Local writer sells thriller screenplay to Hollywood
TORONTO — Shane Weisfeld doesn’t give up. After writing scripts for 14 years, the Thornhill, Ont., native has finally sold his first feature-length screenplay.
The 37-year-old says he faced “so much rejection along the way,” but is now thrilled that his crime thriller The Freezer is in pre-production.
It wasn’t until 2010 that “things actually started happening” for Weisfeld and his writing partner, Tom Doganoglu. “We signed with a literary manager in L.A., and almost one year to the day The Freezer went into the marketplace, we made the deal for it to be produced.”
Weisfeld says the producers plan to start shooting the film this winter in Puerto Rico. “Now that we’ve made our first deal, this is the true beginning of my career. We’ve been able to break through the Hollywood system.”
The Freezer is about “an innocent man thrown into a walk-in freezer where he will freeze to death if he doesn’t come up with the $3 million a criminal organization is convinced he stole from them,” Weisfeld says.
“However, it’s a layered story because as it progresses, you’re not sure if this man is innocent or not, and why he’s really in that freezer. There’s also several characters throughout the story – it’s not just him stuck in a freezer trying to get out… there’s twists and turns.”
He says the idea for the script came after he and Doganoglu spent years writing scripts individually and then realized they should try collaborating. “We put our heads together, knowing we wanted to write a contained thriller, and preferably a one-location contained thriller that had never been done before.”
They each wrote scenes in person, over the phone and through e-mail. “I would write one scene, he would write the next, and this went on and on until we had a finished script. This is how we’ve continued to write,” Weisfeld says.
Their manager in Los Angeles, Mike Kuciak, passed on the script to producers and executives, and Weisfeld and Doganoglu were in luck. “It just so happens that Hollywood is always thirsty for contained thrillers, partly because they’re economical to shoot and many actors are looking for these types of roles where the entire story is focused on them, sometimes in one location only, like The Freezer.”
Kuciak helped in communicating with a producer who wanted to make a deal. “We had been speaking with the production company for a while, and just this past November they were ready to go into pre-production,” Weisfeld says. “They’re based on the Paramount Pictures lot, but it’s being independently financed, which is cool because we’ll get sole writing credit and any changes to the script come from us.”
Weisfeld says he began writing short scripts in his first year of film school. In 1997, he wrote his first feature-length screenplay and has continued ever since. “I’ve been a writer my entire life, and the business and creative process of film is something I’ve been interested in for many years.”
He says merging the two passions is how he got into screenwriting. “I knew in my last year of high school I wanted to be in the film industry in an above-the-line [creative] capacity, and going to film school with a concentration in screenwriting cemented my career goal in that field. I’ve written in different genres, but mostly thrillers. I love all kinds of thrillers – psychological, action, crime, heist, you name it.”
Weisfeld has also written a hip-hop comedy, which is loosely based on some of his experiences. “It’s something Drake is perfect for, because the main character is actually a black Jewish rapper. I also wrote a prison drama, which I placed second with in a major national screenwriting competition, and that has stood out in my mind over the years.”
While he faced “the big, concrete, barbed-wired wall of rejection” many times, Weisfeld says the criticism hasn’t negatively affected him. “Because of that I’m still standing and can school some young cats about persistence and perseverance. Sure, many times, it got me down and frustrated, but never to the point where I felt like quitting or questioned my ability.”
Weisfeld says the rejection has made him “even more hungry and determined” to succeed. “There’s absolutely nothing else I want to do for a living. Nothing will make me more happy, fulfilled and accomplished than carving out a career in screenwriting. It’s not just something I want – it’s something I need to do, and not as a hobby. It has to be a career. I won’t expect anything less.”
With The Freezer, Weisfeld says he and his writing partner “are on the brink of breaking in. I’m very modest and humble, though. We all have different views of the definition of success. I guess once the film is actually shooting, that’s when it might hit me that I’ve achieved some success.”