by MICK LLOYD-OWEN & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & screenplay about an unlikely pair of kids written by an even more unlikely pair of guys in Spokane is getting favorable attention from people within the entertainment industry. Different Drummers, written by locals Don Caron and Lyle Hatcher, won Best Screenplay at the 2007 San Fernando Valley International Film Festival and, more importantly, took the Grand Award Remi for Best Screenplay in All Categories at the 2007 WorldFest Houston International Film Festival last month. They've decided to make the movie themselves.
"It's a good, good story, well told," says Hunter Todd, founder of WorldFest, noting that of the hundreds of screenplays submitted, the judges toss about 90 percent by the time they've read the first 10 pages.
The story comes straight from Hatcher's own childhood and is based on real people and actual events that took place in Spokane in the 1960s. It's a dramatization of the adventures -- and misadventures -- of a wheelchair-bound kid with muscular dystrophy who is befriended by a rambunctious boy with ADHD. "The story's haunted me for 43 years and never left me," Hatcher says. "I've told it a thousand times. It's just the energy level of two kids -- one who is losing his, and another who just flat out has too much." Hatcher was the kid with ADHD, and he convinced his friend David of a plan that could help him to do what he wanted to do more than anything -- to run.
"It's a great dichotomy of characters," Caron says, "the kind of characters that people contrive purposefully because it makes such a good story."
A successful investment broker at age 52, Hatcher has never had anything to do with screenwriting or movie-making. He is described by his partner Caron as an "anecdotalist" and "raconteur" who is good for five minutes of vivid storytelling in a live environment. Hatcher initially wrote the story in short form for friends and family and was subsequently asked to record it. That took him to the studios of North by Northwest, where composer, choreographer, musician and scriptwriter Caron was working at the time. The guy scheduled to do the recording was out sick, and a grumpy Caron filled in.
"As I was recording I started listening ... and I told him, 'You really need to make this into a movie.'" Hatcher was overwhelmed by the prospect, but Caron said he'd help with the first step - writing a screenplay. Hatcher simply wanted to pay Caron for his time and call it good. The next day Caron showed up at Hatcher's office with a screenwriting contract, insisting that the story had to be made into a movie. The matter was settled with a handshake and a partnership was born.
"My thing is all about structure and shape and dynamics and emotion and setting it up and delivering it," says Caron, who boasts a 30-year resume as a composer and choreographer of ballets, musician and sound-designer. He co-wrote the script and the musical score for MGM's 1999 release The Basket; he was dubbed "2002 Composer of the Year" by the Washington State Music Teachers Association. Hatcher calls him a "structuring monster" and credits him with creating a script that flows like a symphony.
They plan to film the movie in Spokane at the places where the events actually happened, using some period music in the soundtrack.
Hatcher received a phone call immediately before the interview for this article, ecstatic to learn that Neil Diamond apparently had the script in his hands and was reading it as we spoke. Since then, Diamond has agreed to allow his song "Holly Holy" to be used as the closing track for Different Drummers. (That is, if his terms and the projected budget for the movie can be reconciled.) Hatcher views this as something of a miracle, being informed by Diamond's people that the rights to that song have been sought by many others for many years, to no avail.
Different Drummers is supposed to get done on a $2.6 million budget. To avoid any conflict of interest that might arise from Hatcher's position as a broker for an investment company, Caron will be soliciting investors and raising funds. His goal is to secure 26 investors of $100,000 each.
The writers say they have been offered "seven figures" for the screenplay, but decided to hold onto it in the interest of artistic purity. "Obviously [the offers] were tempting, and we did consider them very seriously," Caron says. "But I realized as the script began to develop that there was more that wasn't on the page than was on the page, and the place it exists is in our heads." Caron says that sometimes good scripts turn into bad movies because of marketing pressures and agendas and that it is paramount that this film be done right. David's mother -- who is still alive -- promised the boy before he died that his story would be told and the writers seem to believe that the script has magic and power because that's exactly what they're doing. When tempted to rewrite the ending so that it was less painful than reality, David's mother reprimanded them by saying "Do not deny a miracle."