Making movies

I like to think of myself as a positive person. Granted, I enjoy taking part in the banter of misery and disappointment but that’s generally more for comedic purposes than an actual belief system ideology. Because I honestly consider my life truly blessed. I get paid to do what I love. I have extremely loyal friends. I’m certainly not the Hollywood go-to-guy but those who know me respect my talent. And when the world seems to be crumbling around me I always have the shelter of Melanie’s breasts and escapism fantasies to retreat to. It works for me.
All that said, I still wish I were rich and famous.
Having sent Nights One and Two of “Last Vamp” to the producers I jumped back on Demonik. I have a deadline this Friday to turn in my story/game design/dialog for level one. First off, I tossed out their suggestion that I come up with my own design. I’m not a game designer. Don’t want to be a game designer. What the designers have created for level one is great.
All I have ever wanted from day one was to tell a good story. And I think I did that but unfortunately, due to some Machiavellian maneuvering, that story was thrown out ages ago. So, plan B was to take the designers’ visions and help it be the best story it can be. But that simple desire has been met with every freaking obstacle imaginable. Although it could never be proved, the simple fact is that the designers never wanted a screenwriter playing in their sandbox.
But regardless of their antics, I have a job to do. I wrote the opening cinematic, the opening and closing Cut Scenes and added two story-based Action Cameras into level one’s game play. I delivered those pages to Tiger Hill Tuesday. David at Tiger called after reading the pages and said he thought they were great. But that was no surprise. Tiger Hill has always backed and supported me. But we both know based on the previously established pattern, the designers will argue every single point.
Friday night Mel and I met Dean and Elizabeth for seafood and bowling. Dean and I have been a little taken back by the passes on Thunder. As of our bowling trip I think all of the procedures had passed except for Wes Craven who still hadn’t read it. Of course we didn’t know this as agents are always reluctant to call with bad news.
It’s funny. I don’t think of a pass as bad news. It’s just one step closer to finding “the” buyer. And positive passes are great because that means we’re suddenly held highly in the minds of those who actually have the power to make movies. They have a script that’s having trouble then suddenly someone says, “Hey, what about those two idiots who sent us Thunder?”
Then there are negative passes. They come with the job. And even those I don’t see as a bad thing. A negative pass simply means the reader wasn’t smart enough to see the brilliance. I think there should be a new rule that you can’t say a negative word about a script until you’ve written one and then taken that bad boy through the process of trying to get it made.
So, today Dean found out from Rob that Wes had passed as well. Wes thought it was too much like “Shocker” and felt he’d already done that movie. Ok. So the nine or so producers we went to passed. It would be easy to let this information get us down, but that’s not how movies get made. Most scripts get passes. Just about every movie that has been made was passed on by every person except the one who bought it. Every publisher in England passed on Harry Potter. Chris Carter spent years trying to get the X-Files made. This is how it works.
And Dean and I came up with an interesting theory. First off, specs don’t sell like they used to. Why? One reason is that there was a spec buying blitz a few years back. The Guild was threatening a strike and every studio bought everything they could get their hands on. Most of the scripts opened poorly at the box office.
Whether they were poorly written or poorly made doesn’t matter. What matters is that it scared the studios. So they started shifting toward the safer bets. Movies based on pre-existing work. Comics, Novels, previously made movies, etc. That makes up more than half of the movies made. And a huge portion of the remaining movies made are based on an executive’s original idea. “Why should I go to a screenwriter? I’m brilliant. I’m an executive. I have ideas too.” An executive has an idea, convinces his boss and then they call in a guh-zillion writers to come up with a take. Suddenly the script has an executive champion to see it through the many hardships along the way. When I wrote “Scarecrow” it was a script based on an idea the executives at Revolution came up with.
So how do you combat these factors when you have an original spec? Well, you can attach talent.
Thunder has a unique structure. It is complex and thus not an easy pitch for an executive to wrap his or her mind around. It’s not “Zombies in a Mall.” Rob Carlson at William Morris, who also believes in the script, thought we should run the script by some new school directors.
The Pang Bros (The Eye)
The Spierigs (Undead)
Eli Roth (Cabin Fever)
Vertigo/Roy Lee (The Ring)
Rob Tapper (The Grudge)
So we went out to those guys yesterday I believe.
Dean and I also sent him a list of actors we saw for the two lead roles. Five or so actors to consider for each role. Rob read the list an immediately made some calls. The script has gone to Morgan Freeman for one role and Quintin Tarantino for the other. If those come back passes then they script will go to the next actor on the list.
The fact is, in today’s world of movie making, the talent holds all the cards. If we attach an actor then suddenly everyone who previously passed will reevaluate their previous opinion. That’s how it works. Welcome to the politics of dancing.
So, now we wait and see what happens.
Thursday Patrick Lussier met with Josh McLaughlin at Mark Gordon’s company. Josh had passed on Thunder and told Patrick that he thought it was a good script but didn’t think it was great. Then Josh told Patrick about a project they’ve been having some struggles with. They’ve had drafts of a script written but that it just wasn’t working. Oddly enough Patrick and I had bounced an idea around for a year that was very similar to this project so Patrick pitched Josh our story. Josh loved it. He asked that we get a pitch ready so that we can go with Josh to Fox and pitch our storyline.
Patrick and I went through our story, tightening and polishing then I wrote a rough draft treatment. Patrick added his notes then I polished again. Patrick has also cut together a 3 minute trailer using pre-existing movie footage. Mel and I dropped by his house last night to watch the trailer and it’s amazing. We almost don’t need to pitch the story. His trailer presents our movie perfectly.
Tomorrow we head to Santa Monica to give Josh the pitch and present him with the trailer for his thoughts before we go to Fox. Should be fun.
In the meantime, I’m back on “Last Vamp”. I got my notes from the producers yesterday based on Nights One and Two. And as I suspected, Night Two still needs work. Michael and I discussed and actually came up with some great fixes but it’s going to require a massive rewrite of Night Two.
The tough part is that you can’t just dive back in. You must allow the juices to simmer. I know what I want to do. I know what I want the end result to look like but now comes the part where I walk around like a zombie figuring out the beats in my head. Eventually something will click and I will vanish into the dungeon to write. Unfortunately my dungeon adventure will likely be splattered with interruptions. The meeting with Josh, a meeting with Fox next week and a meeting with Tiger Hill in which they’ll pitch me another video game. It’s gonna be busy.
And on top of everything I got Dean on the other line as he’s driving over Coldwater blathering on and on about his silly existence.
So, that’s it for now. Seacrest out.