“Jack and the Treehouse” is the story of a ten year-old boy who tries to stop his dad from selling the family land.
Jack lives in the distant suburbs of western Pennsylvania with his family, amidst acres of woods and encroaching development.
Dad breaks his foot and Grandpa dies, turning Jack’s world upside down. Jack fights to honor his grandpa and save the trees that surround him and his families home.
What would you do?
The writing of the screenplay for “Jack and the Treehouse” took place over the course of 20 years. I was originally inspired by the tree sitters in California trying to save the redwoods. In particular, Julia Butterfly Hill, who went up into a redwood for a couple of weeks and stayed up there for 2 years. The writing started in 1999 and continued throughout the shoot.
In early drafts Jack had allies. Mom and Grandpa helped Jack in his struggles with Dad. He had friends, issues at school, etc.. It was a bigger production, not set anywhere specific, but still the story of a 10 year-old trying to stop his Dad from selling the family land. Like every writer I know, there are other projects vying for my attention. I’ve been
wrestling with a screenplay about Joe Hill since the ‘90s, I’m still working on it. I started adapting a play for the screen in the mid-‘80s. It’s also a work in progress. So the 70+pages of “Jack and the Treehouse” steeped.
In 2015, I started the process of moving home. I’ve lived all over but Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania have always been home. By the end of 2016 I was replanted at my family’s camp in Prospect. I signed up for screenwriting workshops at Pittsburgh Filmmakers.
When choosing a project to work on, “Jack and the Treehouse” pushed it’s way to the front. It became set very solidly at the camp, and Jack lost his allies as his cause became more hopeless. Working on the story with feedback from a group of writers was invaluable. When it was suggested that Grandpa die, it changed the story into something different. My Dad had died when my son was 10. They had been close. My son had spent summers at the camp with my Mom and Dad from a very young age. The feelings of grief, loss, and confusion, were very accessible to me. They made ‘Jack and the Treehouse” much more personal and important.
WRITER & DIRECTOR
Jim found his way into theater about 50 years ago and has never left. He started his career as a workhouse boy in Oliver. It’s been a twisted path to writer/producer/director, but here we are. Despite being a math/science geek, Jim’s always been drawn to arts and literature. He acted in plays in high school and helped out on the sets and lights. He started college as a theater/physics major. It didn’t take long to choose.
Jim dropped out to work in theater full-time, and spent several years at a large regional theater. He wanted to direct. He took classes in acting and directing and quit the regional theater to start his own theater company. He took set and lighting design jobs to support his directing
and acting dreams. He started writing and had several plays produced.
And then he fell into the movies. After scratching out a living in the theater for ten years, the peanuts being offered to work on movies seemed like a fortune. Jim climbed aboard the money-train. He took classes in filmmaking and made his own short films between his paying
gigs. Jim worked on more than fifty feature films, a few were good, they all paid. He continued writing, and got better at it.
After fifteen years of working movies, when his son was five years-old, Jim stopped working production. His son didn’t think that Jim lived in the same state. It was time for change. He became a full-time parent and worked as a contractor to support his family. He became the PTA member, soccer coach, political activist, that he needed to be. He became active in community access television and produced shows and served on the board of directors. He opened a media center at his son’s high school. And he kept writing and producing short films.
When his son had grown and moved out on his own, and his marriage had dissolved, Jim decided to move home. Jim had been born in Pittsburgh, so was his son. While he’s lived in many places, his family and home are in western Pennsylvania. One of the screenplays that Jim was working on was about saving the family land. Once resettled, it became his focus. Over the course of two years of rewriting it became the best thing that he’s written. It was ready to produce. It took another two years to get from that point to where we are today.