Invent

Screenwriting


Impact x Skydance Contemporary Horror

Working on my application for the latest prompt from the Impact Network, Imagine Entertainment’s talent accelerator. They’re looking for Contemporary Horror TV (think Servant, The Haunting of Hill House) that can be an ongoing, limited, or mini-series. Nice.

I know the genre (in fact I work on it now for Warner Bros.) and have written horror features, so entering seems like a no-brainer. The application is pretty thorough, and takes a while to complete, as they make you really deep dive into the idea. But by far the trickiest part is the 30-second video you need to include. I’m fine with pitching in-person or over Zoom, basically (hopefully) not one of those introverted writers. But half a minute of my goofy ass on video seems to be the cringiest, awkwardest 30 seconds of all-time. I might need to get a bit more creative with that to cut through the crowd.

If you want to apply (and you should), check out the website. The application FAQs are here.

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Rise of Skywalker Teaser Theory

This occurred to me after listening to someone on a podcast question Kylo’s wacky flight tactics in the Rise of Skywalker teaser trailer. It’s true, it is definitely weird and artificially staged. But why? I think it’s because this teaser trailer isn’t showing you what you think it’s showing you. 

The opening shots have Rey alone in the desert, bracing herself for something. A ship races towards her, low to the ground. Before it reaches her, she turns, ignites her lightsaber, and flips over the whole thing. It’s a standoff. A fight. A battle of good versus evil. 

Except it isn’t.

If Kylo was trying to kill her, he’d shoot, but he doesn’t. He would fly in from above for a clear shot, but he stays close to the ground. She knows he’s coming, and is waiting in the right spot. And when she jumps, her trajectory could put her just over the top of the ship… or, land on top of it.

They’re on the same side

You see, it’s because they’re on the same side. Rey and Kylo have teamed up, and are going on the attack. I’m positive. If you listen to Luke’s voice over, he says: “We’ve passed on all we know. A thousand generations live in you now. This is your fight.” He’s talking to both Rey and Kylo, about defeating the Emperor. 

Rey is calming her nerves because she doesn’t know if trusting Kylo is the best option. Or perhaps what they’re about to do is extremely dangerous. Either way, the plan is to pick up Rey in a super hasty move, and then either sneak in somewhere, or attack something – together

Kylo has betrayed his darker side, and Rey is perhaps going against people’s wishes, so they’ve both moved a little closer to grey. That’s what I think, anyway. It’s the only way this sequence works.

We’ll see in December.

UPDATE: I was way off.

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From the Raiders Story Conference

Lawrence Kasdan — Before we kill this monkey, I want to really make him a villain. What if he is along when they’re headed out to the friends. The ambush takes place and as Indy is fighting them off, the girl jumps into a basket to hide and the monkey leads the Arabs to the girl. That’s how they get her.

George Lucas — That’s good.

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This Should Be a Movie: ZOIDS

Most people in the US haven’t heard of ZOIDS, which is nothing short of a national disgrace. They’re a toy range that stood alongside Transformers and Masters of the Universe in the toy aisles of the 80s, complete with their own mythology, epic characters, and comic series from Marvel. Look at this big red elephant:

To catch you heathens up, ZOIDS themselves are a race of giant robotic mecha dinosaurs controlled by drone pilots that are locked in an eternal war for control of the planet Zoidstar. The good guys are the Blue Zoids and the bad guys are the Red Mutants, and they damn well want to rip each other to shreds.

The toy line itself has a convoluted history. Originally released in Japan as Mechabonica in the early 80s, it was then released in the US under the new name of Zoids. These did well, and were subsequently rebranded as Zoids in Japan. The designs were tweaked once again and given new individual character names and backstory for release in Europe. By 1985, the toys were reintroduced in the US as Robostrux (with no backstory or supporting media), rebranded in Japan as Zevle, sold to Kenner in the US and re-relaunched as Technozoids, and so on ad infinitum. I like to think if the US market hadn’t suffered this brand fragmentation, it would have been a huge property like the European release.

In the UK, most boys had Zoids. They were too cool to ignore. The robot designs were a cut above the majority of kids toys, looking like they’d just jumped out of a fierce James Cameron movie. They were motorized (either wind-up or battery operated), meaning they could walk under their own power, and you had to assemble them yourself, like a Lego kit on steroids. Their imagined scale was massive, and the box art, TV commercials and overall product design only added to that.

The ace in the hole was the Marvel UK comic, published weekly as a dual title with Spider-Man. Marvel UK could turn rat turds into gold (as demonstrated by their amazing Transformers run), and their penchant for violent, cinematic storylines permeated all the way through the Zoids run. It bought the toys to life in a visceral way, and added some odd spiritual overtones that I never fully understood as a kid (the war between the factions is overseen by a weird immortal dude called The Namer, though I can’t remember why.) Comics legend Grant Morrison wrote a  bunch of these, hence the high quality factor. You can read the whole run here.

The comic took huge inspiration from movies such as The Terminator, Aliens, Blade Runner and The Thing, and that, plus the grandiose beauty of the Zoids themselves, would make for a hugely satisfying cinematic experience. Leaving the exact plot of the comic aside, if a crew of humans were to discover the planet the Zoids were warring on, all hell could break loose. And if the crew in question had someone among them that didn’t exact stumble upon this planet by accident, but lead them there in search of a family member, and subsequently draws them into the fight… well, you’d have an emotional barnstormer of a story.

Zoids are still going strong today, with the Japanese market supporting new toys, a number of anime, various games, and reissues of classic kits. With the movie industry leaning so heavily on IP these days, it’s genuinely surprising that something so screen-ready has been left undisturbed for so long. I think it’s down to lack of familiarity in the US, but you could argue that ‘undiscovered’ factor, combined with a built-in audience in other markets, is the best of both worlds. Get Neill Blomkamp on the phone immediately.

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Homer’s Donut Allergy

homerCheck out my Simpson’s spec called ‘Homer’s Donut Allergy’. I researched for hours to see if the premise had been done, and I don’t think it has, but who the hell knows?

This owes a huge debt to ‘Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song’ by Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein, which is absolutetly jam-packed with funny ideas. I ripped them off so hard.

Download the pdf here: HOMER’S DONUT ALLERGY

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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

crystal01

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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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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PAGE Awards Finalist second year in a row

I made it to the finals of the PAGE Awards again. Down to the last 10. They announce the winners on Oct 15th.

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