Q&A with Producer Lauren de Normandie of Status Media & Ent.
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Status Media & Entertainment is one of the many production companies that use InkTip to find scripts and writers. Status Media & Entertainment has produced 19 feature films in just the last four years. Of those 19 produced films, eight have been made from scripts and/or writers found through InkTip. One of their latest films is American Violence written by InkTip writer Al Lamanda and produced by Lauren de Normandie, the managing member of Status Media & Entertainment.
Lauren handles all business aspects of the company and serves as casting director, producer, and the head of literary acquisitions. Lauren has cast and produced more than ten feature films including the action/thriller 4GOT10 starring Dolph Lundgren and Danny Trejo (2015); the sci-fi/thriller WEAPONiZED (2016) starring Tom Sizemore, Johnny Messner and Mickey Rourke; and the western Traded (2016) starring Kris Kristofferson, Michael Pare and Trace Adkins.
Lauren was looking for a crime thriller script and sent out a request for scripts in InkTip’s Preferred Newsletter. She came across Al’s query and they connected. She liked his unique thriller that took on the nuanced issue of the death penalty and told a compelling story. She optioned the script and then bought it. American Violence opened in select U.S. theaters in February of this year.
American Violence tells the story of a psychologist fascinated by the root causes of violent behavior who interviews a death row inmate and must determine his fate. The film stars two-time Academy Award nominee Bruce Dern, Kaiwi Lyman, Denise Richards, Columbus Short, Johnny Messner, Michael Paré and features reigning UFC Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic and New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. You can see the film on Netflix, Amazon Video, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes, YouTube, and it's also available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Lauren is currently developing several projects, including Gangster Land starring Hacksaw Ridge’s Milo Gibson and written by InkTip writer Ian Patrick Williams. Lauren took time from her busy schedule to chat with us about American Violence and her experiences as a producer.
INKTIP: How did you get your start in the industry?
LAUREN: I actually got my start sort of by accident. I was working in publicity when I met my partner Timothy. He was doing more acting than directing/producing at the time. We started talking about what it would be like to work on our own projects and have complete creative control, and before we knew it we'd started our own company.
INKTIP: I heard you found the script for American Violence through InkTip’s newsletter. What about Al’s query stood out to you? Any advice for writers who are querying producers?
LAUREN: I was really intrigued by Al's query. The death penalty is a really fascinating and polarizing issue, and very relevant today. I thought it would be a really interesting idea to try and show the story of someone on death row from their perspective. Once I had a chance to dive into the script, I really felt for Jack (the main character on death row).
My advice for writers who are querying producers is to let your work speak for itself, and try not to be too pushy. If your script is something that we think will be a good fit for us we will reach out! And remember, producers get sent hundreds of logline and scripts every week. As much as we'd love to read all of them, there just aren't enough hours in the day. We have to be very picky with what we choose to read. I'd love to discuss every element of every script with writers and talk about how things can be improved/adjusted/etc., but that's just not feasible. I guess my point is be patient.
INKTIP: What do you look for in a script as a producer?
LAUREN: The biggest two things I look for when reading a script are character and character. As cool as a script’s concept might be, if the characters aren't fleshed out and interesting it's hard to justify getting behind it, not to mention how hard it is to interest actors when characters are flat and one-dimensional. Al's script had really amazing characters. Jack was incredibly interesting and had a great history. Although, I think my favorite character was Biggs played by Michael Pare. What an interesting guy! A degenerate gambling second story thief with a heart of gold and a soft spot for a struggling young man just out of prison.
INKTIP: American Violence tackles the controversial issues surrounding the death penalty. What inspired you to tackle this difficult subject?
LAUREN: We tried to leave the film open-ended, in my opinion, not really swaying for or against the death penalty. Our goal was more to make people take a second and think about it. Starting a dialogue is probably the most important thing to me.
INKTIP: Anything you’d like to share about your experience making this film. Was there anything interesting or funny that happened during production?
LAUREN: It was a pretty fun film to make! The cast was incredible to work with, especially our fearless Jack, Kaiwi Lyman-Mersereau. We had a great crew also. It's never a walk in the park making an independent film. It's long hours and hard work, but the crew really came together and I think we made something pretty good.
I think the funnest day on set was when Rob "Gronk" Gronkowski came to play the get-away driver. He was a blast!
INKTIP: Many of the films you’ve produced have been action/thrillers. What draws you to this genre?
LAUREN: First and foremost is marketability. Action/thrillers tend to appeal to the widest audiences.
Personally, I lean more towards mystery/crime/thrillers, and probably have since the first time I watched Clue.
INKTIP: American Violence is the latest in a series of projects you’ve found using InkTip. How would you describe your experience with InkTip so far?
LAUREN: InkTip is a great service! We've had some pretty good luck finding scripts through InkTip. It's user-friendly and straightforward. I like how you can really pin down what you're looking for with the subcategory tabs. Another really helpful feature is when you can post a notice for a very particular type of project and have writers submit, it really helps narrow things down even more, which is key when there are thousands of scripts floating around out there.
INKTIP: Do you have any tips for producers or directors using InkTip or searching for and developing content in general?
LAUREN: Know what you're looking for. If you start your search looking in every genre with no parameters or limitations you are going to get bogged down. Narrow your search in your mind before you start, it will save you a ton of time and hair pulling.
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Liz Rivera is a comedy writer and children’s book author. Learn more about her at thelizrivera.com