Writing for the screen
BY Kavishna Wijesinghe
Cheryl Guerriero, the screenwriter, novelist, and producer known for the Justin Timberlake movie Palmer (2021) spoke to Junkyard Theory about her writing process for both novels and screenplays and about the long process in getting Palmer made.
Cheryl stated that she was always creative, even as a child. Her passion for movies and stories prompted her to begin writing, and she revealed that she began by reading books on screenwriting and watching movies. Even though she had no contacts in the industry she kept writing until she found her way into the field step by step. Cheryl’s first film, National Lampoon’s Pledge This! (2006) was completed in a fraction of the time, but Palmer took ten years, a period during which she learned a great deal. She revealed how she loved the work of Justin Timberlake, Ryder Allen, Juno Temple, and Fisher Stevens in the movie, and how it spirited high with their immense work.
As Palmer was an original screenplay Cheryl was inspired to write it and wanted to produce it the way she envisioned the story. Even though people were interested in the script, she could not start doing anything before 2016 which frustrated her. After collaborating with the right people and years of hard work, she and her manager would send it all over Hollywood and the screenplay ended up on the Hollywood Blacklist, where the best unproduced screenplays are listed.
After some time, director Fisher Stevens chose Palmer out of eight other movies that he was offered and Justin Timberlake signed on to play the main role. Cheryl also stated that they were all on the same page, making it simple for them to collaborate on-set actively.
Cheryl revealed that her personal experiences and preferences were brought into life with Palmer on a beautiful note. “The child I wrote about – Sam – in the movie is unapologetic, he just likes what he likes.” Her attempts to elevate worthy themes that the society needs to hear are undoubtedly strong. Cheryl also revealed how she tried to give an insight into the feelings of adoption and drug addiction through the movie.
Cheryl admitted that she was an athlete during school and those skills have definitely led and helped her in the years up till now. And every team she’s ever been a part of has inspired her more than any exam she’s ever taken. She revealed that the best education has come via being a member of a sports team. She’d been playing football since she was eight years old, and she’d participated in so many sports that she couldn’t find time to do anything else. She divulged that she was also a fierce competitor and being a part of a sports team, on the other hand, teaches you how to get along with others, how to succeed, and how to keep going no matter what. As a result, she acquired these qualities through sports and they have been a part of her film life as well.
“I’m not sure I’d be where I am now if it weren’t for my athletic experience,” she admitted. Despite the rejections, she continued to establish a goal to achieve her goal showing the qualities of perseverance and tenacity.
“Less is more in a screenplay, but there are a lot more places in a book. There is more description in a novel. Screenplays on the other hand, are short.”
Despite the fact that she prefers scripts over novels, Cheryl has worked on a novel called Girl On Point which was published in 2017.
She revealed that it initiated as a script which got optioned five times. Four different producers wanted to create a movie out of it, which didn’t happen, and so she turned it into a novel. Cheryl stated that now there are plans on turning it into a feature film. “It has come full circle from script to a novel to a television pilot and back to a feature film screenplay.”
A writer’s mindset
Cheryl mentioned that she has wanted to write more regularly and that she tried to push herself to do so by forcing herself to sit in front of a computer. She is, nevertheless, more productive when she engages in activities that allow her creative thoughts to flow freely.
“For me, it’s like looking at a picture. So I keep going over it till I’m happy with it, then I’ll just keep re-reading it and changing it.”
The full interview with Cheryl is available on the Junkyard Theory YouTube channel.