The question I get asked most often (right after “where do you get your ideas?”) is “how did you break into the business?” For me, it started with a little zombie named Johnny Dingle. I called the movie JOHNNY ZOMBIE and, after the screenplay was finished, I had absolutely no idea what to do with it. So, Adam gives JOHNNY ZOMBIE to Sean in the hopes that Sean might want to make it for very little money and give Adam a shot at directing it. Finally, we get to LA and I begin the development process on the screenplay with Sean and Disney. Both turn out to be very good choices — and they’re not the only excellent people involved, either. The movie is going to shoot in Austin, Texas (ironically the place where I destroyed the motel on the way to LA). Early on, I notice that all the actors and directors and producers have chairs with their names on the back. I never really get to know him, mostly because he largely stays in character on screen and off.
It turns out my former boss at the PR firm was right — I’ll never make it in the film business.
Years later, when I’m working on ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, Balaban’s name comes up as an actor for a particular role on the show.
In the end, all these years later, I have a real fondness for the movie… or at least the experience of making it. About DeanEmmy-Nominated screenwriter, Dean Lorey, has written and produced many TV shows, including ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, THOSE WHO CAN'T, MY WIFE AND KIDS and RUNNING WILDE. His movie credits include MAJOR PAYNE, MY BOYFRIEND’S BACK and FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 9: JASON GOES TO HELL. His novels include the young adult series NIGHTMARE ACADEMY (the first book, MONSTER HUNTERS, was awarded “Best Children’s Novel of the Year -- 2008” by the SCIBA).
Currently, he is the co-author (with Vinnie Tortorich) of the recently released non-fiction bestseller FITNESS CONFIDENTIAL, as well as the publisher of Jack Icefloe Jackson's ROMANCE FOR MEN. His first animated movie, ANIMAL CRACKERS, is currently in production with a voice cast including Ian McKellan, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Sylvester Stallone and Danny Devito. Follow DeanGet 10 Free Hollywood Screenwriting Tips when you subscribe to Dean's newsletter!
Missy McCloud is the most beautiful girl in school and Johnny Dingle has been in love with her for years.
Johnny: I heard someone my age is supposed to be comfortable with the way their body changes, but given the circumstances, this was too much.
Johnny's School Teacher: Just because you're dead does not mean that you can come waltzing in here whenever you like. Buck Van Patten: You think you can hang out with us decent living folks like you're still alive or something? Johnny: Look, I almost took a bite out of my friend Eddie, and it was SUCH the wrong thing to do. Reporter Brenda: We just received word that some sort of tragedy has happened in the high school today. Johnny Dingle (nice name) is in love with childhood friend Missy McCloud, only Missy is way out of his league.
Johnny scores a movie date with Missy and it’s going great until his ear falls off which is just disgusting.
While I was there, I wrote a comedy about a high school kid who’s so in love with a girl that, even after getting shot and killed in a convenience store robbery, he comes back from the dead to take her to the prom.
I wrote it in a series of cheap apartments in New York City and Hoboken and I knew more about decoding DNA than I did about getting a movie made. So, Disney wants to make it and Sean offers me a three year deal to move out to Los Angeles and become a staff writer for him. A day later, I wreck a hotel in Austin, Texas by ripping the overhang off the front after I slam into it with the roof of the U-Haul — but that’s a story for another time. By the end of it, it’s hard to understand what they liked about the script to begin with because it seems like they want to change everything.

It’s going to be Bob Balaban – a well regarded actor who had directed a sort-of horror movie called PARENTS that’s very quirky and dark. Balaban is shooting in a very stylized way and has chosen to focus on the gentleness of Johnny. He liked the work he was doing and points out, rightly, that the script itself is very quirky and stylized.
She keeps pronouncing a word wrong in the scene, so I quietly go up to her and tell her how it’s pronounced. Cloris Leachman arrives in town to play an older woman named Maggie whose husband, years ago, became a zombie. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Little Chuck, the bully — a dense, snarling neanderthal. Because it turns out that a lot of people in Hollywood loved the script — thought it was clever and funny.
It was my first thing, my first baby and it came out all strange and yet… I have a real fondness for it. And I’ve been surprised at how many people have reevaluated the film since it’s been out on video — mostly in a positive light.
He has also done uncredited work on a variety of movies, including HAPPY GILMORE, GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE and NOTHING TO LOSE. A reluctant reunion forced by a TV producer triggers suppressed emotions and recriminations among the three women. One night, Johnny is killed trying to win her over, and soon he comes back from the dead, and wins Missy's heart.
You pretend to kill her, I save her life, she thinks I'm a hero, ditches Buck and goes to the prom with me. Uh, listen, I think it's really great that you're back from the dead and all, but I've got gym. Johnny’s parents add to the comedy with the mother kidnapping children from the local store for Johnny to feast on. Unfortunately, being a zombie, he now has a terrible craving to eat the flesh of the living (which he finds morally and ethically reprehensible).
And that’s where the whole thing could have ended except I met a guy at NYU by the name of Adam Marcus. There’s very little money in it, but even a little money is more than I’ve ever made before. Gone is my original ending where Johnny and his true love Missy are run out of the prom by angry townspeople only to hide away in the graveyard, where they discover that the zombies that live there are having their own zombie prom — which turns out to be a lot more fun. At every meeting, an empty chair is set aside for “Jeffrey” and his notes are placed on it. Personally, I’m really pulling for Brandi Burkett in the role of Missy — she’s an actress and a friend from Conyers, Ga, my hometown. Unfortunately, this has taken the wind out of Balaban’s sails and now he’s hurt and angry and I can see why. The mad doctor Johnny has been speaking to about his zombie-ism tells him that his body parts will start to fall off unless he eats people. To make matters worse, he’s beginning to decay — in fact, body parts that might otherwise have come in handy on prom night are starting to fall off. The only thing they don’t want is for a kid just out of film school to direct it — but don’t feel too bad for Adam. I tell my bosses (the managing partners) that I need to quit because I’m moving to LA to make movies. The Jeffrey notes cannot be argued or discussed — they are the ten commandments, handed down by God himself, and no one has the authority to question them. Now we have to redo the entire first week and shoot the rest of the movie in the remaining six.
Eventually, they get one for me and present it with a great deal of pomp and circumstance — but it’s all very condescending.
Sean, the producer, tells me that she’s asked that I go to her hotel room because she needs some help with the script.

I am 23 and have no idea how to tell Academy Award winning actress Cloris Leachman that she cannot wear a flower pot on her head in the movie.
A comic book framing device is added (always a bad sign…) Balaban shoots the new stuff (and seems to kind of like it) and the movie improves, although it’s still very odd. Another review takes me personally to task for naming it MY BOYFRIEND’S BACK without putting the actual song “My Boyfriend’s Back” in the movie.
But Johnny doesn't want to stay dead, so he returns to his life like nothing ever happened.
He's lost a massive amount of blood, and his pulse and retinal response are poor, and as you can see there's an axe sticking out of his head. Eating innocent people is not exactly what Johnny considers a good time but he doesn’t have a choice as he eats the now very dead Chuck.
On top of all this, everyone in town hates him — he is, after all, one of the undead.
He was also best friends with a kid named Noel Cunningham, who was the son of a Hollywood producer by the name of Sean Cunningham.
His consolation prize is that he gets to direct FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 9: JASON GOES TO HELL, which you can read about in its own section.
They don’t want me to go, so they offer me a job as an account executive, offering me more money a year than I’m being paid for the movie. Carla will become famous and loved by fanboys everywhere for her sexy roles in SIN CITY and SPY KIDS among many others.
I had imagined a rapid-fire movie, like BACK TO THE FUTURE, but this is methodically paced, although interesting. You can give your opinion to the director and you can argue points but, at the end of the day, you should either support that person or replace them. I remember thinking “Good God, why not?” I later realize that it’s just a different and much more dry style of humor — one that Balaban has made a career of as an actor. I turn to go when Sean adds: “Remember, you’re about to give direction to an Academy Award winning actress!” And then he cackles, knowing this will unnerve me. I fumble around, muttering “not sure, maybe…” Later, she asks the same thing of Balaban and he gently talks her out of it, but only after telling her what a clever idea it is. Turns out he stayed committed because he became one of Hollywood’s finest actors until his tragic and untimely death. Balaban wasn’t allowed to make his stylized version of the movie but the end result is not a straight down the middle crowd pleaser, either.
I, of course, didn’t name it that and, as the writer, had nothing to do with the songs they chose. After a while he discovers that his body is disintegrating and he must feed with human flesh if he wants to survive. The film is overwhelmed with acting talents from Mary Beth Hurt to Matthew McConaughey to Renee Zellweger to Austin Pendleton to Edward Herrmann. After crawling out of his grave, Johnny returns to school where the students and teachers are very unwelcoming. Can Johnny manage to eat enough bodies so he can stay on this Earth long enough to take Missy to prom?
Cloris Leachman is the one you’ve probably heard of, but there were a ton of wonderful veterans.
The entire backwards town has it in for Johnny and intends to put him back in the ground where he belongs. Where were they, I wonder, when I was all alone in a tiny apartment in Hell’s Kitchen dreaming up this whole thing?
And I’m struck by an odd desire — I really want to see the movie that Balaban wanted to make. When I was a little girl, my best friends and I would rent this flick every weekend and watch it during slumber parties.

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