Women in Horror Month Special: Vanessa Lanta Wright’s ‘Rainy Season’
My name is Vanessa Wright and I am a screenwriter. I have been writing screenplays for nearly 20 years. I started my writing career with short stories and poetry and then began bringing my tales to the screen. When I was 14 years old my parents purchased a video camera and the rest, as they say, is history. I begged and pleaded with my teachers to make movies in place of writing papers, building dioramas, giving speeches, etc. Thus began my filmmaking career.
I have only been writing original screenplays and wanted to attempt an adaptation.
Where better to begin, than with the Master of Horror, Stephen King. I am a fan of King’s work and when I heard about his Dollar Baby program I jumped at the opportunity. For nearly 30 years, Stephen King has offered up his short stories that haven’t been commercially produced into film to students and aspiring filmmakers for the affordable cost of $1. In return for your buck you get the non-exclusive rights to adapt one of his stories into a screenplay. This program is promotional use only, the film cannot be distributed or make a profit in any way, but the filmmakers are able to enter the finished film into festivals to showcase their skills and talent.
I read through the list of available stories and chose one I wasn’t familiar with.
I also wanted to choose one that hadn’t been done a bunch of times by other filmmakers, so as to stand out a bit. I chose Rainy Season from King’s collection Nightmares & Dreamscapes. The story had a darkness reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery’, which King, himself references in the tale. After the first readthrough I thought, “how do I translate such a dialogue heavy story to the screen drive home to true horror of this story?” I decided to start with a very literal transfer, taking his story and leaving nothing out in the script. I, as most screenwriters will tell you, must show it, not tell it. You never want actors getting information across through dialogue if you can do it visually.
*SPOILER ALERT* For those of you unfamiliar with the story Rainy Season, it is about a young couple that arrive in the town of Willow, ME. After repeated warnings from town locals to leave, they stay and learn the horrific price the town must pay for prosperity. Every seven years, the rainy season descends upon Willow in a downpour of vicious, man eating toads. The newest inhabitants of town are then sacrificed and suffer the deadly consequences of their choice to not head the warnings.
I wanted to focus on the subtext of the story, what the characters weren’t saying, what King didn’t elaborate on about the town. I wanted to build more tension between the main characters, John & Elise Graham, get them to a more desperate place so the audience could relate and experience what they were going through. I also wanted to allude to the town’s past.
I was careful not to show too much, I wanted the audience to feel the tension and suspense that the characters were experiencing. I didn’t want the viewer to know what was behind the door, I wanted them to remain present and experience that fear. I was especially concerned with actually showing the toads, once you reveal the monster, that fear and anxiety disappears. Alfred Hitchcock said it best, “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” This was my mantra while writing the script.
Once I was finished with the “final” draft. As a writer, I think we all know that there is rarely a true final draft, always a possible rewrite in the future, especially in film. Rarely does a script get filmed as is, something always changes at the 11th hour. Anyhoo, I was satisfied with the script and it was time to assemble a crew. I had considered directing the film myself, but I knew I was also going to be the Executive Producer and I didn’t want to spread myself too thin, fearing the quality of the film could suffer. I approached my friend and formerboss, Mark Simon about the project. He is a wildly talented cinematographer who got his start working with John Hughes on Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club to name a few. His most current credits include The Rosa Parks Story, One Missed Call and American Gangster. He loved the idea of Rainy Season and agreed to lend his talents to the film. He introduced me to Grant McGowen, Artistic Director of Pinch ‘N’ Ouch Theatre in Atlanta, GA. We immediately hit it off and had the same vision for the film and I offered him to direct the film.
As a woman in horror, it was important for me to build a team of female producers, so I brought on Stephanie Wyatt of Modern Day Jane Films and Samanta Kolesnik of Turning the Girl Productions. Now that the dream team was in place, it was time to cast. Grant held auditions and casted four phenomenal actors, Tyner Rushing as Elise Graham, Brian Ashton Smith as John Graham, Alpha Trivette as Henry Eden and Amber Germain as Laura Stanton. Stephanie and I scouted locations and stumbled upon the house that was built for the film Lawless starring Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf & Gary Oldman. It was exactly what I had in mind while writing the story, and the place was built for film! We are all set to film, the only thing left is raise the money for the budget.
We started an indiegogo campaign to crowd fund the film. The link is https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/rainy-season-based-on-the-story-by-stephen-king#/ and we are asking anyone and everyone to help us make this film!
You can follow the films update here:
Vimeo promo video: https://vimeo.com/155011503.