Writing NIGHT VOICES: A Bold New Direction for Dadley Productions
"Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom."
~Psalms 90:12, NLT
After directing three short film triumphs, Bradley Hawkins continues to build momentum as an indie filmmaker at age 66 and is now taking stock of what he values most.
“I’m getting to a point in my life where I want to be bolder about my faith in the cinematic stories that I feel led to tell,” says Hawkins. “Those that know me best are aware how much my faith means to me, and I want that part of me to be reflected more clearly in each film I make from here on out, for as long as God grants me the health and strength to do so."
Inspiration struck Hawkins for a new short film concept while attending the International Christian Film Festival held in Orlando, FL in May of 2021. Being one of the older filmmakers at the festival, and as a senior with multiple health issues of his own, Hawkins often reflected during the four-day festival that “Each day we are given is a gift, and we are not promised another.”
With the story nearly formed in his mind’s eye, on Memorial Day of 2021, Hawkins called his longtime writing partner, screenwriter and playwright Peter Fenton, and pitched him the Night Voices story. Hawkins and Fenton had previously collaborated as co-writers on both the Dadley Productions comedy-fantasy short, Filling In, and on another yet-to-be-produced short film. By July 2021, the writing team had completed the first draft of the Night Voices screenplay and continued to tweak it through that summer.
Night Voices is a short character study into the darkest depths of Jude Wilcox, a jaded late-night talk radio host stuck in a cycle of hopelessly demoralizing monotony, who makes a life-altering decision while on-air. “The really cool thing to me about it [Night Voices] is that the screenplay pushes the boundaries of 'What can a Dadley Productions film be?’,” Fenton said with a laugh. “It’s a psychological thriller, and so wholly unlike anything that’s come before in Hawk’s filmography… yet at the same time, it’s still unmistakably going to be a Dadley film.”
Though Hawkins and Fenton were satisfied with the draft written in September of 2021, it was put on the shelf, without really knowing if the screenplay would ever actually be greenlit to go into production. The two screenwriters went their own way at that point, spending the next six months or so developing and moving forward with other passion screenplay projects that each had been developing and working on their own. In May of 2022, actor Gorman Ruggiero (from Calf Rope) who had read an early draft of Night Voices the year before (and loved the role of Jude Wilcox), launched his own film production company, Ruggiero Films. After a brief discussion, Hawkins and Ruggiero made the commitment together to greenlight the psychological thriller as a Dadley Productions film in association with Ruggiero Films, with Hawkins and Ruggiero serving as executive producers. Hawkins' next call was to Peter Fenton once again, this time to invite him to be the producer on the film as his first venture from screenwriting to film production. Hawkins and Fenton continued to hone away and further polish the screenplay through the pre-production phase of the process. The script's 15th and final draft was completed just one week before production over the four-day Labor Day weekend of 2022.
“Night Voices is by far both the darkest screenplay I've ever co-written and yet clearly the most faith-adjacent story I've yet to tell as well," Hawkins states. “As a Christian with a burning passion for narrative filmmaking, I like the concept of 'planting or watering seeds' of faith through my films and then getting out of the way. I feel that many well-intended filmmakers whose faith is equally important to them frequently feel the need to attempt to evangelize during the running time of their screenplay, which often can come off as heavy-handed or Bible-thumpy. I'd like to be part of a vanguard of faith-driven filmmakers whose 'mission' is to uplift the human spirit and bring more light into the world, though there will likely be dark places that must be traveled through first to see it, in a Capra-esque way such as in the beloved holiday favorite, It's a Wonderful Life. And with Night Voices, I'm hoping that audiences will reflect on the darkness that the human tongue can cause in our world. The power of our words can convey love or hate, kindness or cruelty, and even cause life or death, depending on how we let our tongues articulate what is in our hearts."
Night Voices will enter the film festival circuit this coming Spring.