Delivered is about a pregnant woman whose life was turned upside down when she realizes someone she just met has sinister plans due to her pregnancy. The screenwriter of this terrifying thriller is Mr. Dirk Blackman. So, take this time to get to know a bit about him and get an insight on his writing experience on Into the Dark: Delivered.
1. What are your thoughts about Coronavirus pandemic and how it is affecting the movie industry?
Not to be a Pollyanna, but I think for anyone looking, it’s shined a light on a fundamental truth: everyone’s essential. I hope we remember that the next time someone’s bagging our groceries a bit slowly.
As for the business... I’m going with the model that a vaccine or successful treatment is found. In that case, it solidifies the landscape streaming already created. But I honestly believe people will leave their houses for tentpoles, horror and x number of prestige films, etc. The theatrical experience will always be attractive… as long as we feel safe gathering together.
2. List three adjectives to describe In The Dark: Delivered?
(I hope:) Tense. Wry. Grotesque.
3. Could you express how you came to write the script of In The Dark: Delivered?
The premise sounds like it’s one of those ‘ripped from the headlines’ stories, but it wasn’t. If you write thrillers, or horror, you spend a lot of time thinking about boxes and the monsters that haunt them. You also think about how to write ‘produceable’ movies, or movies you can make ‘for a price.’ i.e. inexpensively. So one day my brain said ‘pregnant woman in a house.’ There’s my main character and the box. The monster simply presented herself. What better villain than one whose motives you can understand? All that said, I could have read about a woman a dozen years ago kidnapped for her baby and it simply percolated up at that moment. Ideas lurk.
4. What was your writing habit when you wrote the script?
My usual: (index) card it, outline the hell out of it then write in spurts at odd hours of the day or night. Usually night. I’m not disciplined in the sense of ‘I’m going to write the script now, from 3pm to 6pm.” But I – and I suspect most other writers – literally work every waking moment. If I’m not specifically working on cards, or the outline or the script, I’m gnawing at the edges of another script, another idea. Thinking about blocking, design, dialogue hits, whatever. Writing is an obsession.
5. Do you ever get writer's block when writing in general? What do you do to get back on track?’
I rarely block when I’m actually writing the script because I usually outline well, meaning I know what the scene is meant do. If I do block, it’s when I hit a patch where I failed to outline properly. In other words, when I was too lazy to do what was necessary.
I get blocked during the outline all the time, but the solution to that is almost always to attack the story from a different angle, e.g. fleshing out a character’s bio, their arc, blocking an action scene, working on a subplot, etc. That usually leads me back to where I need to be. And if that doesn’t work, I back away and return to it with fresh eyes.
6. What were the challenges (literary, research, etc) in writing Into The Dark: Delivered?
Outside of the normal challenges of writing anything, there really were only two: I’ve never been pregnant and I’m not a woman. Perfect author of a movie about a pregnant woman. However, I am a husband and father of two daughters, so I am not utterly without knowledge.
I tried to write the characters as people first, with an easily understood and profound desire: to have a child. Then I tried to subvert that a little, by making the pregnant woman unsure if she really wanted a child, while the one who isn’t pregnant is out of her mind. That’s all still understandable on a basic human level. After that, I gave the script to a few women to read for their input to make sure that the characters sounded like women and not just a man’s idea of a woman. I’m not one of those people who believe you have to belong to the group about which you write, but you do have an obligation to try to make the voices ring true.
7. Could you express your experience working with Emma Tammi, the director of Into The Dark: Delivered?
I’d never worked with Emma before but I was excited to do so after watching her movie “The Wind”. It was obvious from our first conversation we were on the same page, because she immediately saw that I was going for a strain of black humor underneath the tension. We had a big job to do: take a 112 page feature and pull 30 pages out to fit the Into the Dark model. But she just waded in and got it done. She’s a great collaborator: always professional, always motivated to make the best movie possible, always moving forward.
8. Were you ever on set for the making of In The Dark: Delivered?
If so, could you tell me what scene you were present at that was very memorable to you?
I visited a couple of times and got to watch Tina drag a body, which was fun. I also watched Natalie in a scene where she asserts herself by secretly naming her baby, which is both a revolt and a maternal land grab. (Yeah, that’s a bit cryptic, but spoilers, you know)
9. Could you give a fun fact about Natalie Paul, Michael Cassidy, Micah Parker and/or any other cast members that are speaking the words you wrote on Into The Dark: Delivered ?
Unfortunately, no. I hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting them before. But I do think the performances are pretty amazing.
10. Should we expect a cameo of you on Into The Dark: Delivered?
11. What was the best advice you have ever received about writing?
Two things, one for writing, one for the business. For writing, it was a question from a teacher: ”What is the central idea?” That is, what is the main character’s arc? That’s your guiding light. If you don’t understand it, you’re lost. For the business: “The limousine won’t just pull up to your front door.” No one is going to hand it to you. I used to think it was enough to be good. It’s not. Connections, legwork… it’s crucial to get yourself out in the world and be ready when the moment comes.
12. What was the major breakthrough that propel your writing career?
I guess there were two. Selling my first script, a sci-fi actioner based on Dante’s Inferno, to Paramount. That got me an agent, into the WGA, and an article in a movie mag. Put me on the map. And getting “Outlander” made. Even though the Weinsteins buried it because they couldn’t afford the P&A at the time, it opened a lot of doors. Landed three writing gigs while we were posting it.
13. What would it take for you personally to be interested in adapting a self-published story into a screenplay?
I don’t really know that world, but like everything, it would have to be a tremendously engaging story or idea. And since the exposure to the original story is more limited – meaning the IP has less value (and the buyers LOVE IPs) - I think I’d lean toward a true story so that I’d have something unique – life rights for instance – to use in a pitch.
14. Do you have beta-readers to read the draft of your scripts?
Absolutely. My wife, who is the best critic, and my mother, who is the worst. (She loves everything I write. “My son, the genius!”) And, I’ve built a network of other writers of varying ages and tastes, as well as my manager and agent. I’ve found the optimal use of those eyes is to hand them the very best draft I’m capable of writing at that moment. I don’t want them making comments on things I know are wrong. I want them finding things I don’t see.
15. What is one thing you missed doing (or anything in general) when you were an undergraduate at Columbia University? Did you visit the campus pre-conronavirus period?
We were in the city last fall for business and visited the campus. It remains one of my favorite places on earth and I am very glad we took the trip then rather than putting it off.
I had a great time at Columbia and going to school in Manhattan was an extraordinary experience. Walked up and down NY, went to four movies a day, clubbed, haunted Times Square before the tourists got there, fenced, rode the subway at 4am, ate at great restaurants, ate at dives. I don’t know if there’s anything specific I should have done that I didn’t do. I was having a great time. But I do know I should have done more of everything. But it’s funny you ask the question. I’m working on a spec pilot set in NY about all the things I wish I’d done more of.
16. If you could direct a film-adaptation of any article/short story/novella/ novel which one would you like to do?
A few years back my partner and I got hired to rewrite the most recent Conan movie. I’m a massive Robert E Howard fan, so this was a dream assignment. Despite getting paid, we didn’t end up doing the rewrite (cue long, drunken horror story), but we did write a sequel that never got shot due to the box office of the first one. But it left me with a fantasy of directing a Conan movie that was really true to the source material.
17. Did you watch the 92nd Academy Awards (Oscars)? If so, could you express your general thoughts on it?
Overall it was a pretty good year, though I doubt we’ll be revisiting many of these films as time goes on. I think I was most satisfied to see Joachin Phoenix win for The Joker and Taiki Waititi for Jojo Rabbit, which was so fresh. I think there were a bunch of career awards, which I don’t love, and only one or two awards where I scratched my head. (Where was the love for Avengers Endgame?) Once more, I found myself not missing the host.
18. Last question, what’s your favorite TV show or movie (besides In the Dark anthology series, of course)?
Too difficult. I’ll go with TV, because they’re not making my favorite movies anymore. The Morning Show. Breaking Bad. The Good Fight. Mary Tyler Moore Show. (yup) Watchmen. GOT. Killing Eve. Chernobyl. The Wire. Buffy. Wait… maybe it’s Buffy. It might just be Buffy. Buffy. It’s Buffy.
I want to express my appreciation for Mr. Dirk Blackman for taking his time to answer my questions. I hope you enjoy this interview and don't forget to come back to Novelpro Junkie for more. Again, Into the Dark: Delivered will be released at Hulu on Friday, May 8th.