In this series, we talk to up-and-coming Horror Screenwriters, find out their writing process, what projects they are currently working on, and get some tips of the trade.
Guy Crawford is a former Fortune 500 corporate cube farmer turned writer. He hails from the deep south. New Orleans, to be exact, so his writing is definitely flavored with the mystical nature of the city. Guy writes features that might have ghosts, voodoo queens, and even strange creatures like a Rougarou that compete with the characters for attention on the pages. People say that the New Orleans vibe courses through his veins and bleeds on the page. As the saying goes: “It ain’t gumbo unless all the ingredients are in the pot.”
What is your favorite script you have written thus far, and why is it your favorite?
The Fifelot. That's Feeh-eh-low for you non-Cajun speakers. First off, a lot of movies have been made in New Orleans. Most seem to center around bad cops, drugs gangs, or criminal enterprises. Millions of people come to NOLA from all over the world to experience the joie de vivre that exists in this city like nowhere else. Those movies don't capture the larger-than-life characters that have called it home. A perfect blend of history, commerce, and sin.
I love this script because it incorporates myths and legends swirling around the lost treasure of the pirate Jean Lafitte. A man who once put out a wanted poster on the Governor of Louisiana after the governor had the audacity to put out a reward for Jean's capture.
The Fifelot takes you through the mystical streets of the French Quarter to the spooky swamps that surround the city filled with secrets from centuries of nefarious plans. It's a supernatural treasure hunt that captures the essence of New Orleans. When readers tell me that they can smell the beignets and want to visit New Orleans to find the places in the script, I know I've taken them on a journey.
But what I'm most proud of about this script is that it reflects the world around me in a glorious mixture of cultures and people from all walks of life that make NOLA a special place. When it landed on The Bitch List 2020 for inclusive scripts, I experienced a moment of pure joy.
Tell us about your current WIP.
It's called Ten Seconds. They say when your time to leave this mortal coil is up that your life flashes in front of your face. What if your sins bring the popcorn? The perfect song to understand this new script is "I Walk On Guilded Splinters" by Dr. John. From St Louis Cemetery to the uptown mansions, we find out what happens when you seek revenge and ask for help from those in the next world. Once unleashed some things can't be put back in the bottle.
If someone checked your search history right now, what would be the most chilling/scary thing they would find?
How to paralyze someone with Calabar beans? New Orleans is a rich and fertile ground for both real and imaginary horror stories, so it's important to ground the spooky in authentic lore. Voodoo is one of those ways.
What are three tips off the top of your head you would tell a new horror screenwriter?
- Remember, it's the anticipation, not the bang. Put the audience on the edge of their seats and slam them back. If they're peeking through their fingers, you've done your job.
- If you're going to do a jump scare, make it original.
- Don't be afraid to go small in moments to suck the audience deeper into the story. They have to care what happens to the characters. You want them to be screaming at the screen, “Don't go in there!” “Oh man, I liked Jimmy; why did they chop his head off?”
You recently had a successful table read of your script called The Vapors, one of the funniest joy rides I've read in a while. Tell me more about it.
I like to call this script; The Golden Girls meets Weeds.
The greatest thing about the table read was seeing talented actors breathe life into the words and put their personalities into the characters. Alexis Adkins, a SAG Actor, Writer, Producer, and Director, direction really helped flesh out the show and bring out the best in the performance. The other benefit to me as the writer was working with everyone to make the show better. I'm thrilled you enjoyed the script and meeting the ladies, but I also want to use this time to thank you for one of my favorite lines in the hand. I took the words straight from your mouth and put them in Dees.
Glad I could help! Now tell us how did you come up with such a great concept?
I was explaining what the phrase "The Vapors" means to a non-southerner, and a light bulb went off in my head.” The Vapors” refers to the ridiculous assumption by the male species that a woman who is exposed to a traumatic event or becomes overly excited will suddenly be struck down by this condition. It's often seen in old movies where the woman actor will put a hand to her head and drop to the floor. This, of course gives the male actor the hero moment to rush in and save the damsel.
This always cracked me up. I knew better even as a kid.
While women around the world use this to their advantage, southern women have turned it into an art form. In my family, we called it being Bette'd. My mom was a master, and my poor dad would often find himself doing something or going somewhere because he had opened his mouth and the trap was sprung.
From that point on, I was on a mission to write this script. From the retirement home setting to the antics, I wanted to show that the mind never grows old and if you're foolish enough only to see little old ladies, well, bless your heart. You get what you deserve.
What audience do you see falling in love with the characters?
I may be biased, but I think there's a huge audience out there for both women and men of all ages to sit back and watch a show that deals with real-life but doesn't put the characters in a box. Life is messy and fun. This script shows it all. If they're not at that age yet, I hope they think that this is who they can be in the future. If they are that age, it will be great to see themselves on the screen as vibrant beings with a lot to offer the world. Of course, romance comes into play. As the old saying goes, there may be snow on the roof, but there's still fire in the kitchen.
A common theme from women who've read this script has been, it's great to see women living their own lives. My favorite comment is this is the hell-raising kind of woman I want to be when I get to be their age. As a writer, I don't think there can be a greater compliment than having readers identify with the characters that way.
Speaking of the characters- the central characters are four older women who live in a retirement community. Did you pull their characteristics or crazy antics from people you know in real life?
Growing up in Steel Magnolia country, there was no shortage of these ladies around when I was growing up, and the one thing they all had in common was this zest for life regardless of their age. I'm tired of so many talented actors reaching a certain age and being relegated to roles that take the starch out of the characters they play and limit their ability to showcase their talents. Jean Smart has been getting many accolades lately for roles that broke the grandma mold, and in The Vapors, four women tear that mold to pieces.
These aren't the baking cookies kind of grandmas. Though they may make some special brownies.
The funny thing is that this script, as wild as it is, only captures a small fraction of the antics these women got up to in real life. I would love the opportunity to bring them and their zany lives to the small screen. The characters are all based off people in my life and most of them tore my butt up as a child for one reason or another. One had a gambling issue that involved the cops when she was in a retirement home, and another got an apology from a drunk man by placing a three-fifty-seven magnum in his crotch. Don't worry; other than wet pants, there were no arrests or injuries.
You have had tremendous success with the response to The Vapors. Have you seen any doors or opportunities open to you?
A couple of opportunities have sprung up recently, and I'm diligently pursuing them as I continue to market this script on my own. However, I wouldn't object to a management team to help me take it across the finish line. If anyone knows Kathy Bates, Rita Moreno, Helen Mirren, Jean Smart, Ellen Barkin, and.... and...the list is endless, let them know that there is a fresh original show ready to highlight their talents.
While I have you here, I'm going to answer the inevitable question. How is it that a white male wrote a script around an ethnically diverse group of four women?
NOLA is a beautiful and unique place because of the mishmash of cultures. I always want my work to reflect the world around me authentically. These women were part of my life and represent the glorious life out there when we embrace the simple fact that we may have a different skin color, but we're worthy of respect. I hope that vibe and the impact they had on my life comes through in the script. They taught me the most valuable lesson of all.
Live don't exist. The dirt nap comes for us all, but until then- Laissez les bons temps rouler.