Who:Benjamin Brand, 35, of Venice, Calif.
Why you should know him:He's got the, ahem, write stuff. The East Lyme native wrote the screenplay for the movie “November,” a psychological thriller starring Courteney Cox. Critic Roger Ebert gave it three stars and, along with fellow reviewer Richard Roeper, bestowed on it the powerful two-thumbs-up imprimatur. Even when a Hollywood studio or producer buys a script, that doesn't mean it'll get turned into a movie, and, sure enough, Brand has sold a number of scripts before, but this is his first to make it to the big screen.
Coming home:As a youth, Brand was a movie-happy regular at Niantic Cinemas, reveling in such films as “My Life As A Dog” and “The Gods Must Be Crazy.” On Friday, he's returning with his very own movie. Niantic Cinemas is hosting the first local screening of “November,” and Brand will be back in town for the big event. (His parents, Andrew and Nancy Brand, still live here.) Brand will introduce the movie before the 8 p.m. screening, and he'll answer questions afterward.
Sophie's choice:“November,” which played the Sundance Film Festival in January 2004 and is now getting a national release, focuses its lens on a photographer named Sophie (played by Cox). Her boyfriend is murdered during a convenience store hold-up. Sophie — having sat outside in the car, oblivious to the catastrophe that was unfolding inside — becomes wracked with guilt. As she tries to deal with her trauma, the line between reality and the unconscious blurs. “I've always liked movies that pull the rug out from under you,” Brand says. “At a certain point, you realize there's a much larger frame than what you saw.”
Somewhere in time:Hollywood is flush with screenwriters' sad stories of their scripts being radically revamped on the way to the cineplex, but Brand says the finished version of “November” is fairly close to what he wrote. One of the major changes is less jumping around in time than existed in the original script. Brand was on the set for the 15-day shoot, and seeing his script being filmed was exciting. But, as the writer, he didn't have much to do there. By the end of the shoot, he was bringing a book every day.
The first picture show:When he was in fifth- or sixth-grade, Brand started using his father's Super-8 camera. “I was very interested in things I could watch backward because the projector had a reverse function on it,” he says, remembering watching a wall of snow reconstruct itself. That kid's stuff led to a deeper fascination with movies and to his majoring in film studies at Wesleyan University.
Stand by me:For a small New England town, East Lyme has sent more than its fair share of kids into Hollywood careers. Brand hangs out in L.A. with a couple of buddies from his childhood, TV writer Dave Goetsch and movie-trailer editor Chris Foster. With two of the three being writers, it seems inevitable that someone will pen a script based on East Lyme. Brand remembers how the trio used to hang out on the dock at Foster's house on Pattagansett Lake during the summer, and he feels there was something evocative about that time. “Dave Goetsch and I talk about this all the time, trying to figure out what the movie is that takes place in Niantic. We haven't cracked it yet,” he says.
Adaptation:Brand's bustling career as a screenwriter continues. For MGM, Brand has written a remake of “Topkapi,” the 1964 Melina Mercouri-Peter Ustinov movie about a con-man and jewelry thieves who join up to break into Istanbul's Topkapi museum. Brand is now adapting a mystery/thriller novel, whose name he's not divulging, about a sheriff in a small Texas town.