Invent


Releasing some work

coolI’ve been working on some personal projects for a few years now and it feels like time to let them out in the world. I’m going to post them up here each week with a short description and let anyone download them, should they want to. It just feels like the right thing to do.

Here’s what’s I’m going to put out there:

The Simpsons Spec script – “HOMER’S DONUT ALLERGY”
This is a full episode spec that got me a job writing on an animated series. It’s really funny, and heavily influenced by a Bill Oakley treatment I found online. If you want to see how a Simpsons script is formatted, you’ll want to grab this.

Sci-fi Feature Script – “THE AUGMENTED GEOLOGIST”
H.G. Wells is a huge inspiration and this is my attempt at his take on nanotechnology, if that makes sense. It was a finalist in the PAGE Awards and was a Scriptshadow Amateur Screenplay way back when. (This is the re-write.) Would need a huge budget to realize, I’m talking $100 million plus… so that was a sensible decision.

Horror Feature Script – “BLUE HARVEST”
You may know that to maintain secrecy during the filming of Return of the Jedi, Lucasfilm pretended to be making a horror movie called ‘Blue Harvest’. It always fascinated me, so I went and wrote the real script for a fake movie. The aim was to create an iconic villain in the vein of Freddy Krueger, but I pulled out most of the antagonist’s dialogue in a rewrite because it was unnecessary. Super quick read, probably comes in a little short. P.S. It’s really gross.

Animated Feature Script – “EXTRASOLAR”
I had an opportunity to show something to Rhythm & Hues (RIP) and I put the characters from my comic strip ‘Crashlander’ into a big sci-fi feature. It’s like a cross between Time Masters, The Wizard of Oz and Star Wars. Was told the main character was too passive, but I can’t see that at all. She’s kickass.

Sci-fi Thriller Feature Script – “ENTANGLEMENT”
Based on the theory (that I made up) that you can use entangled photons to send data backwards in time. What would happen if someone like Elon Musk got that working? It would be insane. This was super complicated to put together, but it makes sense on the page. Again, it would cost a fortune because of the big disaster set-piece at the end. This was also a PAGE Awards finalist.

Fan Edit Movie – “THE PHANTOM MENACE – FORCE SPEED EDITION”
Okay, I’m probably going to get sued for this one. I re-edited ‘Episode I’ down to a mere 72 minutes. This isn’t just a ‘remove Jar Jar’ exercise, there are granular changes, right down to new subtitles, new alien voices, the podrace as an unbroken sequence and the third act playing out in a different order. They say you can’t polish a turd, but I buffed it a little. I hope I don’t go to jail. We’ll see.

iPhone Game – “DROPSHIP SAGA”
And finally, something I’m working on right now. It’s a casual game in which you land tiny marines on a tiny planet and hopefully don’t get any of them killed by tiny aliens. It’s all pixel art, including an absolutely massive mothership which took ages. It has the same never-ending structure as Desert Golfing and will be free. I hope people like it!

This is all very exciting (for me anyway). If you end up checking anything out and have a comment or feedback, I’d love to hear it. Reach me on twitter or email.

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Flavor Jockey

My friend made this. There are no words.

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5 Things to NOT do when you Pitch

fancyI had a string of meetings at the end of last year, and I got some insight on what works and what doesn’t. Obviously there’s more than one way to pitch something, but I thought it would be helpful to put a few common mistakes out there. Here’s some things to NOT do:

WING IT

Lack of preparation is a huge red flag, it looks like you don’t care enough about your project. You might be good at discussing it, but you need make sure you’re concise and clearly getting your vision across. Simply reading from your document or inventing new characters in the room is not professional.

ANSWER A QUESTION WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER

I have had to learn this the hard way. Execs like to ask a lot of questions, and that’s a good sign they’re interested. Some like to simply test out your knowledge. But inevitably there will be a question you can’t answer. If that happens, don’t start babbling about season arcs and power-ups (for example). Be honest – say ‘That’s a great question, I’ll have to give it some thought.’

TELL THEM WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR

Obviously you want to sell your pitch, you’re not just there for the cold water and warm handshakes. In order to make something happen, it’s tempting to pick up on what the exec wants and start pandering to that. DO NOT DO THIS. No matter what you do, stick to your vision. It’s YOUR ideas they want, not their own reflected back at them. Execs hate that. They will be disgusted with you.

ACT LIKE THIS IS THE LAST TIME YOU’LL EVER BE ALLOWED IN THE BUILDING

Just relax, will you? This isn’t a job interview, it’s just a meeting. There are no wrong answers. The final decisions are out of your control, anyway. Be professional, but enjoy yourself. It will give the buyer confidence if you’re not stressing out. Be entertaining.

BARE KNUCKLE FIGHTING

In rare cases, things can devolve into a shouting match, and chairs can get tipped over. If they are not seeing your project in the way you’d hoped, challenging the exec to a one-on-one fist fight on the top level of the parking structure is not going to help. Plus, you want to leave the door open to pitch new work.

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THE FORCE AWAKENS TRAILER

ball_droidIt’s been, what, seven days since the trailer came out? We’ve had Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Terminator Thursday since then. Frankly, the world has changed and it’s taken me this long to gather my thoughts. So here goes.

I saw it on Friday morning at the El Capitan theater in LA. The theater is owned by Disney so it makes sense they’d have a ball with it there. It wasn’t exactly a packed house, and I doubt many of the audience were there specifically for the teaser, but it was ideal conditions to get some new Star Wars into my eyes. While the organist was busy bashing out some Frozen tunes on his organ, I starting thinking about what I was going to see. What exactly would the trailer show? Would we see Han, Luke and Leia? The Falcon? Tatooine? Would I be able to keep my shit together? All this and more swirled around my head as I was waiting. Eventually the organ dude sank into the ground and an usher came out to let us know the program. Here’s the rundown: we were going to see three regular Disney trailers first, and the fourth would be The Force Awakens teaser in 2D. Then it will run again, this time in 3D.  Then – a laser show with a live-action Baymax, followed by a short called Feast, then Big Hero 6, THEN, the teaser in 3D again. If you think this took a long time to explain, that’s what I was thinking while the usher was going through the list. I was never going to get out of there. With the scene set and the audience primed, the lights dimmed. Never have the trailers for Into the Woods, some Kevin Costner coach drama and Cinderella looked so- Oh shit, here we go.

THOUGHTS

It’s always surreal to watch new Star Wars stuff. I seem to have some powerful, almost out-of-body experience like I can’t believe it’s even happening, and then get tunnel vision on the screen. I need to get over that (in case someone tries to attack me from the side). Anyway, here’s what I thought: the teaser was oddly paced, but there’s exactly zero to get worried about, in fact, everything to look forward to. I love that John Boyega in a stormtrooper suit is the first thing you see. The ball droid is a wtf moment, which I’m hoping we get more of. Daisy Ridley’s character looks like she popped straight out of the Original Trilogy and the X-Wings and cross-shaped lightsaber guy were awesome to behold. Then there’s that shot of the Falcon. A little bit pre-vizzed for my liking, with both the camera and the ship looping upside down, but I’ll take it. Word on a Grantland article was that that was in fact a practical effect shot with a motion-controlled Falcon, which if true makes my mind explode with joy. THE GODDAMN FALCON, PEOPLE. Everything’s gonna be OK.

I FELT IT

I’m glad it was dark and I had 3D glasses on because I was a mess up in the theater. And we didn’t even see any of the other characters, meaning there are clearly more freakouts like this to come. So this is The Force Awakens. I immediately tried piece the clues together about what I saw and the little I know about the plot and it all added up nicely. I’m excited, and the best thing about it for me it that I already like the new folks, especially Boyega who I’m a big fan of. The teaser contained more surprising things (to me) than I thought it would, but was 100% set in the Star Wars universe we’ve visited before. When I got home I watched it all again on iTunes, and while it had a different vibe to the big screen, it still got me hyped up for next December. Great way to spend a Friday morning.

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Phase 3

Like Marvel Studios, we all need a convoluted yet impressive sounding plan. I have completed the first two phases (Phase 1: don’t be lazy. Phase 2: Pay credit card on time) so now it’s time to shift up a gear and enter Phase 3: make stuff. And as I’m working on separate projects, I need to update my online presence to reflect that – I’m going to split up my various skill sets on to different sites so that they’re not all mish-mashed in one place. Going to break it up like this:

jameshutchinson.la = Screenwriting

crashlanderstudios.com = Design portfolio

ionwolf.com  = Games company

extra.solar = Character design

Hopefully that makes sense.

Got some exciting stuff coming up shortly and it all seems to be converging in a certain direction, so I’m going to follow that and see where it leads. Hail Hydra.

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Nicholl Near Miss

I received a pass latter from the Nicholl Fellowship yesterday. It was close:

…your script placed among the Top 10% of all entries and fell short of advancing to the quarterfinals by two-to-six points.

Two points! Not bad for a loopy sc-fi script. Oh well, there’s always next year.

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Another Blacklist review

crystal01Title:
THE AUGMENTED GEOLOGIST

Era:
Victorian Era

Locations:
London

Budgets:
High

Genre:
Action & Adventure, Sci-Fi & Fantasy

Logline:
When JOHN HALDANE is tasked with researching a mysterious crystal found on a dig along the coast of Victorian England, he quickly realizes that the object is not of earthly origin — and that his life will never be the same.

Strengths:
The blend of Victorian-era settings with science fiction storylines is always a fun way to tell a story, and this script does a great job of combining the mores and trappings of that era with the strange new realities that Haldane encounters. Scenes such as those where Haldane is in his lab examining the crystal are particularly easy to envision in this context. The reader spends almost every moment of the script following Haldane, so it’s crucial that the author is able to maintain sympathy for him; and, while it’s never quite clear if Haldane is a ‘good’ person or not, his adventures and actions are never boring. Also strong is the presentation of Haldane’s slow acclimatization to his newfound powers. This is reminiscent of superhero stories in which the protagonist finds himself entering a new reality, but, set in Victorian times, it feels fresher and more fun. The script’s final scene, with the alien ships arriving one hundred twenty years later, is a great moment that vastly expands the world that the story inhabits, and opens up the door for more stories set in that world.

Weaknesses:
While the final scene is a great moment that contextualizes the story, the reader spends a great deal of the script with no idea of what Haldane is trying to accomplish (or even, particularly, why Colleton is trying to stop him). In a way, that makes sense, since Haldane doesn’t particularly know himself, but what’s lacking is a sense of urgency; it often feels like Haldane doesn’t even have a sense of what it is that he’s trying to discover. The script also presents a couple of plot points that feel unnecessary. One of these is the reality of Haldane’s affliction with polio. While this serves to heighten the transformation that he undergoes, the reader doesn’t get the sense that it particularly impacts his life; it’s a fact that is described early in the script and referenced at the discovery that Colleton has been having an affair with Haldane’s wife, but it doesn’t seem to play into Haldane’s sense of self or even his functioning. Also, Haldane’s wife Helen feels more like a plot device than a character, serving only to give Colleton necessary information; the script would be well served to better develop her as a character and her relationship with Haldane.

Prospects:
While this is a well-written piece of material, it’s hard to envision a path to production for it. Given the combination of a period setting and a reliance on special effects (especially towards the end), the script will demand a very high budget to be made, a fact that will limit the number of buyers; and those buyers will be leery of a script with such a high budget that has no underlying material that audiences are familiar with. From a strictly financial and marketability standpoint, this will be a very difficult project to get made.

Pages:
95

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New Pitch: Bacon Spacehorse

baconspacehorseI recently sent a pitch in to the Nickelodeon Shorts Program. The requirements have increased over previous years (if memory serves) in that you have to send in a thumbnail board along with the concept and character designs. I jammed that sucker out nice and fast, hopefully translating some of the energy on to the page. Once I got going, this was the most fun drawing I’ve had in a while.

It’s called Bacon Spacehorse and it’s about a magical horse who answers kid’s questions about space.

BACON SPACEHORSE
A naive and magical horse that lives in space. He can do anything he wishes and loves to learn so much, he will tear you apart if you get in his way of his search for answers.

ASTROBEE
A selfish space explorer who left his hive to sting planets. Real name Colin Santana. Wanted to be a spaceman after watching Flight of the Navigator as a larva.

CHARLES RAND
A TV astronomer who knows very little about what he’s talking about. He has undisclosed financial problems.

bacon01

bacon02

STORYBOARD: WHAT’S INSIDE A BLACK HOLE?

Bacon Spacehorse and Astrobee zoom around space in search of a black hole. What they find inside surprises them.

bsh1 bsh2 bsh3 bsh4 bsh5

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Guided by Forces

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The Fellowship of the Nick

patrickI sent my submission to the Nickelodeon Writing Fellowship today. Two copies of a comedy spec, a one page resume, a half page bio and the application form and release. Ended up being quite a stack of paper. Satisfyingly hefty.

The script I sent was a Simpsons spec, which is traditionally a hard show to write due to the fact that they’ve covered everything in known universe. I somehow figured out two ideas I hadn’t seen before, then went through TEN YEARS of episode synopses to see if they’d been done already. One had and one hadn’t, so I wrote the one that hadn’t. Oh, and I should really say thanks to Simpsons writer Bill Oakley, whose outline for an episode I found online and then shamelessly copied like a Canal Street bootlegger.

One interesting thing on the application is you have to point out how ethnically or culturally diverse you are. I put that I’m English, which is fine I guess, but just realized my mother-in-law is Indian. I should have put that! Missed opportunity.

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