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10.08.08

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Phaedra

Photograph by Suzanne Daly
BLUEWATER GOLDRUSH: Tom Kendrick's self-published book may see the big screen soon.

Page to Screen

Tom Kendrick's literary odyssey from Sebastopol to Hollywood

By Suzanne Daly

Every person has a story, but not everyone has the storyteller's gift. Sebastopol's Tom Kendrick, author of Bluewater Gold Rush, a tale based on his experiences in the sea urchin fishing industry from 1978 through 1996, has both. Kendrick's tale began while sitting around a table with friends shooting the shit about the adventures they'd had and freely embellishing them, as are all good fish-that-got-away stories. But when a buddy said, "Tom, you tell the best stories. You need to write them down before you go senile," Kendrick took the advice to heart.

Seven years and many edits later, he had a manuscript ready for publication. After rejections from large New York publishing companies, Kendrick self-published. The book was marketed through direct sales to local surf and dive shops, selling out the first 2,000 copies. Larger distributors took notice, and soon Bluewater Gold Rush was on the shelves of major bookstores and on Amazon.com.

Gil Mansergh, Kendrick's editor, had envisioned a movie of the book from inception, but the author was skeptical. "It was too much of a pie in the sky for me to believe in," Kendrick recalls. "I was still just trying to get the book into print." Yet the idea intrigued him. "I have always been infatuated by the movies since I was a little kid," Kendrick says.  "It's a dream to have something you created on the big screen. Your chances are a million to one."

In 2006, that chance came his way when Kendrick was visiting a buddy in Malibu. The friend shared the book with his neighbor, a producer, who immediately wanted to purchase the rights to make it into a movie and go into pre-production. Because Kendrick had no screenplay and "was afraid to write one," a writer was hired.

At the first production meeting, the screenwriter laid out the storyline, "a stupid buddy comedy, like the kind Matthew McConaughey and Owen Wilson would do," Kendrick frowns. "I was totally bummed. They saw the quick buck. Comedies are cheap and easy to make, and make good money. They're not as risky as adventure or drama. The deal fell through, and it broke my heart," he says sadly. "It wasn't the movie I wanted to make or how I wanted my book represented.  I turned down a ton of money."

Sadder but wiser, Kendrick decided to write the screenplay himself. He enlisted the help of script doctor Jennine Lanouette. "The book tells a story, but a movie needs a plot," Kendrick explains. "I read books on how to write screenplays, how to develop characters. A movie needs bad guys and good guys, conflict and betrayal and success. It's a fascinating medium," he continues. "It's very difficult. Lanouette worked with me for about eight months as a consultant and helped me craft a beautiful story with a female angle. Now we have a complete and polished screenplay that I am very proud of." Kendrick admits that the screenplay is a big departure from the book. "The conflict is commercial versus environmental interests," he says. "Everything is Hollywoodized. If something is big in the book, it's bigger on the screen."

Kendrick now spends half of his time in L.A. shopping his script. "You need a name to drop in order to even speak with an agent," he says. "That's your in. He could be the guy who would introduce you to the guy who would make the movie." But it's not all hard work. "Surfing is a big part of young Hollywood," he smiles. "Through it, I network and contact whoever I can. I have met huge icons in the surfing and diving world who have now enlisted as my supporters: the founder of Body Glove, the creator of Baywatch, the editor of Surfer's Journal and Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia. I've chatted with Schwarzenegger. What a great feeling. I joined surf contests and got to play and write it off as deductions." He laughs. "Such crazy fun stuff! I've made it to heaven!"

 

Kendrick says he would like actor Paul Walker to play Weener, a main character in the story and a larger-than-life friend who was tragically killed in a shark attack while diving in 1994. "He's very handsome and charismatic," Kendrick says. When asked who should play himself, Kendrick laughs and answers, "Some young, good-looking stud. Jessica Alba would play my wife. But the stars and even the title wouldn't be up to me," he says. "It all gets taken out of the writer's hands. My big dream is co-producer, co-director status, with me sitting in a big director's chair that says 'Tom Kendrick' on the back."


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