Sundance Screenwriters’ Lab helped shape ‘The Words’ |

Sundance Screenwriters’ Lab helped shape ‘The Words’

Jay Meehan, The Park Record

It was obvious from the start of their conference call with The Park Record that, as co-directors and screenwriters of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival Closing Night – Park City film, "The Words," both Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal are proud and protective parents of their newly-hatched cinematic project.

"We kind of want to warn you going in," Klugman began, "that there’s a mystery component to the plotline of the film that is important and that we’d rather not divulge."

Well, when coupled with the fact that their publicity team was equally tight-lipped when it came to the issuance of production notes and a fully-fleshed-out synopsis, our interest piqued. Everybody loves a good mystery.

Stone silence, laden with obvious humor, greeted a question about the relationship between the Jeremy Irons and Dennis Quaid characters. There was this bit of ambiguity within a secondary synopsis sent by the publicist that just might have needed clarification. They wouldn’t go there. At least they didn’t hang up, as they had threatened the would if they felt their initial caveat concerning the mystery element was being ignored.

At the heart of this story-within-a-story is a struggling writer who, after passing off a found manuscript as his own work and gaining world-wide fame as the most intelligent and intuitive author of his time, becomes engulfed in the mystery as to who actually conceived "the words" in question.

According to Sternthal, the storyline first raised its head when they were stuck in traffic while negotiating L.A. freeways on an earlier project. "We just started talking about what it would be like for a writer to put in an extraordinary amount of time and energy into a manuscript and then somehow lose all of it – have it, for whatever reason, just vanish."

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Over time, they kept talking about it, developing the story, "until," he added, "when we finally sat down to write, we knocked out thirty pages of the screenplay at one sitting." You could sense their level of excitement grab a gear as they dished on their creative process.

"We work-shopped the film at the 2000 Sundance Screenwriters Lab," Klugman jumped in. "We had an amazing experience with all the exceptional writers and staff who were part of the program. None of it was about the industry! It was all about ‘the work’ and we came away so energized and inspired with what we were doing."

Shooting in Montreal due to the fact it could serve as both Paris and New York, two locations in the script, the only production crew member they brought with them was Cinematographer Antonio Calvache. The locals they picked up for the shoot, however, worked out just fine, thank you.

Both Klugman and Sternthall sang the chorus as one: "The cast and crew were amazing!" To hear them tell it, they ended up bonding quickly, becoming a family in very short order and turning the entire filming experience into one of joy rather than work.

Which is exactly what the interview felt like on this end. A couple of extremely creative and excitable boys are bringing a labor of love to screen as one of the highly visible bookend films of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. What’s not to get excited about?

"The Words" is one of the Sundance Film Festival Premieres and will screen:

Friday, Jan. 27, 6:30 p.m., Eccles Theatre, PC

Saturday, Jan. 28, 9 a.m., Eccles Theatre, PC

Saturday, Jan. 28, 930 p.m., Peery’s Egyptian Theatre, Ogden

Sunday, Jan. 29, 12:30 p.m., Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, SLC