METHUEN — Residents of the city may have the opportunity to see their hometown on the big screen.
Screenwriter Monte Merrick has the film option for Jay Atkinson’s book, Ice Time: A Tale of Fathers, Sons and Hometown Heroes.
Atkinson, a Methuen resident, wrote the book after spending the 1999-2000 season with the Methuen High School hockey team as a volunteer coach.
“Actually I was looking for a book on skiing, because I thought there hadn’t been a movie about skiing for a long time,” Merrick said on a recent trip to Methuen. “And I just saw the title in the Beverly Hills Library of all places and it just kind of leapt out at me. So I took it home and I just fell in love with the book.”
Merrick was in town recently to meet with Atkinson and get a firsthand look at Methuen, because the town is a main character in the story.
“You have to get into it and that’s one of the cool things about writing,” Merrick said. “I mean I would never be at a hockey rink, but here I am.”
Atkinson said it was strange having Merrick around researching the author for four days.
“I don’t spend too much time with other writers,” Atkinson said. “It was kind of odd having him immersed in my daily life and asking a lot of questions about my life now.”
Merrick said what attracted him to the book was the way Atkinson didn’t seem to care one way or the other if the team won or lost.
“I thought that was really an interesting aspect. It’s very different from Slap Shot or even Mystery Alaska,” Merrick said. “I think that goes beyond hockey. I’m not interested in hockey.”
Merrick previously has written screenplays involving sports, including Mr. Baseball and 8 Seconds, but he isn’t necessarily a fan.
“I’m not interested in sports per se, but what they do for people and particularly for kids,” Merrick explained. “Particularly in this age, there’s so many distractions that I didn’t have when I was a kid. To see them playing as they are and to not have them playing on their Game Boy or something like that is really cool.”
Atkinson was thrilled with the idea of Merrick writing the screenplay based on Atkinson’s book. “It would be great,” Atkinson said. “What do I have to lose really?”
Atkinson said Merrick would have most of the creative control in adapting the book, but there are a couple of things he would be uncomfortable with — being portrayed as the team’s coach and being father of the year to his son Liam.
“I think I’m a very good dad,” Atkinson said. “But I would be uncomfortable with that.”
Merrick is currently working on a pitch so he can get a studio to sign on. “Basically, I want a studio to pay me to write the script,” Merrick said.
Stay tuned, Methuen.
If the option gets picked up and they film on location, they may need extras.