Writing Religion by Justin Whitkin




Coming up with the idea is the fun part; writing the story is a bitch. This tends to be the general mindset when it comes to writing screenplays, especially when you write alone. When writing with a partner though, the process takes on a different form; it becomes a strange beast that keeps pushing you to go those extra few steps that really make something happen out of the ordinary. Vincent and I have been writing together, as The Dummy Gun, for over two years and our rituals have stayed the same; write for 12 hours straight, drink heavily, sleep for 3 hours, get up, fast for the day, write for another 12 hours straight, rinse, repeat.

Vin and I shared an apartment in Hamden, CT while we were wrapping production on The Mercury Cycle, a feature that Vin wrote/produced and I headed the art department for. We knew each other from film classes at Quinnipiac University, but it wasn’t until we worked on The Mercury Cycle together, that we began to actually interact. On the surface, one would say we were seemingly different people. But faith would have it that on set, we’d discover that we shared many of the same interests.

So there we were, hanging out in an empty apartment with no furniture, no television, and no money…surviving off PB&J and Private Stock. We decided one night we would try something new – collaborating on a screenplay. It was intimidating at first, but once the ice was broken, crazy thoughts and weird ideas began to pour out of us. It was like a beautiful symphony of perception and creation. Egos were non-existent and our personal tastes were suspended in thin air. Little did we know it, but in this moment, we were sowing the seeds of what would become an incredible new method of screenwriting for the both of us. Complete collaboration.

The walls of the apartment slowly became decorated with an array of red, blue, yellow, and white note cards. As the ideas began to grow and come to fruition; the once drab apartment walls had now bloomed into a colorful array of untamed stories, three-dimensional characters, and an entire community based on a belief WE created. It’s surreal to write God, but as writers, we ARE God…to our characters.

After a while, we had a slew of characters and some elaborate storylines. “How can we fit this into a feature?” we thought to ourselves. We danced with the idea of writing two screenplays, or writing one and then writing the treatments for the others – however many there would/could be. “Why not make an episodic drama?” we asked. This idea had never occurred to us before, but it was immediately accepted as the correct path to follow. We spent every waking hour thoroughly creating this world, through drawings, words, and motion.

By the time production wrapped on The Mercury Cycle, the lease was about to run out on the apartment. Vin and I had just graduated, so we were both headed our separate ways. I headed back to Framingham, MA while Vin went back to Cortlandt Manor, NY. We did not let the five-hour drive between homes obstruct our creative wave.

After a few months of intense travels and even more intense writing sessions, we completed our pilot and season treatment for the series we aptly titled “New Plains”.

Since the completion of “New Plains”, I have since moved to Brooklyn, NY where I currently work at Eastern Effects Lighting and Grip Rental House. This move (about one year ago) allowed writing sessions to occur more frequently and with minimal effort – instead of driving at midnight, blasting Dead Kennedys with a coffee between my knees, rolling a cigarette as I steered, I just take an hour-long train ride from Grand Central Station…and with that, I quit smoking. Hooray. ?    ?

Over the past year +, we’ve been writing non-stop; new features written, treatments written for episodics. We are really moving forward. Not only are we moving forward with our writing, we are staying true and progressing with what a writing partnership is all about. When we develop new ideas, it’s not about who came up with the initial idea, scoffing at rejection, or who changed this or that; it’s always about writing and moving our idea forward. When we write, WE WRITE.

Every weekend of writing was and still is the same; write for 12-14 hours, grab a few 40’s, get up with less than 4 hours of sleep, then do the dance again. It’s a strange rush, a supernatural endorphin, a kick in the pants, a shot in the arm, a solar flare.

When all is said and done, one point remains the same:  Creation is Addictive.?

So now what? What do we do? I mean, we got these fine scripts here, but, you know, I’m in no place to shoot a feature…shit.

When in times of need, your friends will always be there to give you advice, whether you want them to or not. Well, we have some pretty solid, reliable, and smart friends. They told us to make “New Plains”. Sh*t…? No, no, that’s a great idea!

Vincent Grippi

Though, instead of making the whole series [yikes], let’s make a thorough trailer, an expose, an epic SHOWCASE that IS New Plains! We only agreed to make it if they’d help, and they agreed, and here we are. Bang.

We’ve casted over 40 roles over a few days of intense casting calls. We’ve chosen and solidified our locations – ranging from a swanky strip club in Manhattan to a friend of a friend’s private, indoor pool in Albany… and my Ditmas Park apartment, just to add a little spice to the proverbial rice. Props and set dressing are nearing completion. Holy Holy! It’s happening!

We wrote it, we dug it, and we’re making it. I’m sorry, not only are we making it, we are making it with super cool people, so hey, we already won.?

Ours friends always proved to be a point of inspiration. Everyone wants to help out, throw a few bills to the cause, and give us all the morale support they can muster.

We’re moving For Word.

This is us excited.

-Justin Whitkin
The Dummy Gun

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Twitter @thedummygun


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Justin is a professional screenwriter born in Boston, currently living in Brooklyn. While attending college, Justin began writing screenplays and ambitiously took on the role of production designer for features (The Mercury Cycle) and shorts. Alongside writing, Justin modifies, fixes, and tests lighting equipment. In addition to writing, Justin is an avid numismatic, an anthropology buff, and a ‘maker’ of everything from wax paintings to light sculptures.