Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Sean Paul Murphy, Writer
Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Monday, September 26, 2016

RIP Herschell Gordon Lewis

Herschell Gordon Lewis with my wife Deborah Lynn Murphy
Many years ago I helped edit the film Jimmyo Burril's "Chainsaw Sally"starring April Monique Burril and Mark Redfield.  The true highlight of the project was the opportunity to meet horror icon Herschell Gordon Lewis, aka The Godfather of Gore.  I rarely venture onto the sets of films I edit, but I did go to meet Herschell, who turned out to be a really nice, unassuming guy, who, like myself, spent most of career working in advertising.

I have been a fan of horror movies all of my life and I have always respected Herschell as an innovator.  His low-budget exploitative film "Blood Feast" initiated the "gore" subgenre and paved the way for films like "Night of the Living Dead."  Generally speaking, I am not a fan of gore for the sake of gore, but I really enjoyed Herschell's film "2000 Maniacs," a twisted version of the musical"Brigadoon," about a Confederate town that reappears 100 years so that the inhabitants can take revenge on Yankees.  Herschell infused the film with a certain goofy, maniacal gleeful charm that kept the proceedings entertaining throughout.

Rest in peace, Herschell.  I'm glad I had the chance to meet you.

You will find considerably less gore in my book "The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God" than Herschell's films.  Be sure to check it out:

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"The Company Man" Wins Three Emmys!

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter, recently awarded "The Company Man" three Emmys.  The film won Best Director, Tom Feliu, Best Photography, John St. Ours, and Best Program/Special.  This brings the total of Emmys won by films I wrote to six.

Yours truly with one of the previous Emmys.
"The Company Man" was made by Rocket Media Group and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  It was directed by Tom Feliu, produced by Ward LeHardy, Tom Feliu, Jarett Melville and Dean Chappell III, and written by your humble narrator.  It is a narrative short depicting the very real threat of economic espionage at the behest of foreign powers.

The film is based on an actual case of attempted economic espionage that was successfully thwarted by the joint efforts of the targeted company and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Some names and details were changed in the film to obscure the actual identity of the company itself.

"The Company Man" might be my favorite project for the FBI.  As a screenwriter, I was really drawn to the case.  It was very Hitchcockian.  The story revolved around a mild-mannered everyman who reluctantly finds himself in the center of an international game of cat and mouse.  In order to catch the foreign agents, the FBI needed to use an employee at the targeted company as bait because it was easier to teach the engineer the necessary spy craft than it was to teach an FBI Agent the detailed engineering knowledge.  The film is told from the perspective of the courageous engineer.  It was a great story with a great result:  Thousands of American jobs saved.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked on this film.  I always enjoy working with Rocket Media and the folks at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Each project has given me great insight into serious problems facing our country.  I am hopeful that the films will be part of the solution.

And, despite whatever National Public Radio thinks, they are not propaganda.

Here's the film:

Have you read my book "The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking to God" yet?  If not, what are you waiting for?  Check out this free preview on Amazon:

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Company Man: Featured on 60 Minutes

This Sunday's episode of the CBS news magazine "60 Minutes" used footage from my FBI film "The Company Man" in their story Collateral Damage, about Chinese-American scientists falsely accused of espionage.  The point of the story is that the Justice Department is throwing too wide a net in their attempts to combat the state sponsored theft of intellectual and scientific property.  All I can say is, based on my research, the problem is very real and very damaging to the United States.

Our film, "The Company Man," which was produced for the FBI by Rocket Media, was based very closely on an actual case.  I am very proud of it.  Here's the trailer:

Be sure to check out my book The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God.  It is available in paperback and on Kindle courtesy of TouchPoint Press.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

"The Coming Storm" on Fox News

Yours truly on the set of "The Coming Storm."

"The Coming Storm," a film I wrote for the Federal Bureau of Investigation was discussed on Fox News a few months ago.  I recently saw the clip and decided to post it here.  Despite Shepherd Smith's snarky comments about the musical score, it is a pretty favorable story.  Watch here if the player below doesn't work for you:  Slick FBI video trains first responders.


"The Coming Storm" is the fourth film I wrote for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  It was directed by Tom Feliu and produced by Ward LeHardy and Skip Coblyn at Rocket Media Group.   The film depicts an active shooter event at a college and the chaotic aftermath as law enforcement and first responders and victims try to come to grips with tragedy.  Unlike my other films, I don't think this one will be released to the general public.  Although the story is told dramatically, and I believe it carries an emotional punch, it is a little more training oriented than my previous films.

This, however, is the first of the films I appeared in.  My wife Deborah and I play worried parents.  I think I even see us blurred out in background periodically....

My wife Deborah and myself with our star Elliott Bales.
I really love working on these films for the FBI.  Great, dedicated people.

Be sure to check out my book The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God.  It is available in paperback and on Kindle courtesy of TouchPoint Press.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Prince and the Nexus of Music and Memory.

This poster was my introduction to Prince.

I heard about it before I actually saw it. It was 1981. My girlfriend was getting a new dorm mate at college.  The new girl proceeded to hang the large poster on the wall over her bed.  My girlfriend was repulsed. She thought it was disgusting, and quickly told me as much later that day on the phone.  It would be weeks before I finally got to see the poster myself.*  It was my introduction to the late Prince Rogers Nelson.

I had never heard of him before seeing the poster, although I soon would.  I would become a fan.  Not a big one.  I bought the iconic "Purple Rain" album -- who didn't?  I later got a greatest hits package that filled in most of the remaining blanks as far as I was concerned.  Yet, despite my lack of devotion, Prince's death really hit me hard and I think I know why.

When you're young, I think you are attracted to music that speaks to your immediate emotional needs at the moment. You seek out performers whose words and music impart something into your life. It also helps you build a sense of community with others. You instinctively feel that other people who are attracted to the same music must share your background and needs. Music reinforces your feelings and helps you find your place in life.

It's different when you're older. Popular music from the previous decades speaks to you differently.  It is no longer about what the recording artist imparts to you through the words and music. It is about what you impart onto the music.

Generally speaking, I hated the music of the eighties during the actual decade itself.  I found it gimmicky and over-produced and too heavily-laden laden with synthesizers and electronic drums.  Ick.  Now I love it.  It's amazing how songs I once viewed with disdain can illicit a deep emotional response from me.  Why?  Because the songs themselves no longer matter in and of themselves.  The emotion comes from the context in which I heard them originally.

For example, when I hear Prince's "Let's Go Crazy," my mind races back to a fun company party held at the home of two of the executives.  When I hear "Raspberry Beret," my mind goes back to a sunny, carefree Saturday morning when I first saw the video.  It put me in a chipper mood for the rest of the day.  Prince's original intentions with the music are irrelevant to me.  Now the songs serve as little audio time machines -- transporting me back to bygone days.

When I wrote my memoir "The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God," I found pop music to be one of my most effective tools.  I created massive playlists of songs from each of the years depicted in my book.  And, for example, when I wrote a chapter about 1980, I only played randomly-shuffled songs from that year.  I was shocked how much emotion and memory those often lame AM-oriented Top 40 songs packed.   They recaptured a time frozen in the past.

And that is why I mourn Prince.   There was a time when he was positively ubiquitous.  His voice rang out from every television and radio and turntable and boom box.  Even if I didn't deliberately seek out his music, Prince was always there providing the soundtrack to a sad, crazy, exciting time in my life.  His sudden death serves as an unwelcome reminder that the past that he provided a steady beat for is also gone forever.

I guess the poet John Donne summed it up best when he said: "Therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee."

I do mourn Prince as a person.  My prayers go to his family and loved ones.  But I also realize he takes a little of me with him.  And I know I will soon follow.

Until then, Let's Go Crazy:

*Funny, I never noticed the cross in the poster until I looked at it again after Prince's death.

Be sure to check out my book The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God.  It is available in paperback and on Kindle courtesy of TouchPoint Press.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Girl at the End of the Road: Book Review

I don't read many novels.  Not anymore.

Since I became a working screenwriter, I take less pleasure in novels.  I have a hard time enjoying them at face value.  I always find myself stepping out of the action as I consider whether the book would make a good movie.  Fortunately, I didn't have that problem with "The girl at the end of the road" by Kathryn Hitchins.  I found the book riveting from the start, and it kept me hooked despite the fact that I thought it would make a great movie.

I actually read the book prior to its publication.  I found it on the now defunct website Authonomy.  Authonomy was a writer community set up by the publisher Harper Collins.  Writers were invited to post their manuscripts to be read and critiqued by fellow writers.  The most highly-rated manuscripts would then be considered by the editors at Harper Collins.  I joined Authonomy because I was hoping to have a very early draft of my book "The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God" considered by the publisher.  Therefore, I had to get some ratings.  The best way to get them was to read and critique books by other writers.

I thought it would be a tedious process.  Both fortunately and unfortunately, most of the books I read were very good.  I say fortunately because it made it easier to read them.  I say unfortunately because it showed the extremely high level of competition in the book world.   "The girl at the end of the road" was easily the best novel I read on the website.

The book tells the story of a high-flying, young financier named Vincent who seems to have it all:  money, a great apartment in the city, and a high-class girlfriend.  Unfortunately, Vincent loses his job in the economic collapse and, much to his humiliation, he must return to his parents' small town home to regroup.  While using the internet at the library, he becomes reacquainted with Sarah, the eccentric assistant librarian.  She was his first crush in school, and, although she remembers him, she treats him with utter indifference.  This is a blow to Vincent's ego, since he views himself as more successful (at least temporarily) than any of the people who stayed in town.  And because, once upon a time, he felt there was a real bond between them.

Vincent works hard to impress her, but his efforts always back fire.  Her constant rejection of him makes her all the more desirable.  Eventually, he finds a hook into her life.  She needs to learn how to drive and he offers to teach her.  They slowly begin to bond against again as Vincent tries to unravel the mystery of Sarah Penny.  So does the reader.

(Spoilers.  You've been warned.)

Sarah Penny is a wonderful creation.  Fresh.  Unique.  Intriguing.  A truly vivid character that, like Vincent, I found myself quickly falling in love with.  I found her so fascinating that I questioned why the author didn't tell the story from her point of view, but I believe she made the right choice by letting the reader uncover her secrets along with Vincent.  What is her secret?  Autism.

Fascinating.  The problem with romances is that there are so few obstacles between people in our carefree world today.  This was a great one.  Once Vincent begins to understand Sarah's autism, he realizes she will never fit into the life he envisioned for himself.  His shallow, materialistic friends in the city would never accept her, nor would she accept them.  Vincent would have to leave his world and enter hers if he decided to love her.  It is a decision that will change his world.

It is a great story, but, more importantly, it is also an illuminating depiction of autism.  Kathryn gives us a compassionate but honest portrait of an autistic person.  I later learned after talking with the author that she has an autistic daughter.  I was not surprised.  Such a detailed portrait needed a real subject.

I loved the book.  And, since I am a screenwriter and a producer, I wanted to make a movie.  I contacted Kathryn and asked her if she was interested.  She was.  I wrote up a treatment in conjunction with her.  I changed the location from England to America and simplified the plot a bit.  My first thought was the UPtv network.  I had previously done the feature-length series pilot "Brother White" with them and I thought this story suited them very well.  Since PureFlix had ongoing relationship with the network, I called  David A.R. White, and, despite my exceedingly strained relationship with the company, asked if he was interested in pitching the story.  He was.  Off it the network.  A few weeks later, in what would prove to be my last phone call with David, I asked what the network thought of the treatment.  David said he hadn't heard back from them yet.  He added that since PureFlix was concentrating on theatrical features now, they weren't interested in making any more films with UPtv anyway -- although they subsequently made Gabe Sabloff's "Dancer and The Dame" with the network.

I approached another producer, Pamela J. Bertsch, with even better connections with UPtv.  She sent in the treatment and we got a response in about two days.  They declined because they had just done a movie with some superficial plot similarities which didn't touch on the autism angle.  Now it was time to go elsewhere.  I thought it would be great for Hallmark, but I couldn't approach them with just an unpublished book unless I had a completed screenplay.  Sadly, I was too weighed under by assignment work to write the script, and Kathryn was too busy trying to get it published.  Fortunately, she succeeded and I couldn't be happier for her.

Now it might be time to reconsider writing the script....

And maybe it shouldn't be a cable movie after all.  Top flight actresses will definitely want to play Sarah....

PS.  I am not reviewing the book because of this little blurb on the back cover.  (But it doesn't hurt.)

After reading "The girl at the end of the road," be sure to check out my book ,"The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God," available on Kindle and in paperback from TouchPoint Press.  (I recommend the paperback.)