The Hippo


Apr 26, 2019








Russ Rayburn (director of photography), Jana Brown (screenwriter) and Perry King (actor/director). Courtesy photo.

The Divide

Learn more about The Divide at

Serendipitous chemistry
Hollywood star works with Concord writer for The Divide

By Kelly Sennott

 When Concord resident and journalist Jana Brown interviewed actor and St. Paul’s alum Perry King for the school’s 2011 alumni magazine, she had no idea it would be the start of a long-term friendship — never mind a friendship that would culminate with a Western film shot on the Hollywood actor’s ranch in Northern California.

But there was no denying their chemistry.
They both remember very well that initial phone conversation, before there were films, scripts or budgets involved. Brown wanted to write an article about King, a Golden Globe-nominated actor known for his work in The Possession of Joel Delaney (which co-starred Shirley MacLaine), Riptide, The Day After Tomorrow, The Lords of Flatbush (co-starring Sylvester Stallone and Harry Winkler), Melrose Place and Spin City, among other projects. Her story would coincide with King’s 45th high school reunion.
“I did the interview, and we clicked very quickly. I sort of thought, ‘I could work with this person,’ but ...  I thought I might write about him again, not with him,” Brown said during a phone interview. “Before the story was complete, I was doing a little fact-checking, and I told him, if he ever needed help with anything to let me know. And he said, ‘Yes, we should work together, you’re right.’”
King also enjoyed speaking with Brown, but he was especially struck by her writing.
“She quoted me exactly. She was so careful. I don’t think I’ve ever been presented so accurately before in my life,” King said.
So they decided to work together. King had something in mind, and they mulled over his comedy idea during many emails and phone conversations. They’d talk, Brown would write, and she’d email King for feedback.
“Mostly, I’m a journalist. Even though that involves creativity, certainly, and you want to get the right angle of a story, I would say that working with Perry has helped me to exercise my mind in a way I hadn’t in quite a while,” Brown said.
That first script had promise but lost momentum.
“He gave it [the script] to his manager, and his manager said, ‘I like it, I think it’s funny, but I don’t know if I could get this kind of movie made right now,’” Brown said. 
So, they started again. This time, they’d fulfill another of King’s visions: to shoot on his El Dorado County, California, ranch.
Their screenplay became The Divide, a Western about a 66-year-old rancher experiencing dementia in the midst of a terrible drought. It centers around relationships formed between the rancher and his estranged daughter and unwilling caretaker.
King let Brown pick the time period. His only criterion: that it not be present day. 
“She picked the year 1973, which is fascinating,” King said. “Nobody knew anything about Alzheimer’s or dementia then.”
Brown drew inspiration from her own life; she’s known family members to suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s, but it took a bit of altering her own writing style to translate those stories on screen.
“We spent a great deal of time talking about ways to enhance the story and develop the characters more,” Brown said. “We purposely made the dialogue sparse, so that the action could do more of the talking.”
Brown and King are currently in the midst of raising funds. Their Kickstarter campaign, which will have ended by the time this prints, will help, and the rest will be aided by King and private funders. If all goes according to plan, the film will be shot next summer.
The storyline about relationships mirrors the unexpected one formed between the two.
“I don’t think you can work with everybody. You can be civil with everybody, but it just so happened that being from two different worlds, different ages and career paths somehow made us very complementary. I trusted his opinion and he trusted mine,” Brown said.
King said he wasn’t looking for another Hollywood type, anyway. King’s a member of the Academy, and he’s not impressed with the majority of studio work. Hollywood, he said, doesn’t make movies; it makes money.
“I’m already having more fun than I’ve had working on movies in a couple of decades,” King said.
Brown, a mom of two, recently finished her first (unpublished) novel while working full-time at St. Paul’s.
“People keep saying to me, ‘How did you find the time to do this?’” Brown said. “I think, if you want to fit something in your life, you will find a way to fit it in.” 
As seen in the November 13, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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