SIMON BALL talks to writer Geri Gallas about her exploration of Robert Louis Stevenson’s inner demons in “Death is No Bad Friend”
Death is No Bad Friend is a short film currently in production in San Francisco. Written and produced by comic book writer and artist Geri Gallas, who is best known for The Poet and the Flea a graphic novel about artist William Blake and the ghost of a flea.
Death is No Bad Friend explores Jekyll and Hyde author Robert Louis Stevernson’s struggle with the duality of his conscience following his epic pursuit of Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne from Europe to California and the near fatal illness it induced.
Since together with Dracula, Frankenstein and the ghost stories of MR James, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is one of the cornerstones of the British Gothic, anything that explores the story’s genesis will be of interest to Spooky Isles readers.
I caught up with Geri during pre-production to find out what the film was all about.
“Death Is No Bad Friend finds Robert Louis Stevenson in San Francisco and Northern California.” Geri explained, “He attempts to escape his guilty conscience through honeymooning on Mount Saint Helena. But his illness catches up with him, forcing him to face his inner demons. The screenplay is largely influenced by Stevenson.’s letters from the time as well as his famous Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The story is about feeling inordinate guilt for that which is beyond one’s control.”
Stevenson had first met and fallen in love with Fanny in France when she was still a married woman.
As if Fanny being a married woman wasn’t shocking enough to respectable Victorian society, she was also 11 years senior to Stevenson and an American to boot.
Advised against following her back to America by his friends, Stevenson didn’t even tell his parents why he was leaving.
Rebelling against the respectability of middle class Edinburgh New Town society as it was personified by Henry Jekyll was nothing new to Stevenson, as a student his own personal Edward Hyde would drag him to debauchery of the Old Town’s brothels and drinking shops whenever he had money burning a hole in his pocket.
“My fascination with R.L.S. was sparked by reading those letters,” Geri continued. “They give a real sense of the time and place he found himself in, and show a side of Stevenson unseen in his more famous works. His letters can be subtle and even sarcastic at times, but also sincere and profound at others. He was a very ill man for the entirety of his short life, but somehow he was still able to find humour and contentment in the world. These qualities in Stevenson’s character factor greatly into the way I wrote the screenplay and the way I’d like to present him in the finished film.”
Geri and her colleagues at Siren’s Gaze Productions are currently scouting locations in San Francisco for the ideal Victorian interiors and sourcing costumes and props. Kyle Duke Adamiec, the actor who will take on the role is already cast and has had a crack at playing Stevenson in the trailer that is being used in the FundRazr campaign that will help to fund production.
“We are very lucky to have Kyle Duke Adamiec as our Robert Louis Stevenson — when I first saw him, I was convinced he was the living, breathing reincarnation of Robert Louis! He’s done a marvellous job on our trailer and I’m really excited to be working with him, Kari Wishingrad who plays Fanny, Larry Laverty and the rest of our cast and crew on this production. I met director Mary Lachapelle and cinematographer Jacqueline Lehr at the 2013 Cannes International Film Festival — they have a passion, vibrancy, and intuition that I feel will make the film the best it can be ”
The FundRazr campaign for Death is No Bad Friend runs up to June 21.