Spec Spotlight: Aaron W. Sala Talks The Beast
When Northern California native Aaron W. Sala submitted his horror-thriller script to the 2017 Launch Pad Screenwriting Competition, he was hoping for some unbiased professional notes. What he got after becoming a finalist was representation and the interest of producer Sherryl Clark (Cloverfield, Wish Upon), leading to an eventual deal for his spec in March 2018.
The Beast follows the lone survivor of a plane crash who washes ashore on a mysterious island where she faces her worst fears.
FD: Can you walk us through how the sale happened?
It got into the hands of someone at the Verve agency. They really liked it, reached out to me, and then wanted to rep me. They took me on and sent the script over to Madhouse Entertainment to see if they liked it and if they wanted to take me on as a client on the manager side. I had a really good conversation with Madhouse, and it seemed like the kind of place and people I’d want to work with. I signed with them, and we did a rewrite of the script from the Madhouse notes. Very shortly afterward Sherryl Clark, the producer, and H Collective bought it. I’m still not quite sure how the whole thing went down, but somehow Sherryl read the script and decided she wanted to make an offer through H Collective. They made a really great offer, and we decided to go with them. It’s been a great experience so far. The whole thing has been a bit of a whirlwind.
FD: When did you write the first draft of The Beast?
I wrote it in January or February of last year, and it all came out in one burst. I was on hiatus from my job at the time and had time to work on it, and I wrote the first draft in about a month. I gave it to a couple of friends who I really trust, got their notes on it, and then submitted it [to Launch Pad] thinking nothing was really going to come from it. I wanted the opinion of someone who had absolutely no interest or attachment to me.
FD: Do you have any writing constants or a typical writing process? For instance, I always have to have a beverage on hand before I can write anything.
It depends on the project. It’s a 50/50 split for me working at home and working at coffee shops. I don’t have a set routine, but I wish I did—it would make things easier!
FD: Why this story? How did you get from idea to first draft?
Sometimes when I’m stuck on something I end up watching a ton of television and something will spark for me. Then my mind will go off on a tangent. I think that’s kind of how this one came about. I don’t remember what I was watching or doing, but my mind just went to the opening sequence of this story, and when that happens, I think it’s best to write it down before it goes away. It kind of all just spiraled out from there. Also, usually, if I can latch onto one character, in particular, they’ll carry me through the rest of it. The Beast was a special case because it’s basically one character on screen throughout the entire script.
FD: I can imagine that would be a great role for an actress to tackle. Who would your dream actress be for this?
I didn’t write it with a particular main actress in mind, I wrote it actually for a friend of mine who acts, and of course, never thought it would get made in a million years, so I thought we had a solid decade until she ages for the part. [laughs] I’d love to see someone like Gina Rodriguez in it, probably because I saw Annihilation recently. Claire Foy is another person I think would be great. I’m not set on any one person for this role, and if someone with no name recognition walked into the casting room and blew them away, I wouldn’t care. But of course, I don’t have any control over any of this. [laughs]
Kallie Tenney is a Los Angeles-based screenwriter. She is the creator of the cult favorite YouTube series, Gal Pals, which can be found at www.youtube.com/galpalsseries. You can follow her on Twitter @kallietenney