Been gone from Reddit a long time. Will be back in the near future, but stopping in to say hi and answer questions.

EDIT: Since it'll be a while before I pop back in, you can get more news in the Rome Sweet Rome Facebook page, or from my Twitter feed.

EDIT AGAIN: And to expand, a year ago I wrote a story on Reddit that exploded. Within two weeks I got a contract from Warner Brothers to write a screenplay based on it. A link to the story is in the top post.

FINAL EDIT: This was AWESOME. I've got to shut 'er down now, but I really appreciated the questions. Thanks, everybody. I'll be back around shortly.

DOUBLE FINAL EDIT: Like a tool, I forgot to thank and recommend the fine folks at r/RomeSweetRome. Incredible fan art, trailers, soundtrack music... all kinds of great stuff. Check out the community.

Comments: 1728 • Responses: 52  • Date: 

SeanGarrity1044 karma

When will we get to see it?

Edit: Link to story.

Prufrock4511184 karma

That's still a long way off. I completed the first draft of the screenplay and sent it to Warner Brothers in May. They accepted it and - because I am not Quentin Tarantino - decided to give it to another screenwriter to rewrite.

This is a very normal part of the Hollywood system, which is super-collaborative (and cautious, especially with unproven first-time screenwriters). And especially since the studio exec I was working with left WB just before I delivered the screenplay, and someone else with new ideas came on board just in time to get this dumped on her desk.

All that said, it's still moving forward in the studio system: had a great phone meeting with the studio exec a couple of weeks ago and they recently added a new production team, and these are things they wouldn't bother doing if they thought it wouldn't happen.

A lot can still go wrong, and it does for a lot of projects. But if I were a betting man, I'd say a couple of years down the road.

SyrioForel415 karma

Are they paying you for all this? If so, is it a one-time fee or a regular paycheck? Or is it a different financial agreement of some sort?

You don't have to give actual dollar amounts, but I'd at least be interested in knowing if the money you earned through this is enough to live on.

Prufrock451633 karma

It was a good chunk. And it was an agreed-upon lump sum.

cedricchase336 karma

So, if the movie comes out in 2 years, ends up being a ridiculous success (Avatar, Titanic, Rome Sweet Rome), do you ... just kinda have to be proud of that, enjoy your lump sum, and possibly receive some hearty handshakes? No extra cash tossed your way?

Prufrock451663 karma

I get profit-sharing but on paper Star Wars didn't make a profit. So, there it is.

avatar28689 karma

To further elaborate, due to creative accounting practices, Hollywood movies almost NEVER turn a profit. Some movies that did not make any "profit":

  • Rain Man
  • Forest Gump
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit
  • Batman
  • Coming To America
  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding
  • Lord of the Rings Trilogy
  • Return of the Jedi
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Prufrock451610 karma

nods, sighing heavily

ED2199 karma

Who the hell negotiated your deal?

Prufrock451374 karma

My fancy Hollywood lawyer.

faleboat107 karma

But, you also get no holds barred credit for the genesis of a blockbuster original screenplay. I am sure that'll make the next paycheck a bit better.

Prufrock451115 karma

can't hurt!

cedricchase47 karma

I realize it's not "all about the money" but that's good, that you do (possibly!) get something in addition to the lump sum for your work.


Prufrock45146 karma

hurray! Thanks.

klafka28 karma

you got monkey points? not gross points?

Prufrock45135 karma

Yep. Can't really complain.

gbimmer148 karma

What was the one thing you bought yourself as a reward? Was it something simple like a nice night out with your wife or was it something like a historic piece? Something sentimental?

PS: should have gone for residuals with the way Reddit is going to show up for your movie.

Prufrock451382 karma

Residuals isn't my decision. The Writers Guild will decide down the road which screenwriter did 51 percent of the work and that person gets 100 percent of the residuals.

Such is life.

As for a reward: my wife and son and I went to Los Angeles for meetings and a Wired photoshoot earlier this year. We made it a vacation.

gbimmer146 karma

I didn't know about that bit about the residuals and how it is determined. Just make sure you fight for it because it might mean a paid-for education for your son if it becomes something really big.

Prufrock451374 karma

Oh, dude. You got no idea.

But a fight won't do me as much good as being a helpful, cheerful worker with great ideas. Which I'm working on.

[deleted]309 karma


Prufrock451347 karma

This guy gets it

avonhun72 karma

Did you get any backend % (separate from residuals) if you are the credited writer?

Prufrock451144 karma

A lot of ifs between that and a check.

zzzev76 karma

What happens if there are three or more writers, none of whom did more than half of the work? Do they split it somehow or does it still all go to the writer with the biggest credit?

Prufrock451169 karma

The biggest. It's brutal.

TrampyKnight193 karma


Prufrock451548 karma

DAMMIT, I forgot to write in a scene where a guy gets bees to death

theeespacepope93 karma

Having a production team sets you ahead of most screenplays picked up by studios.

Prufrock451108 karma

Man, didn't hurt.

BobbyMcPrescott67 karma

Glad to see you're positive even though it won't remotely resemble your story in the end.

Prufrock451109 karma

Never say never! But, you know.

Jasonresno42 karma

As an aspiring actor/screenwriter I have to say I'm proud of you man. Take advantage of this opportunity and never look back!

Prufrock45142 karma

thanks, man!

KellyCommaRoy596 karma

For those who have seventeen minutes, let me read Rome Sweet Rome for you.

Also, hi James!

Prufrock451295 karma


ProjectFlashSociety478 karma

I read about this in Wired. That is how I found out about reddit. A pleasure to make your acquaintance. Cheers on your success.

Prufrock451191 karma


imeatingpancakes478 karma

I was there for that thread. :) You're pretty badass, man.

Prufrock451343 karma

high five

Schroedingers_gif277 karma

Can you somehow swing all the roles being played by Nicholas Cage?

Prufrock451266 karma

Now I regret not having more of a romantic subplot.

Schroedingers_gif92 karma

Is that a yes?

Prufrock451201 karma

Not saying no

The_MSPainter81 karma

You also have to squeeze Bill Murray in the movie.

Prufrock451126 karma

Reddit will weep if I don't.

MikeyToo268 karma

I remember reading the original thread and your posts and thinking how good it (the writing) was. Any chance you'll do a novelization of the story?

edit clarification

Prufrock451237 karma

Thanks! That depends on Warner Brothers - there has to be a movie to novelize first!

the-breeze182 karma


Prufrock451228 karma

Ouch, dude. Right in the feels.

But never say never.

I_Lyk_Dis37 karma

I think your writing was enjoyable enough on its own that the movie has potential even without the viral excitement. Even if it doesn't work out, you could probably write a pretty good novel.

Prufrock45172 karma

Funny, I'm working on a novel!

the_grand_chawhee180 karma

So you're Reddit-famous? DELETE THIS AMA AT ONCE!!!!

Prufrock45199 karma

I'm at least a P-list celebrity off Reddit too.

PhotoDoc136 karma

As a former soldier in the Army attached to an infantry unit, your flash fiction was a real delight when it first came out. I remember reading the original thread and thinking "OMG!" I was a little sad that you didn't update it soon after, but was pleased to hear that WB picked it up.

In the name of authenticity, will there be military advisors in the screen writing or production process? I would hate to see your work shamed like the movie "Home of the Brave" with 50 Cent because of floppy saluting, trigger fingers and poor use of terminology. And if you are taking advisors, may I volunteer myself as I live right next to Los Angeles? :) Otherwise, I think you portray the military and the "military mindset" in a fair way.

Prufrock451196 karma

I am assured by Warner Brothers that they'll have Marines and Roman experts on hand.

PumaBearLionMAn132 karma

Holy shit. As of the time I have clicked on this, every question has been answered.

OP has delivered.

Prufrock451282 karma

I take my Internet responsibilities very seriously.

beansiej110 karma

If the movie gets made, would you push to have some sort of cameo? If so, anyone in particular you'd want to be?

Prufrock451319 karma

I would not push for that, but I hope the eventual director would invite me back.

The producer, Gianni Nunnari, did tell me that I should play one of the Marines. But this was in the warm afterglow of some very fine scotch and I certainly don't take that as a verbal contract.

capnShocker100 karma

Geez, even your Reddit responses are "enjoyable" to read, if that makes sense.

Prufrock45159 karma


Kitser107 karma

Will other redditor's get credit also?

Prufrock451244 karma

I have been very vocal, from the very beginning, about my gratitude and debt to The Quiet Earth (hi, Gordon!), and my appreciation for the Redditors who offered expertise and suggestions.

That said: the story that went to Warner Brothers is not the same as the story posted on Reddit. It has a lot of the same DNA, mind you, and it feels like RSR because it's my writing.

This is totally okay with me for two reasons. One, the story I was setting up was not super cinematic - hard to get through a lot of what I was gestating in two hours. Two, someday when it's not going to conflict with what goes up in the movie, what I was setting up can be completed as fan fiction.

What I'm saying is you're not going to see Day Nine on the silver screen. But you will see it on Reddit someday.

gbimmer111 karma

But you will see it on Reddit someday.

we will hold you to this.

PS: Glad to see you're back on reddit! Now entertain us with your weaving of tales!

Prufrock45183 karma

More tale-weaving soon. News when it's ready.

Se7en_speed32 karma

do you think it would have been better to write it as a book and option the movie rights?

Prufrock45146 karma

Honestly, hard to say at this remove. Writing a book would have taken months, probably been a collaborative process. That collaboration and that time would have cooled Hollywood on the project.

What would have happened? I can only guess. But I absolutely cannot complain about one thing that's happened to me.

novafire0860 karma


Prufrock45152 karma

Everything moved so fast, no time to really consider it. But I really think this'll work out great.

SovreignTripod45 karma

It'll have the same basic premise though, right? MEU transported back in time and they try to adapt to the new setting?

Prufrock451110 karma

Marines, time travel, Romans, all that.

tk621523 karma

I better get a little credit. Love you James!

Prufrock45120 karma

I love you!

thegreatdeku89 karma


Prufrock45144 karma

Thanks so much. I hope there'll be a lot more to tell down the road.

EyeMeetsEye77 karma

Fun fact, a few months after this story came out I saw it used as a story in a tabloid. It wasn't exact, but it was like "M16s found in Ancient Rome" or something like that.

Prufrock451101 karma


happy_starfish77 karma

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each
I do not think they will sing to me.

Do they sing to you?

Prufrock45189 karma

You got it! I picked Prufrock as my screen name as a sophomore in college. It's probably too late now to pick something less pretentious, especially since I'm fatter and balder and calling myself Prufrock is a lot less ironic and more painful.

Lucretius52 karma

Do you have suggestion or comments for budding writers when it comes to the issue of dealing with publishers and people in hollywood?

Is it even possible to retain creative control of one's works as they move into the realm of movies, or should that be something that one should just give up on?

Prufrock45191 karma

In movies? Not really, no. It's like being a photographer. For 99.999 percent of us, if you want to eat, you do it the way the client wants.

You can definitely sell a studio a screenplay, or a treatment, or a novel. But it's a hard, hard road from that page to the screen. It's best to start walking it without a lot of illusions.

j_boner51 karma

I knew you before you were famous

Prufrock45131 karma

I didn't even know that song existed before all this happened.

jmn17122 karma

Sing-along time!

Let's begin at the beginning. We're lovers and we're losers. We're heroes and we're pioneers, we're beggars and we're choosers.

Prufrock45129 karma

taps foot

ardx43 karma

Do you feel that RSR would have been better off as a TV series than a movie? (I mean, having it as a movie is obviously super-awesome, but from the perspective of a writer, which would you have preferred?)

Prufrock45167 karma

That's a tough question, because it kind of gets at the heart of the whole thing. What's best for the story as a Platonic ideal thing versus what's best for the story in the real world where real people have to put up scads of money to make it?

I can tell you what I put in that first draft was a lot more me than anything a TV show would have ended up being. If filmmaking is collaborative, making a TV show is insanely more so.

raym0ndv236 karma

Do you need any extras? I'm good at pretending to work, handstands, and I can almost do a backflip.

Also, congratulations and I can't wait to see your story come to fruition.

Prufrock45142 karma

I have no input on extras, but I need someone like that to hang out at my desk at work while I run out for a burrito.

EliteKill34 karma


I was the person who wrote the Eternal War Short Story, which also found Reddit success. However, I couldn't come up with a good follow up for it. My question is, what gave you inspiration for the latter parts of the story?

Prufrock45143 karma


I wish I could tell you at this remove. It sort of assembled itself in my brain, so I knew where it was going within minutes of typing the first line. Honestly, that whole day is a haze.

[deleted]18 karma


Prufrock45129 karma

I'm mildly famous outside the Internet too. At least P-list.

[deleted]28 karma

Oh man. First: Congratulations. I joined reddit roughly around the same time you wrote that story (+/- a week or two). That is a story I tell people with pride (for some reason) whenever I have the opportunity.

"Oh you use the internet? Sit down and let me tell you a story." - kind of thing.

No real question, but I hope this is the start of something fantastic for you and I really can't wait to see this movie.

Since I don't know:

  1. Are you writing anything else or are you solely focused on Rome Sweet Rome at the moment?
  2. Can you quit your day job and make a living at writing now? Will you attempt to?
  3. Who is your favourite author(s)?
  4. What are you currently reading?

Looks like I had some questions after all. Best of luck.

Prufrock45143 karma

  1. Writing a novel right now.

  2. Not a GOOD living. Or maybe. VAGUE ANSWERS

  3. God, can't even. So many. I will recommend one movie that I saw this week and loved to death, Richard Linklater's Bernie, and one book I read recently and loved, Stephen Mitchell's translation of the Epic of Gilgamesh. It's one of humanity's earliest works, and between the lines there's so much wisdom. It's like a deconstruction of the hero myth by some wise, disillusioned scribe - before the hero myth was even done forming.

  4. That would reveal too much. :)

mrc1ark21 karma

I think I remember that you had to give up creative control - does that mean you are pretty much done with your input? Are you happy with the current direction the project is taking?

Prufrock45153 karma

I am done with the first draft of the screenplay. The current direction depends entirely on the new writer, and I don't think the new producers have picked someone yet (not super surprising, they're shepherding a couple of big projects to completion at the moment).

I may very well be invited back to work on a new draft. We'll see what happens.

king60118 karma

What has been your favorite part of doing all of what was involved in the whole process of the screenplay writing? Also, are you back doing your old job or have you been able to move on?

:) Best of luck and i look forward to seeing what comes of it

Prufrock45171 karma

I'm still at my day job. Took a few months off but I love the work and I'm good at it, so there you go.

The best part was learning. I got to do something very far outside my comfort zone on a very tight schedule, working in unfamiliar software in an unfamiliar format, learning about two very different cultures while immersing myself in a new industry and a form of narrative writing I'd never attempted.

And I succeeded. Very, very satisfying.

Redivivus9 karma

What ever happened to the The_Quiet_Earth who asked the original question?

Prufrock45110 karma

I don't know. We talked a bit when it started - he was incredibly gracious - and I sent him a PM recently but haven't heard from him.

unfriendlyfire6 karma

Do you work with any external advisors? As in like, marine infantry, or Roman military historians?

If there's one prop you'd want to keep when shooting ends, what would it likely be?

Prufrock45119 karma

The studio will provide experts.

Can't reveal a favorite prop without spoilers. :)