Providence Bay Renaissance man’s dragon screenplay in play

PROVIDENCE BAY—Merdick McFarlane of Providence Bay doesn’t like too much time on his hands and he keeps his hands, and his imagination, busy. Although the former owner of Manitoulin Truss Company Ltd. sold his business years ago, he has continued working with wood, teaching carpentry for Sault College. Lately, though, his hands have been as busy with the keyboard as the hammer, writing a number of novels, a series of country tunes in the old school genre and now, a screenplay.

Mr. McFarlane has written novels, publishing his first book ‘Master of Deception’ in 2007, but it was when he completed his Christian novel ‘Angel’s Pride’ that he first found himself bitten by the screenplay bug.

“I decided to try screenplay writing and see if I could change it into a screenplay,” he said. But he soon found that it was more of a challenge than he had anticipated. “You have to write the screenplay to a certain format,” he said. “If the format isn’t exactly right, they won’t even consider it. They won’t even give you a chance to correct it or tell you what it is they had a problem with.”

Mr. McFarlane is an avid reader, and a speedy one. “I am a speed reader,” he said. He typically can mow his way through most novels in a matter of hours. “I can read three western novels in a day.”

That facility for devouring text came in very handy when he came up with a nascent concept for a sci-fi/fantasy novel about dragons. The research he put into the work was extensive. “There are seven basic myths about dragons throughout the world,” he said. “I put those myths together to create the storyline for a screenplay.”

That original screenplay had the working name ‘The Legend of Drako.’ But when he began to shop his idea around and Mr. McFarlane found a writing partner to polish and format his script, the name was truncated to simply ‘Drako.’

The core of the story has remained, however, centering on the story of a young man whose inadvertent consumption of a dragon’s egg transforms him into one of legends most fearsome beasts.

Mr. McFarlane put as much effort into finding the right fit for that screenwriting partner as he did in researching the script.

“The hardest part of getting your script out there is finding an agent,” said Mr. McFarlane. “So you want someone who already has an agent in place.”

That person turned out to be Tim “Matt” Taylor, and no not that Taylor—those jokes are why Mr. Taylor chooses to go by his middle name. “It cuts down on the explanations,” chuckled Mr. McFarlane. This is something Mr. McFarlane discovered when he travelled to Walt Disney World to meet the writer. “Every time I mentioned him to somebody working at the theme part they would say ‘Oh, you mean Matt’,” he recalled.

Checking the credentials of his partner was important to Mr. McFarlane. “I have been burnt before,” he said. “I wanted to make sure he was the real deal before I started working with him.”

There is a sound economic reason, as well a question of time management involved. “I have about $5,000 invested in this, so far,” explained Mr. McFarlane.

The time investment is also considerable. “We have been working on this for eight, nine months,” he said. “I would send the draft to Matt and then he would send me back the screenplay for me to do corrections, it was a very long process.”

Mr. Taylor had a positive response to working with Mr. McFarlane. “It was very enjoyable,” said Mr. Taylor. “He has very original stories, and in this day and age, it is so difficult to create an original piece of work that you can’t immediately link to another previous work by someone else. So for him to come to me with such a unique story was gladly welcomed,” he said.

“It also was much easier than most clients I assist,” he said of working with Mr. MacFarlane. “Being an author, he already knows how a story should flow and the way it flows should translate to the screen in that way as well.”

Mr. Taylor explained what prompted him to reply to Mr. MacFarlane’s proposal out of the hundreds of queries that cross a screenwriter’s desk each year. “His take on fantasy,” he said replied without hesitation. “I spent the last 10 years of my life working at Walt Disney World, where on a daily basis, I helped to make a literal Fantasyland into reality for millions of patrons around the world. As a storyteller of that caliber, I was very attracted to this sword and sorcery story Merdick had created.”

Mr. Taylor noted that the concept touches on one of the key elements of success for works, touching on more than one genre. “Not only is it a fantasy, it’s also science fiction,” he noted. “It is very rare you see the two genres together where it actually works.”

Mr. Taylor provided a historical context for success in that combination. “A good example would be the 1980s film Krull,” he said. “It too was a very original story that very seemlessly blends sci-fi and fantasy and is indeed a very good film.”

The screenwriter has extensive experience in his craft. “Mostly independent and film shorts are my current screen credits,” he said. “The indy feature Streetwalkin’, which won several festivals, is a film I take pride in for being the sound editor. Occasionally I also work in television. My time with Disney put me on numerous travel shows, news shows, among others. This summer some of my work will be seen in the film Ted 2, where I served as a background character and also a driver for the trolley, as long as the shots don’t get cut out that is.”

It is fingers crossed with Drako. The process is a little daunting on the nerves to say the least. “Amazon has a 45-day option period where they read it, as well as share it around their network community to get feedback, and at the conclusion of the 45 days they will render their decision,” said Mr. Taylor, who declared himself very optimistic about the screenplay’s chances of success. “It (the option period) may not last the entire 45 days,” he said. “We will keep you posted.”