Friday, January 8, 2010

The Vault - "Hotel Blue", Part 2

At the end of Part 1 we had a 50 minute, interactive "pilot" where each story strand was about 13 minutes long with elements of the supernatural, hallucination and self-delusion. Our hero, on the surface, was a security guard in a 5-star hotel but there was a hell of a lot more going on as the pilot hinted at.

The producer, Tony Eades, then went to Sydney, MIPTV and London where there was interest but no development money as a firm commitment to the concept. Tony was pushing the interactive elements but in 2003 this was still ahead of its time, particularly the way we had structured it.

So Hotel Blue ended up in a drawer. Michael Bond went to Los Angeles, Tony established his printing business and I drifted onto other scripts.

Until an unexpected opportunity arose to revitalise the project. As I recounted in The Red Bride development notes, there was a "script dating" night in 2005 between local writers and producers. My final meeting of the evening was with Sue Taylor from Taylor Media. Sue was in the middle of producing Last Train to Freo, was tired and opened with a volley about how she was over having to beg, borrow, (not quite) steal for a low budget feature!

Okay, so I wasn't going to pitch my low budget feature and you don't pitch shorts to someone like Sue. Impulsively, I pitched Hotel Blue ... and Sue was interested. Interested enough for Tony and I to have at least one meeting and possibly two (my memory is hazy about the details back then).

Out of this I suggested to Tony that we re-engage Michael in LA which was to prove a fateful decision. Why? Because the Americans loved the concept (minus the interactive element)! By this stage Michael had a manager and was doing the hard yards to establish himself in the movie capital of the world. He also had a connection with another ex-pat Australian screenwriter, Michael Petroni who had his own high-powered manager.

To cut to the chase, Michael asked us if it was alright to approach Petroni as our chances of getting a series up in the US would be increased by his involvement. We said yes, but as we did so I also pretty much knew we'd lost control of the project. Phone conferences were held and we workshopped what the series would be about, keeping the key element of the duality of the main character and the world he was in/had created. There is even an outline for a 'proper' pilot that I had written.

During this, a decision was made (that I was never comfortable with) to not advise or include the other three writers of the (Central TAFE) "pilot". This was most problematic for me as I was friends with the other three and most likely to have ongoing interactions. Having to stonewall or lie was not something I appreciated. But it was agreed that Tony, Michael and myself were the key creatives even though there was no formal agreement (not through lack of trying).

Michael always returns to Perth for Christmas and at the start of 2006 things had progressed to the extent that his manager was pushing for an agreement that authorised Michael to act on behalf of the three of us "in the room". The intent was for Michael and Petroni to pitch to (at one stage) HBO and Showtime.

An agreement was finally drafted and signed at Perth Airport as Michael was literally departing for LA. I won't go into the terms of that agreement but suffice to say I probably wouldn't sign it today. It gives Tony and I some coverage but the upshot is that Michael and Petroni have been developing the concept and Tony and I have had no further creative input.

My frustration has been further exacerbated by, from my perception, a general lack of information on progress. I know they were taking meetings and at one stage James Mangold (Walk the Line) was being talked about as director of any pilot with John Cusack in the lead. But nothing came of this with Michael only saying that they were sticking to the original concept and resisting attempts to 'develop' it into something else.

Michael and Petroni are now writing a series for the SyFy channel with Brian Singer as executive producer which will give them much more leverage with the Hotel Blue concept. It's fair to say my relationship with Michael has been strained by all this but I can only hope he does the right thing by Tony and myself if the show ever gets up.

He is an excellent writer and I admire his gumption to up stumps and go to LA ... but a more inclusive approach was certainly warranted. A hard lesson about the nature of the industry.

I don't know what Hotel Blue looks like now (and doubt that would be its title anymore) but, in its original form, it is an archetypal story type for me where reality and fantasy collide. Something that I will reprise in my next project, Trench ...

1 comment:

  1. Caught up with Michael for a couple of hours today over drinks and pizza. A good clearing of the air.