I can’t believe that it’s a new year already! Where did the time go? I haven’t been blogging like I should have been this past year and I apologize for that. A lot of personal stuff got in the way. Now I’m not one to talk much about my personal life here on the blog, but because my personal life impacted the project so much this year, I feel I owe you all an explanation since you’ve patiently stuck with me all this time. I wish the news was all good. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. So let’s get the unpleasant stuff out of the way first.
Near the end of 2013, the motherboard on my computer burned out. That immediately stopped all work on the treatment because all my files were on that hard drive. I know, I should have had a backup (I do now), but I didn’t then. Fortunately, I had other options that still gave me access to the Internet, but that was about it. Getting my computer fixed took way longer than it should have because I was given some wrong advice but this past summer I finally got it working again.
Then a water leak in my only bathroom caused extensive water and mold damage in both my bathroom and bedroom. What a mess. The tub/shower got torn out, along with several walls and carpeting in my bedroom. I’ve been living with no tub/shower for almost a year now and have been having to use the shower at the gym. I’m thankful that the shower is available; but it’s also a pain in the neck to have to leave my home to take a shower. So I’ve been saving my money to get the bathroom remodeled first. Then I’ll save to get the bedroom remodeled. I’ve been wanting to get that bathroom remodeled for years. (I’ve always hated that floor and wallpaper.) Now I’m forced to get it done. It’s been a year since this happened and I only have 1/6th of my budget saved so, unfortunately, I have to live with this for quite a while yet.
Shortly after this happened, I got sick. I won’t go into the details, but it is a permanent condition. Fortunately, I’m managing it and have felt fine since. There’s always the threat that I could have a flare up, but if that happens I’ll deal with it. It’s nothing that will stop me from moving forward.
And lastly, I had my identity stolen. What a headache that was. It took months to get it cleared up, but I eventually did. I wish that was the end of it but, unfortunately, from now on I need to keep a hypervigilant eye on my credit report.
I didn’t tell you all of that to get your sympathy. There are a lot of other people that had a much harder year than I did, such as my cousins who lost their 12-year-old daughter to cancer. And I’m not trying to make excuses, but the reality is that sometimes things happen that throw us off course. It can’t be helped. To deny that is simply unrealistic. But it’s not the fall that determines the outcome. It’s whether you get back up again. So here is me getting back up again.
With everything that has happened, you might be thinking that last year is a total wash. No, not at all! It’s the year the treatment was finally finished! Yep, after years of trying to find the right story, I finally have a story that I love and am excited to make. So let me catch you up on what’s been happening with the project.
Back at the beginning of the last year, Shawna, the writer I had been working with, decided that she wanted to leave and pursue her own projects. I totally get that. She had helped me for several years with my story and was patient beyond belief with this beginning screenwriter. I always appreciated her critiques. She was never afraid to express her opinion and tell me if something was wrong. That’s such a rare quality. And even though we didn’t always agree, we were always able to talk about it. I am very thankful for all her input. Because of her help the story is so much better than it was. I wish her much success in her new endeavors.
After Shawna left, it wouldn’t be until summer that I finally was able to access and work on the treatment again. This time I was on my own. The majority of the story had already been written, so it was just a matter of finishing up the third act and then giving it a quick once over and making some formatting changes. I reformatted it as a scriptment, which is a treatment with some screenplay formatting in it. By fall it was finished. It turned out to be a massive 56 pages long.
Now it was time to have it professionally analyzed. I sent the treatment to two story analysts. Both of them teach college screenwriting and have read hundreds of scripts over the years. One is located in Los Angeles and teaches at UCLA Extension, among other places. (I’ve taken one of his classes in the past.) He has also been a reader for several major studios. The second one is located in San Francisco and teaches at the Academy of Art University and is a former Pixar story analyst. So both of these guys are very qualified. What’s interesting is how very different their notes were.
Now, I don’t expect the story analysts to like my story. It may not be their personal taste; and that’s okay. I just need them to tell me if there are any story problems. What I wasn’t expecting was how much the LA analyst would LOVE (caps are his, not mine) my story. I had always thought of my story as sci-fi/fantasy. His opinion was that it is a fantasy thriller. He thought the genre was great, the weapon unique, and he loved the world I created and the characterizations. I didn’t tell him about the cast I’m writing this for so he judged it purely on story.
What equally surprised me is what he said needed work. He said the story was only half finished, that it was in the middle of act two, and that I needed to finish act two and write act three. To say I was flabbergasted is an understatement. I thought I had a beginning, middle, and end! He didn’t agree. He said to take what I wrote and add to it. The other notes he gave me was to make the ending bigger and make the villain eviler. He wanted me to keep it in treatment form until I finished writing the rest of it.
The SF analyst didn’t tell me whether he liked the story or not. He just pointed out some rather minor things that needed expanding and/or clarification. His biggest note was that it needed a better ending. I totally agreed with that. After he was finished with his comments, I told him what the other analyst had said about the story only being half finished. I wanted to see if he agreed. He didn’t. He reaction was the same as mine had been. (“What?!”) He said that the story was ready to go to script and he thought I had about 100 pages worth of script. The LA analyst thought I had 75 pages worth of script.
Goes to show you that even the experts don’t agree and it always pays to get more than one opinion. So who is right? Well, the only way to find out how many pages I have is to start putting the story into screenplay format, so I decided to fix the few minor issues they pointed out, call the treatment done, and start writing the script. If I do end up needing to add on to the story, I already have a bunch of ideas on where to go next.
I thought it was interesting that the SF analyst described the story as having franchise potential. I purposely wrote the story with the idea that it could have both franchise and transmedia potential. I’ve got ideas for a webisode, books, toys and other merchandise, a video game, and future movies, as well as a TV show. Seriously, the story world I created is that big! But I wrote it that way because I wanted to set it up for success from the very beginning. How much of those ideas come to fruition only time will tell, but the possibilities are there.
If I had a huge studio budget, we could do some amazing visual effects, but I also wrote the story with the idea that the effects could be scaled down a bit for a smaller budget. But that doesn’t mean I want it to have cheap-looking effects. I’ve been following a couple of other independent sci-fi movies. The first one, Iron Sky, was done with a $10 million dollar budget, but the effects are so good in it that it looks like it has a $100 million dollar budget. The production company that made it is now crowdfunding a sequel to the movie. The second movie, Space Command, is by Marc Zicree, who has been writing sci-fi books and TV shows for years now. His budget is much lower. I don’t know the exact amount, but I know he raised a little over $200k in his crowdfunding campaign. The rest he is raising from investors. From what little I’ve seen, since the movie isn’t finished yet, it looks like he’s got some really great-looking visual effects. So I know that putting great effects into a low-budget feature can definitely be done. These two movies prove it.
Both story analysts thought I was going to try to sell the story to a major studio. I’m not. It’s always been my intention to produce it myself. (I didn’t realize that I would end up writing it too.) I may take on partners, but I won’t just be handing it over for someone else to make. There are a few reasons for that:
- A major studio wouldn’t hire Vince, Paul, and the rest of The Invisible Man cast. They’d cast A-listers instead, actors that they deem to be bankable. And that would pretty much negate every reason why I even started this project and got into this business.
- As a fandom, we’ve already felt the pangs of falling in love with a show where we had no say in its future. If I was to simply sell the script to someone else, they would gain control of the project and we’d be back in the same boat as we were with The Invisible Man. The project could end up getting shelved and we would have no say in the matter.
- They may not get it. An example of this that the SF analyst told me about is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The movie script by Joss Whedon was taken out of his hands and put in the hands of a director that didn’t get it and it was pretty much a flop. However, the TV show was firmly in Joss’ hands and that became a huge success. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people in the business make suggestions that I know would never satisfy an I-Man fan. They don’t get it, but that’s okay, because I do. I know what I loved about the show; and I’ve done my best to put those qualities into my story. So any partners I take on will need to understand that.
In this business it is extremely easy to lose control of a project if one is not careful. From production companies that shelve scripts and never produce them to distribution companies that buy films and shelve them instead of distributing them. Remember what happened to Mike’s movie Idiocracy? So taking on the right partners will have to be done very carefully.
Since I’m making this movie primarily for I-Man fans (the ones who get it), I wanted to get their opinions about it. So I asked four fans if they would read and discuss the story with me and three of them accepted. I’ve already talked to two and I have one more that I need to talk to yet. So far, the response has been very positive. I heard from them what they liked and didn’t like and what they thought needed improvement, which was mostly really minor stuff. I’m not going to name who the fans are that read my treatment, but they are free to come forward if they wish. All three fans have signed non-disclosure agreements, so if they do come forward, please do not pressure them to disclose anything about the story. But they are free to tell you general info that doesn’t give the story away, such as if they think I got the tone right, what they liked about it, etc.
So where am I on the script? I have 40 pages of the first draft finished. I’m shooting for a pace of about a page a day and I’m behind. I should be on page 62, so I’m trying to get caught up.
I’m on page 14 of the treatment. At this pace I’m writing around three pages of script for every page of treatment. If that continues, with a 56-page treatment, I’ll have a 168-page script! Way over the estimate of both story analysts! At a minute per page that translates to a two hour and forty-eight minute movie! Of course, the page count could come down once I hit the more dialog heavy parts of the treatment. We’ll just have to see what we end up with.
Frankly, I’m more concerned with writing a really good story than I am about page count at this point. When I first started writing the script I was using a great little free program called Trelby. It’s a pretty basic program but it gets the job done. Then I got a free copy of Final Draft, which is considered the industry standard. It’s full of bells and whistles and I still haven’t learned everything that it can do yet. But what’s interesting about the two programs is that in Trelby, I was getting around two pages of script for every page of treatment; and in Final Draft, I’m getting around three pages of script for every page of treatment. Trelby seems to condense everything a little more. So if I was using Trelby, I’d have a movie that was one hour and fifty-two minutes long. See why I’m not too concerned about page count?
By the way, I want to give a big shout out of thanks to Jim Fleckenstein for the free copy of Final Draft! It just wasn’t in my budget to buy the program, so it was a wonderful surprise to get a free copy of it. Jim, also, has been very helpful when I needed an expert to look at some police radio dialog in my script. His law enforcement background came in very handy. The Invisible Man really does have the best cast, crew, and fans.
Before I make any sort of announcement about the movie’s name, I’m getting it trademarked. I don’t want to start advertising it and then find out that someone else has laid claim to it, so I have my lawyer working on that. I have one piece of artwork already drawn by a fan that will make a cute banner, wallpaper, or t-shirt graphic, but I’m holding off showing it until I get an okay from my lawyer. I’m also working on getting concept art done for the movie. I can’t wait till that is done and ready to show you.
So there is a lot going on. 2015 looks to be a very exciting and busy year! Thank you for being a part of it and supporting my efforts to feature our Invisible Man cast in a brand new story!