So happy to report that I am sliding into the finish line on the first draft of a screenplay I’ve been working on called You Fly Right Over it. For those of you that dont know, this screenplay is very dear to my heart because it tells the true story of two of the bravest and funniest men I know.
It has taken me years to wrestle their story down to the ground and contain it within the 2 hour movie format. In fact, I stopped trying to do so years ago when I realized that it could never fit in one movie, it was gonna have to be three.
So this screenplay is the first of the three and it is about a time way back in 1968 when the Army made one serious miscalculation by letting Roy Henley and Tim Messett, two “beautifully irreverant sons a bitches,” go through helicopter flight school training together.
I became curious about their story way back in 1995 when I joined them for their annual Memorial Day reunion. Roy and Tim were there smoking and joking as usual and so were Van and Danny, Tim’s beloved doorgunners, whom Tim says “saved his ass everyday” for 8 long months when they flew together in Vietnam. I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed so hard as I did over the course of that weekend listening to all of their war stories, some due to actual combat, some self induced, and I think that’s when it hit me: this is not at all the picture I had in my head of what Vietnam Vets were supposed to be.
Here were these Vietnam Vets, all highly successful business men, who had actively taken on one of the most difficult and painful life experiences a human being could possibly take on and propelled it into a life full of laughter and deep, long lasting friendships. I needed to know more. What was their secret? Was their friendship itself the secret?
In 1999 I convinced them I needed to write a movie about them and actually got them to agree to tell me everything. I was 29 at the time and was well aware of what I was up against. I needed to somehow keep control without looking like I’m trying to keep control of these 4 impossible to control men who were 20 + years my senior and I had no business even trying to control. The stakes were high for me though. If I didn’t keep them under control I would not get my story and I was committed to getting my story.
That’s when I plotted my evil plan: I figured I’ll just trap them somewhere where they can’t get away, a Houseboat for a week! Genius! And I’ll film the whole thing so I dont have to worry about remembering it. Awesome. But what crew could I bring that would know how to work while looking like they are not really working, so that we can make sure the guys feel like we’re all just having fun and therefore enjoy telling their stories? I got it! Bring a crew full of the most beautiful, drama free, low maintenance girls I can find. This was truly an inspired choice because bringing girls into the picture had the added benefit of keeping the men deeply focused. Ha!
So that’s what I did. Me, my Mom (our craft service), the Vets and my crew of girls (well, 2 girls and my laid back surfer friend Charly) all went on a Houseboat for a week. I’ll save what happened on that trip for another time (in fact, its the stuff that makes for the third movie) but let’s just say that for literally all 9 of us it goes down in history as one of our most favorite experiences in our lives.
I got more than I bargained for on that trip. Far from being shy, the boys had an all out blast sharing their stories with us, we laughed, we cried, and when it was all over I was left with a way bigger story than I had intended to get. It took me many more years than I would have liked to wrap my head around how to share what they gave me but I never gave up and here we are at another milestone because tonight we are getting together again. This time it will be me, Roy, Tim and my writing partner John(who has graciously agreed to assist me in wrestling this beast) and we are actually going to read out loud for the very first time the first draft of a script that was 40 something years in the making. (insert happy dance here)
We still have a long way to go because I don’t intend to move forward with production until this script has reached a Pixar like perfection, but I must celebrate the milestone. So happy I decided to take this journey and can not wait to see what happens tonight. Whatever it is, I’ll make sure to share it with you.
In the meantime, here is Roy, in his own words telling the story that inspired me to entitle this script “You Fly Right Over It”
Happy Friday everyone!