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  • Thomas Fenton

My love of screenwriting and wanting to be a screenwriter

Updated: Jan 29

The first time I was ever scared at the movies (so I was told) was when Ebenezer Scrooge fell through the bottomless grave that led into hell; the film was Scrooge. That was 1970, and I was a little kid then. I know that shows my age, but I don’t care, George Lucas made Star Wars for my friends and me, so I’m cool with it.

My mother told me that, when Scrooge was sent screaming down that vortex, I tried to crawl under the seat. I do remember that scene, but not much more. Being scared when you’re a little kid sticks with you. I think my mom and dad learned a lesson from that movie and didn’t take me to any more scary movies after that, well, until Jaws. I lived on Lake Ontario, in a quiet suburb of Rochester, NY. The home of Kodak and the birthplace of motion picture film. Our house’s backyard was the Great Lake, and let me tell you, bud... after seeing Jaws, I went nowhere near the lake that summer... or the summer after.

These two examples put me on the trail of Halloween, Susperia, Last House On The Left, Nightmare on Elm Street, Poltergeist, The Exorcist, Night of the Living Dead, Friday the 13th, When A Stranger Calls, The Entity, Alien, Legend of Hellhouse, I Spit On Your Grave, The Amityville Horror, The Thing, The Shining, The Fog, Fright Night, Sleepaway Camp, The Howling and Near Dark just name a few good Friday night viewings.

Now, watching all these great movies led me to believe that I could join the fray and spill some blood of my own. I made super 8 movies with my friends in the backyard at the shores of the lake. They didn’t have the biggest nor best production value, but they had a heart. As I got older and wanted to write, I knew it was going to be a steep mountain to climb, not only because I was from Roch- ester, NY and knew not a soul in the industry, but I am dyslexic. And with a learning disability of that sort, literally, the last thing you should be is a writer. And as evidence of my affliction, this book you’re reading went through the proofing process multiple times, and I bet a few typos still slipped through. It’s not the proofreaders’ fault nor the publisher’s, but my own funky way of spelling and my strange use of grammar. This learning disability should have stopped me in my proverbial tracks, but thanks to a loving, caring family; I turned that negative challenge into something positive. And I wouldn’t get rid of this learning disability that makes me spell bed with a 5, for all the tee in Chinese.

So back to blood spilling; in Hollywood, that’s a pre- requisite, spilling your blood and plenty of it if you ever want to see your name on the big screen. To chase this dream, I went to film school but learned nothing, an expensive “nothing” at that. I then worked as a grip/ key grip on a variety of films, including Lady in White, Night Trap and Slaughter of the Innocence. I learned the trade of film from the c-stand up.

The fact that I had started my career in a below the line position was a novelty in Hollywood. Whilst on the set of Chain Letter, I was told by one of the grips that he had heard that I was also part of the brotherhood of Matthews and that I was his inspiration to write. They called him, Buddha. He was cool. I don’t know if he ever finished his script, hope he did. Buddha, if you’re reading this, drop a brother a line. So not being the college type, I bought books, mucho books. I would try to read them, really, I would. But I didn’t want to read; I wanted to write! I know studying is an important part of any learning process, but must the books be sooooo boring? I mean, come on! Aren’t we here to create, not read? Let’s just get on with it! So, that’s what did, I got on with it. I made a ton of mistakes, and many of them are chronicled here, some aren’t, but it’s like I told my last wife, “I never drive faster than I can see.” Besides, it’s all in the reflexes.

For ten years I wrote my butt off, managed to sell a comic book series called, The Dominion. Did lots of takes for production companies; more on takes later. I was then fortunate enough to turn a few specs into sales that would allow me to add my voice to the most popular horror franchise of all time, Saw. I then went on to work on the I Spit on Your Grave franchise. I continue to work in the medium, and as of the publishing of this book, I am in the beginning stages of doing a loose remake of one of the films that I mentioned a few paragraphs ago. I’d have loved to say the title, but at the moment, I can’t. I’m sure by the time this book comes out, things will have changed, but today they haven’t.

I hope you bought this book to learn from a writer who was and is working in the business of horror. I commend your decision to read this book and to take the knowledge that’s held within it to better your career. I’ve already spilled enough blood for both of us, so let’s hope you don’t have to spill as much.

The book includes my insights, thoughts and some odd stories that were painful when they were happening but are funny now. I guess time does heal wounds. Also, most of the executives in those stories live now in states like Arizona and Ohio, selling lawn furniture and car insurance nowadays. God Bless them.

Thanks. Thomas Fenton Hollywood Hills, 2018

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