the subject, he sent her scripts to help her understand the format and she talked endlessly to people who could help her get a sense of how to write a script and develop a story. There were also many late-night conversations between King and Brown, to accommodate both the time difference and kids bedtimes, coming up with, going over and reworking story ideas.

The two spent a year developing a treatment, which is the outline of a film, for a comedy, which they eventually shelved.

But it wasn’t until April 2012, that the idea for The Divide hit Brown as she was driving in her car.
“It just came to me,” she said.

She and King started working on the idea that centered on a tough old rancher, who finds himself slowly slipping into dementia. A young ranch hand ends up being an unwilling caretaker for the rancher just as the rancher’s estranged daughter also comes back into the picture.

King and Brown worked on a treatment for the next several months, keeping the cast deliberately small in order to allow the story to be character driven.

Around Christmas that year, with the treatment done, “Perry said to me, ‘Okay you’re ready to write it,’ ” Brown said.

And so she did, with King acting as mentor and editor on the finished script. Brown said he gave her some of the best writing advice she’s ever gotten in that he encouraged her to write less. The idea being it allows the actors to use facial expressions and body language or even silence to convey a message in a way that can be more powerful than words.

But even more than that, the independent and tough rancher, should be a man of few words.

“He’s speaking to communicate, not to postulate,” she said.

The pair ended up adding director of photography Russ Rayburn to the picture. King and Rayburn worked on previous television projects together, but this is the first film that Rayburn has ever worked on.

Though King is putting up half the money for the film, the group, known as Left For Dead Productions, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to come up with $30,000.

“It’s just a great way for people to get involved with the film and get excited about it,” Brown said. “And I think if we had one person finance it, it would take away some of the creativity we have on the production.”

Filming is slated to begin on the project in summer of 2015 on King’s 500-acre cattle ranch in Northern California. For information visit The Divide’s Kickstarter site at kickstarter.com (The Divide Motion Picture) or the film’s website at thedividemotionpicture.com.


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