Friday, November 7, 2008

The Movie Pyre

Yesterday I deleted all of the Mongoose Movies work in progress, bar Cormorant Close. These were mostly very personal pieces, and I know I'll never have the heart to see them through. I did think of putting the scripts and treatments up for anyone else to finish, but I don't think I actually want to see anyone else complete them either, at least not in their current form. I may revisit some of them some day, but if I do, I'll just pick up the original idea and rewrite them from scratch.

I do intend to finish Cormorant Close some day, partly because it's so close to completion and needs almost nothing from me, and partly out of respect for the other people who worked on it for nothing and who don't deserve to have their hard work trashed. And hey, I promised Zuckerman that I'd put Zuckerman's Diner into my next film, and CC is it.

I was quite surprised to see how much I had created in the last 18 months or so. Here's what was in the pre-production bin.

Mummer's Cliff
A short film in the Cthulhu mythos, based largely on Shadow of the Steeple, but updated and set in a North Somerset coastal village. A man goes to investigate the death of his friend, and discovers the inevitable ancient forces at work. I was never happy with the bit just before the end; it started well, moved along nicely, and I really liked the closing sequence (very cheesy 1970s type Hammer ending, but just what was needed), but couldn't quite get there smoothly enough. I did like the character of the occult researcher though: instead of a library full of dusty old books, all he had was a laptop and a net connection. Everything's online these days, even the Necronomicon! I spent a fair amount of time playing with how to create various VFX in Moviestorm and Premiere, as I wanted one scene to take place in a thunderstorm, and there needed to be a sequence where we saw someone change their face, and another where a statue appears to come to life. Since I did those pieces of test footage about a year ago, other Moviestormers have done the same thing.
Length: 12-15 mins
Status: Script complete, technical and visual FX tests complete, sets & characters designed

Due Diligence
A mid-length thriller in the Michael Crichton (RIP) mould. A young man working for a venture capital firm realises that one of the companies they are investing in is developing ways to transmit bird flu to humans so that they can sell their vaccine. Shelved when I realised how many other people had done the same thing already.
Length: 30-40 mins
Status: Outline complete, script about 25% complete, prose version about 75% complete

One-off episode, or possibly a pilot for a high-tech thriller series along the lines of BUGS and Spooks. One of the earliest things we came up with when thinking about Moviestorm a few years ago, I dusted this off and started work on it again not so long ago. A computer security firm is blackmailed by a secret government agency into conducting covert cyberwar against the Russian mafia. But all is not as it seems, and they begin to ask who they are actually working for and why. I enjoyed writing this, but never quite got the characters to be more than stereotypes.
Length: 15-25 mins
Status: outline complete, script about 50% complete

A Philip K Dick-ish near future SF story about a goverment agent who finds his name thrown up by the computers in an anti-terrorist operation. He knows he's innocent, but the system he's always believed in says he's a suspect. It was all based on taking current surveillance technology and current anti-terrorist legislation (here and in the US) and asking what kind of world this would create. The challenge here was making it not too much like Minority Report.
Length: 15-25 mins
Status: outline complete, script about 50% complete

An SF short about an old man who's following a beautiful young woman who turns out to be an alien. It ended with a great fight sequence in a nightclub, inspired by Dusk Till Dawn.
Length: 5 mins
Status: Script complete, rough dialogue recorded, pre-vis version shot. Needed to be redone with the latest version of Moviestorm.

Confidential Report
A full-length noir-ish movie inspired by the Orson Welles film of the same name. An ex-con is forced to commit a robbery, and is caught, and is then embroiled in a conspiracy to bring down an international arms dealer. This was a very complex film, with a lot of plot twists and character development, and really pushed my writing to the limit. The current draft of the script was too wordy, and the next stage was to start shooting a rough version and work out how much of the story I could carry with sound and visuals instead of dialogue. I wrote this with a voice-over, which was a lot of fun. I also spent time working on filters in Premiere to give me a suitably grainy, washed-out look rather than the slightly garish colours you get out of Moviestorm. I would have liked to get Ricky Grove as the lead role on this one, and it was very much written with his voice in mind. For the lead female character, I wanted Abigail Rokison, and I had many of the other parts cast in my head from the students I was working with a few months ago.
Length: 70-80 mins
Status: script complete, technical and VFX tests complete

St Francis
A highly successful CEO of a major company tries to explain to his family why he is quitting his well-paid corporate job to go and live a life of solitude and contemplation. This was a commentary on the clash between capitalist values and personal morals, and was written in anticipation of the day the global banking system collapsed. I wrote several versions of this, but never quite got the story to come out right. I tried it as a scene between him and his wife, I tried just telling it as a story of him quitting his job and starting over, I tried it as him as an older man talking to a "disciple", but was never really happy with any of them. It kept on coming out too political in some versions, which wasn't what I intended - it's supposed to be a moral piece about someone who realises what ruthless corporate greed means to the people on the wrong end of it, and has to question whether he is prepared to take responsibility for inflicting that. This is one I probably will revisit at some point.
Length: who knows
Status: bah

A is for Angel
A sentimental modern day fairy tale inspired by The Fisher King, It's A Wonderful Life, and Citizen Kane. A down and out meets a mysterious woman who turns his life around: once he becomes a successful children's author, he spends the rest of his life searching for her, and wondering whether she was real or just a figment of his imagination. The entire thing is shot in flashback on his deathbed. I really rather liked this film, especially the sequence where she shows him a vision of two people dancing on her outstretched palm, which took a fair amount of green-screening to create. I think it has my best scriptwriting to date in it, apart from one thing. I could never decide whether it took place in England or New York, and the dialogue kept slipping between the two locations.
Length: 12-15 mins
Status: script complete, visual FX tests complete

The Muse Bar
This was an idea for a scene in the Fas Ferox world. I imagined a bar in some otherworld where all the Muses gather to share their experiences of the people they inspire, and talking about what a pain it is working with artistic people. It's one of the few bits of comedy I've written, and it never quite came out right when I tried to move it from a prose sketch to a screenplay.
Length: 5 mins or less
Status: never quite got off the drawing board

I'm not sure what I'll do next. I should probably focus on shorter, more achievable pieces. Working full-time on Moviestorm really gets in the way of actually making movies. After a long day in the office, the last thing I want to do most evenings and weekends is to fire up Moviestorm for another few hours. I'd usually rather play my guitar, make a nice meal, read a book, watch a DVD, or relax with some friends. I very much enjoy scriptwriting, and I love doing voice recording sessions, but I find it really hard to convince myself that using Moviestorm isn't work.

However, we now have a shiny new dedicated Moviestorm computer at home for Johnnie and I to play with, and I'm determined to make use of it once he's finished assembling it.

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