Serendipity or not, Max Bain’s a winner Local author-turned-screenwriter Max Bain lands TV gig on ‘“Palmetto Pointe,’” but finds pastures greener in High Point
For everyone who thought it couldn’t be done, this one’s for you.
‘— Dedication page to Loser’s Serendipity
Stop me if you’ve heard it. Guy walks into a bar’…
OK, how about this one. Guy walks into an editor’s office. Says he’s almost finished his first novel and needs some freelance work until it gets published. Grizzled editor turns gaze from computer screen, casts a jaundiced eye toward fresh-faced kid and replies, ‘“Almost counts in horseshoes. Call me back when it’s finished.’”
End of story.
So, where’s the joke?
Turns out, the joke’s on everyone who doubted that a neophyte wannabe with no training and no track record could parlay a self-published novel into a screenplay, sell it to a major Hollywood producer, launch a career as a screenwriter, TV writer, script supervisor/ doctor/ consultant, co-writer of two additional novels ‘— and do it all in under three years.
If the young writer, a High Point resident named Max Bain, had written this story and tried to sell it he would’ve been laughed out of Hollywood. Hell, he’d have been laughed out of Hoboken. These types of things not only don’t happen in real life, they don’t even happen in the movies. This is Horatio Alger squared. This defies odds so long that Vegas whales would take a pass on the action. Criminy, Pete Rose wouldn’t even touch this one.
Think about it. Almost no one ever writes a novel, and most of those who do ‘— and especially those who self-publish ‘— give a few to friends and family and the rest gather dust in the bargain bins and, more likely, the closet. Even those few who do manage to pen a novel almost never turn it into a screenplay ‘— much less sell it. And no one goes from anonymity to celebrity in such a short span. You can’t script this stuff.
Yet, if anyone doubted the power of perseverance, the truth of tenacity, the credence of conviction, then Max Bain will make believers of them all. Read on.
The Genesis Of An Idea
Before the calendar flipped over to a deuce and three zeros Max Bain had never written anything more involved than a grocery list. The Jupiter, Fla. native had moved to Manhattan to take a job with the New York Stock Exchange. He’d begun mulling over an idea he thought would make a good short story and happened to mention it to his boss. The skeptical boss essentially told him he didn’t believe he could do it, so Max set out to prove him wrong, if nothing else. Eighty-one days later he produced the first draft, which by now had been fleshed out to a full-blown novel, titled Loser’s Serendipity.
In the interim, after his five-month marriage had ended in divorce, a friend in Kernersville persuaded him to move here. He soon met a young lady named Jules, and the two became an item and set up housekeeping in High Point.
‘“Jules is the reason I settled here,’” smiles Max. ‘“She’s the one who believed in me and kept me going through the lean times.’”
It didn’t take long after finishing his manuscript for the, shall we say, ‘serendipitous’ events to start happening. While waiting tables at Uno’s in High Point, one of his customers happened to be WFMY News 2 reporter Tanya Rivera. Making small talk, Max mentioned that he was an aspiring novelist and she asked for a copy of the manuscript. Soon afterward ‘— he isn’t even sure how but surmises that Rivera had a hand in it ‘— Jeff Pate from Alliance Books called and three days later agreed to publish the book.
The process was rushed, however, and the first printing contained numerous typos, including the copy that went out to the aforementioned editor. Book editor Sarah Barker stepped in and corrected the mistakes, giving Max something he could not only be proud of but start sending around to publishing bigwigs and booksellers around the country. If he was in high gear already, he then shifted into overdrive.
‘“I started taking it around to all the bookstores,’” he discloses, ‘“and got places like Books A Million, Borders, Barnes & Noble and The Bookstop to stock it. I got it in 1,300 airports and we sold a lot of books that way. I lined up all my own book signings, got some pretty good press, and just kept pounding the pavement and burning up the phone lines. For a first-timer we actually ended up selling an incredible number of books, enough to make it a best-seller [at least 100,000 copies].’”
Still, Max had his eye on a bigger prize. His novel, it seemed, had all the elements that would translate well from the printed page to the silver screen, so he obtained a copy of the Publishers Guild and began making phone calls. Dozens of calls turned into hundreds, and as the phone bill mounted up so did the rejections. Most people would have given themselves a pat on the back for giving it the old college try and gone back to their day job. But not Max Bain.
At long last, the fledgling writer hit paydirt. Finally someone actually returned a phone call. Not just anyone, either, but a Hollywood heavyweight named Raul daSilva. It so happened that daSilva, in addition to his numerous screenwriting and producing credits, had authored seven books, six of which had been turned into films, and was willing to give Max more than the time of day.
‘“I kept turning him down but he kept bouncing back like a rubber ball,’” laughed daSilva in an interview with the Greater Greensboro Observer in March 2004. ‘“Max is not an accomplished writer but his character development is not bad and the plot moves along pretty good. I showed it to some of my associates who were willing to take it on and tweak it yet keep the same basic plot line. When we get finished with it, it will be an enjoyable piece of Hollywood filmmaking.’”
The film wound up being called End of Route One and is currently in casting and preproduction. It will be shot in Key West, Key Largo, CanÃ§un and Puerto Rico and is directed by Sylvain Despretz. And yes, Max Bain got paid rather handsomely for his efforts and will get not only a ‘“based on the novel by’” credit but also an ‘“associate producer,’” ‘“second assistant director’” and ‘“co-songwriter’” (with Matt Glascoe for a soundtrack number, ‘“I of the Storm’”) credit.
‘“Believe me, I’m fully aware of how lucky I got with Raul daSilva,’” smiles Max. ‘“You’ve got to understand that 80,000 scripts a year go to LA and 253 theatrical release films on average get made. Raul just liked the story, liked my tenacity, and thought I was a good kid. We still talk about once a week. He’s a great guy ‘— stubborn, but a great guy.’”
Although daSilva took Max under his wing and became his mentor of sorts, there were strings attached.
‘“Raul said, ‘I need you to help out two people who would never make it otherwise, and if you do that, I’ll make your film,”” remarks Max, who gladly accepted the benevolent conditions. Those two people turned out to be local authors Spencer Bryant and Ed Buffington, both of whom had been writing for years without having been published.
‘“Spencer, who was 84 at the time, had 68 pages done on a Western novel,’” says Max, ‘“and we sat down and rewrote it and got it finished. It’s called Guns of Cain and it was published in April 2004.’” Bryant has since finished a second novel (without his young co-writer’s help), titled White Witch of Hartford, which hit the shelves last month and is published by Living Room Books.
The association with Buffington began with the two co-writing a novel, Heads or Tails, which was published by Alliance Books in August, 2004, and has since blossomed into a long-term business and artistic relationship.
‘“We’ve done a screenplay together, called Accidentally on Purpose,’” says Max, ‘“and just last week we started our own company, Indelible Ink. What we do is transfer novels into screenplays, script supervising, ghostwriting, whatever anybody needs to put their thoughts on paper. If you’ve got a dream and a good story, we’ll sit down and write it for you or help you write it.’”
Although the process of getting his novel onto the big screen has been laborious and tedious, Max has not exactly been sitting around waiting for the credits to roll. In the past two years (in addition to co-writing the two novels and the screenplay with Buffington) he has completed no fewer than six more screenplays. They are Deception’s Key, Community Service, Blood Brothers, Jake, The Broken Path, and Made. Deception’s Key has already been optioned, and Community Service is up for option this month, with 23 producers vying for the rights.
‘“Oddly enough, my writing actually has to slow down in order to sell more,’” he explains. ‘“You can’t dump them all at the same time; it doesn’t make sense but that’s what they want. That’s why I got into the TV thing.’”
The TV thing?
At some point, the burgeoning author/ screenwriter was going to need an agent and ‘— here we go again ‘— ‘serendipity’ played a role. He had a local agent who was ineffectual, but word was getting around that Max Bain was now playing on a larger stage.
‘“I have no idea, but somehow this guy from Chicago named Tommy Lee ‘— not the drummer for Motley CrÃ¼e but an agent ‘— got ahold of some of my work and called saying he had some assignment work for me and that he’d like to represent me. So we signed an agreement and it’s been a wonderfully beneficial relationship for me. He’s opened a lot of doors for me that I couldn’t have possibly gotten myself, one of which was Jay Leno. I actually got Leno’s private number and called him up. I was scared to death.’”
In early summer Max got another fortuitous call, this one from a television producer named John Kearns, who was calling from the Palm Beach Film Festival. He called to inquire if Max would be interested in writing for a TV series getting ready to launch in late summer.
‘“I hung up on him,’” says Max straight-faced. ‘“It was 10:30 at night and, I swear, I thought it was a prank, one of my buddies playing a joke. Then a friend I’ve known for a long time, David Shifter, called back and said, ‘He’s not kidding. Talk to him!””
Needless to say, Max was a bit more polite during the return call. Kearns immediately sent him a spec copy of a script and asked if he could make it better. Max read the script, liked it, saw room for improvement, and went to meet the executive producer in Wilmington, where he was hired on the spot.
The script was a pilot for a teen drama called ‘“Palmetto Pointe’” that will debut on the (i) Network (formerly the Pax Network) this Sunday, Aug. 28, at 8 p.m. It is being shot in and around Charleston, SC.
According to Jym Lynch, a native of Kinston, NC, who co-wrote the pilot and worked alongside Max on the first six episodes, the series revolves around Tristan Sutton, who was said to be the best high school pitcher in South Carolina history.
‘“Right after graduation his parents die and he becomes the number one draft choice of the St. Louis Cardinals,’” says Lynch in an interview from Summerville, SC. ‘“He’s unable to deal with all the conflicting emotions so he just bails without telling anybody where he’s going or what he’s doing. Not his girlfriend, not his best friend, not his brother, nobody. He does wind up in the Cardinals’ minor league system and does so well that he’s about to get called up to the majors. But he has to pitch one last game ‘— against the Palmetto Pointe Braves. (The game scenes are being filmed at The Citadel.)
‘“It’s his first time back home and he has to deal with all the emotions and loose ends he left behind. He expects things to be all hunky-dory, but obviously they are not. Circumstances then force the young pitcher to remain in Palmetto Pointe and face the things he never wanted to face again.’”
Part of the dramatic tension is provided by an actress from Yadkin County, Sarah Edwards. Last season she played a cheerleader on ‘“One Tree Hill’” but auditioned for and won a larger role in ‘“Palmetto Pointe.’”
‘“I play Millison, the ‘innocent sweetheart’ of the show,’” she says. ‘“Tristan had dated Lacey but comes back and we have an instant connection.’”
Max was contracted for the first six episodes but has since decided not to renew his option for the full season.
‘“It was a great experience and I don’t regret a minute of it,’” he admits. ‘“I made them an offer for a lot less money if I could stay here in High Point, but they insisted that I be there for the entire time they’re shooting. Jules and I thought long and hard about it and it’s just too much time away from home, so I decided to step down for the good of the show. I’ve had some other TV offers but the money’s just not good enough to give up what I’m doing here.’”
It’s not as if the young (he is still contractually obligated by ‘“Palmetto Pointe’” not to reveal his age) writer lacks for things to occupy his time. He has three films in the works simultaneously; a company called Nu Concepts is looking at two more of his scripts; he and Ed Buffington are confident their Indelible Ink venture will survive and prosper; and last week he began negotiations for a job as a script consultant with a company shooting a film in Salisbury, NC.
‘“I really think that films is what I eventually want to do with all my time,’” says the writer who insists on being local. ‘“I don’t see myself as a novelist; the money’s good for TV but it’s awfully difficult; and I just really enjoy the whole process of filmmaking. I don’t want to write it, sell it and then get out; I want to be there to see it happen.’”
But wouldn’t that entail a move to Hollywood?
‘“No, not at all,’” he replies. ‘“I can see this area becoming more and more of a hotbed for moviemaking. It doesn’t have to be on the scale of Hollywood to keep you busy. I’ve worked on sets before as a writer and stuck around as a producer’s assistant, which translates to gopher. But, hey, I don’t mind getting coffee and running errands; I just love being around it.’”
Given his track record to date, it would not be a stretch to one day see Max Bain himself bringing films to the Triad.
Now wouldn’t that be serendipity?
This Friday (8/25) morning Max Bain will appear on ‘“Triad Today’” on ABC45 and WUPN48 and ‘“The Good Morning Show’” on WFMY. On Sunday evening he, his family and friends will be watching the premiere episode of ‘“Palmetto Pointe’” at Liberty Steakhouse on Mall Loop Road off Eastchester Drive in High Point. Everyone is invited to join in the fun. He will conduct an informal Q&A immediately after the show.