If you haven’t heard of PopcornFiction.com, it’s a website that Haas created so that he and other screenplay writers/writers could flex their genre short fiction muscles. As a subscriber to the site, I get updated each time a new story is published. I read Shake and actually emailed Haas to let him know how much I loved the story and that I hoped there would be a part two. Crafty devil that he is, he ended the story in a bit of a cliffhanger. The short story deals with an FBI agent who is on the hunt for a serial killer while battling with his own body. Good stuff right?
As soon as I read that Jerry Bruckheimer picked up the rights to the story to turn it into a feature, I immediately emailed Derek again to congratulate him. Being the incredibly cool guy that he is, Derek agreed to take some time out of his busy day to answer some questions for us. The following is HUG’s exclusive interview with him.
HUG: Your story Shake was recently picked up by Jerry Bruckheimer. Can you tell me a little bit about what happens next in terms of the expanding on the story and adapting it for the big screen?
DH: First, Michael Brandt, my screenwriting partner, and I will get together to beat out the movie. We’ll talk over the characters and the theme and what we want the movie to say. We’ll include our manager, Andrew Deane, who is excellent at breaking story. Then, we’ll pretty much scribble out a 10-15 page outline of the exact beats of the movie… focusing purely on the plot. Afterward, we’ll meet with all the good people at Jerry Bruckheimer Productions to get their input on our outline. Then we’ll start writing the screenplay.
HUG: When you started writing Shake did you already have an idea for the full story, or did it manifest and take shape of itself?
DH: For years, Michael and I talked about writing a script centering on an FBI agent hunting a serial killer and catching him just as a natural disaster hits. Fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes… we weren’t sure what we wanted to do. We actually pitched it to a couple of places with different scenarios, but didn’t get anyone to bite. It wasn’t until I sat down to write it as a short story that I had the idea for the main character fighting his own body as well. That seemed to resonate with readers.
HUG: What was your first reaction to the news that Shake was being picked up?
DH: Overwhelmed. The reaction around Hollywood to the short story was strong, and I was definitely surprised when quite a few producers expressed interest in optioning it. We were working with Bruckheimer Productions on a different project, and they aggressively sought the rights. I was ecstatic. People have to understand though… the reason they optioned the story was the confidence they have in Michael and I writing the adapted script. Without us agreeing to write the script, this wouldn’t have made the news.
HUG: I noticed that you were asked to remove Shake from the site. Is there a chance we’ll see it posted again in its original form?
DH: Yes… I will definitely publish it again at some point in the future.
HUG: Tell me a little bit about Popcorn Fiction. It was created as an outlet for other screenwriters/writers to flex their short fiction muscle?
DH: Yes… I say this on the site… I am a big fan of genre short fiction, the kind that used to be ubiquitous in popular magazines in the middle of the last century, but is hard to find now. Lightning in a Bottle” for the site), and he thought it was a cool idea. Then I started commissioning my screenwriting and author buddies to write stories for the site, and I’ve been blown away by both the quality of their work and their enthusiasm. Finally, I asked my brother and his wife, Austin Haas and Yoko Imanishi, to create the site for me, even though it was certainly beneath their skill level to do it (they make on-line video games which you can find at pettomato.com.) They crafted such a crisp, cool, clean site… exactly what I wanted., crime, horror, comedy… where did it all go? Each week I read in the trades about a movie going into production based on an Asimov or a Dick short story, but rarely new short fiction, it seems. On top of that, I started listening to a lot of classic radio on Sirius/XM… they have this great host named Greg Bell who serves up all these excellent genre radio programs… , horror stories, sci fi stories… and it just increased my interest in getting something going. I started talking over the idea with a screenwriting friend named (who wrote “
HUG: The current trend in the film industry seems to be remakes. It’s refreshing to see a site devoted to new and original ideas. Will you consider taking submissions for the site in the future?
DH: Yes, definitely. When the news about Shake broke, I was inundated with submissions, even though the site clearly says “we’re not accepting submissions at this time.” I had to send back all the files unopened. The senders would say… “It only takes five minutes to read!” So I look like a jerk for not reading them, but multiply five minutes times 100 submissions. That said, I just have to put some infrastructure in place and develop some guidelines so I can handle the incoming submissions. I do recognize that so many popular authors started out writing fiction for magazines, and I would love to discover new talent, so yes, it will definitely happen. I’m just not sure when.
HUG: Not only do you run the site, post the new stories, but you also manage to respond to pretty much every email you get. You have responded to all of mine! How do you find the time to do it all?
DH: Hahaha! I love reading the stories, and it brings me great pleasure to publish them. That readers take the time to email in their compliments/criticisms/thoughts makes it worth the effort. If someone has a particular question or review for an author, I try to get the author to respond on the site. I purposely didn’t want a “talkbacks” section — where DARTHRAIDER25 could post “This story SUX!” The “Letters to the Editor” section is one step removed but also my favorite part of the site (besides the stories themselves.) Most of us write for our readers as much as we do for ourselves, so interacting with them is a pleasure.
HUG: Have you noticed a big increase in traffic to the site since the news of Shake broke?
DH: Yes… again, overwhelming. I’m just glad so many people dig the stories and want more. I’ll keep publishing them as long as people keep showing up.
HUG: Aside from Shake what other projects are you currently working on?
DH: Michael and I are in the middle of a few screenplays. We’re writing a movie for Bruckheimer Films and Disney called ALIEN LEGION based on an old Silver Bear series for Pegasus Books. The second book, titled COLUMBUS — or HUNT FOR THE BEAR if you live in the UK –, comes out in November. What’s that you say? When can you pre-order it? Why… right now at Amazon… or wherever fine books are sold!. We’re finishing up an adaptation of a Ludlum novel called THE MATARESE CIRCLE for MGM. And we have a movie called THE 13th HOUR, based on a Richard Doetsch novel, that is gearing up at New Line. And finally, I’m in the middle of writing my third novel in the
HUG: My last question is a bit random, but it’s a staple question we ask everyone we interview. What is your favorite film from the 1980’s and why?
DH: TUFF TURF. You want to know who walks the night? Morgan Hiller, that’s who.
I’d like to thank Derek again for taking the time to answer my questions. Please go check out Derek’s site PopcornFiction.com. For the time being Shake has been removed from the site, but there are other gems posted. Once you give them a read, come on back and let us know what your favorites were.