Invent


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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Inspiration

With this show, I wanted people to laugh and cry… and shit themselves all at the same time.

- Garth Marenghi

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Third Blacklist review for THE AUGMENTED GEOLOGIST

crystal01Here’s one more evaluation for a script of mine from the Blacklist. I find these encouraging, but I think I’ve gone as far as I can with getting feedback, so this will be the last one for a while. I should pick out some choice quotes from these like they do on movie posters, then print it out and mail it to myself, then I dunno, burn it or something. That’s my New Year’s resolution. Burn stuff. Anyway, is this encouraging? Should I keep going? I guess keep going.

Era:
Victorian

Locations:
Victorian London, England

Budgets:
High

Genre:
Action & Adventure

Logline:
A sickly geologist in Victorian London is suddenly given super-powers after coming into contact with a strange, and possibly alien, crystal.

Strengths:
With an instantly appealing steam-punk premise, this is a genre-piece that hits all the right buttons. The setting – a retrofitted Victorian England populated with gentlemen scientists, detectives and escaped convicts – is expertly painted. From the chase through the ‘Crystal Palace’, a kind of world’s fair of natural curiosities, to the final scenes at the white cliffs of Dover, the Victorian landscape is used to full and stunning effect. The plot itself is quite simple but very effective, and the action and chase sequences in the second half are exciting. The main characters, friends-and-rivals Haldane and Colleton, are perfectly matched: the one a Polio-stricken, shy man, the other a dashing gentleman, their conflict is at the heart of the story, and gives it an edge and energy it might otherwise lack.

Weaknesses:
Some of the dialogue is a little uninspired, and occasionally gets the cadences and details of British English wrong. Case in point: it is hard to imagine a prim and proper Victorian wife saying ‘He should bloody well be made to pay’. Inconsistencies like that aside, most of the dialogue is serviceable if not exactly scintillating. Beyond that, the second half of the film occasionally feels like one long chase sequence, which is par for the course in an action/adventure film but still worth pointing out. Luckily, most of these scenes take place in interesting locations, and are rarely dull, despite coming one after the other in quick succession. The relationship between Haldane and Colleton is so strong and has so much potential, but in the third act it seems like in the scenes between them lack the charge that they have in the first two. It would be nice to have a scene later in the script where they really get to air their grievances and get everything out in the open. That would add psychological depth to the last act, which occasionally feels like its just going through the motions.

Prospects:
This is a script that fits neatly into the larger steam-punk trend which has recently seen its fair share of success at the box office. In many ways it is reminiscent of the Robert Downey Jr. ‘Sherlock Holmes’ movies, in that it is action-oriented while still aiming for intelligent dialogue and plotting. Overall, with so many exciting sequences, and a strong antagonistic relationship at the center of it, this is a script that could easily get noticed. It would be a welcome – and original – addition to the endless parade of super-hero and franchise summer films.

Pages:
98

Check it out on the Blacklist here.

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2013 in Review

It was shit.

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