Brian McGreevy, 28, is a native of the Charleroi area who is celebrating the release of his new gothic novel this week, “Hemlock Grove,” which also is becoming a TV series through Netflix.
McGreevy’s mother, Beckie Hickok, is the pastor at Waverly Presbyterian Church in Regent Square. McGreevy took some time this week to talk to us about his projects.
When did you make the move to Hollywood?
I moved to L.A. in May 2007 after graduating with an MFA in writing from the University of Texas. Shortly after that, I was in a strange position of being very young, having no property and being a Hollywood screenwriter, which is the only job you can have in the industry and not be based in L.A., so I spent a couple years as a nomad. Everything I own can fit in my car. I was doing a migration between L.A., New York and Austin.
Where did you get the idea and when did you start writing “Hemlock Grove?”
I started writing it in early 2006 and sent off the final copy this past fall. It was nearly a six-year process. It was a process of figuring out what I was trying to write. I wanted in a way to process my own adolescence but I don’t have much of a talent for realism. I have the sense to take things to extremes—of light and darkness in a novel—to explore the spectrum of human experience. That tends to explain the popularity of monsters in gothic tradition. You’re going into a cave deep inside yourself and spelunking, essentially. It’s this beautiful combination of so personal, but also—so unknown. People perceive it as childlike, but anytime an adult goes through an experience of trauma or crisis, they have nightmares where monsters are a motif. It’s one of the most basic ways our unconscious processes life.
Why did you decide to go with Netflix when translating the book to the screen?
There was a convergence of things. Last year, Netflix announced it would start producing original shows and most people started scratching their heads and that didn’t make sense to them. Most people don’t understand that brands evolve. The thing that was interesting about the first show, “House of Cards,” is the director is David Fincher and the star is Kevin Spacey. That raises a question—why is this project not at HBO? The second thing is that Netflix bought 26 episodes up front—and that was the answer. Typically, companies will buy a pilot. Netflix doing this was a major game-changer that had a pretty seismic impact on people with knowledge of this industry. It’s hard to think of a comparison. Nothing like it has ever been done. It was clearly Netflix announcing, “We are the new players and you need to pay attention to us,”—and I was.
My writing partner and I had just sold an adaptation of Dracula to Warner Brothers. I decided to hold off on pursuing selling the film rights to the book. I found a producer and as a team, we decided it was cooler as a TV show than a movie. It lends itself better to translating a book. What we want is Netflix. We had several offers on the table that we ignored.
My position on the show is what’s called showrunner. TV is different from film because in film, the director is the ultimate executive authority. In TV, that just can’t be the case because you’re producing so many episodes. I’m the head writer and executive producer.
Hemlock Grove will be filming in the Pittsburgh area. The show stars Famke Janssen and Bill Skarsgard. The book was released Tuesday and can be found by clicking here.