Your new movie Break
Even - in a few words is it about?
thrill-seeking friends find $50m dollars of hidden illegal cash and go on
the run with the DEA and a crime-lord on their tail.
What can you
tell us about your script's approach to action cinema? And is this a genre
at all dear to you?
is where I started with screenwriting back in 2012. Itís where my heart
lies. However, Iím all about real stunts with the actors as involved as
much as possible. Break
Even was a great opportunity to write sequences
that punch above their weight. I had to get inventive and talk some stuff
through with the director Shane Stanley [Shane
Stanley interview -
click here], and I was surprised by how much he
felt we could do. We actually ended up going above what we thought we
could get away with and even bought and modified the speedboat Fair
Warning so we knew we wouldnít be putting someoneís pride and joy
What were your sources of inspiration when writing Break
enough, a lot of the inspiration was drawn from a spec script of mine that
Shane fell in love with called For Your Dreams which follows two
sisters on the run across Texas and Nevada in a muscle being forced to run
drugs. Shane came to me to talk about making it more marketable to the
mainstream, to put it on the water and set more of it in the city. I said
Iíd go one better than that and write a whole new script for him because
Iíd read his book and wanted to work with him so much. Shane then threw
in a load of suggestions from his own life experiences and we worked with
that until we had this sort of Fast and Furious on the water vibe.
Of the four leads in Break
Even, whom could you identify with the most, actually, and why?
big on theme in my storywriting, and Break
Even has a strong one under the
surface. It pivots around the theme of second chances and how our past
defines us. All of the leads provide a different view on this; Jaq has
written herself off as ever being normal due to her upbringing, Sebastien
feels nobody can escape their past, Rosie desperately wants to hit the reset
button to survive, and Dash is in the early process of rebuilding a new
life. Since they all give different angles on the same core topic, I
identify with them all equally because they pull from different chapters
of my own life experience.
how did the project fall together in the first place?
Shane and I are on the same wavelength. We finish each otherís
sentences. We know what each other are going to suggest the second we
bring something up. You canít put two people like us in the same room
and not have us walk out the door with a bunch of ideas and the energy to
make them happen. Shane stumbled across me via some of my blogs and liked
what I had to say. That caused him to wonder what my scripts were like, and
thankfully I had them all on my website ready to read. He played it very
smart though. He sent me his book to read first which told me everything I
needed to know about how he likes
to work. When I came back raving about his ethos and leadership mentality,
he knew it was the right time to hit me about collaborating. Break
Even was inevitable and weíve spoken nearly daily since first connecting,
that ďroomĒ being Skype since Iím in the UK and heís in the US.
can you tell us about Break
Even's director Shane Stanley [Shane
Stanley interview - click here], and what was your collaboration
the kind of guy who can have a million and one fires to put out during a
shoot while heís doing five peopleís jobs and still notice if an
assistant on the other side of the set needs cheering up because theyíre
having a tough day. Heís genuinely like that. Iíve been with him when
heís helped load grip trucks at 3am after everyone else has left and
handed out bottled water between takes in the desert. Heís also incredibly
decent. One of the most decent people Iíve met and his long-standing
reputation is built on that. Thereís people who wouldnít cross the
road to follow some directors but people will follow Shane through the
wilderness. I was going through a really rough time when we connected and
was carrying some baggage from having a bully of a boss in my past. I had
a lot of fear about collaborating and needed kindness and decency. Writing
for Shane was actually more fun than writing specs alone because he had so
much respect for my words and craft. I thought our early meetings were
going to be full of notes and issues but it was just typo corrections and
Even was the first time we worked together but itís been a blur
since. While that comes out in North America, we have our next project
already shooting. We werenít going to let Covid hold us back. Itís not
been easy but weíve found a way to do it. Whatís been great is Iíve
gone from writer to producer in the process, setting up my own production
company Rebelle Rouser to really solidify my commitment to a new
genre I want to bring to the world: Nexploitation - good old-fashioned
hedonistic entertainment mixed with modern progressive values.
you actually involved involved in the actual shoot in any way, and if so,
what can you tell us about it?
insisted that I come out to the shoot because thatís the fun part.
Besides, weíd not met in person until that point. That meant I was flown
out to LA (my first time in the city) and got to see every aspect of the
production, and I mean every aspect too. It was a wild ride and up to me
in terms of how involved I wanted to get. I think I fell asleep in front
of Shane three or four times due to a combination of jet-lag and
exhaustion but I couldnít get enough. I spent a lot of time shadowing
Shane and Neil Chisolm, our co-producer and head of transpo, and
experienced bit of everything. As a result, Neil has become one of my
dearest friends too. I mean the guy took me to Trejoís Tacos in central
Hollywood in a Ford Raptor weíd borrowed from the Top Gun: Maverick
production - how can you not become best buds with a dude like that?
Any future projects you'd
like to talk about?
hot one right now is the film we have in production Double Threat
which stars Danielle C. Ryan, Matthew Lawrence, Dawn Olivieri and Kevin
Joy. Itís an action-comedy which follows a forensic accountant whose
journey across the country to scatter his late brotherís ashes turns
precarious when he crosses paths with a young woman with an unpredictable
psychological condition and a sketchy past. Theyíre pursued by a mob
enforcer and the mob bossís son who argue about honour and tradition
while in hot pursuit. The theme is about baggage and different ways we
deal with it all wrapped up in something that has a satirical edge to it.
The super-cool thing is Danielle C. Ryan, is an actor capable of some
remarkable stunts, so the film showcases that. Itís been a dream come
true for me to work with someone with that skillset.
What got you into scriptwriting in
the first place, and did you recieve any formal training on the subject?
open about the fact that I got into screenwriting and writing in general
after a mental breakdown and life-crisis in 2012. Before then, due to my
difficulties with spelling, grammar, and proof-reading, the idea of me
becoming a writer was laughable, but I just had to get these daydreams out
of my head. If I already wasnít passionate enough, I then learned that
some people donít really have an active imagination as such and being
born with a vivid one was a gift that creatives need to share with the
world. Iím 100% self-taught, learning the craft mainly by trial and
error while reading books on filmmaking, writing, and art. Iíve never
felt so devoted to anything in my life.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Break
honestly not a lot there but a lot of effort behind what little there is.
I spent around five years only writing short scripts and giving those away
to aspiring filmmakers for free. I must have optioned in the range of
thirty but only saw maybe three get made. I felt like I never really got a
break with that but the reality is Iím not a great short script writer
because I donít want to write the kind of short films that currently get
picked for festivals. I did manage to get a few accolades with the writing
scene, the most significant being having one of my scripts selected as a
notable project by Amazon Studios back in 2013. That said, I was still
pretty much a complete unknown when I connected with Shane.
How would you describe yourself as a
very upfront and transparent that Iím here to write pulpy movies with
female leads. I want to take the b-movie genre and push it with higher
quality storytelling and gritty action. I am obsessed with the
fundamentals of storytelling in that it should provide a form of life-affirming medicine to those
it speaks to. A good story should teach you
something even though you may not realise it and what you learn should
make you feel more comfortable with life and the human condition as a
result. Iím also fast and easy-going, not precious about
my words, and appreciative of the business and other artistís needs.
Iím here to help directors, actors, and the whole crew go on their own
journey of creative exploration.
Screenwriters, writers, filmmakers, whoever else
who inspire you?
am blatantly inspired by the work (and attitude) of Tarantino but also
Tony Scott and Oliver Stone. What can I say? Iím a product of the 90s
backlot rebel movement. People say you shouldnít try to imitate people
like that but I double-down on it knowing my own voice is strong enough to
shine through. I also love to watch B-movies from the 70s and 80s,
and almost always find inspiration in them. They were so ambitious and
often walked a fine line between shlock and arthouse. I watch a film like
A Boy and His Dog or Psychomania, and Iím thinking about how to make a
modern version of them while still holding the same thematic aspects.
Your favourite movies?
changes all the time but Iíd say Akira,
Breakdown, High Plains Drifter,
The Hitcher, and Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry are five you donít see people
often list but hold a very special place in my heart.
and of course, films you really deplore?
genuinely mean it when I state ďI donít care if itís Tarantino or Twilight, Iíll find the love in anything.Ē Iíll argue the cultural
merits of the Twilight franchise all day long even though those films are
juxtaposed to the kind that appeal directly to me. Thereís a huge
difference between a badly executed movie and one thatís not trying to
appeal to your demographic. The last film I remember really strongly
wanting to end as quickly as possible was The Favourite because I was
watching it in the movie theatre and couldnít escape. I still loved the
Duchess of Marlboroughís shooting outfit though, which I personally feel is
an iconic piece of movie costuming.
movie's website, social media, whatever else?
can check out more info on Break
Even via www.breakevenmovie.com,
pretty much everything about me can be found via www.cjwalley.com
there are links to my social media accounts.
else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
Iím not writing/producing, I am running my script hosting website
www.scriptrevolution.com, which is free, has been going four years, has
over 8,000 members, and is getting some success stories for people. Itís
ideal for anyone trying to break into indie film on a budget because
Iíve been building it organically around all the things Iím learning
and proving works. Writers can also find my Turn & Burn Screenwriting
there too. Rockstar members who pay a tiny subscription fee can not only
get various discounts, they can come join in Zoom sessions with Shane and
I were we answer peopleís questions and chat for sessions lasting as
long as six hours sometimes.
for the interview!