New Year’s Eve Brings Direction to the Story

January 8, 2011

For the last three months, Producer G. and I have been thoroughly distracted by other projects, other work, and by financing efforts, which has put MOG3 story development on a back burner for a while. 

But good news: We had extensive meetings over the New Year holiday, and the story is moving forward again.

Moving forward AGAIN?—But why had it stopped?

I delivered a 30-page step outline of the story way back in early Spring.  But G. was moving into production on another feature film project, putting this one firmly on hold.  I stopped writing after delivering the outline because, as I explained in this April ‘09 post, without producer feedback, further screenplay development could easily be a waste of time.  

Then, in early October at the close of G.’s conflicting production, I had a brief phone conversation with him.  He had just read the outline. 

And how did that talk go?

G. was generally pleased with the direction the story was taking, but he was concerned with the scope of the story—not in terms of its costs for moviemaking, but in terms of the story itself: with how much we were trying to say or show. 

From that call, it was clear that, before I went any further, we needed a legitimate story meeting to go over his concerns and agree on how I would fix the story to resolve those concerns.  Since we both had conflicting projects, the story was shelved until we could meet.

Which we just did in late December.

So then, what was the rub?

G.’s concern was primarily with the story transition from Joe Cameron the police officer to Joe Cameron the statesman—that we planned to have Joe start off as the former and, at the Act 2/Act 3 point in the story, to take on the latter.   After reading the step outline, he felt that it may be too much story to tell.

Mind you, that’s no small concern. 

One of the underlying themes of the story was the idea that, in a country where the government is dysfunctional, a cop’s best efforts to be an effective law enforcement officer are virtually impotent—that you need to repair or create a healthy legislative and judicial process to have a stable and functioning society.  Thus, since our story conceptualization meetings almost exactly two years ago, the basic storyline assumption was that high ranking police officer Joe Cameron would take radical steps to save his beloved Caribbean homeland, first by unorthodox (and ethically questionable) law enforcement tactics and then, when that fails, by taking on the government, presumably by not only outing the corrupt politicians but by attempting to become a statesman to fill the leadership void.

It all sounded good when we brainstormed the idea. 

It even looked good when I wrote an 8-page synopsis of the story. 

But when I broke it down into a detailed 30-page step treatment, we realized the problem we had on our hands; the story could make a great novel, but it was too freakin’ big to be a movie.  To keep the length of the movie reasonable (under, say, two hours) we would have to rush through the story phases to squeeze it all in.  But doing so would strain the credibility of character arc; if we could not fully develop the major character realizations and transitions, these story transitions would likely feel phony—unrealistic.

How we decided to fix this:

The short story on how the story will change looks something like this:

  1. Kill off the original third act
  2. Build up the legal proceedings phase, originally the end of the second act, to become the new third act

I know—this sounds huge.  That’s only because it is.  More on this later….