Connecting the dots

September 1, 2009

As described briefly on the blog’s About page, even though I’m writing this screenplay to function primarily as a standalone story, the fact is that it is built on characters introduced in two earlier movies — Men of Gray and Men of Gray II  (released internationally as Flight of the Ibis). Both of these ultra-low-budget movies got some good play in festivals and both have acquired a fan base among Caribbean audiences, particularly in Trinidad and Tobago where they were produced.

Consequently, something that producer G. and I have been sensitive to in developing this story is stay true to the original character of Joe Cameron, and to consider the possibility of including other characters that were introduced in the first two movies — both things that we feel would be appreciated by those who are familiar with these earlier films.

Of course, since the first two movies were loaded with high action confrontations between police and criminals, we damn near killed off the whole lot!

But what about those few characters that did survive the mayhem?

Right: Some did survive. But, with this new story, some 16 years of water have gone under their bridges — 19 years from the first Men of Gray movie, in fact. So I certainly have the choice of starting from scratch: ignoring the past and hoping no one notices…

But frankly I like the challenge of not forgetting about it — of staying fully on course with the story that we want to tell, but also infusing it with these historic threads.

Infuse … How so?

Here’s what I’m thinking about:

  1. Influencing Joe’s brain:
    At the very least, the surviving main characters from the first two movies are part of the emotional and psychological makeup of the present day Joe Cameron, so I’ve already built the modern day psyche of this man with those past events and characters as influencers.
  2. Adding interim adventures:
    I’ve also considered what might have occurred in Joe’s life with these characters in the nearly 2 decades since we last saw them; if they were friends, did they continue to be friends? If they were coworkers or subordinates, did they stay that way? If they were his enemies — wait, no: We killed off all the enemies, come to think of it. But you see my point; life goes on, and so I wanted to have some fun exploring the possibilities of how their intertwining lives may have developed since we last saw them, and how that might influence the current plot.
  3. Reintroducing them into MOG3:
    Though not confirmed, this is something we are seriously considering — infusing this story with the present-day embodiment of these past characters. It introduces some pragmatic risks to the production though, so I’m only carefully looking at this option, designing the story in such a way that, if necessary, we could later remove any of these reintroduced characters without tearing at the fabric of the story.

What pragmatic risks would that introduce?

For instance, if we wanted to cast any of the original actors for the roles, do we know that they are available? Are they even alive? Do they look anything at all like they did back then, or would they have changed so much that bringing them back would do more harm than good for the audience? And, since this new movie will likely have a higher budget, it will also have higher international expectations or distribution requirements. That means that, even if we bring back any of these previous characters, we may need to recast them with actors who have stronger international appeal. Would doing so potentially alienate any of the existing fan base?

So, who survived, and what happens to them now?

None of this is set in stone, mind you, but here are some of the characters from Joe Cameron’s life that we didn’t kill off in the first two movies that I’m thinking we could make good use of this time around.

  • Sean Cameron
    sean-cameron-mog1This is Joe’s son. When we last saw Sean, he was about five years old. Now, he would be a young adult. This is the most probable character to be continued in the new story. He would have changed so much in appearance that we are free to cast openly for it. Also, no other character is “required” to have been a continuing influence in Joe’s life like Sean would. At the very least, we would have to explain what happened to him if he is suddenly missing from Joe’s life now. I apologize — I don’t recall the name of the young actor who played Sean. If anyone knows, please shout it out in the blog comments.
  • Kelly Shepherd
    TLK-MoG2Played by Tricia Lee Kelshall, Kelly was the one female on Joe’s police anti-narcotics “Ibis Squad.” In watching Men of Gray II – Flight of the Ibis, we get the sense that there is some romantic attraction between them, or at least by Kelly, but it remains unspoken: unrequited. Joe’s wife dies early on in that story, so we are not surprised when Joe’s focus is elsewhere.  However, as the movie ends, as Joe and Kelly walk off into the proverbial sunset (in fact literal sunset, as I recall), they are symbolically holding hands with little Sean in between them, and each holding on to the boy’s hands. I suspect that viewers would like to think that Joe and Kelly got together somewhere beyond that sunset. So, I’m playing with that idea now — that they became briefly, but intensly, involved romantically shortly after we last saw them, with each going their own way, with one or both of them remarrying. Now, Joe enters the story as a single man with no romantic connections, and no apparent interest in one. But what happens if, after many years of living abroad, Kelly suddenly shows up, and sparks are flying?
  • Jason
    Cauri-MoG2Jason (Cauri Jaye) was the rookie Ibis Squad cop from Men of Gray II. I have a couple angles I’m thinking about with Jason. We know from the first movie that he is “once bitten, twice shy” personified. So, perhaps he became afraid or disillusioned with the law enforcement business, and has left it long behind. What happens if his old mentor Joe suddenly shows up asking him to work with him again? He might accept, but what if he has become a pacifist instead? What if he is philosophically at odds with Joe’s radical anti-crime strategies? If Joe does persuade him to reenlist, I’m considering having Sean be directly involved at one pivotal moment in the story that involves innocent people being killed by Joe’s team due to some bad intelligence, tearing Jason up emotionally. Or maybe he just gets killed, I don’t know. Lots of options here. 😉
  • Zack Lareau
    Michael-MoG2Zack, who was played by Michael Cherrie, was a youthful, intelligent, and likeable newspaper reporter in Men of Gray II. it seems doubtful that he would still be doing the street beat after all these years. Since the story has several press characters, one thought was to make him a chief editor or perhaps a TV anchorman. An idea that I like even better: He is now an attorney … and could perhaps become Joe’s attorney when the world turns against him late in the second act.

 We’ll see…

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