A Journey of Writing, Revisions, and Persistence to Bring a Story to Life for the Big Screen
As an aspiring screenwriter, the journey from completing a feature screenplay to getting it produced can be a long and daunting process. It requires patience, perseverance, and a whole lot of hard work. But when that day finally arrives and your first feature screenplay is going into production, it’s an incredibly exciting and rewarding moment, and I like to share with you my journey to write, The Richest Man in Town
The Richest Man in Town is the true story of a 70-year-old man named Marty who lives in a trailer park and works as cashier at Wal-Mart who transforms the town of Brookings, South Dakota, and is declared The Richest Man In Town.
I met Randy Bellous years ago at an event in Woodland Hills, CA. He handed me a slim book, asked me to read it and tell him what I thought.
The book, The Richest Man in Town, written by V.J. Smith, is a true story about an old cashier in the town of Brookings, South Dakota who changed the lives of many people in that town and was considered the richest man.
It’s a beautiful story about friendship treating folks with kindness and dignity the kind of things I think people have lost sight of. Marty’s story illustrates the healing power of kindness and genuine human connections, which extends far beyond his checkout line. I was captivated by the simple story in a small book with a big message that I wanted to share far and wide.
I read the book at a difficult time in America’s history. It was a time when we were a people polarized – focusing on our differences rather than our similarities. News stories abounded about how people became judgmental and, I knew in my heart we are better than this. I wanted to do some “thing” to shift the collective consciousness, and in my hands was this story about an old man, loved by everyone.
The cashier, Marty Aronson saw people through the eyes of kindness. He didn’t identify his customers whom he referred to as “my people,” by appearance or whether they were rich or poor, young, old, black, white, yellow, red, male, or female. He saw everyone who came through his checkout line as his friend – a human being. A person to listen to. A human being to treat kindly and with dignity. Isn’t that what we all want deep down inside?
I cried when I finished reading the book. I wanted to live there. In that place. In that moment. This was a story I wanted a hand in telling. That’s exactly what I told Randy. He asked me If I would take a look at a screenplay others wrote for him. I said I would.
A few days later I called him and said I thought the screenplay didn’t make me feel the same way I felt after reading the book. Randy gave me simple challenge: Could I do better?
What you may not know about me is that I love challenges. Tell me something is impossible – it’s like an ignition switch in my brain snapping on. I am energized like the bunny in the battery commercials.
Randy and I took a deep dive into Marty’s story. We started at the beginning. It was a page 1 rewrite. Throughout the writing process, we have been keenly aware of the responsibility that comes with retelling a story as powerful and significant as Marty’s. By staying true to the essence of the original book, we hoped to do justice to his message and to inspire a new generation to take the time to truly appreciate the people and the world around them.
Many more rewrites later, I’m overjoyed to say, The Richest Man In Town is on its way into production.
THE RICHEST MAN IN TOWN
Producer: Randy Bellous
Based on the book: The Richest Man in Town
Written by: V.J. Smith
Screenwriters: Randy Bellous, Richard Oshen
Production Company: Kingdom Media Films
Distributor: Heartland Studios