ALLIGATORS IN A HELICOPTER

a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Thursday, November 29, 2007

An Interesting Exercise

I'm trying to come up with a good what-if scenario for this question. Let's try it this way --

Suppose you find yourself stuck in a parallel universe, where they have movies, but not the same ones we do.

You have a chance to pitch a movie you want to write to a parallel universe studio head, and you realize that you have the entire history of our world's movies to draw on.

Setting aside the dicey moral question of rewriting (or copying) someone's work from this world to present in this parallel world, what story would you choose?

Or, rephrased, what movie that has ever been made seems to be the one that you'd choose to get someone (who is unfamiliar with all movies) to instantly want you to write it?

What movie has the perfect hook, the wanna-see factor, the perfect representation of all things that everyone is currently looking for in a movie?

I think it's an interesting question, because it really goes to the heart of the issue of the kinds of things people should write if they really want to break into the business in a big way.

So now you're in parallel-world-land, you have a meeting with me, and you need to pitch something. The fate of Earth is at stake (somehow, just to up the ante. Ticking clock). What do you pitch?

Go.

31 Comments:

At 8:39 AM, Blogger Emily Blake said...

What movie do I wish I'd written?

Yimou Zhang's Hero.

That film is the perfect combination of love story / martial arts film / poignant controversial political thesis.

 
At 8:54 AM, Blogger MoviePen said...

Taking your question at face value: none.

What I would do is borrow heavily on my film knowledge to craft/borrow/be influenced by what I feel might resonate with the parallel world's film viewers.

The parallel world denizens have a completely different world-view than ours, so the same exact movie won't play the same. I would get a feel for what the denizens find entertaining and go from there. If they're blood-and-circuses types, I'd use 300 as my template. If they're high-brow literary types, I'd go with Citizen Kane. (Well, really, I'd run for the hills.)

(I wrote a script that touched on this exact question, so I put some thought into it.)

 
At 8:56 AM, Anonymous Andrew said...

The perfect pitch movie? Back to the Future.

Now, I also think it's pretty much a perfect overall film - script, performances, photography, editing, score - but it's a great pitch to show what cinema can do, without being self-indulgently 'impressive'.

You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll totally identify with the characters. We'll transport you through time itself - using speed, something film at its best can convey better than any other medium.

 
At 8:57 AM, Anonymous KTighe said...

Not the one I sent to you for notes. :-)

Of movies that have been made - the choices are way too many, but something with a clever hook bordering on but not quite over the edge into scifi.

 
At 9:06 AM, Anonymous jefe said...

Andrew took my answer. Back to the Future.

So maybe I'd say Groundhog Day. Or Die Hard. Hell I'd pitch all three.

Then when I wanted to completely sell out and become that world's Bill Gates, we could start talking about Forrest Gump, Titanic, etc.

Wait a minute, what am I thinking? Star Wars. And I'd insist on keeping the merchandising rights. ;)

 
At 9:41 AM, Blogger Christina said...

Tootsie. It's a great story with a flawed protagonist and a lot of comedy, both physical and verbal. That, or Spinal Tap.

 
At 9:51 AM, Anonymous Rhea said...

What a great question. Let's see. I would pitch The Shawshank Redemption.

 
At 9:58 AM, Blogger marcoguarda said...

An epic about evolution in twenty volumes.

 
At 10:11 AM, Blogger Josh said...

While taking into account moviepen's comment about this new universe's worldview, I think that Emily and Jefe are on the right track:

Hero's Journey and Jungian Archetypes are probably the way to go, and Hero, Star Wars, The Odyssey...maybe even Excalibur and Indiana Jones, have those things in spades.

I'd have to go with Star Wars because it's the one farthest removed from our actual history, and thus, I think, instantly accessible.

 
At 10:55 AM, Blogger Carlo C. said...

Tricky question.
There are many movies I'd like to have made. Heck, isn't that why we're all screenwriters?

But I'd love to pitch LOST to ABC, have it created, hire bizzarro-J.J. Abrams to work on the first few episodes, then hire bizzarro-Damon Lindelof and bizzarro-Carlton Cuse and begin working on my favorite show ever.

And who cares if those 3 writers/producers aren't even writers in this alternate dimension. I know everything that happens in the show (well, the first 3 seasons and the general direction).
I'd just hire them so I could take some pictures of us at a party, return to our current dimension, show these pictures to them and say "dude, you don't remember that night?"

LOL

I can dream.

 
At 12:13 PM, Blogger Jim Endecott said...

I would pitch the same in either universe. The type of movie I want to write and one I would go see.

For them it would be Raiders of the Lost Ark. Action, adventure, comedy, drama with a pinch of horror.

-Jim

 
At 12:16 PM, Blogger Christian M. Howell said...

I'd definitely pitch "Galaxy Quest." If it doesn't have to be produced, it would be one of mine called "South Of La Brea" or another of mine called "EarthBound."

EarthBound would have the better chance though as it's a mix of action, politics, human nature, the struggle to survive and explores how love blossoms in the weirdest circumstances.

I love the other but it's a rather deep female-driven drama.

 
At 12:29 PM, Blogger japhy99 said...

Rhea scooped me, so here's a second for Shawshank.

 
At 12:37 PM, Anonymous Shrader said...

A general who became a slave. A slave who became a gladiator. A gladiator who defied an emperor.

I'd have to say GLADIATOR. To me, it has it all: a strong hero, sex, betrayal, revenge. Very primal.

Today I say a slave become more powerful than the emperor of Rome.

What's more exciting than that?

On my mark, unleash hell!

 
At 1:22 PM, Blogger Brett said...

CATWOMAN

If it got a greenlight here it can get a greenlight anywhere, and who knows-- maybe in some parallel universe Halle Berry will like me.
.
.
.
B

 
At 1:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

L.A. Present day. There's a bomb on a bus. If the bus goes over 50 mph the bomb becomes armed. Once armed, if the bus slows below 50 mph, the bomb explodes. What do you do, Hotshot!?

Or

During a hot summer a killer shark terrorizes the shores of quiet New England town.

Easiest pitches I could come up with.

 
At 2:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh man, you guys are crazy. hero?? shawshank redemption??? those are great movies... but they aren't great pitches. they don't have incredibly pointy hooks... they don't blossom out in people's imagination.

citizen kane??????

back to the future... now htere is an answer.... much worse than the other three as a movie, but clearly a hot pitch.

man, no wonder its so hard for people to break into hollywood... you guys have no idea what they're looking for......

 
At 4:20 PM, Blogger Emily Blake said...

Hey, Anonymous, why don't you be more negative? I think your bright and sunny disposition is getting in the way of our discussion.

 
At 4:22 PM, Blogger The Moviequill said...

Romeo and Juliet...

but envisioned as animals...

... CGI gaming type animation

 
At 4:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vertigo.

It flopped upon release but it has gained a following ever since its rerelease in 1983 and restortion in 1996. Now it's ranked in the top ten best movies of all time in the US and number 1 on a French list.

It has everything I like in a movie: violence, perversity, sexual coercion, murder, beautiful stars, treachery, betrayal, more betrayal, voyeurism, nightmares, insanity, more death, Wagnerian musical score, an ironic and devastating ending that bowls you over, and it's a LOVE STORY starring Jimmy Stewart! Scorcese and Lynch rank it among their favorites, and Depalma has ripped it off twice.

Ulike your prescription, my version (yep, I'm ripping it off) is set in a parallel universe whose movies and TV are the same as those in this universe (but they are all reruns).

steverino

 
At 5:25 PM, Blogger Leif said...

I think I would probably pick Star Wars.

What makes the question interesting is that trying to make the perfect pitch almost rules out so many of the movies I love. Shawshank is probably my favorite movie of all time, but I can't imagine pitching it or producing a logline that would really capture how special the film ended up being.

 
At 7:30 PM, Blogger E.C. Henry said...

Scott, in a parallel world I would write and pitch to you, "Planet of the Apes." (The 1968 version)

The pitch: An astronaught who dislakes the way his society has turned out gets his wish and goes to a new world, only to find in this society he is no longer the master, but the slave to race that he thought he had evolved from.

Why "Planet of the Apes?" Because it's BRILLIANT. It fuses religious beliefs in an action/adventure setting. Ever thought that "Planet of the Apes" success PAVED THE WAY for "Star Wars?" Think about it...

I have already written my own version of that classic, BUT a VP from 20th Centrury Fox sent me an e-mail telling me to desist and not pursue obtaining its rights any further. Maybe someday, if I ever get enough clout, I'll be able to do something about that.

Sorry about the delay in sending you, "Indians of the Ancient Plains." Listening to it off Final Draft on Sunday afternoon I heard some annoying little foibles. Currently I'm cleaning them up. Might have 'em all done tonight, as I'm on page 127 of a 156 page script. Of all the scripts I've written I think this one is my best work to date. I can't wait for you to read it. Will e-mail you the minute its sent. Tommorrow, Saturday or Sunday at the latest.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

 
At 7:36 PM, Anonymous KeithD said...

It's A Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol. And I'd pick those in mid-summer too.

 
At 11:33 PM, Anonymous yvonnjanae said...

"West Side Story"
With luck, I could fool them into thinking we dance before we kill.

 
At 2:29 AM, Anonymous DigitalDave said...

For pitching an alien civilization a good story, how about something akin to the three most entertaining films I watch on a regular basis: My Favorite Year, Ed Wood and Fargo?

I can see all 3 films multiple times because the characters and their obstacles create such unique situations, but their goals are so universal that everyone can relate.

In My Favorite Year a young TV network intern helps a washed-up alcoholic movie star realize his own internal strengths, so he can get through a live TV show and reclaim his image as a hero.

In Fargo a pregnant lady cop just trying to do a conscientious job solves a twisted kidnapping plot, and catches the most ruthless bad guys who have committed mayhem.

In Ed Wood an untalented film director trying to enter a career he loves befriends a horror movie star at the end of his career, and ends up making his own opportunities in Hollywood.

Pitch unique characters + seemingly insurmountable obstacles + universal goals.

 
At 9:08 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

An interesting question is whether Titanic would work as well (box office and otherwise) in a world in which it wasn't based on a true story, with all the resonance that that gives it.

Otherwise, most of the ideas are good, though Shawshank might be a tough pitch -- it's an idea that could have been a mediocre movie, but execution and acting pulls it off.

Though if you pitch this is a parallel world, do the movie a favor, and come up with a better title for it.

If I have to come up with a movie not mentioned so far, I think I'll have to say "Big".

 
At 3:32 PM, Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

Reign of Fire...

Now hear me out before you approach me with pitchforks.

Dragons and Hellicopters... together!

I was trying to think of a movie with a cool premise, but poorly executed and a commercial failure.

 
At 9:49 AM, Blogger Lucy said...

Gottaa be DIE HARD and ALIEN.

And anything with LOTS OF SEX. But not porn. And defo not with a parallel version of Mickey Rourke. Ick.

 
At 6:48 AM, Anonymous tomg said...

Oldboy, the Korean thriller that's apparently going to be remade with Sean Penn starring.

"After being mysteriously abducted, an average businessman and father is held captive in a room with no way out, and no explanation of who is doing this to him, or why."

Fifteen years later, he's released. As he begins to search for answers and revenge, he realizes that his captor's plans for him are far from over, and that the answers he seeks will lead him to a startling and disturbing revelation about his own past."

I'd want to make this not because it's a perfect movie, but because it could be. Hopefully the remake will be.

 
At 1:07 PM, Blogger The Scribe said...

(Note: I'm trying to get into TV screenwriting, not movie, so my views are a bit skewed for this blog)

M*A*S*H

I've not actually seen the movie (I know, blasphemy!) but the series brings ordinary people into an extraordinary situation and explores how they react to it.

And isn't that the core of good storytelling?

 
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