The Impossibly Long End of Year and Beginning of Year Movie Update!

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.

This is what I've been living with the past year.

This is what my bathroom currently looks like.

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!

Treatment Update and Important Mailing List News

Treatment Update

I’ve been really quiet on the blog for a while because I’ve been putting my focus on writing the treatment.  Here’s a bit about the writing process:

Each time I go through the treatment, I’ll go back over what’s already been written and clean up anything that needs to be fixed.  Then I’ll usually write another page or two.  After that, I hand it off to Shawna who looks at the old stuff again and the new pages and gives me her thoughts and edits.  It may be a slow way of working, but it is making the older pages better and better.  And while Shawna is working on it, I’m thinking about where I want to go with the next scene or two.  I know how the story is ending.  It’s just mapping out how to get there.

The treatment is getting a lot more detail this time around, which I think will help the script writing go a bit easier.  It reads more like a short story than a dry synopsis, which is what it should do.  Synopses are short matter-of-fact summations of a story…basically a condensed version of the plot.  Whereas, treatments are more entertaining—like a story.  Writers use treatments to sell their screenplays to producers.  But in this case, I’m using the treatment to get the details of the story worked out; and then I’ll use it to get cast and crew on board until the screenplay can be finished.

One of the many challenges with this story is making sure that all five of the main characters (played by Vince, Paul, Eddie, Shannon, and Mike) serve a real purpose in the story.  I don’t want any of their characters to be throw-away characters, like Eberts was in The Invisible Man.  As much as we loved Eberts (and there was even an episode about The Importance of Eberts), in reality, the producers could have easily taken the character out of the series and it wouldn’t have hurt the storyline.  I think it’s to Mike’s credit that he connected with the fans early on and endeared himself and his character to us.  By doing this he assured his continuation on the series, even becoming a series regular in season two.  So I really want to make sure that Mike’s character has a role that is vital to the story and I think we accomplished that.

How fortunate for the Veronica Mars fans that Warner Brothers is willing to bring back their show in the form of a movie, even if the fans have to fund it themselves.  I wish Universal had been as cooperative with The Invisible Man.  Instead, I was turned down flat.  Of course, I was not the show runner, so that gives me considerably less pull with them.  In spite of all that, I’ve always kept in mind that this movie is first and foremost for I-Man fans.  While I can’t copy I-Man, I’ve definitely been using it as inspiration.  I’m hoping that this story will be so good that it will get past any disappointment you may have that it’s not I-Man.  Just to be able to see the cast together again will be such a treat!

This last pass through, I ended up writing five new pages and I’m really happy to say that we are sitting right smack at the beginning of act three, the final act!  The end is so close, I can taste it.  I can’t wait until I’m able to share this story with all of you!

Mailing List News

Some of you observant ones may have noticed that there is an email sign-up form on the front page of my website as well as the Shoom Zone Facebook page.  It’s actually been there a few months.  I’ve been experimenting with a new mailing list service so I really didn’t want to say anything about it until I got the kinks worked out.

The mail service has a cool feature that allows one to split up the mailing list by interests.  I really like the idea, but in practice it was a pain in the neck, so I removed that feature.  I apologize to those of you who signed up already and specified their interests because this means that you will now be getting all my blog posts by email, not just the ones that match your interests.  Although I feel that I need to be blogging more, even at this blog’s busiest, you shouldn’t be inundated with email.  And if a subject doesn’t interest you, you can always delete the email.

My plan is to move everyone from the old mailing list over to the new one within the next month or so.  If you want to go ahead and sign up now, please feel free to do so.  You’ll be able to choose whether you want html, text, or mobile format.  If you don’t sign yourself up, your default will be html.

I won’t sell, rent, or share your email address with anyone except in rare cases as spelled out in the privacy policy.  Please read it if you have any concerns.  Your privacy is important to me.  I don’t like it when someone else abuses my trust and I won’t do it to you.  If you have any questions about it, please feel free to ask by posting a question below or contacting me via the contact form.

Click here to sign up for the mailing list and enjoy the convenience of getting blog posts in your email.

I-Man Scripts for Sale!

If you’ve always wanted to own an Invisible Man script or if you know anyone who would like to own one, today is your day!  Joan McCartney (formerly of Perseus Project) is selling some of her scripts!  Here’s what she has available:

Season One

  • Cat and Mouse
  • It Hurts When I Do This
  • Brother’s Keeper (writer’s draft, dated 5/10/02, autographed by Craig Silverstein)
  • Brother’s Keeper (revised writer’s draft, dated 2/21/01)
  • Diseased (autographed – hard to see – by Vince, Mike and Shannon)
  • Frozen in Time
  • Flowers for Hobbes (autographed by Dungeon Dan – special effects make up artist, with production notes on cover)

Season Two

  • Den of Thieves
  • Bad Chi
  • Immaterial Girl
  • Germ Theory
  • Mere Mortals

All scripts are $10.00 each plus shipping.  If you purchase all of them, they are $8.00 each plus shipping.

If you are interested in purchasing one or more scripts, please contact me via my website contact form.  I will forward all requests to Joan and she will reply and work out the details with you.

ADDENDUM: Please note that the scripts, and thus the autographs, are copies, not originals. Also, there is currently a waiting list for “Diseased.”

Transmedia Storytelling

If you’ve never heard the term “transmedia” before, you’re not alone.  There are still quite a few people in the film industry that haven’t heard of it either.  Transmedia storytelling is more than just telling a story on various media platforms. It’s about telling the elements of a story across various media platforms with each of them making a contribution to the whole.  So, for instance, a graphic novel can be used to tell back-story, a video game can be used to explore the story world, and a website can give you more information about a particular character.  With the advent of new digital platforms such as smart phones and tablets, there are even more ways of telling a story than ever before.

Not all stories lend themselves to transmedia storytelling, but at a time when pirating and inexpensive viewing platforms such as Netflix (even with the recent price increase) and Redbox are eating more and more into profits, producers are looking for alternatives to make their projects profitable.  The big studios are concerned about this problem, but for independent producers the problem is even more serious because it can mean the difference between staying and going out of business.  We simply don’t have the cushion that the big guys have.  So, for me, transmedia storytelling is not only a creative decision, it’s, also, a financial one.

As a fan turned producer, I’m excited about the prospect of reuniting the cast of The Invisible Man.  I’m a huge fan of the show and the cast; and even though I’m disappointed that I couldn’t get the rights to the show, I’m still very excited to bring the cast together again and show off that great chemistry that we all know they have.  But I’m hoping that this movie won’t be just a one-shot deal for this cast.  As long as they are willing, I want to see them do multiple movies.  Or maybe a TV or web series.

But in order for that to happen I have to do everything in my power to make this project profitable (or at the very least make its money back).  If the first movie flops, it’s highly unlikely that any investors are going to want to fund future projects with this cast.  But if my investors are making money, then it’s more likely that they’ll want to fund future projects.  How cool would that be?

While a big part of my decision to do a transmedia project is financially motivated, it’s, also, a great way to tell a story.  I recently finished writing the first draft of a new concept section of the story bible.  It’s a known concept that I haven’t seen anyone else use in quite the same way as I am, similar to how I-Man took a known concept—invisibility—and used it in a way that we had never seen before.  The back-story and mythology of my story is so big that it easily lends itself to being a transmedia project.

As I’m writing the story bible, I’m having to think not only of the feature film, but how everything fits together in the bigger story world, which include both past and future stories.  It’s fun, but it, also, makes the project more challenging to write because it all has to fit together and make sense…well, as much sense as a story that is science fiction can make.

The center of the story is, of course, the movie featuring the I-Man cast.  In addition to that I’m considering doing prequel webisodes that delve into the history of the story world.  Depending on how fundraising goes, I may end up having to do some webisodes or perhaps a scene or two from the movie first to help build up the audience to a level that justifies my budget.

Wait a minute, didn’t The Invisible Man have a worldwide audience of millions?  Yes, it did—approximately ten million from what I’ve heard.  The challenge is, however, in reaching all those people and letting them know what I’m working on.  Will all those people who watched I-Man want to watch this movie?  Hopefully they will, but some might not be interested in it because it’s not I-Man.  Although, I do hope they will give it a chance because, after all, I am developing this story with I-Man fans in mind.  So I may have to do the work it takes to find the audience first before we can shoot the movie; unless, of course, I get lucky and find the money right away.  I’ll just have to see what happens and make adjustments to my plans accordingly.

In addition to webisodes, I want to, at the minimum, create a video game, a graphic novel, and several websites to enhance the story experience.  Some other transmedia platforms I’m considering are apps for smart phones and tablets, books, comic books, and blogs, etc.  And, of course, I want to do merchandising.

It’s lot to think about, but right now when I’m in the story development stage is the time to think about and plan for such things.  If there is anything you would like to see developed for this project, let me know.  I’ll consider all suggestions!

New Year, New Update

The beginning of the year is a great time to look back on the previous year and, also, look forward to what’s coming up; so let’s start with where we are on the project. 

The last time I gave an update, I had just started to collaborate with the second writer on the story I had been writing.  I recently received the third draft of the treatment she wrote based on my outline and script pages and I have to say it is looking really good.  Can I dare say I’m getting really excited about this story?  Okay, I admit it, I am.  I’m really starting to fall in love with this story, which is important because a producer stays with a project for many, many years…far longer than anyone else who works on a film project.  

Structure had been the biggest problem with the story.  I threw everything and the kitchen sink into the story and I really needed another eye to pare it down for me.  The writer did a fabulous job doing just that.  The structure now works and the story flows very nicely.  Some of her choices surprised me, but for the most part they worked.  All my notes have been mostly about minor changes.  The big stuff works.  The writer also threw in a lot of her own ideas, which made the story even better.  I’ve got to say it’s awesome to get a story to the point where most of it is working instead of not working.  It feels great!

So now the treatment is on hold for a couple of weeks while I finish writing the reference guide.  What’s that?  Well, it’s probably not a term you’ll ever see in a screenwriting book, but I decided that because there is so much history and pseudoscience behind this project, I better get all the information into one place instead of the emails that have flown back and forth.  We’re probably going to be needing to consult the guide as we develop the script and movie.  So what kind of information will be in the guide?  It will include (and this is not a complete list): 

  • A bit of the real science that the pseudoscience is based on
  • The pseudoscience and how it works
  • Character bios
  • Organization bios
  • The mythology used by the story
  • The history used by the story
  • A short synopsis
  • A log line

That’s just to start with.  I may be adding more information later if needed.  So, as you can see, I’m going to be very busy writing for the next couple of weeks.  The goal is to get most of the reference guide done before I send the treatment to the story analyst.  I see the reference guide as a document that may continue to grow and evolve as the project develops; and that’s fine.  The important thing is to have a single source for all the story information so that those involved with the project have the information they need to do their jobs.  As I complete sections I’ll be sending them to the writer for review and comment; and we’ll be comparing the information to the treatment to see if we need to do any tweaking.

After we’ve gotten the treatment as good as we can get it, I’ll be sending it on for story analysis.  The story analyst will be my last check to make sure we didn’t miss anything.  Depending on what kind of feedback we get, the treatment will either need some revising (hopefully minor) or it will be ready to send on to the cast.

I’m hoping that the cast loves it as much as I do.  If so, I’ll instruct the writer to begin writing the script.  If not (and I hate to even think of this scenario happening), I’m back at square one.  I’m hoping that the cast will love the treatment enough to give me LOIs (Letters of Intent), because then I’ll be able to start looking for money, get the PR going that we will need for a successful movie, and put a qualified crew together while the writer is writing the screenplay.  If I have to wait until the script is finished before I get LOIs, it will push all of that back even further.  Frankly, I’d rather see things start to move sooner than later, but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

I want to thank all of you so much for your support.  So many of you have been around since the beginning of this project and have waited patiently through this maddingly slow process of script development.  My hope is to make your wait well worth it with a quality movie featuring our beloved cast that you will find entertaining and enjoyable.  I want this movie to be something that all of us—cast, crew, and fans—can be proud of.

My Long Overdue Progress Report

I was looking back on this blog to check when I last gave a progress report and, to my chagrin, I found out it was back in December of last year.  Talk about an overdue report!

When I gave my last report I had finished up a mentorship program where I had worked on the story that I am writing, the first writer had finished the second draft of the treatment and I was getting ready to write producer notes, and I was expecting the first draft of the second writer’s treatment any day.  So where are we now?

The story by the first writer ended up going through a few more revisions until, after a few months, we came to the end of our agreement.  The story wasn’t where it needed to be and in order to get the story into the proper shape, the agreement would have to be renewed and more time and money would have to be spent on it.  At this point I needed to make a decision.  This was not an easy decision to make (and this is the sucky part of being a producer), but in the end I decided not to continue developing the story.   

That meant that there were two stories left:  the one I was writing and the one by the second writer.  I would work on my story in fits and starts between working with the writers on their stories.  But even when I wasn’t physically writing, I was constantly thinking about the story and how it could be improved.  I really like the direction the story is going, but it still has a ways to go.

Around the beginning of the year, I spent some time refinancing my condo.  Wait a minute, didn’t I refinance my condo last year?  Yes, I did.  But interest rates had dropped and it was my last chance to take advantage of those rates before property values plummeted.  I’m glad I refinanced when I did because shortly thereafter property values took a nosedive in our area, leaving me with a home that is “underwater.”  It’s a good thing I don’t have a need to move or sell right now.  So why am I telling you all this?  Well, as I explained the last time I refinanced, I’m putting my own money into developing the script.  Far from being a wealthy woman, I have to try to find any way I can to cut my costs so that I can continue to pay my attorney, story analysts, writers, and other costs.  So it was not only a good financial move for me to make personally but, also, it benefited the film project.

Shortly after making the decision to stop developing the first writer’s story, I turned my attention to the second writer’s story.  Her treatment had been through a couple of revisions over the months and I received some nice feedback on it from the story analyst.  He said that “it was fun to read” and that the words “jump off the page.”  I have to agree.  Her writing is very entertaining and I thought she had nailed much of the tone and humor that we love in I-Man.  This, however, doesn’t mean that the treatment was perfect.  The biggest problem with the story was the concept.  All the other problems could be fixed, but if the concept isn’t right, it doesn’t matter.   So, I again made a difficult decision and decided to discontinue developing this story.

That just leaves me with one story left—the one I’m writing.  But now I’m not writing it alone.  I was so impressed with the talent of the second writer that I invited her to collaborate with me on the story.  Happily, she said yes and new agreements were drawn up and signed.

Now that my parent’s anniversary/family reunion is over, we’re just getting started.  I sent her the outline and the pages of script I had written and she’s been bombarding me with questions.  Already she has caught a couple of things and I look forward to getting more of her opinion and suggestions.  Having another person to bounce ideas off of is very helpful when working on a story.  I think the two of us putting our heads together will be able to work out the kinks and write a really good story.

So, we’ve gone from three stories to one.  We all knew that only one story was going to be produced and it would have been nice to give the cast a few stories to choose from but, if a story isn’t working, it’s my job to make the tough decisions and cut my losses.  The upside is that now my focus is on only one story instead of three.  I’ve got to tell you, I’m really looking forward to getting this story finished.

Treatment Progress Report

If I’ve been rather quiet lately it’s because I’ve had my nose to the grind writing, writing and more writing.  After four rather intense weeks, the mentorship program came to an end Tuesday.  It’s been an interesting experience to work one on one with such an accomplished writer and author.

As I’ve said before, he was very tough about pointing out flaws that needed to be fixed and he really pushed me to make the story better.  Looking back over the story, I’m amazed how much it has evolved from what it was originally. 

He gave me some nice compliments and told me I was a good writer.  For someone who is a beginner at this that was nice to hear.  He also said that he liked that I was strong about my piece and that I stick to my guns, but that I’m also willing to change.  That was one of the nicest compliments he could have given me because I’m a big believer in standing up for myself when appropriate, but also yielding when the situation warrants it.

So what did I fight for?  And what did I concede on?

Structure was a big issue.  The structure of my story needed work and he quickly pointed it out.  I was introducing the main character (Vince’s character) way too late in the story.  Even though I really loved how I started the story, it just wasn’t working.  As a writer, you learn that nothing is “precious” and sometimes you have to be willing to let go of really good scenes if they’re just not working.  That can be very painful.  Fortunately, I was able to figure out a way to pull Vince’s character into the story earlier and still keep a lot of what I loved about the opening scenes. 

It really improved the story but, unfortunately, didn’t fully please my mentor.  Here’s where we had a difference of opinion.  You see, I, in my admittedly limited writing experience, learned to write using the traditional three-act structure.  For those of you unfamiliar with that structure, the first act basically sets up the characters and their world, the second act usually starts when the main character is confronted with a conflict, and the third act is the resolution of that conflict.  That’s how I learned it.  That’s how most people learn it.

However, it turns out that my mentor is a bit of a maverick when it comes to story structure.  He doesn’t teach the traditional three-act structure.  He wanted me to start with the event that changed Vince’s character’s life.  No introduction.  No set up.  Just have the event happen and go. (Hmm…did I just give out too much info and you were able to guess who he is?)

Problem was I just couldn’t see how to make that work.  For one, we are asking you, the I-Man (Invisible Man) audience, to take actors that you’ve seen before on a TV show that you love and get used to them playing different characters.  It’s not that I don’t think you’re capable of doing that, not at all.  It’s just that I feel you need to have a chance to get to know these new characters a bit.  Otherwise, why would you even care about what happens to them?

Also, doing it his way would mean that I would have had to get rid of the introduction of Paul, Shannon, Eddie, and Mike’s characters in the opening.  Umm…Last time I checked I was doing a film that features an entire cast, not just one actor.  I feel strongly about giving each cast member a vital role, even with Vince being the lead.  So while I was trying to explain about how great the cast’s chemistry is and how I want to make sure that that was played up, he was trying to get me to focus more on Vince’s character to the detriment of the other characters.  I stuck to my guns on this issue. 

As a fan who has been around the I-Man fandom since the beginning, I think I have a pretty good idea of a lot of the qualities that we fans loved about I-Man.  Obviously, and unfortunately, I can’t copy the story of I-Man.  But I can use some of the those qualities as inspiration for this new story.  One of the things that I think we can all agree on was the great chemistry the cast had together.  I think it would be a mistake to write a story that didn’t play that up.  Don’t you?

I, also, want to make sure there is a mixture of both humor and drama in the movie…what is often called a dramedy.  But for some reason, my mentor seemed to always pick on the humor.  I wonder if he dislikes comedy?

Another issue we disagreed on was the main character’s arc.  I’m a big believer that characters need some kind of inner conflict.  Just think how ordinary I-Man would have been if it had focused only on the invisibility and the “mission” of the week.  What if Darien didn’t have to struggle with  Quicksilver Madness?  Or the threat of becoming immune to the Counteragent?  Or being forced to work for the Agency when all he really wanted was his freedom?  Well, then the show would have turned into one of those bad generic sci-fi shows that are quickly cancelled (Jake 2.0 anyone?).  But because Matt Greenberg gave the character such a compelling inner struggle, we cared about Darien. 

So I didn’t agree when he wanted me to focus on the outer conflict and strip away all the character’s inner conflicts.  Too many sci-fi films and TV shows tend to focus on the cool visual effects, the sci-fi “world,” and saving the day and forget that what we are really doing is following a character through his or her adventures.  If we don’t care about what happens to the character, then the story just becomes a series of events.  And who cares about that?

One of the challenges when writing sci-fi is the new “world” that is created and how to explain all the rules and “science.”  And I’m not just talking about sci-fi that takes place on other planets and involves interplanetary travel and aliens.  No, sci-fi is much broader in scope than that.  I-Man, for example, had rules about the invisibility, the gland, the Quicksilver Madness, etc. that had to be explained in order for us viewers to be able to understand the story.  Likewise, with the story I’m writing there are all kinds of rules and “science” that the audience needs to learn in order to understand what is going on. 

Where I fell short was in explaining the “science” behind the story.  Upon reading my first outline, my mentor had a ton of questions.  I didn’t explain it well enough.  But because my mentor doesn’t like a lot of exposition, he also didn’t like it when I tried to put those explanations into the dialog.  The challenge has been how to show it instead of tell it and I’m still working on that problem.

So while the story has come a long ways, it still has a ways to go.  I’m taking a bit of a break from it because I received the second draft of the first writer’s treatment on Thursday.  Now I need to go through it again with a fine toothcomb.  But this time I have coverage from two story analysts to help me.

A couple of weeks ago I traveled to Emeryville and sat down with the former Pixar story analyst and a local executive producer and we discussed the story.  Getting this kind of feedback is a great check for me.  It helps me to see if my newly-honed instincts are correct about the story or if they are off.  For the most part, most of the issues I saw with the story, he saw.  And, not surprisingly, he saw some things that I missed.  So now, armed with feedback from two analysts, I need to get busy and write my notes.  They are due by the first of January.

Also due around the same time is the first draft of the second writer’s treatment.  After I receive it and look it over, I’ll be sending it on to the analysts for coverage.  I also hope to have my treatment ready for coverage at the same time.  So I need to get busy and get back to writing.  Break time is over!

Treatment Spinning

Right now I feel like a plate spinner.  I’ve got three treatments that I need to keep moving so that they don’t slow down and fall off the sticks they are spinning on.  Keeping them going at the same time is the trick.  So how am I doing so far?

Treatment One

Treatment one is the farthest along.  I finished writing the first round of notes last week and now the writer is working on the revisions.  If I had to do one thing over again I would have given myself more time for this first round.  Why?  Because I spent a great deal of my time lining up story analysts instead of writing notes and I didn’t allow enough time to get the analysts’ coverage back in this first round.  This means that there is a possibility that the second round of notes could require more changes than the first.  That’s not an ideal situation, but we’ll play it by ear and make the best of whatever happens and, thankfully, the writer is very cool about working with me on this.

I’ve got one of the analyst’s coverage back already and expect the second analyst’s coverage in about a week.  The first analyst did a good job and I agree with most of his notes, but I’m especially looking forward to hearing what the second analyst has to say about the story.  He is a former Pixar story analyst who teaches screenwriting at a local university.  He’s excited to be helping me out and I’m just as excited to have someone with his credentials helping me out.

Treatment Two

The producer/writer agreement for this treatment has been signed by the writer and I expect to receive it next week.  I’ll then sign the copies and mail the writer back copies for her records.  The writing and reading period for this treatment has been compressed into two months.  That has me a bit worried because that’s not a lot of time, but we’re going to try to make it work.

Treatment Three

I’m almost two weeks into my four-week mentorship program with the screenwriter/author.  Let me tell you, this guy is tough.  Nothing gets by him.  Everything gets questioned.  And I’ve had to justify a lot of my decisions.  I’ve, also, had to scrap some of my ideas and try new ones.  But he’s pushing me to make it better and that’s what I need…to make the story the best it can possibly be.  Because, truth be told, I think I was starting to fall into the trap a lot of writers fall into…falling in love with a story.  So getting the flaws pointed out and then having to fix them…while being a somewhat painful process, is also a very necessary process.  And the story keeps getting better because of it.

Really, all three stories need to be great.  I want to feel good about taking on the task of producing any of them, so I’m going to be pushing to make sure they all are in top shape before I show them to the cast.  I won’t submit a story before its time.  Doing otherwise would be a mistake.