dylan k. petley screenwriter

BEHIND ‘LUCIDITY’

I remember the exact moment that I began the thought-process that eventually became ‘LUCIDITY’.

It was summer, 2004 and I was sitting on Willows Beach with a six-pack of Corona and an empty sheet of paper. (still one of my favorite ways to brainstorm story ideas) The gulls were wailing, soaring on the same warm breeze that was gently pushing sailboats across the Straight of Juan De Fuca. It was a beautiful day.

I remember seeing the small figure of an old man walking along the water from one end of the beach while a little girl was doing the same from the other. Eventually, the two crossed paths directly in front of me. As the child passed the senior, she looked over her shoulder just as he looked over his. They smiled at each other. The old man lifted his hand and gave a shaky little wave. The little girl returned it shyly, before continuing on her way.

As I watched the two of them recede in opposite directions, I thought,

“Those two just shared a moment. Whether that moment will affect the rest of either of their lives is doubtful; hell, they’ll probably both forget it even happened, but for that moment, together, an old man and a little girl shared a beautiful day and a smile.

Then the hamster-wheel begun spinning…

“But what if a chance meeting like that, a second together, a moment of happenstance, what if it WAS meant to happen? And what if it was terrifying, not beautiful? What if it DID affect the rest of their lives? And maybe they didn’t forget about it. Maybe they were trying to. Maybe they never even knew that they experienced that one horrific moment together until a series of dark occurrences and disturbing coincidences sent their lives orbiting into each others’ as fate sent them crashing back to the very thing that brought them together in the first place.”

Then, one day in Chinatown, I discovered this little book about reincarnation…

That’s how the concept was birthed. Now, all I needed was a good story and some characters to drive it along.

I knew from quite an early point that music was going to feature prominently as a thematic device in this piece because of its ability to convey emotion without words. When I listened to Radiohead’s ‘Exit Music (for a film)’, I knew I had found my inspiration. Ironically, the lyrics seemed to lend themselves to the story as well.

“Wake from your sleep, the drying of your tears, today we escape, we escape…”

Why San Francisco? Why do you wear that particular shirt with those pants? Because it just works, right? Another shirt might also work, but not as well as that one. It just does.

As far as Milo went, I was dealing with a tragic main character whose own worst enemy was himself. A flawed individual who, despite his weaknesses, was still able to overcome. I wasn’t creating a hero, here. I was creating a survivor. ‘Milo’ was a name that always struck a tone of melancholy with me. It felt sad. Necessary. ‘Hauser’, was a reference to ‘Casper Hauser‘, a real individual with a mysterious past (and even more mysterious death) who was found wandering the streets of Nuremberg in the Spring of 1828. The story and the name had always stuck with me.

The character of Stasya was more difficult to create. I wanted a stark contrast to Milo’s damned-soul persona. I immediately saw her as his salvation – his angel. In previous drafts, I had their relationship as a dichotomy of misplaced erotic attractions, but revised it, finding that the Lolita-esque undertones distracted from the story. That being said, Stasya remained mute through every draft, her silence conveying a sense of mystery and inaccessibility that words didn’t seem to do justice. Besides, this was Milo’s story. Quite literally, hers could never really begin as long as his narrative continued so the physical affliction was a handy device for keeping her at arms-length.

The ensemble of peripheral characters that bind Milo and Stasya’s lives are a study of contradictions. Whether shrink-turned-girlfriend, clinically-depressed corrupt cop, or astrologer-turned greeting card writer, there was a sense of duality that I seemed unable to escape.

This is the story of a man who wasn’t supposed to be. Thus, I felt it important to convey a nightmarish sense of things being a ‘little bit off’ until Milo is gone, which in this case, came shortly before FADE OUT.

What resulted was an unsettling screenplay heavy with a tone of literary vertigo. And it all started with a little girl, an old man and a moment on a beach.

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