Monday, December 30, 2013

Hanging Out With Actors, Part 2 - Boondock Alley

Leon's first read of the Pilot.
At the end of August I wrote about the start of a new project where three actors had commissioned me to create a web series. At that stage I only had a vague idea what I was going to write about and had committed to creating a series Bible to explore this further.

I don't know if that's usually done for a web series but it certainly is a staple in television. The Bible, in effect, is a road map for the entire show. In its current state for what is now known as Boondock Alley it is 13 pages long and about 5100 words. To give you an idea of what it contains, the headings are:

The World
Character Breakdowns
Series Rules
Series One Dramatic Arc
Episode Guides

I had said to the actors that if they wanted to do this properly they had to realise that developing scripts would take time. First step was fleshing out the premise and deciding exactly what this was. I knew the basics: the tagline quickly became Boondock Alley - A doctor's surgery for the Undead. But I had no idea what the series would be about and it was important for me to find the dramatic arc so I could structure it properly. I knew I wanted to satirise both the healthcare system and the prevalence of such creatures as vampires, zombies and werewolves in modern culture. But it was important to me to do this in a coherent storyline with interesting human characters as well as the more exotic ones.

The request was for 10 x 5-7 minute episodes. The actors gave me a minor scare when they toyed with the idea of cutting it to 6 episodes after I had plotted it out. Yes, this could have been done but it would have meant some serious truncating of both story and character arcs.

Let's back up a bit. The three actors in question are Leon Grey, Anita Barnes and Catriona Coe. They have been involved at all stages in story discussions and giving input on their characters as I began to put this together. Indeed it was Leon who came up with the title after it was initially called Dead Serious.

Given the premise it was important for me to give context to the world and the two teasers here and here are more or less direct lifts from The Bible.

Once I determined the dramatic arc (discovered whilst absently listening to a rendition of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven before a play reading in Fremantle) I began to plot the episodes. Given it was an order of 10 I used the Game of Thrones model of plotting towards a climactic ninth episode with the tenth being the ramifications of that event and setting up a possible second series (hell, if I'm going to do it might as well accept it is an ongoing universe). In loose terms then, the episodes are:

The Pilot: where the premise is established and the characters introduced.
Episode 2: a satire of the medical procedural show, notably House.
Episodes 3-5: a point of view episode for each of the three leads.
Episodes 6-8: the dramatic arc kicks into gear properly (set ups earlier)
Episode 9: Hell fire and fury reign down on our heroes (or some such thing)
Episode 10: Consequences and cliffhanger for Season 2

IF I had to shorten it to 6, episodes 3-5 would go and I would have truncated 6-8.

Now, all this was done BEFORE a single word of script was written. The Bible had one revision after feedback from the actors then came time to write the Pilot. I had the opening scene in my head and quickly captured that. When I sat down to finish the pilot it was done in one sitting and "came out" quite easily. The second episode was trickier because I had to start introducing a little more exposition into how the world of the series works but poking fun at House was fun. The third episode was harder but again was done in one sitting. At present they're all decent first drafts and the feedback has been excellent from the actors but I know I'll have to rework them.

I'll stop writing episodes now because a) it's time to see how doable this is in terms of production; b) I know that I can write episodes easily enough because the "hard work" was done putting the Bible together; and c) given the detail in the Bible the actors, who are also de facto producers, can use other writers if they wish. Though I'd certainly want to write episodes 9 & 10.

Thankfully the actors have been smart enough to acknowledge it takes time to produce quality material. I appreciate their patience and enthusiasm equally. The current scripts will need rewrites as the director gets involved and production decisions are made but I'm certainly happy with where this currently sits from a writing perspective.

The next step is turning words into moving images and I look forward to seeing what 2014 will bring in that regard!

Over to you Leon, Neets and Cat! :-)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Web Series, Teaser #2

The Undead have always existed but now they’re out in the open… and have national health care.

Within this maelstrom of distorted reality and heightened bureaucratic insanity let’s throw in three human characters through whose eyes we’ll experience the chaos and wonder of this odd little surgery with its more than odd little patients.

Each will have their own secret reason for working there. This isn’t the most glamorous of gigs - the Undead present a physical threat as well as moral and ethical dilemmas despite their legal status. What sort of person would want to spend the majority of their day amongst those who are no longer human if indeed they ever were? 

Perhaps the humans are as damaged as their patients, maybe even more so...

Boondock Alley

A doctor’s surgery for the Undead.

Coming soon in... 

...well, it's always difficult to tell with these things. I mean, the pilot is written and the next two episodes. The three leads are cast as the actors basically commissioned me to write the thing. A director is attached. There's a title and possibly a catchy jingle and theme music. For all I know there's even a POSTER! Okay, maybe a little early for the poster but things are getting serious! Now for key crew and Heads of Department and catering and extras and auditions and, did I mention, catering? But it's all looking good so far. No, really it is! So I can definitely say with much confidence, coming soon! In the future... ish. In 2014!!! Keep an eye out. The Undead are EVERYWHERE!!! 

Oh, and Merry Christmas! Remember, Vampires, Werewolves and Zombies et al are people too. Or used to be. So you should get them something. Nothing flash or fancy. Just a small gift. It would be nice. It's Christmas. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Web Series, Teaser #1

Imagine a world where the myths were all true – the fairy tales, the legends, the whispered tales handed down from generation to generation, all of it. That creatures of the night, both foul and misunderstood, have always walked, crawled, flown, and stalked amongst us, and always will.

Then imagine that these creatures were, over time, integrated into society, and begrudgingly accepted if not embraced; that they had rights under the law. Outsiders to be sure; distinctive, vibrant, different… and still dangerous.

Boondock Alley

A doctor’s surgery for the Undead.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Let’s Write A Screenplay, Part 1 – The Idea

Apologies, Alas Smith & Jones
Greg: Mate, you see that flick on the weekend?
Tony: Which one?
Greg: The one I told you about.
Tony: The searing warts and all examination of the human condition?
Greg: No, the one with the sharks coming out of the tornado.
Tony: Yeah, that one.
Greg: Well?
Tony: I thought the cinematography was pretty good.
Greg: You didn’t see it, did you?
Tony: I have, in fact, not seen it.
Greg: We could do something like that.
Tony: Do we even have tornadoes in Australia?
Greg: I meant… you know what I mean.
Tony: Hardly ever.
Greg: We could write something along the same lines!
Tony: A film script?
Greg: Sure, how hard can it be?
Tony: You spelt your name wrong on your final year English exam.
Greg: It was the original European spelling.
Tony: I don’t even know what that means.
Greg: Fine. I’ll be the ideas man, you can write it down.
Tony: And this big idea would be?
Greg: Divanami!
Tony: Excuse me?
Greg: Get this, a thousand washed up actresses wash up in New York and start terrorising the locals by aggressively auditioning for Broadway roles that don’t exist.
Tony: I’m still on, “excuse me?”
Greg: It’ll be huge!
Tony: Well, sure, what with a thousand actresses and all.
Greg: Washed up actresses. Think Lindsay Lohan, think Tara Reid --
Tony: Who?
Greg: Exactly!
Tony: It doesn’t sound very Australian.
Greg: We can throw in a few Home and Away stars.
Tony: Last time I checked New York isn’t an outer suburb of Sydney.
Greg: The home of Broadway, my friend. Remember that girl from school?
Tony: The one who took out a restraining order on you?
Greg: No, the other one.
Tony: I think she ended up taking out one too.
Greg: No, the one who wanted to be a big star, singing and dancing on Broadway.
Tony: Did she ever move to New York?
Greg: No, she couldn’t sing or dance to save herself but that doesn’t matter.
Tony: Probably matters to the people who put on shows in New York.
Greg: The point is that was her dream, to be on stage in the Big Apple.
Tony: Okay.
Greg: Think how many other aspiring actresses have exactly the same fantasy?
Tony: I thought they were washed up?
Greg: You know what I… look, what do they call it when you play around with words?
Tony: Wordplay?
Greg: That’s it. Divanami, actresses, tsunami, washed up, get it?
Tony: Don’t you think that might be a little insensitive in light of recent events?
Greg: The Miley Cyrus thing?
Tony: I was thinking more the people drowning thing.
Greg: No, they’re all dumped in New York alive by some big wave.
Tony: Seems a little implausible, don’t you think?
Greg: They made a movie about sharks in a tornado. 
Tony: Point taken.
Greg: So what do you think?
Tony: Well, what’s the story?
Greg: What do you mean?
Tony: What happens next?
Greg: They start auditioning on the streets of New York.
Tony: Not really the same as sharks on the loose though, is it?
Greg: Have you ever been the victim of a really bad audition?
Tony: I’ve heard stories.
Greg: Terrifying.
Tony: Do you know anything about writing a screenplay?
Greg: Adaptation is one of my favourite movies.
Tony: We’re all set then.
Greg: What do you say?
Tony: New York here we come?

To be continued...