After killing her dealer husband and stealing a suitcase full of heroin, violence and mayhem follow Martha Cooper as she makes a highway escape across the Salt Flats of Utah. Delta is a feature script written by Daniel Corey.
Daniel Corey is a writer and content producer who has created for comics, film, live theatre and virtual reality. Daniel's projects include the graphic novels BLOODWORTH and PROPHET, which he wrote and distributed through his company, DangerKatt, as well as MORIARTY and RED CITY, which he published through Image Comics. MORIARTY has been adapted into a VR comic book titled MORIARTY: ENDGAME VR, which earned him the #2 spot on Onalytica's Top 100 VR Influencers list. Daniel has won several screenwriting awards, including Le meilleur écrivain (Best Writer) from Prix Royale Paris Film Festival, the Gold Screenplay Award from the Australasia Film Festival, the Best Screenplay Award from Paris Film Festival and Rome International Movie Awards, as well being named one of the Top 25 Noir Creators in Los Angeles and the World by the L.A. Neo Noir Film Festival.
Daniel has also worked in broadcast news for NPR and ABC, serves on the Creative Writing Program Advisory Committee at Full Sail University, and speaks at pop culture conventions around the country. It is our pleasure to interview Daniel Corey for Toronto Film Magazine.
How did you start making films and what was the first film project you worked on?
My first experience working on a film was doubling for Dennis Quaid in Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday. It was a pretty amazing experience for a young guy, fresh out of school, to be able to drive down to South Florida and suddenly be thrust into a room to watch Al Pacino, Dennis Quaid and LL Cool J rehearse a scene. It was pretty surreal.
I was just a double, but at some points on that shoot, I was actually directed by Oliver Stone as he prepped his shots. One time, I was sitting on the back porch of Dan Marino's house, and Oliver was looking at me through his viewfinder. He said, "Look off to your left a bit, and just tell yourself a story." That was the first bit of real instruction that I was ever given in the art of acting.
At that time, I was very young and trying to figure out how I would fit into the film industry, just exactly what I'd be doing. I was primarily interested in acting and writing. I had been swept up in the indie film movement of the '90s, which for me started with films like Pulp Fiction and Twelve Monkeys. Everybody around me got pretty excited about film, because those off-kilter movies opened our minds to new and exciting possibilities.
On my breaks during Any Given Sunday, I was reading books on screenwriting, some of them well-known, but I was struggling. I found those books full of very general and largely unhelpful advice. I knew that I needed more concrete guidance.
After I wrapped on Sunday, I joined a regional theater group in Central Florida led by Eugene O'Neill Award-winning playwright and New York Times bestselling author Ken Eulo. Studying with Ken in a workshop setting, writing and producing plays, working with actors, that really got me to where I wanted to be: having a real grasp and understanding of the core concepts of writing, acting, live theater, and film production. The best way to learn is to do, and acting was my way into understanding story and structure.
That's when I started writing screenplays, and from there, I got into graphic novel creation. My books Moriarty and Red City would eventually be published and distributed by Image Comics, the third-largest comic publisher in the world and well-known as the home of The Walking Dead.
What genre of filmmaking are you looking to work on and why?
I love sci-fi and I love mysteries. Most of the things that I write tend to involve crime and puzzle-solving. I've written grounded thrillers, sci-fi thrillers, supernatural mysteries, things of that sort. I like blending genres.
The Moriarty series that I did with Image was about Professor Moriarty, arch foe of Sherlock Holmes, and chronicles how he copes in a world without Sherlock. The series had a very sci-fi, high adventure feel to it. Then in Red City, it was L.A. Confidential on Mars. I had the good fortune to work with great artists like Anthony Diecidue, Dave Lanphear, Mike Vosburg, and Chris Fenoglio, and I was very blessed to have good, high-concept ideas and access to a publisher like Image.
I live in Los Angeles now, and having IP like that does tend to get one access to high-profile rooms. One of my books is under option at the moment, but sadly, I'll have to wait for the official announcement before I can tell you all about that. That particular story is very Blade Runner and Minority Report-inspired, with a female lead, and I'm hoping for big things. We'll see.
What is the most challenging aspect of being an independent filmmaker?
Chasing opportunities and money. From the start, I have primarily concentrated on creating IP that can be turned into big film and TV franchises, ala Moriarty, things that would involve big studios and big money. I have had some success with that, working with my managers at Archetype, pushing those projects through the system.
Right now, I am branching out a little and writing smaller stories. I wrote a new adaptation of my first graphic novel, Prophet, which is a supernatural spaghetti Western akin to Constantine meets Unforgiven. Prophet has presently garnered 15 accolades at various festivals and competitions, including seven wins. And my latest script is a grounded thriller titled Delta, which I am calling my No Country for Old Men with a female lead, so far at nine accolades, three wins. For movies like that, I'm usually in more direct discussions about getting the attachments that could potentially score at the foreign box office.
Basically, you can write whatever you want, but at the end of the day, someone has to pay to make the movie. And I'm pretty sure that's the hardest part for everyone, all the time.
How challenging is it to fund indie films?
As an author, I get into those discussions, but I don't get into the nitty gritty of balancing the books. I try to create material that has legs, has potential.
There are advantages to living in Los Angeles. I don't want to say that it's easy, but if you live here and you have published IP under you belt, such as an Image comic, you can get through doors and sit across from major players. At that point, it's about me pitching story elements that resound with mass appeal, which would bring box office dollars. Also, I am usually getting into those rooms because I have created characters that make sense for bankable actors.
Please name three of your most favorite directors. How have they been influential in your work?
Ridley Scott: Blade Runner set a course for my creative life. That something could be genre entertainment, as well as be thought-provoking and spark spiritual thoughts and conversations...well, that's just what I want to do.
Michael Mann: Heat was, and still is, a profound impact on me as a film-watcher, writer and maker. Again, it's genre entertainment that is powerful and thought-provoking. For me, when noir is at its best, it's a metaphor for spiritual warfare. Heat takes a very nuanced look at good and evil and examines what it means to operate as a human in this world, much like Blade Runner does. If a film can both entertain and make me think thoughts at this level, I am in. Scorsese also showed me this with Taxi Driver, and Coppola made it happen for me with Apocalypse Now.
Steven Spielberg: Spielberg is an easy go-to because his films have had unprecedented mass appeal, but I have to give him credit for what he has done for me both as a fan and a maker. The fact that Raiders of the Lost Ark exists is what really has me on this path. The fun, the glory, the adventure, the beating-the-bad-guys of that movie is everything that I want life to be.
What is your next film project and what are you currently working on?
Right now, I am concentrating heavily on Prophet and Delta, and getting those scripts into the right places. My optioned project is making great strides, but like I said, I have to tell you about that another time.
What was the inspiration behind your latest film project?
Delta came from a recent phase of quarantine film watching; I was really getting into watching and reviewing movies like Spielberg's Duel and Sugarland Express, as well as thrillers like No Country for Old Men, which could be classed as a sort of post-modern Western.
I had this idea, that I wanted to do a road/chase movie about a young woman who has to use violence to extricate herself from a violent situation, thereby creating a new type of demon: an unstoppable force of death in form of an outrageous and charismatic hitman who is pursuing her on a lonely highway across the Salt Flats of Utah.
For a matter of days, I knew who I wanted the lead character to be, what her struggle was going to be, but I didn't know the path of the story. I don't want to sound melodramatic, but the end of the movie came to me in a dream. From there, it was easy to work my way back to the beginning. Ken Eulo always used to tell me, "The end makes the beginning inevitable." He was right about that. It also affirmed my personal philosophy on the spirituality of noir.
How did you find the cast and the crew of the film?
Haven't gotten there yet! Though I do have a wish list. I wrote Delta with thoughts of bankable actors in mind.
What is the distribution plan of the film and did the film receive any screenings or was it featured in festivals?
It's early in the process for Delta, as I just have the screenplay in competition. But the script is getting excellent returns at the moment, having won three festivals and being selected or finalist at six others.
Why do you make films and what kind of impact would your work have on the world?
For the reasons discussed earlier, that I want to bring quality genre entertainment to people, as well as make them think on their lives. The characters in all of my stories have central flaws that they have to do battle with. It's the hope of every storyteller that an audience will see this struggle and then do battle with the flaws in their own lives.
Stories teach us how to live. You never know what kind of things can happen in the world as a result of people thinking good thoughts and making positive changes around them.