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Palatine Screenwriter Gets His Due With 'Nightingale'

By Danette Chavez in Arts & Entertainment on May 29, 2015 3:05PM

The road to production has been a long and winding one for Elgin-born screenwriter Frederick Mensch.

He's been writing screenplays for over 30 years, often working around a full-time job to get the words down. But his dedication will pay off today when HBO debuts his first feature film, Nightingale, starring Selma's David Oyelowo.

As Mensch tells the Daily Herald, "the process of writing is agonizing most of the time," but while he may have zigged and zagged a bit, making films is what he's always wanted to do. Mensch left Arlington Heights to major in film studies at New York University, then spent six years in Hollywood writing scripts that mostly rang false to his own ears. Mensch felt that he got hung up on writing things he thought would appeal to the studios, which created a lack of authenticity that prevented green lights for previous works.

Mensch returned to the Midwest, settling in Palatine after a ten-year stint in Iowa. He founded a website for screenwriters and also did web design. But he continued to write in his spare time. His new hometown even provided some of the inspiration for Nightingale—the grisly murder of Kathy Sneider by her son Karl filled the front pages for weeks in 2003, and Mensch says he used to walk his dog past the Sneider home.

Ghastly headlines aside, Mensch says Nightingale has a more universal theme: the movie is really about "what it feels like when you desperately want something that you can't have." But, as Oyelowo and director Elliot Lester noted in an op-ed they co-wrote last year, that longing isn't always what it appears to be—social media has created a culture in which even our envy can be misplaced.

In Nightingale, the three men worked together to tell the story of Peter Snowden (no relationship, fictional or otherwise, to Edward), a veteran who commits a heinous act off screen and then unravels before the audience's eyes. Oyelowo effectively puts on a one-man show, filling the screen and the film's nearly 90-minute runtime. And according to critics, that's more than enough.

Nightingale premieres on HBO on May 29 at 8 p.m. CST. Watch the stunning trailer below: