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article imageJody Wheeler: Screenwriter, producer and director Special

By Adrian Peel     Feb 29, 2016 in Entertainment
The screenwriting graduate from the University of California began his career writing for 'Inside/Outside The Beltway,' a groundbreaking TV series from the 1990s. He has since moved on to directing and producing, where he also seems rather at home.
Jody Wheeler left university in 2006, but unlike many other screenwriting graduates who struggle to find regular work, this former social worker, whose scripts won the Carl David Screenwriting Award two years in a row, already has quite a few credits to his name.
The openly gay film buff wrote, directed and produced In the Closet, a short nominated for the 2008 IRIS Prize, and Tell Me (also in 2008). He penned the 2009 sci-fi TV movie Heat Wave and in 2011 co-produced the award-winning feature film Judas Kiss.
"With my producing partner, Steve Parker, I'm currently finishing off producing my third feature, the slasher-horror WTF!, due out later this year," he reveals. "I'm also prepping a larger budget creature feature and we have another TV series that's in consideration at a few places."
The first full-length feature Wheeler directed was 2014's The Dark Place, but he wasn't first choice. "Well, I wrote and produced The Dark Place and it had been a story I was working on for years," he recalls. "So when we had to change directors a few days into production, because of that - and because I'd also directed some shorts - I was the best suited for the Big Chair.
"Since I knew the characters, situation and story the best, I brought a little more directness to everything. I knew exactly what to emphasise, set up, misdirect and build towards. It was fun...
"The Dark Place is a mystery-thriller about a gifted, but troubled young man who returns home to visit his estranged mother, only to discover she's remarried. He now has step-family and they, in turn, are after the family fortune. He has to rise to the occasion to stop them - and save his mother, whose life is now in danger. Fun all round!"
A scene from  The Dark Place
A scene from 'The Dark Place'
October Coast PR
"In directing, I loved the last and most intricate step in making everything I saw in my head 'real' for the audience," says Jody, describing what he particularly enjoyed about the new experience. "It was a culmination of the writing process.
"It's like not only designing the car on paper, but actually being in charge of building it and racing it. If everything works out right, I'll be directing the creature feature we're currently prepping."
Jody Wheeler's first produced screenplay was the aforementioned Heat Wave (also known as City on Fire) in 2009. I wondered what drives him throughout the writing process. "Telling a good story," he replies. "Trying to be fun, interesting, exciting and accessible. Writing a good script is one of the best feelings I've ever had."
As well as being very active in filmmaking, the resident of Los Angeles also helped set up 'Bent-Con' in 2010, the LGBT convention that billed itself as "Comic-Con, Only Gayer."
"Bent-Con was a Comic-Con-like convention that really featured the contributions of LGBT creators and films, TV, and other media that depicted queer people in prominent roles," explains one of the event's co-founders. "So much gay-positive media existed but just hadn't been well known.
"We brought a lot of that together under one roof. The convention ran for five years and was very well received. While Bent-Con is no longer being produced, it inspired a host of similar themed conventions around the country, including Flame Con in New York and Pride Con, happening this July in Anaheim, California."
To conclude, I asked Jody how he got started in his career and what advice he would give to any aspiring writers out there. "I just wanted to take the stories happening in my head and make them real... I loved movies and TV and realising people wrote those things - it was a real job - was one of those wonderful, life changing discoveries. I focused a lot of my attention and ambition and have been fortunate to achieve some measure of that.
"My advice would be this is hard and it gets harder ever year... But the best things in life are a challenge. Being just a screenwriter is increasingly rare. Most writers can't rely on others, big companies or small, to buy their work and translate it to the screen. It's up to you to find a way to get your work made. It's challenging and fun."
For more information on Jody Wheeler, visit his official website.
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