Broken Pieces

Jack Canon's American Destiny

DA Serra – What Inspired You to Write Primal

Sunday, August 11, 2013

What Inspired You to Write Primal

by D.A. Serra

Primal began its life as a screenplay.  I’d been writing successfully for TV & film for a number of years; and so, I was living in an environment where the good guys always won, and then people went casually back to their lives before the credits rolled.  This bothered me to my core.  I believed it to be preposterous.   In Primal, I wanted the protagonist’s emotional journey to be genuine:  there had to be serious psychological consequences.  I did not believe an average person could go through a terrifying experience, come out the other side, take an aspirin, and go back to work.  Violence is sticky.  It wounds the spirit and leaves an indelible mark on the unconscious.  Following a blood-curdling experience no one I have ever known would simply go home feeling heroic.  How would someone like you deal with it?  Someone really like you?

After I completed writing Primal, I started taking meetings with studios that showed an interest in buying the screenplay.  I found myself defending my choice to take the story in that direction over and over.  I fought this “happy ending” mentality at every single meeting within the film studios.  They wanted to end the story on the island and I refused to make that change.  I wanted to show the aftermath:  the news cameras, the terror that sticks to you, the destruction of your self-concept, of the way people treat you, of the influence on your family relationships, how your view of simple things changes.  This was what interested me in this story in the first place.

One of the reasons I decided to sell the film version of Primal to James Cameron was because when we sat in a meeting together he got it immediately.  He understood that this was what the movie was about – this was what made the story fresh: that second half – the mental journey, and this was what raised the story above the everyday thriller plotline.  Whether the character Ben Burne is alive or dead is irrelevant because that second section would play out exactly the same for Alison either way, and who knows who might end up on the floor of that garage.  Alison’s descent is what is real.  The Alison we meet on page one is not, and will never be again, the Alison on page one hundred.  We leave the story understanding this.

When I decided to move into fiction, I contacted Cameron and FOX (who now owns the rights) and asked if I could novelize Primal.  They agreed.  I really enjoyed the process since it allowed me more space and time inside the characters’ head, which doesn’t happen in screenwriting.  I don’t know what will happen with the screenplay since film writers do not retain copyright, and so I’m out of the loop on that, but I’m really satisfied to have been able to flesh out the story this way.

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Genre – Thriller

Rating – R

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