Sometimes dreams come true: On writing ‘Devil’s Due’
by Lindsay Devlin
About a year and a half ago, I had an intense dream about a “paranormal pregnancy” (I know, strange right?). It was one of those visceral and emotional experiences where even when I woke, I couldn’t shake the images and feelings. I even did some research into the subject and was amazed to find out that many people believe that pregnant women develop a kind of 6th sense, a hypersensitivity to the supernatural.
Pregnancy is considered a beautiful, natural thing; we’re bombarded with photos of celebrity baby bumps and Facebook posts of glowing prenatal happiness. But there’s the other side too: the uncertainty and fear of what happens to your body, the feeling of loss of control, the strain on your relationship as you make room for a third person. As my pregnant friends quietly confessed some of these feelings, and as I contemplated future motherhood myself, I realized that my crazy nightmare could be the basis for an allegorical film tackling all these very real fears that women (and their partners) have during pregnancy.
I sketched down some ideas and then, during a trip to Kauai, wrote an outline. I decided it should be “found footage” style to lend to the real and raw quality, especially in an age where we all document so much, new parents included. I had no idea then that just a year and a half later, these ideas would be the basis of a major motion picture. Devil’s Due will be released by 20th Century Fox on January 17.
How did it happen so fast? I credit a mixture of timing, luck, opportunity and the foresight of a handful of people who saw something in it, perhaps even more than I did. I told my idea to my manager, who encouraged me to write up an outline. Then she fortuitously had lunch that week with an executive who immediately sparked to the idea. These things don’t tend to go anywhere, but I sent the outline, hopeful. Just a few short weeks later the deal was closed, much to my shock. A few months later, the directors signed on and, well, the rest is history.
I’m still pinching myself – my first sale, my first produced film. I’m realistic to know that Hollywood doesn’t always work like this. I’ve written specs that didn’t sell and gone up for jobs I didn’t get. Most movies take years to get made. I feel very blessed that this was my first movie experience.
Most people who know me well wonder how I ended up writing a horror movie. After all, I’m the girl who loves costume dramas to the point where I seek out the places they’ve been filmed. (I’ll do a separate blog post on that!) I thought I was Laura Ingalls growing up, bonnet and all. My office is filled with tattered and loved copies of The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, Alice in Wonderland. Many of my friends know that I dream of being a children’s book author. So how in the world did Devil’s Due come out of my brain? I actually wondered the same thing.
In reflecting on my earliest creative influences, I began to realize that the seeds of writing in the genre have been growing for many, many years. As a child, I always liked the inherent darkness of fairy tales. I was drawn to the gothic and supernatural in both film and literature. I was a theatrical kid and liked scaring my friends at sleepovers with twisted, haunted tales. One of my favorite early Disney movies was The Watcher in the Woods, an eerie story about an American family who moves to a creepy estate in the English countryside, where the woods seem to be haunted by a spirit. To this day, my poor brother hates scary movies because I would watch it over and over, and then frighten him with tales of “real” ghosts (sorry, Ryan).
I believe I was drawn to these stories for a few reasons. I’ve always been a Type A, take-charge kind of person, so there’s something thrilling and delicious about being scared and losing that kind of control – succumbing to the dark corners of your own mind. Scary tales can also be romantic in the classic sense of the word… there’s a reason some of the most famous gothic horror writers were women (Mary Shelley, Charlotte Brontë, Daphne du Maurier, Shirley Jackson).
Devil’s Due was shot in New Orleans (doubling as North Carolina), and being on set was a truly magical experience. Seeing my ideas come to life in ways I’d envisioned, as well as seeing how the directors’ vision expanded the story in ways I hadn’t, was amazing (seeing my name on the back of the chair was also pretty thrilling). And there’s something so entrancing about the city of New Orleans itself, full of tumultuous history and otherworldly beauty, which helped give the production an extra sense of the supernatural.
I’m currently adapting two young adult books (a feature film and a TV pilot) and I feel equally at home in that world. We writers don’t have to and shouldn’t put ourselves into genre boxes. We simply need to find the stories that we’re drawn to telling, even if we’re not sure at first why. I look forward to what the next creative challenges might be for me, including that children’s book I know I’m meant to write.
But for now, I’m celebrating the fact that dreams do come true. Not just figuratively but literally – the dream I had in spring 2012 has been brought to life! Seeing my name on the big screen will be a surreal experience, something I’ve been fantasizing about since I can remember realizing what credits at the end of a film meant. I feel very lucky and thankful for the experience I had on Devil’s Due. It was a crazy-fast and wonderfully collaborative experience with all involved. And it’s fun that things have come full circle – now I’ll be scaring a whole new generation of movie-goers in the same way I once was. My seven-year-old self would be very proud.Tags: Devil's Due, Entertainment industry, Female writers, First script sale and first produced film, Getting first film made, Hollywood, Horror films, Lindsay Devlin, Screenwriter