If you haven’t heard of Jesse Peyronel, you’re certainly about to. This NYU-trained screenwriter, whose origins span the globe, is on the verge of taking the television and cinema worlds by storm, and with his wide variety of influences, he’s sure to grab everyone’s attention. With projects including everything from LEGO, to cops, to Chuck Palahnuik, Jesse is covering all genre bases available with a passion and leaving no stone unturned. And while he currently cites the uber-famous Lost-creating JJ Abrams as one of his major influences, it seems like in a few years up-and-coming screenwriters will be the ones citing him.
To start off, can you give us a baby bio of the life of Jesse Peyronel?
I’m from London, but I’ve got family in Argentina, and so I grew up there and England and Spain. After going to NYU for film production, I became a production manager which was fun because I was the youngest on set and bossing everyone around. I did advertising for a few years, and during that time I managed to sell a screenplay to Miramax/Dimension. I came out here to LA and did advertising and was an executive producer at Partizan before starting to sell more creative projects – mostly in the television world – and that allowed me to shed the day job and become a full-time writer.
How did your first big writing/directing project, Swimming Out to Holly, come to be?
Swimming Out to Holly was my thesis film at NYU. It’s a ten-minute film about a woman who keeps pretending to drown just so this one lifeguard will come and save her – a little coming-of-age piece. It was a finalist in the Hypnotic Million Dollar Film Festival and ended up premiering at Sundance. It also played at the New York Film Festival which was really an honor, and at the Edinburgh and Palm Springs festivals, among many others. It picked up a few awards and helped me get my first agent.
You adapted and are slated to direct the Chuck Palahniuk (who also wrote Fight Club) novel Invisible Monsters. How did that come to be?
Initially, I had to represent myself to Chuck’s people as more of a producer than a writer/director because I felt like I didn’t have much on my resume at all. So I got my foot in the door by being a producer, and then managed to connect with Chuck’s literary agent in New York, developed a relationship with him, and then met Chuck and pitched him my take on it.
What exactly is Invisible Monsters?
It’s about a model who gets her bottom jaw shot off. Half the film she’s in flashback and fine and beautiful and the other half the film she’s wearing a veil. She and a pre-op transexual who may or may not be her long-lost brother go on a cross-country road trip of redemption. There’s a lot of fun, dark stuff in it, much like the tone of Fight Club. We’ve gotten close to making it a couple of times – we had Jessica Biel attached once for about a year, and we’ve flirted with people like Natalie Portman and Kate Bosworth. It’s tricky because the lead role is this model who actually needs to be able to act and have these layers to her and be famous, and that list is very short.
What else have you got going on?
I’ve sold two pilots, Illuminati and Shadows, and I’ve done an assignment, which is the only one that’s definitely already getting made. Illuminati was for ABC, and it was about the secret society that really runs the world. It was meant to be a little bit like a Lost type thing – very high concept, very cool – and they bought it and paid me to write it. It didn’t go to series, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes back.
Shadows was for ABC Family, which may be more of a teen girl network, but I have a soft spot that genre. I watch Pretty Little Liars, I love Gossip Girl, I loved The OC – it can be brilliant when it’s done well. Shadows was about a group of students at Harvard who get sucked into a secret program to teach them how to be spies – kind of like Felicity meets Alias. It didn’t move forward, but I had a great relationship with the network, and could see us working together again soon.
Anything we can look forward to in the future?
The project that I actually sold and is being made right now is for LEGO – TV and DVD specials for their new Hero Factory line – and that’ll be out next year sometime on Nickelodeon in the U.S. and across the globe. I also have two cable shows that we’re going out with. One is a very interesting, dark, layered take on the cop show – much more The Shield or The Wire than a typical procedural. The other show is in the vampire world, which you would think has been completely played out, but our lead is a female vampire, and if you think about all the popular shows and movies right now in that genre like Twilight, True Blood or Vampire Diaries, all the leads are male. I want to see a girl bite back. I’m also writing a feature about a couple who are reincarnated continuously over two thousand years, struggling to live happily ever after.
Now, I hear you’re a fan of the comic book world. Do you have a favorite?
I don’t have a single favorite comic, and while I still love the superhero stuff, I’m a real fan of the more adult stuff, like DC’s Vertigo line. One really interesting comic that I like right now is Locke and Key, a gothic horror thing that’s being adapted for Fox. I usually will buy a comic book based on the writer. In the 90s when I was in high school, it was the artists who were the big stars, and while I liked their images, the writing suffered, and I realized how important it is to have a great script as the backbone. If you make something pretty (and this applies to everything), if it just looks good it could still be pretty bad.
So if you could hop on the big superhero summer blockbuster bandwagon, is there a superhero you would write a film for?
I’d love to do Daredevil again. I don’t think I’m hurting anyone’s feelings right now by saying that wasn’t very successful, even though some people I love worked on it. My take would be more grounded, darker, like the Frank Miller, Brian Michael Bendis, and Ed Brubaker runs on the comic.
Is there anything you think Daily BR!NK readers could do to support your success?
I tweet, which is more for fun than anything else, but I do like to share news about my career and my friends’ stuff, so whenever a buddy has a movie out or a TV show, I share that information. I share film/TV, rare music, photo, and design news. My Twitter address is @jessedir, and I’d love for your readers to check it out. I also have two little photo blogs. My professional career has been all writing, which is awesome and I love it, but I still have a passion for directing, so I do photography as a way to express myself and exercise the visual composition muscle.
Parting words for all the aspiring writers and artists out there?
I believe that – whether it’s film or tv or music or fashion or anything creative – the most important qualities are persistence and determination. Talent is important, but hard work will bring you success. Though the odds and competition may seem daunting, it can be done.