After working in television, radio, and video since high school, I eventually pushed myself into the indie film biz, which suited my creative and entrepreneurial nature. That involved me acquiring scripts and novels of other writers and trying to make them into movies.
For instance, I acquired a New York Times best-seller book, the true story of this country’s only husband-and-wife serial killers, written by the cop who brought them down. Sounds like a slam dunk, doesn’t it? No matter how hard I pitched it to studios, though, nobody wanted it because they’d suffered pushback from audiences about the then-recent NATURAL BORN KILLERS. I pursued the project, but my option ran out and I could not find the author; I had been told he’d gone into hiding because of something to do with the case. I lost the project.
The expiration of options was becoming a problem for me. Since I’ve been a writer all my life, I moved in a new direction, deciding to write my own scripts. As any writer does, I was keen to find a story that would inspire me.
I got much more than I hoped for, though.
One evening in Hollywood, I was in my car, sitting at a red light at La Brea Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. This was the early ‘90s, long before the Internet changed everything. I was as naive as could be. There’s a Target store on that corner now, and it’s a lot nicer. Back then, however, the stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard was seedy and full of prostitutes. Boy prostitutes. There was no Internet, so people found sex the old-fashioned way: on street corners.
A gunshot rang out.
All those boys started running, fleeing the scene of the shooting. They ran through the traffic, down the sidewalks, they ran everywhere, running around my car. It was an amazing sight; they were dressed in tight skimpy clothes, in preppy clothes, and in dresses. I was stunned by everything that was happening.
Then, I wondered why all these boys were living on the streets, trying to sell themselves to survive.
That’s a thought I’ve grown to regret.
I dug into the idea of writing a script about this unusual slice of life and discovered this thing going right under our noses but that we would not see. One thing I learned: Most of those boys were on the streets because fathers threw their sons away because they were gay.
I created a story about a father who throws away his son when he finds out the boy is gay, then discovers what a stupid and wrong thing that was, but it might be too late to fix it.
This script, called A FATHER AND SON, took over my life. It became a very good script and had a strong emotional impact on people who read it. It was the best thing I ever wrote. And it destroyed my life. No matter how much producers and other industry people liked it, nobody would make it. Nobody would invest in it. It’s been considered at Paramount and Warner Bros. and several independent producers who thought the script was good but ‘too different.’
I wrote the script in 1998. I’ve spent my life since then trying to make this movie, and often got “this close” to getting A FATHER AND SON made. The efforts were like “a fish-hook in the eye” … the likelihood to make the movie was that impossible to ignore. Instead, I’ve kept tumbling into poverty, assuring a sense of hopelessness.
Movies can change lives. They can change attitudes. And over and over again, even this month, there is proof that this story needs to be told.
A few days ago, a 14-year-old boy who promoted “it gets better,” killed himself. In homophobic Michelle Bachmann’s district, the Feds stepped in to investigate a school district that is home to more than a half-dozen student suicides attributed to gay-bashing. A year ago, a promising college student leapt to his death from the George Washington Bridge because of anti-gay behavior. Many more suicides have happened. More gay bashing has happened. After I started writing the story in 1998, Matthew Shepard was tortured and beaten to death and left to die alone on a fence in Wyoming because he was gay.
A few months ago, when people finally started paying attention to this growing problem of gay-bashing, suicide, and murder, Arkansas District School Board member Clint McCance posted this disgusting comment on Facebook:
And then the thing that really rips at my soul:
A FATHER AND SON is a movie for the Clint McCances of this world.
It’s an eye-opener for somebody. And, it’s for those who are gay and beaten down. It’s for the community that is concerned, and the community that is ignorant, about this serious problem in our society.
How could I not be compelled to make this powerful movie? People are touched by the script and consider it an excellent script, but the movie has not yet been made. It’s not a blockbuster. It’s a low-budget independent feature film, a thriller, for a broad audience. I need to try again to raise the million dollars to get it made.
Every day, it becomes more obvious how important this message is to our society. It’s only a movie, but sometimes the right movie at the right time can help one person change from a destructive position.
Michael R. Barnard has been writing all his life (he was editor of the school newspaper in 9th grade) and has worked in TV/film/radio that long, too (he was floor director of TV shows while in high school). He moved from Minneapolis to Hollywood a quarter century ago, after Prince, with whom he had been working, went off on the LoveSexy tour in Europe. He tried working within the studio system, including a classically tragic “Hollywood” story about being in the William Morris Agency just long enough for his MOONLIGHTING script to end up ignored after the series was cancelled. Recently, he was Producer of an independent theatrical feature film, the family comedy COLLIER & CO.–HOT PURSUIT! starring John Schneider of Dukes of Hazzard and Smallville fame. His passion project, the independent thriller feature film A FATHER AND SON, stalled when the economy collapsed and now sits waiting for a million dollars (it’s an expensive script).
NATE AND KELLY (my historical fiction novel) 1915. A businessman and a prostitute find love. And hate. The eBook is available on:
BARNES & NOBLE for Nook and similar e-readers at
SMASHWORDS for HTML and PDF that can be read on your computer a
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