EXCLUSIVE: In its first spec deal, Amazon Studios has acquired The Wall, a script by Dwain Worrell about a deadly cat-and-mouse contest waged by an American sharpshooter and the Iraqi sniper who has him pinned behind a small chunk of concrete. The sniper has commandeered the communications frequency and the enemies talk to each other through a standoff that will prove fatal for one of them. The structure is reminiscent of the superb film Locke — Tom Hardy on a cell phone in a car — and it will be made for $5 million next year.
Just as interesting are the circumstances by which the Amazon Studios gang got hold of the script by Worrell, a Barbados-born, Boston-raised aspiring writer who couldn’t get a job and moved to China for nine years. There, his Mandarin skills got him work translating and polishing content for the government-run TV station CCT, rewriting a script for a Chinese production company, teaching English and taking local acting jobs while he wrote on the side.
From Beijing, Worrell found himself walled off from the kind of resources screenwriters in the U.S. take for granted: sites like Twitter and Google are blocked in China. He managed to get access to Facebook where a friend had posted about Amazon Studios. He’d learned from his soldier brother about an almost mythical sniper in Iraq and used that as the basis for The Wall. Worrell submitted the script to the Amazon Studios website in August, and it didn’t take long for things to happen. Amazon Studios offered to buy the script; he got a manager in Madhouse’s Adam Kolbrenner; and Worrell just signed with CAA after returning to the U.S. to chase his screenwriting dream.
“My life has taken a monumental turn,” the writer said. “[Amazon] helped me land one of the top managers, who set me up with all the top agencies. Then I met with Warner Bros in China and then Fox and Sony and Warner Bros in Los Angeles.” He’s already talking up a second script he wrote. “I’m very optimistic about what’s ahead, and very grateful to Amazon Studios for going above and beyond and kick-starting my career.”
Now back in a free country, he’s signed up for Twitter and probably every other support site young writers rely on.