Thursday, April 26, 2012

Legal Delicacies

A significant recent development affects the core of the Citizen story. I have written before that part of it was inspired by Juan Abel Escalante, a deputy with the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department who was shot down by gang members in front of his house, leaving behind his wife and three kids. Moved by Escalante’s story I dove right in and, using public records, created a fictional character based on the facts surrounding his life.

In the hope of following the “real” story of Abel Escalante, I contacted his widow and asked her if she would be interested in collaborating on this project by giving me access to more personal information about her husband and their family life. To be able to use that information in the film I would be required to obtain the “life story rights” from her. My first gentle attempt at this was in 2010, which ended in an exchange with her that didn’t lead to anything. She was understandably hesitant. Why revisit that tragic time in her life? But I didn’t get a straight-out no either so I let that rest for a while until I had a more finalized version of the screenplay and knew better how the character inspired by her late husband could be portrayed in the film.

In January 2012 it was time to get in touch with Ms. Escalante again to see if we could make a deal. Again, I was looking for access to personal details to do justice to Juan Abel Escalante himself and to lend a greater degree of authenticity to the story. This time I made her an industry-standard offer to option the “life story rights” from her. She promptly and briefly answered that she needed some time to look that over. Long story short, after giving her enough time and following up with an email I have not heard back. I gave her some additional time to get back to me but in March I decided I had to move on.

By then I had had enough time to accept the fact that I have to revise the script so that none of my fictional characters would be identifiable as any of the actual living people that were part of Abel Escalante’s life. I had no other choice than to see the widow’s unwillingness to work with me as an opportunity. I would take the scenario of an ambitious young man who defies adversity to become a police officer, and create a composite, fictionalized character to realistically represent the common struggles that exist for people who are trying to live an ethical life in an unethical environment.

So right now I'm working on another draft of the Citizen screenplay, which will also include my technical advisors’ notes and address some safety issues. By July I plan to have a pre-production draft, which we'll use to do a breakdown and properly package this film. Especially now that it lost the connection to the article it was in part inspired by, the project deserves a proper title. Working on that. Movin' along folks.

1 comment:

  1. I like the path you're on man, I can't wait to see the film!