Invent


Movie recommendations part 2

Black Orpheus

This is one of the most beautiful films ever made. Shot in Rio De Janeiro during the Carnival of 1959, it’s a retelling of the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice.

It’s so colorful and vibrant and filled with energy. It’s like being on an amazing holiday, but one that is marred by an epic love tragedy from which you will never recover. The leads, especially Marpessa Dawn, are hard to take your eyes away from, and if it feels like they are dancing their way through the whole thing, that’s because they are.

Black Dynamite

A parody of blaxplotation movies almost on par with Airplane in the accuracy of its subject matter and sheer density of gags.

Like Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, it’s expertly poorly made on purpose, with actors looking at the camera and booms getting into shot. Michael Jai White definitely knows how to play an action lead, but I didn’t know he was so funny. His timing and delivery are impeccable. Definitely underrated.

The Black Hole

Disney’s famous attempt to cash in on the success of Star Wars. This is a truly weird film. It’s aiming to join the wave of spectacular blockbusters that defined the late Seventies and Eighties, but it’s stuck firmly in the old way of doing things.

It has the odd pace of something like The Forbidden Planet or Fantastic Voyage, too ponderous and formal after the breakneck pace of Star Wars, and the naturalism of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The music is good, the robots are good, the cast is good, the concept is good. It doesn’t quite add up to the sum of its parts, but is still worth watching, especially for the freaky ending.

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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 HAHA THIS IS A JOKE

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This should be a movie: POWER PACK

I love Power Pack. Compared to X-Men or Spider-Man, it’s a lesser known Marvel comic, but it sits alongside those characters (hell, they even interact with them) as one of the great titles of the 80s.

It’s about a group of four kids, all brothers and sisters in the Power family, who are granted superpowers by an alien horse that crashlands on Earth. They each have different abilities, hide their identities from their parents, avoid bullies, do their homework, and fight aliens intent on stealing their father’s research on anti-matter.

If that doesn’t sound great, I don’t know what to tell you.

What makes this comic so interesting to me is two-fold. First, the kids are really young, but the stories keep the full-on action tone of a regular comic book. The team find themselves in serious danger, go up against huge threats and find themselves under extreme pressure. These events are not fun for them, they’re downright frightening. Their fragility makes you feel things that would normally wash over you unnoticed in a regular superhero story. Responsibility put on a person’s shoulders before they’re ready is extremely compelling.

Secondly, it’s about kids, but it’s not aimed at kids. It’s aged up to an older audience. Think of something like E.T. or The Sixth Sense, where the story is taken with a level of seriousness that makes it satisfying. That is the way to do it, and they got it right.

The kid’s powers, and their personalities, don’t just play well off one another, they kind of fit together like a puzzle. The eldest, Alex, can control gravity. He feels the most responsibility and assumes the role of leader. Julie can fly at unlimited speeds, and tends to take care of everyone. Jack is able to change his mass and size. He is the quickest to get upset, not ready to deal with pressure yet. Katie, the youngest, can turn objects into energy, and discharge it as a weapon. She’s the most powerful, and a complete innocent, which is a great combination. She’s still learning right from wrong, and needs protecting from some of the situations she finds herself in, emotionally and physically.

The stories are pretty out there, forming the science fiction part of the universe that the Fantastic Four and Doctor Strange live in. The balance and interplay between the kids is extremely well constructed. They learn as they go, absolutely need each other to succeed, and barely scrape by even when working as a team. Plus their powers are cool as shit.

Would that work in a movie? It could.

If it was taken seriously as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that is. The tone would have to be aged up and aggressively protected. It would need to be communicated that this is not a kid’s movie, it’s a superhero movie that happens to have kids in it. Then it would need some child actors behaving like real, intelligent, believable kids. Finally, it would need to aim high with regards to spectacle and action.

Tough sell, but then everything a tough sell until it’s a success. But it would be so unique. And if they can make Guardians of the Galaxy work, they can definitely do Power Pack. Personally, I would kill the last Kymellian to see it.

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THE FORCE AWAKENS TRAILER

ball_droidIt’s been seven days since the trailer came out. We’ve had Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Terminator Thursday since then. The world has changed and it’s taken me this long to catch up. 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 a new Star Wars thing. 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 interestingly 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. Going to break it up like this:

jameshutchinson.la = Screenwriting stuff

crashlanderstudios.com = Design portfolio

ionwolf.com  = Games

baconspacehorse.tumblr.com = Character Design

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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From the Blacklist

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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.

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MOVIE RECOMMENDATIONS

Timecrimes

Timecrimes is an insanely clever time travel/horror thriller from Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo. The major difference between this and other time travel movies is that the protagonist only goes back in time one hour. What could go wrong? A lot as it turns out, and the problems and paradoxes pile up on each other.

I know firsthand how hard these things are to write, so to be able to keep events straightforward to follow, while still head-hurtingly complex is an amazing achievement. It’s also creepy as hell, and has a distinct ‘Lost’ vibe, which are all good things in my opinion.

Time Bandits

This is arguably Terry Gilliam’s most complete film. Sometimes an idea with broad appeal can be overwhelmed by a idiosyncratic director, but here his particular vision is fully realized. Obviously it’s still a little bonkers: a bunch of dwarves on the run from God, who they stole a time map from, gatecrash into the bedroom of a young boy called Kevin, who gets dragged through time and space, until some evil dude catches up with them and turns into a carousel.

It makes complete sense to your child brain. The effects and production design are pulled off perfectly, and there’s excellent cameos from lots of Monty Python people and a ton of famous stars.

Time Masters

A very intense French animated movie about a boy being stranded on an alien planet, and a crew attempting to rescue him. It is way out there in terms of sci-fi, with concepts such as a sentient planet of faceless angels, “water-lily like organisms blooming into dozens of empathic, sentient, primary coloured homunculi” and a big egg that you talk into.

The majority of the movie was designed and storyboarded by Moebius, so it benefits from his vast imagination. The co-produced French/Hungarian animation is great (especially the two cute flying dudes). It’s fairly violent and unnerving, and the ending blew my tiny mind as a kid.

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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.

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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.

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