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Thursday 12th February 2004
Once bitten
Words: Bren O'Callaghan
vinnie cleghorne
Vinnie Cleghorne

Almost everyone dreams of making it big.

Money, Oscars , celebrity chums - and lasting fame that isn't decided by the results of a public phone vote.

But how many attempt to do something about it?

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Vinnie Cleghorne hasn't stopped laughing for the past half-hour. He's talking about his experiences as a scriptwriter, in addition to illustrating story books and holding gallery exhibitions of his work.

Los Angeles
Liverpool... LA. Liverpool... LA. It's a tough choice!

Baby-faced and booming with a Barry White baritone, he reels off one anecdote after another, leaping between tales of lucky breaks and hard-won opportunities. With his first feature film in the pipeline I ask how it all began, so that others might shuffle tentatively behind…

"I was a member of the Liverpool Playwrights Group," begins Vinnie.

"People brought anything from radio plays to film scripts each week and we'd discuss the structure behind it all; the why and what and how behind the creative process.

"After I won a competition to make a short film with Mersey Television I decided to write a feature length cartoon myself. I put together the designs, wrote the scenes and character descriptions, mocked up a movie poster and jumped on a plane to LA. I had nowhere to stay, no plans or contacts but decided to look for an agent anyway. I was out there for three months.

Los Angeles
Look closer, you might spot a celebrity!

"It's tough for anyone used to walking from one place to another. Los Angeles isn't designed with pedestrians in mind. Going from one company to the next was like walking from Land's End to John O'Groats!

"It helped that I was from England. My accent was definitely a golden ticket in terms of charming receptionists to let me see top executives. I was admitted into the best agencies without any appointment and even met with the Vice President of Fox amongst others."

Although his concept didn't get any further, Vinnie's tenacity was rewarded with a bulging contacts book and his own LA agent. For the next three months he lived in style, with cars arriving to chauffer him to parties and daily phone calls from major studios apologising for not having got back sooner - a far cry from the non-reply and curt refusals of their UK equivalent.

Harry Dean Stanton
1.Harry Dean Stanton starred in Alien as 'Snack in baseball cap'.

"I ended up house sitting for the sister of a friend who lived on Mulholland Drive [fancy LA district]. The actor Harry Dean Stanton (Alien, Repo Man, Twin Peaks) lived next door, where he's become a bit - let's say, eccentric - in recent years. From time to time I'd see him sat in a tree in his yard, wearing only an open bed robe and feeding squirrels!"

Back home, Vinnie decided to send a fresh script on spec to Elliot Grove, founder of the Raindance Film Festival in London and writer of 'Write and Sell the Hot Screenplay' - the bible for wannabe scribes. He waited, like so many others, for the phone to ring.

And this time it really did.

"He [Elliot] asked me to come down to London and attend a course led by John Truby, perhaps the biggest script guru there is. So I did, not knowing what to expect. After everyone had filed in and settled down, Elliot stood up to explain that he receives over 2,000 scripts every year, but that one had stood out from all the rest.

Blade 2
2."Sorry to bother you, but can you tell where the turn off is for the M62?"

"I'd just like to ask Vincent," he said, "Who is sat in the audience today - can I produce this film?"

"I was gobsmacked!"

With the working title of 'Vampires…The Rough Guide', it's a horror set in Manchester that pits regional bloodsuckers from across the UK against cock 'o the graveyard, the fearsome Vampire Premiere and his team of elite assassins.

"The vampires' families have no idea that these guys are now among the undead," enthuses Vinnie.

"They'll stop by for a visit after dark and their Mum will rip into them.

"How come you never eat anything anymore? Why do you look so pale?"

"It's a wacked-out script if I say it myself."

Now under option, this means that Grove and his team pay Vinnie a nominal amount to retain the sole rights for an period of 12 months. An option for a different project lapsed when the producer in question secured funding to film one of his own scripts instead. Vinnie remains optimistic.

"That's just the way it is. It was for a freaky script called 'Banshee' set in Ireland, about a retired rock star who inherits an ancient mansion - but there are plenty more in the works, and I don't mind too much because it looks as though Vampires… might start shooting later this year."

For now, Vinnie is busy polishing the script and nurturing his latest batch of ideas. It seems that self-belief, enthusiasm and excitement are key elements for anyone determined to follow in his footsteps.

But you'll need binoculars to keep up with Vinnie as he sprints toward the horizon.

 

PHOTO CREDITS

1. Photo by Robert Penn - © 2003 Twentieth Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.

2. Copyright 1998 New Line Cinema Productions: 'Blade 2'

 



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