How to Write a Coming-of-Age Superhero Tale

Mar 15, 2016 | Industry

G.W. Freund and Daniel Bonjour set out to do two things with their winning spec script, Breedlove. The first was to tell a relatable, coming-of-age story. The second was to infuse the characters with raw, powerful emotions. The fact that the story revolves around a character with super powers was incidental.

Because the writing team wants to direct and edit the film themselves, they were very focused on taking a big concept (superhero) and breaking it down into a more personal story (human fragility) that could be told on a smaller scale without a giant budget.

“You have a kid [Ben] who could potentially have the ability to be the next Superman, but we told it in a coming-of-age story about two teens who are learning about themselves and each other, sharing what they have in common and what they believe in at that age. In one sense, dealing with two kids who are struggling with their identity is a small story that we thought we could tackle. But in another sense, it’s one of the biggest ideas we could conceptualize,” said Bonjour.

“It’s also something we thought was missing with all the superhero movies that are heavy on visual effects. We wanted to explore what it would really be like if you were a person who could actually do stuff with your mind or have these powers but you were a teenager. We thought it would be a very isolating, weird experience. We thought that was a movie in itself,” said Freund.

To add in an element of suspense, they decided not to make Ben, the kid with the superpowers, the protagonist. Instead, they chose his neighbor, Olivia. “There’s a question in the air that you want answered and that’s the driving force of the film. I also like the mystery of living across the street from someone who could have superpowers. It’s more mysterious,” said Freund.

But they also gave Olivia some dark secrets of her own.  “We didn’t set out to make a dark movie, we wanted to come from a real, grounded place. If someone were to believe, or not believe, that someone were a superhero, they would come to that decision based on their own experiences. When we were writing Olivia, we wanted to establish that in her past, she had lost a lot in life. That was how the audience could connect with her and understand why she believes it,” said Bonjour.

Though G.W. Freund and Daniel Bonjour have known each other for six years, this is the first time the writers have collaborated on a screenplay together. The joint venture seems to have paid off since they are now represented by Brillstein Entertainment Partners and a full production of the film may be just around the corner.

Freund said he got the idea to enter Breedlove into the Big Break competition on an airplane from New York to L.A. The man sitting next to him had his computer open and was working on Final Draft® software. “I started up a conversation with him and we talked for an hour, though I never asked him who he was. I told him I had just written a screenplay – this screenplay – and asked if he had any tips. He told me to enter it into some contests because that’s the best way to get it read. At the end, he told me his first name and I went home and looked him up. He was Blake Herron, who wrote The Bourne Identity. I took his advice and began to submit it.”

Freund and Bonjour recently discovered that Herron is also represented by Brillstein Entertainment Partners. “The story came full circle,” said Freund.

Bonjour’s main advice for writing genre scripts is to, “Draw out of the story that you can connect to. We didn’t write massive action sequences. We thought, ‘Well, what do we know about superheroes?’ and the only thing we do know is that they are people and they have real conversations. It’s the same with any genre, whether it’s a Western or whatever, find the one thing you connect to organically and let that shine through in the script.”

Breedlove was written on Final Draft.

For more information on The Big Break Screenwriting Contest, click here!

 

Shanee Edwards

Screenwriter / Film Critic

Shanee Edwards graduated from UCLA Film School with an MFA in Screenwriting and is currently the film critic for SheKnows.com. She recently won the Next MacGyver television writing competition to create a TV show about a female engineer.  Her pilot, Ada and the Machine, is currently in development with America Ferrera’s Take Fountain Productions. You can follow her on Twitter: @ShaneeEdwards.