Shepherd, John Scott 1964–
Shepherd, John Scott 1964–
PERSONAL: Born 1964; married; wife's name Susan; children: three. Education: Attended Miami University in Ohio; University of Missouri—Kansas City, B.A. (English).
ADDRESSES: Agent—Endeavor Agency, 9601 Wilshire Blvd., 10th Fl., Beverly Hills, CA 90212.
CAREER: Novelist and screenwriter. Cofounder of Warp & Weft (production company), 2001. Also worked as an advertising executive for Valentine Radford, Kansas City, MO, and as a corporate video producer.
Henry's List of Wrongs, Rugged Land (New York, NY), 2002.
The Dead Father's Guide to Sex and Marriage, Downtown Press (New York, NY), 2004.
Joe Somebody, Twentieth Century-Fox, 2001.
(With Dana Stevens) Life or Something like It, Twentieth Century-Fox, 2002.
(And executive producer and director) The Days (television series), American Broadcast Companies, Inc., 2004.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Developing screenplays for film and television, including Pennsbury, Zoe's List, and Prince of Pools.
SIDELIGHTS: John Scott Shepherd, a former advertising executive, has garnered critical acclaim and commercial success both for his screenplays, which include Joe Somebody and Life or Something like It, and for his novels. "Shepherd has plenty of gifts: His voice is natural, his diction spry, his delivery clear," observed Chicago Tribune reviewer John Mark Eberhart. Such praise was not earned without effort; until he sold the book and film rights to his novel Henry's List of Wrongs, Shepherd was facing financial ruin. Having left his job at a Kansas City advertising firm to pursue his dream of writing, he spent seven lean years peddling his manuscripts and watching his bills mount. "I couldn't even pay the interest, let alone the debt," the author commented on the FilmForce Web site. "I was basically freewheeling into the dark well of bankruptcy and taking my family with me."
Shepherd's screenwriting debut, Joe Somebody, follows divorced, middle-aged Joe Scheffer, a video specialist working for a pharmaceutical company who is underappreciated both at home and at work. When the office bully decks Joe during an argument over a parking space, embarrassing him in front of his daughter, the beleaguered victim determines to reinvent himself. After enlisting the help of an over-the-hill martial arts instructor, Joe demands a rematch with the bully and improves his stock with his coworkers. "What happens, and how, and why, will be perfectly clear to any sentient moviegoer as soon as the plot lays down its tracks," wrote Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert, noting that the film's conclusion holds few surprises. Los Angeles Times reviewer Kevin Thomas was more complimentary, however, calling Joe Somebody a "warm, serious comedy about midlife crisis," and adding: "this film is grappling with issues of values and priorities as seriously as any art film of far narrower appeal."
Life or Something like It, based on a script cowritten by Shepherd and Dana Stevens, appeared in theatres in 2002. Described by Thomas as "an amiably glossy if naggingly old-fashioned Hollywood romantic comedy," the movie concerns Lanie Kerrigan, a beautiful, ambitious Seattle television reporter with a seemingly perfect life. On one of her assignments, she interviews a homeless street prophet who makes three predictions: the score of that evening's football game, the next day's weather, and Lanie's death the next week. When the first two predictions come true, the reporter panics; taking a suggestion from her acerbic cameraman, Pete, Lanie begins to change her life in an effort to alter her future. According to Kirk Honeycutt in the Hollywood Reporter, though Shepherd and Stevens "are fairly adept at establishing each character's predicament and comic persona, they never deepen your understanding of these people." Thomas offered a more positive assessment, remarking that the screenwriters "are clever in the way they play out Lanie's fate, which, not surprisingly, finds her discovering that her baseball star lover seems pretty simple in contrast to the wise and witty (and sexy and handsome) Pete."
Shepherd's debut novel, Henry's List of Wrongs, "tells the entertaining if somewhat jerry-built story of a heartless cad's quest for love and redemption," according to a contributor in Publishers Weekly. The novel opens as high school senior Henry Chase gets seduced and then dumped by his date on prom night. Ten years later, fueled by the desire for some sort of revenge, Henry has remade himself into a Wall Street wizard, nicknamed "The Assassin" for his ability to crush his competitors. On a return trip to his home state of Kansas, Henry has a crisis of conscience after learning that his prom date only jilted him because she was dying and wanted to spare his feelings. He resolves to make amends to the people he has wronged; in the words of Library Journal critic Bob Lunn, the work "is nothing so much as a Capra-esque allegory about second chance."
Henry's List of Wrongs received strong reviews. Eberhart called the novel "a brisk, amusing, and sometimes thoughtful page turner," and the Publishers Weekly reviewer stated that "the book should twang the heart-strings of readers willing to play along."
Shepherd's second novel, The Dead Father's Guide to Sex and Marriage, finds hotshot Cleveland attorney Joe Way, Jr. assisting his father, the city's mayor, during a nasty reelection campaign. Things grow even more complicated when Joe Junior discovers that his father has been having an affair, and Joe Senior suddenly dies of a heart attack. Struggling to reconcile his feelings, Joe Junior is helped by an unlikely visitor: the ghost of his recently deceased dad. Booklist critic Kristin Huntley called The Dead Father's Guide to Sex and Marriage a "whimsical and charming novel."
Asked to describe his writing process, Shepherd told Claire E. White on the Writers Write Web site: "I don't feel a real profound difference in the way I approach screenplays and novels, except that I'm a little more free writing fiction. Movies, at least mainstream studio movies, have certain rules. Your lead needs to be almost instantly sympathetic and relatable, which is just something you learn to live with and build around. But I'm pretty set on writing what I want to write and letting each piece find its own destiny."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July, 2004, Kristin Huntley, review of The Dead Father's Guide to Sex and Marriage, p. 1820.
Chicago Sun-Times, December 21, 2001, Roger Ebert, "Joe Somebody Is Nobody Special," p. 32.
Chicago Tribune, April 24, 2002, John Mark Eberhart, "Henry's List of Wrongs Lacks Meaning, Depth," p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter, December 17, 2001, Michael Rechtshaffen, review of Joe Somebody, p. 14; April 26, 2002, Kirk Honeycutt, review of Life or Something like It, p. 8.
Kansas City Star, July 14, 2004, Aaron Barnhart, "Kansas City's John Scott Shepherd Makes Impressive Debut."
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2002, review of Henry's List of Wrongs, p. 286; May 15, 2004, review of The Dead Father's Guide to Sex and Marriage, p. 467.
Library Journal, March 15, 2002, Bob Lunn, review of Henry's List of Wrongs, p. 109.
Los Angeles Times, December 21, 2001, Kevin Thomas, "Somebody Wrestles with Values," p. F20; April 26, 2002, Kevin Thomas, review of Life or Something like It, p. F6; May 7, 2002, Patrick Goldstein, "Dumbed down by Committee," p. F1.
New York Times, December 21, 2001, Stephen Holden, "How Being Punched out Ends up Fine," review of Joe Somebody, p. E1.
People, May 6, 2002, Joe Heim, review of Henry's List of Wrongs, p. 53.
Publishers Weekly, March 25, 2002, review of Henry's List of Wrongs, p. 41.
Washington Post, April 26, 2002, Stephen Hunter, "Life or Something like It: The Guide for Dummies," p. C1.
AEI Online, http://www.aeionline.com/ (May 15, 2005), P. J. McIlvaine, "From True Life to Television Movie: John Scott Shepherd."
FilmForce Web site, http://filmforce.ign.com/ (April 30, 2002), interview with Shepherd.
ScreenTalk Online, http://www.screentalk.biz/ (March 28, 2003), P. J. McIlvaine, "Psychic 101: Divining Story Notes"; (September 2, 2004) P. J. McIlvaine, "John's List of Rights."
Writers Write Web site, http://www.writerswrite.com/ (September, 2002), Claire E. White, interview with Shepherd.