Wednesday, 2 July 2014

"Put the bunny back in the box..."

Whilst watching 'Megamind' the other day with my daughter, I realised how similar it is to another movie released in the same year - 'Despicable Me'. Both about a super-villain who learns that life is more fulfilling being good.

No soft toys were harmed during the making of this movie. Apart from this one.

Certainly, movies seem to frequently churn out the same idea at the same time

'Volcano' vs. 'Dante's Peak'.
'Armageddon' vs. 'Deep Impact'. 
'Antz' vs. ' A Bug's Life'.
'Dawn of the Dead' vs. '28 Days Later...'.
'Tuurner and Hooch' vs. 'K-9'
'Mirror Mirror' vs. 'Snow White and the Huntsman'
'Red Planet' vs. 'Mission to Mars' 
'Infamous' vs. 'Capote'
'Tombstone' vs. 'Wyatt Earp'
'The Truman Show' vs. 'Ed TV'
'The Prestige' vs. 'The Illusionist'
'Olympus Has Fallen' vs. 'White House Down'

Even low-budget 'Deepstar Six' went up against 'Leviathan' (and the grandpappy of 'Underwater Movies' The Abyss'). Patrick Bergin starred as 'Robin Hood'. Less than a year later, Kevin Costner took his turn to much more success. And not forgetting the bumper year of 1988 - otherwise known as THE YEAR OF THE BODYSWAP! *deep breath* Big, 18 Again, Vice Versa, Like Father Like Son...  Occasionally, the similarities aren't always immediately obvious. Indonesian actioner 'The Raid' and the sci-fi 'Dredd' both share a VERY similar story of a cop trapped inside a high-rise with everyone out to kill him.

Bang goes your good idea...
Most of the aforementioned could be defined as 'high concept' movies. Some reflect the culture or mood of the times, some are probably down to competing studios/producers trying to out-do a rival, and I dare say most are pure coincidence. Because, as we all know, ideas don't get ripped off. Most of the time.

In 2007, I wrote a pilot episode for a television drama series called 'Remnants' (originally labelled more pretentiously as 'Sunshine in the Gloom', which kind of captured the hazy, melancholy, sun-setting on mankind/ calm-before-the-storm nature of the story. 'Remnants' was more 'Threads'-like, I figured.). A sort of 'Twin Peaks'-meets Aussie soap 'Neighbours', so-called as it centred on people left behind. Or left over.

Which brings us nicely to 'The Leftovers', A new series created by 'Lost's Damon Lindelof.

Shoe-fans count down the days 'til the rapture...
"Revolves around mysterious disappearances, world-wide, and specifically follows a group of people who are left behind in the suburban community of Mapleton. They must begin to rebuild their lives after the loss of more than 100 people." IMDB.

When I read about this a year or so ago, my initial reaction was 'Oh. POO.' (Or words to that effect). Nobody likes to spend ages working on something, only to be pipped to the post. And let's face it - I'm not exactly Damon Lindelof. But then again, the notion of 'the rapture' isn't exactly new. It's been around for an age. It's in the the bible, after all (For the benefit of the two late-comers at the back of the room.)

There have also been many books written on the subject - The 'Left Behind' series of Christian novels, which were made into not-very-good movies, and now remade again into a Nicolas Cage movie (due for release in Oct 2014).

So it's time to put my script back in the box, seal it up, and wait ten years or so. See where things are at, maybe give it another whirl at some point. The same ideas happen. Zeitgeist. Nothing can really be learned from it, only to have the belief in your own project. I've not seen 'The Leftovers', and whilst themes and possibly even scenes will be similar, I know mine will be different overall - which is, apparently, a common argument/problem with writers.

Is that a reason to hang on to the script? Should I just burn it and, like that ruddy song says, 'Let It Go'? I've only ever killed two scripts - literally threw them away (back in 1994. And yes, they were THAT BAD.). Whilst I have a lot of love and passion for 'Remnants', for now it will be my mutant monster child that lives in the loft.That, one day, will be released unto the world. In the time betwixt, I will be thinking about it...

Not exactly subtle, but good advice.
I'll leave you a brief idea of what I would have done with the idea...

'Remnants' Synopsis:

Remnants opens with a car on a long journey, meandering down country lanes, eventually arriving at a cul-de-sac in an upper-middle class suburb. It's there that the car ceases to stop, ploughing through a hedge, mowing down an old lady gardener and smashing through the front of a house. Neighbours rush to the scene, only to find no driver and an unconscious woman strapped in the back seat.

The tension cranks up as a mob of parents descend on a primary school, demanding to know where their children are. Terrified teachers inside find themselves under siege, bewildered at the sudden disappearance of every child.

Unborn babies vanish. A supermarket manager has to defend his superstore from panicked looters.
A Priest leading a bible course finds he is the only one left in his church, which also finds itself under siege from those desperate to repent. A burgeoning affair is cut short when an unmanned tractor ploughs into a car, leaving the couple stranded on foot. Motorways are crippled by numerous accidents. Planes have dropped out of the sky, devastating cities. Families are torn apart by lost loved ones.

Many theories are thrown around: Aliens. The End Times. A science experiment gone wrong. Make-shift authorities have to quash lawlessness. A curfew is implemented. Some characters begin to share the same visions and dreams of demons, whilst others are attacked by an alien presence. Deception creeps into play from all corners. The community raises a new council leader in the form of a likeable every-man, who doesn't want the job but realises that he is the most capable - if only to keep the power out of the hands of those who would abuse it.

Out of the chaos and uncertainty, new friendships and romances are born, while others seize the opportunity to level up old scores. The show centres on how life in a small community tries to get back on track when there aren't any answers to the events that have changed everybody's lives. The story focuses on the 'peace' and 'normality' that follows - the quiet before the ultimate storm, in which each person will have to choose a side.

Series one looked at how civilisation gets back on it's feet, whilst series two was set a year later, charting the downturn...

The calm before the storm...

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