Monday, March 03, 2008

Story Ideas

What the hell is going on in Germany? I just read an article about two soldiers who were caught soliciting the blood of their comrades for sausage making. The nutty part is that they were caught because the soldier they had solicited went to his CO not to complain or alert him, but to find out if it was against regulations. Umm, how about being against common standards of decency and good sense? Or hygiene? I had chicken sausage for lunch so this particular story has got my stomach roiling.

It's also one of those insane crazy, real-life-is-batshit-nuttier-than-fiction stories that can serve as a good springboard. I immediately started thinking what kind of movie/TV/novel/short fiction framework would this work in? How could you get around the farcical nature of the premise (soliciting blood from your friends to make sausage)? What kind of people would read a recipe that called for blood and assume it called for human blood? Who would get a request like this from a friend? Who would hear a request like this and not vomit in their mouth immediately? What was the reaction of the CO who heard the request? What about the others who HAD given blood? And those who had been asked and refused?

After a while, a little narrative builds up: THE POISONER'S HANDBOOK meets DUMB AND DUMBER or STRIPES meets TRAINSPOTTERS (because these guys had to be on some kind of hallucinogen, right?). I start thinking about who these two guys are, or maybe who the CO is, or the girlfriend of one of the guys who refused who's been looking for a way to off him and has found the perfect patsies. Then I start thinking about how the ending would work, what kind of set-up would it take to get there? Are there a couple of good twists that could make this ride worth taking?

Then, the market concerns -- how big a movie is it? Is anybody making off-beat character movies like this right now? If so, what kind? Are they star-driven projects or is the studio trying to get in them for low dollars and might be willing to buy a pitch or spec and then put it together.

Now I'm thinking about how I want to work on the project. Is it something I want to write myself? Is it something I think I can get a writer for? An established writer or a rookie? What agencies should I go to? Should I partner with a manager?

And the most important question: What rights do I need to pursue this? [There's a long post somewhere in here about story rights that's been covered more effectively on sites like FindLaw so I won't embarrass myself here (that's what the attorney earns that fee for, right?).]

Once you start the brainstorming process, you can find yourself far afield of the original story, so I don't worry about the rights until I get to the point where I'm selling. Most studios don't mind a little outlay for story rights. It's a place to "hang your hat" that protects the rights to a true-life story from someone coming in later and claiming they submitted a story that is exactly the same as yours. The flip side is you don't want to have a competing project based on your idea that either already has the rights to the underlying material or has been specced out when you're holding a pitch.

This has happened to me on at least one occasion -- I actually had someone hear I was pitching a story inspired by an article, this producer went out and optioned the article, brought in a writer who was on my short list to rough out a pitch, sold it to a studio I was meeting with later in the week, then turned around and offered to bring ME on as a producer. Uhmm, no thanks, but I appreciate all the hard work and remind me to never tease a pitch again.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Love You Jack!!

Normally I'd put this on my other blog, but I can't take it seriously enough to do that. Jack Nicholson is hysterical. And that last quote has to be one of the most sexist endorsements I've ever heard in my life. RFLMAO.